ItIn recent years, the logic of crises has made the European Union’s identity inextricably tied to its existence. The E.U. The E.U. does not face only crises. These seem to make it define itself. It welcomes crisis. Many of its supporters argue that crisis can lead to opportunities.
All has been delayed until the moment of truth. This is the time when an even greater crisis could force the E.U. To finally make a significant step toward a better union or to enter into terminal decline. Over the last few years, many speculated on the exact form of this greater crisis. I knew it would be a geopolitical crises in some way because the E.U. was facing external threats. The challenges for which the EU is unprepared are those that demand quick solutions or require improvisation. It happened. This was the greater crisis.
This was a moment of reflection and doubt in a new sense. We were suddenly unsure what the issue was with E.U. Is it the E.U. Was it the E.U. that caused the dependence on Russian energy, which now threatens the European economy in its entirety? Actually, no. In fact, it was mostly German politicians and economists who were enslaved by cheap Russian energy. E.U. The E.U. fought in vain against these elites’ dominance, but never revealed what a horrible idea Nord Stream actually was. The Kremlin doesn’t like the idea of Russia and a bigger Europe, but it was never enamored by the French plan. It wants it to fail.
Slowly, our consciences are changing. I had expected to encounter the normal skepticism towards Brussels and supranational power on a recent Prague visit. Although it was present in some degree, my colleagues were far more anxious and suspicious of French and German power. Czech elites find themselves now closer to Brussels and Berlin, with the centre of political action being more culturally than geopolitical. One can at least discuss the Russian threat in Brussels. The E.U. The E.U. views the entire world as a series of large blocks. Germany is focused on parochial economic interest, France still dreamed of French power and prestige.
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New perspectives are emerging above the current anxieties. The economic basis of a political union within Europe is not enough. Europe may come together in a geopolitical or non-political way. Now, geopolitics takes over. A quantum leap was already made with the grant of Ukraine and Moldova candidate status. It was not discussed whether Ukraine has the necessary economic conditions to be able to join the E.U. It would have seemed absurd under the circumstances. We argued that these conditions could be made in the future if Europe can ensure stability and security.
The relations between Poland and Brussels have been improving. Although there are still many problems to resolve, the two sides are now in agreement on what their enemies are. It is impossible to reach an agreement on Hungary. The Hungarian government, which is seen almost everywhere in Europe as a Kremlin traitor, is currently isolated. We have learned to concentrate on the important things since the war.
Problem number one is to establish in Brussels a power common that is truly independent of German and French interests. Britain concluded in the E.U. that there was no such power, and Brexit resulted. It would be dependent too heavily on Paris and Berlin, its European counterparts.
Over the long-term, enlargement will be able take us there. Ukraine joining the EU will mean that the combined Polish-Ukrainian vote share will be greater than the German. Have no illusions that this is the reason both France and Germany are looking for a solution to postpone Ukrainian membership, temporarily replaced with a different kind of arrangement President Macron called a “European Political Community.”
Shorter term, new alliances are needed between South, Scandinavian, and Central Europe. The balance of power, however, is shifting already. The European Commission recently proposed an emergency power which would enable it to issue a general Union alert. It also mandates that all member states reduce their national gas consumption. Germany has not only agreed to this being a European competence. It requested this because it was under threat of a sudden energy crisis. German vulnerability provides hope for a new political union.
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