The conflict that’s going down in Ukraine is redrawing the geopolitical map throughout the continent and shaking up Europeans’ presuppositions. It is reshaping their relationship to safety, to their neighbours and challenges the European Union to redefine the foundations of the European development.
On prime of the humanitarian, monetary and army support that must be supplied to Ukraine for a few years to come back, Europeans should at first put ahead a political initiative to reconnect to their historical past and geography and thus reply to the challenges of our time each within the East of the Union and within the Western Balkans.
Proposed on 9 May in Strasbourg, Emmanuel Macron’s “European political neighborhood” is a promising method. Inspired by former president François Mitterrand’s preliminary concept of a European confederation, the French president (1981-1995) outlined a European discussion board that will be separate from the European Union:
“This new European organisation would allow democratic European nations adhering to our set of values to discover a new space of political cooperation, safety, cooperation in power, transport, funding, infrastructure, and the motion of individuals, particularly our younger individuals. Joining it might not essentially prejudge future membership of the European Union, simply as it might not be closed to those that have left the latter.”
Can this European political neighborhood go a unique approach than the European confederation envisioned and led by the French president between 1989 and 1991? Undoubtedly, supplied it goes past the unique undertaking, adapting it to the brand new realities of the 2020s, and making it the political bridgehead of the European undertaking.
From the European confederation to the European political neighborhood
Periods of profound change within the European order are inclined to foster the emergence of recent concepts. That of a European confederation was born in 1989 inside a nonetheless divided Europe. As promising because it was, the undertaking quickly raised various considerations, specifically that it might solely provide Eastern European international locations the prospect of a two-tier Europe, or an inexpensive different to membership within the European Community.
And in actual fact, wasn’t the European confederation, for an often reluctant Western Europe, specifically France, the technique of relegating Central and Eastern Europe to the facet strains of a political bloc involved with its consolidation? From this standpoint, does Emmanuel Macron’s proposal not quantity to successfully ruling out the speedy accession of Ukraine to the EU, and in so doing, does it not create a brand new antechamber during which the international locations of the East (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova) and people of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) shall be invited to attend for a lot of extra years?
This fixed criticism of any method that deviates from the sacred objective of speedy and full membership within the European Union ignores an unlucky truth. Full membership within the European Union stays an vital objective, however until the Copenhagen accession standards are revised, it may possibly solely be a long-term, unsure one, which the member states themselves don’t hesitate to make tougher to realize. The international locations of the Western Balkans have been paying the worth for the previous 20 years, with no clear prospects for EU membership. One of them, North Macedonia, even agreed to vary its identify with a purpose to raise Greece’s veto within the European Council, solely to be blocked by Bulgaria.
The Copenhagen dogma and the intergovernmental logic that has prevailed because the Lisbon Treaty make any shortcut to membership solely unrealistic. The EU’s enlargement coverage, in precept primarily based on advantage, is at present above all a supply of immense frustration within the Western Balkans.
There are options, nevertheless, as Europe is being constructed increasingly more by means of differentiated integration. Some international locations have already positioned themselves on this place of lesser integration – by not belonging to the euro zone, Schengen space or the Europe de la défense. Although it raises very professional points by way of coherence, differentiated integration offers some leeway for enlarging European development whereas contributing to its deepening. Europe in 2022 have to be thought by way of this differentiated deepening method.
Faced with a right away accession that’s illusory, how can we recognise at present that the residents of Ukraine and the opposite international locations of Eastern Europe belong to a European household that shares a standard political undertaking? And how to take action whereas preserving the unity of our continent and the power of the Union?
Europe should face its dilemmas
Over the final 20 years, the Union has deepened considerably – within the space of financial and financial coverage, within the atmosphere, defence, well being, and many others. But this deepening of the European integration has not been uniform. It has centered on market integration and increasing the acquis communautaire.
This emphasis has lengthy uncared for the political vocation of the European integration. Rightly forecast by Jürgen Habermas or John Dewey, the response since has been a rising disaffection with the European development course of. It has additionally led to an increase in populism, a contestation over the function of specialists, a resurgence of nationalism and, extra usually, a democratic disaster.
Economic and regulatory integration has introduced a lot to Europe, however actual deepening, at present greater than 1989, will solely occur by means of initiatives aiming to endow Europe with a political soul and Europeans with an energetic consciousness of their European citizenship.
Such a undertaking would neutralise the objection that additional EU enlargement might jeopardise the bloc’s integration. Over the previous twenty years, the EU has virtually doubled the variety of its member states – and misplaced one among them, with Brexit in 2020. Despite its shortfalls, the EU is at the moment responding to historic crises. Its earlier enlargements have under no circumstances been weaknesses, fairly the opposite.
And but, this level stays a robust impediment to enlargement, because the accession of recent member states raises questions in regards to the creation of a political Europe. However, how can this be achieved, if what prevails by way of European integration each between the member states and with the international locations of Eastern Europe and the Balkans stays the logic of integration by means of the market and the legislation? The problem at present, with the European Political Community, is to get out of the rut during which Europe has discovered itself, or in different phrases, to get out of the enlargement/deepening integration dilemma.
In order to do that, Europe can’t accept tinkering across the edges. The conflict in Ukraine is a pivotal second that challenges the EU and its capability to reinvent itself. Although the EU may really feel tempted to give attention to the long run, it should additionally present strategic impulses within the brief time period. This time-related dilemma is prime, given the numerous erosion of the EU’s credibility by way of enlargement coverage within the Western Balkans.
Re-injecting politics into Europe
By putting these dilemmas on the forefront of the European query, the Mitterrandian concept of a European confederation can function a supply of inspiration at present. In observe, what would it not appear like?
First and foremost, the European confederation should function a cradle for a brand new technology of European residents, who needs to be introduced up as such by means of sensible tasks. For instance, within the colleges of the member states of the confederation, the educating of democratic citizenship, of European historical past, tradition, ethics and languages needs to be an integral a part of the nationwide academic programme.
To type this new technology of Europeans, the confederation will be capable to depend on mobility as a political program at an age when the identities of younger residents are nonetheless within the making. Exchange applications on the confederal degree might enable youngsters to expertise European mobility and conceive of their civic engagement on the continental degree. Such programmes needs to be absolutely the norm slightly than the exception. Solidarity might then be consolidated by means of a confederal civil or army service.
The creation of such a confederation, with European citizenship on the coronary heart of the undertaking, can’t be carried by elites alone. On the opposite, you will need to conceive it as an train in participatory democracy, getting ready future generations of Europeans for his or her function as residents. In the meantime, the peoples of Europe could possibly be requested to vote frequently on whether or not or to not preserve their nation within the confederation, as a part of nationwide elections, for instance.
All European international locations needs to be invited to affix this confederation – the international locations of Eastern Europe and the Balkans in addition to the EU member states – so long as celebration pluralism, free elections, a consultant system and freedom of data are assured. Becoming a member of the confederation will sign residents’ dedication to European federalism.
The subsequent few months shall be essential for Europe. The structure of a confederation of Europeans would sq. a historic circle: to deepen the European undertaking by offering it with a real political, citizen and democratic soul, whereas enlarging it to the peoples sharing these beliefs.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.