Between Eructations of Erdogan and the fear of re-containment, is there still room for European reflection? It is because we believe that the book by Pierre Ménat Ten Questions on Post-Covidian Europe (L’Harmattan, 97 pages) is worth reading. This former adviser for European affairs to President Chirac asks 10 questions “between mistrust and power” (such is the subtitle) at a time when everyone is wondering if Europe is capable at the same time of protecting Europeans and of building industrial strategies, to defend a strong currency against the dollar, to counter the return of great empires or if it would not be better to return to “everyone at home” …
Pierre Ménat ultimately proposes a new treaty. We can already hear the skeptics being indignant about a new transfer of sovereignty. The source of inspiration for this retired diplomat is drawn from the unfinished work of a great man: General de Gaulle, promoter of a stillborn Fouchet plan. We cannot make Europe a respected and respectable power without choosing reliable partners capable of asserting a position in the world.
The return of the Fouchet plan
So let’s go back to the source: General de Gaulle clearly distinguished the common market from sovereignty in matters of defense and foreign policy. He considered the second more imperative than the first. The Fouchet plan was rejected in the early 1960s because, as Pierre Ménat reminds us, the Belgians and the Dutch did not find it Atlanticist enough and wanted to include the United Kingdom in it. They feared the hegemony of France, especially in the hands of the general …
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However, Pierre Ménat takes stock of past obstacles: the United Kingdom entered, then left the Union; the United States is withdrawing or claiming to do so from European security; the European Council of Heads of State and Government, created in the 1970s, has grown considerably, in accordance with what de Gaulle wanted … The author therefore sees an opportunity: “To bring together, he writes, those of the European states which would be willing to commit to a close Union that respects national identities. Set up a European Security Council, independent of the EU institutions, which would deal with foreign affairs and defense, but which could broaden its action to other areas not covered, or insufficiently, by current treaties, such as health, culture or research. Of course, a link would be established between this political Union and the European Union. “
Josep Borrell, valiant but little listened to
First, it should be noted that the Commission and Parliament are not. The institutions of the EU were built haphazardly the luck of political openings by repeatedly missing the boat of deepening at the time of successive enlargements. We end up with a whole that pursues several logics without ever catching up with them: a piece of federalism here, a piece of confederation there, a layer of international organization that would not only welcome its members to fully-fledged but would associate others (Switzerland, Norway…) according to skills, playing fields… The architect of Europe does not exist. Or rather, they are several, have lived in several eras, under the influence of various currents. Imagine a cathedral started in the XIe century, continued in the Bauhaus style, retouched by Le Corbusier and whose final packaging would have been entrusted to Christo and you will have a fairly accurate image of the European monument. Pierre Ménat is therefore asking for a last helping hand: that of General de Gaulle to complete political Europe. It would also be necessary to decide the fate of NATO, of which Turkey is a member, which leaves one wondering … There, the author does not decide.
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There is, however, a “High Representative for External Affairs” within the EU. He even has the status of Vice-President of the Commission and enjoys a large administration. Since the Spaniard Josep Borrell took the post with the establishment of the von der Leyen Commission, the Catalan has not wielded the language of wood, but, to his great misfortune, he only has a sword … of wood . Its analyzes are famous, but its means of action non-existent. Calling for ceasefires without being able to pose the slightest threat to the belligerents is a depressing exercise which Josep Borrell does not without a certain abnegation. When he says nothing, we are enraged at the impotence of Europe. When he speaks, we laugh at his inability to be listened to by the powerful.
What will the Conference on the Future of Europe be used for?
To put an end to this comedy, Pierre Ménat therefore proposes to move on to serious matters: a few European states – and not the 27 – are taking the plunge into a real common foreign policy. This Security Council would ideally be composed of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and… the United Kingdom. London, in fact, would not be obliged to re-join the EU since this treaty would be independent of the institutions. Angela Merkel had formulated the idea of a Security Council, but located it within the EU with rotating members. As long as the rule of unanimity remains, the EU will never be immune from hostage-taking by one of its own to win a case on a completely different subject. To overcome this obstacle, a new defense treaty which would bring together only truly motivated states.
“People will object that it would be pointless to create an additional structure when there are already so many. But faced with the immense challenges of European sovereignty, who can claim that the current structures are adapted? We must therefore try, the game is worth the candle ”, concludes the author. The only leader capable of carrying this project is by definition French: in this case, Emmanuel Macron or the person who will succeed him. Will Macron take up the fallen torch from General de Gaulle? And who will he find in Berlin, London, Rome, Madrid or Warsaw to help him in this once wasted enterprise … open before the end of this year and run until spring 2022 is the place to debate and decide this huge question. In the end, will we dare, in the event of a new treaty, whatever it is, to make the people vote? It is hard to imagine that Europe could do without this popular base in order to project itself forcefully into the great challenges of the century. We should accept that those who do not want to step aside to let others pass.
Ten Questions on post-Covidian Europe, Between mistrust and power, by Pierre Ménat, L’Harmattan, Pepper editions