The return of the theory of a Europe in
concentric circles ? Emmanuel Macron proposed on Monday the establishment of a
“European political community”which would offer countries wishing to join the European Union
another form of cooperation.
In the hemicycle of the European Parliament, the French president spoke within the framework of the conference on the future of Europe and added his own stone to those of the citizens collected for several months.
1. What exactly did Emmanuel Macron say in Strasbourg?
Let’s be clear, the European Union, given its level of integration and ambition, cannot in the short term be the only means of structuring the European continent., said the French president. For Emmanuel Macron, the war in Ukraine, and its new geostrategic deal, must push Europeans to
find the way to think about our Europe, its unity, its stability, without weakening the intimacy built within our European Union.
Rather than the accession of new countries, the French President therefore proposed
a European political communitybased on the idea put forward in 1989 by former President François Mitterrand (1981-1995).
This new European organization would allow the democratic European nations adhering to our core values to find a new area of political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment, infrastructure, movement of people and especially our youth. Joining it would not necessarily prejudge future membership of the European Union, nor would it be closed to those who have left the latter..
2. Is this a proposal created for the case of Ukraine?
This proposal coming out of the hat of the French president surprised and is interpreted as a structure to this for Ukraine, which is demanding membership of the European Union to protect itself from Russia. During the press conference that followed, Emmanuel Macron clarified that
for the Balkan countries, the path is already marked out [l’adhésion, N.D.L.R.]notes Yves Bertoncini, president of the European Movement France, the largest pro-European association in France.
He clearly said that Ukraine is asking us a new question. Hence the idea that a new organization must be created he analyzes.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reiterated in kyiv during her meeting with the Ukrainian president on Tuesday that there would be no
” shortcut “ in joining the EU. The European Commission is studying Ukraine’s candidacy at full speed and should submit it to the Member States at the European Council in June. Then would come a long process of negotiations, “chapter by chapter” according to the European term, to bring about the convergence of national legislation in the economic, social, legal or agricultural fields.
But creating a European political community requires having a new structure to negotiate with the Member States, which will also take several years. However, kyiv would surely be more willing to be content with the symbol of a simple candidate status, pending full membership.
3. Who could join this European political community?
Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, François Mitterrand had expressed the wish to bring together all the countries of the European continent within a confederation going beyond the European Economic Community (the EEC, former name of the European Union until in 1992). The socialist president was even ready to integrate Russia at the time, which does not seem to be the case with Emmanuel Macron.
In a press conference which took place just after his speech, the current host of the Élysée clarified that the United Kingdom could join this “community”, just like countries like Switzerland or Norway, reluctant to join the ‘European Union.
Above all, the European political community would be called upon to tie to the EU boat countries which are not about to join, such as Ukraine or Moldova, but also Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, or even countries of the Caucasus like Georgia. And thus reject any possibility of alliance in the future for these countries with Russia.
It would also be a way of creating an antechamber of the European club for the countries involved in the accession process: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. From there to leaving an open door to Turkey? Many heads of state and government have rejected any strengthening of political ties with Ankara in recent years.
4. Europe at several speeds or with concentric circles?
Mitterrand’s theory of a Europe
concentric circles wanted at the time to create a Europe with several levels of integration, between the most united countries in a first circle, and circles then defined by the level of adherence to European policies.
We must not fear differentiation, the avant-gardes, they have always been fruitful for the European projectsaid Emmanuel Macron during his speech, citing the cases of the Euro zone of the Schengen area.
The French president did not specify the consequences of such a structure for already existing organizations dedicated to collective security (OSCE), defense (NATO) or the customs union (EEA).
This would a priori go further than the deceased
AELE, this European free trade alliance launched at the time by the English to counter the nascent EEC and which was a simple customs union. On the other hand, it would go less far than the current one
EEEthe European Economic Area which was created in 1994. This structure made it possible to extend the provisions applicable to the European internal market to the member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (but not Switzerland).
In any case, this European political community is not intended to invite countries that are cold with the rest of their partners, such as Poland and Hungary, to get off the European train.
5. Is it doable?
Will Emmanuel Macron suffer the same failure as François Mitterrand at the time? His proposal will not succeed in any case before the end of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, on June 30. However, the two countries which will take up the torch from France, in July 2022 for the Czech Republic and in January 2023 for Sweden, signed the joint letter of 13 countries on Monday announcing that they refused any change in the treaties. The subject therefore risks not being on the agenda for a long time.
Even on the idea of a convention to think about a new treaty, a subject where a simple majority is enough, Emmanuel Macron does not have the sufficient number of votes in the Council, especially if we add Hungary, calculates Yves Bertoncini. For the President of the European Movement, everything will depend on the interpretation that will be made of this proposal;
will it be perceived as more or less of Europe for those who want to join the EU?he asks himself.
This entry point would certainly make it possible to act quickly to bring a country closer to the EU, but some will see it as a form of purgatory.