Europe must seize this moment for deeper unity

May 9 will be celebrated as Victory Day in Russia and as Europe Day in much of the rest of Europe. The coincidence in time between a cult of military victory and a celebration of European peace and unity has long been a bit shocking. Today, the confrontation is more sinister, reflecting the Ukrainian stakes.

Vladimir Putin will no doubt point to a confiscated victory, likely based on his recreation in Mariupol of the German punishment of Warsaw for resisting in World War II. It has long sought to undermine Europe’s unity around its common interests and the expansion of its democratic peace in alliance with the United States.

This means that the two celebrations are no longer just in tension but antithetical to each other. Ukraine is the current battleground on which Putin is waging his assault on European peace and unity. It is therefore significant that the war strengthens the movements towards greater unity in democratic Europe.

This is most evident in the area of ​​security. To the north, Finland and Sweden are about to join NATO. As Putin realizes, this reflects closer intra-European unity as well as transatlantic ties, even if superficially unrelated to the EU. In addition, Denmark is expected to decide next month to drop its opt-out clause for EU collaboration on defense policy.

Moreover, this Europe Day coincides with the conclusion of “the conference on the future of europeand a growing wave of interest in changing treaties for greater European integration.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi last week spoke in favor of a “pragmatic federalism” to more effectively pursue the objectives that the war made Europeans realize that they have in common, such as reducing their dependence on Russian fossil energy.

This followed a call from the Austrian Foreign Minister for the EU to seize the ‘geostrategic moment’ and reform its membership rules to give Ukraine and the Balkan countries rapid access to its membership structures. membership.

The outcome of the conference on the future of Europe will put on the table a series of proposals for “more Europe”, including those which require a modification of the treaties. Many of them will have their greatest champion in newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who has proposed “democratic conventions” to debate deeper integration in his country. Sorbonne speech five years ago.

There’s no shortage of reasons to doubt that all of this will come to much (and no shortage of naysayers to point them out). Above all, changing the Treaties is still not appealing to many Member States. Researchers at the European Policy Center put the number member states ready to launch an 8-to-10 treaty change convention — not enough yet but soon.

But it would be wrong to see this as a repeat of past political differences, with calls for greater integration by the usual suspects – especially France and southern Europe – blocked by Germany and northern members. . On the one hand, the current German government has opened the door to a treaty change in its coalition agreement.

Above all, the feeling that EU countries should do more (and perhaps spend more) together is almost universally shared. The war shows the futility of uncoordinated military supply. Energy challenges, from fossil fuel imports to electricity pricing, can only be permanently solved through more collective action and costly joint infrastructure. The required unanimity makes the sanctions policy more difficult.

Whether these issues are resolved by treaty change or by more active joint crafting and spending under the current setup is secondary. Indeed, both approaches will yield more results if pursued together, as the EPC points out in a document.

The biggest obstacles are the vetoes of recalcitrant countries or the growing anti-Europeanism within the countries. The first is illustrated by Hungary’s resistance to an embargo on Russian oil. The latter by the extraordinary will of the French Greens and Socialists to join a left-wing electoral pact explicitly based on the non-application of certain EU rules.

The optimistic view is that the holdouts will be won over by a mixture of pressure and gain. Meanwhile, French polls suggest that anti-Europeanism will simply put a ceiling (albeit uncomfortably high) on parties that see no other way to victory.

Putin has long been betting on the opposite. Since the meaning of his Victory Day has become the defeat of the unity of Europe, there is no better time to prove him wrong.

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