We need a new way of belonging to Europe
Director of the Franco-German Institute of Ludwigsburg
The idea of a Europe with variable geometry is not new. Including in Germany, where the first working document to defend it comes from the CDU/CSU Group of the Bundestag, signed by Wolfgang Schäuble, Karl Lamers and Theo Waigel, entitled “Reflections on a European policy”. It was the day after the fall of the Wall and reunification. The text already warned of the importance of forming a “European hard core”, starting from the observation that the enlargement and deepening of the Community project did not necessarily go hand in hand, and that there was logically a risk of slowing down integration with the integration of new Member States, in the East . This vision of a differentiated level already exists in the European Union, it is the case for example of the Schengen area, or the euro zone, which do not integrate all of the Twenty-Seven.
Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to find a new way of belonging to Europe seems relevant to me. The question arises again in a dramatic way, at a time when Ukraine, or Serbia to another extent, is under threat or pressure from Russia. It is up to Europeans to be creative and to find a formula so as not to give the impression that we are going to create a category of second-class Europeans, and that the prospect of integration into the EU is real. This fear of relegation largely explains the failure of previous attempts to create a political union, notably under the Kohl-Mitterrand tandem.
To succeed, the project of “European political community” defended by Emmanuel Macron could be based on foreign policy or energy sovereignty. It could take the form of the creation of a new European treaty, without affecting the rights conferred by those in force. This solution would have the advantage of avoiding broken promises, as is the case for the Western Balkans. It would offer a perspective to Turkey, a candidate for entry into the EU for more than twenty years, and perhaps even to the United Kingdom, which has made the opposite choice to leave it.
There is still in Germany this almost Merkelian reflex of caution on the subject. The former Chancellor was very reluctant to this idea of“Multi-speed Europe”, anxious not to accentuate the East-West divide on the continent. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on the occasion of the French president’s trip to Berlin on May 9, judged Emmanuel Macron’s initiative ” very interesting “. He hasn’t closed the door, that’s already it. To move the file forward, France will no doubt have an interest in opening negotiations with the Minister – Ecologist – of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock. His party, present in the coalition alongside the Social Democrats and the Liberals, is much more clearly open on this issue.
Collected by Jean-Baptiste François
The Polish answer is very clear: no
Political scientist and vice-president of the German Institute in Poland in Darmstadt
From a Polish point of view, Emmanuel Macron very clearly pursues a French personal interest in his European policy. The French president is therefore viewed with skepticism, even if pro-European voices support him against the national right of Marine Le Pen. During his speeches and state visits, Macron is often seen as not really knowing or appreciating Central and Eastern Europe. This is why the idea of a “Two-speed Europe” assumes that it is primarily a question of French interests and not of the well-being of all the Member States.
Let us come to the question itself, which is not new from a historical point of view. Should we create a “European hard core” among EU member states and also offer a kind of “special friend status” to candidate countries like Ukraine, Kosovo and Albania? For Poland, the answer to this question is very clear: no. A no which is moreover the only debate which unites all the political camps.
Why ? There are several reasons. On the one hand, in Poland, we are very afraid of being part of the “second” category of Member States. Even though the country has developed a lot in recent years, Poland has not yet developed its full political potential, despite a population very favorable to Europe and the geographical size of the country. We do not want to fade into insignificance and we assume that a “multi-speed Europe” will lead in the first place to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe never becoming full members. This would above all harm the candidate countries. It does not matter if the process is long, the main thing is that it is a full membership.
Another point is the question of the euro, because the hard core of this possible European reorganization will very probably be limited to the euro zone. Poland is not yet part of the euro zone and will not do so very soon, even if the opposition is not against the introduction of the euro. The same situation occurs in several states of central and eastern Europe.
A final point of France’s European policy in this respect is the relationship with the United States. As part of his European visions, Emmanuel Macron often speaks of European independence and makes concrete reference to independence from the United States. This is not a historical novelty either, we know the rhetoric of France. And once again, we are in Poland of an absolutely opposite opinion. The United States is an important partner of Poland in terms of security policy and stabilizes the whole region. We would never move away from the United States to exist in a two-speed Europe.
Collected by Amélie Baasner