From our correspondent
On 9 May 1950, the “Schuman Declaration” was signed, setting in stone the idea that “world peace cannot be safeguarded without creative efforts commensurate with the dangers that threaten it”. The text has not aged a bit, seventy-three years later. The revival of European construction, desired from 2021 under the impetus of Emmanuel Macron with the Conference on the Future of Europe, must review its priorities. The question is no longer whether or not a new treaty is needed. Other more pressing subjects torment the Member States: how to ensure the security of the Old Continent? How to stem the rise in energy prices? Is it better to continue at 27, or open the door to other states? “The EU is entering a phase of urgent, concrete and even existential actions, which explains why institutional reform is not the priority”, emphasizes Éric Maurice, Brussels director of the Robert-Schuman Foundation.
The ideas of Schuman’s time are taking on new colors. The European Defense Community (EDC), rejected in 1954 by the French National Assembly, found emulators. At the time, in the midst of the Cold War, there was talk of building a European army, with supranational institutions under the supervision of NATO. Without going that far, the European Commission’s proposal of May 3 to speed up ammunition production in Europe (to better meet Ukraine’s needs) is part of this movement. Insufficient, believes Pierre Haroche, lecturer in international relations at Queen Mary University in London: “To move up a gear, the EU should define a real defense policy by going beyond the industrial instruments it has put in place. It is necessary to place orders with 27. Purchasing weapons or military equipment together will give more visibility to the industry, and to Europe a real solidity on the international scene. On energy too, Europe has a card to play, believes Susi Dennison, researcher at the European Council for International Relations. “There is success at stake if the EU succeeds in increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix and in building strong ties with other partners – more stable and less dangerous than Russia,” he explains. her, citing in particular Qatar, Algeria and Norway. What about the United States? She advises the EU not to become too dependent on Washington. “Europeans may fear the re-election of a Donald Trump-style populist. This would rhyme with new turbulence, and even if Joe Biden remains president, the trade war between the United States and China can also have negative consequences of which the EU must be wary”, she explains.
While the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has chosen to spend her May 9 in Kiev alongside Volodymyr Zelensky, the other central question remains the potential rallying of Ukraine to the EU. The country was granted EU candidate status in June 2022. But for a majority of member states – including France – it is too early to consider joining quickly. Éric Maurice believes that an EU of 36 (with Ukraine, but also the Western Balkan countries, Moldova and Georgia) could not function as at 27. “When the prospect of enlargement begins to materialize, with candidate states “at the level” of the membership criteria, the EU will not be able to save reforming both its internal functioning (number of deputies, European commissioners, etc.) and external, because it will then have the opportunity to rethink its place in the world. In a note, the French diplomat Maxime Lefebvre warns: “The risk is that European integration ends up breaking under the effect of internal imbalances and centrifugal forces, that instead of continuing to deepen, the new enlargements lead to a deconstruction of the European project. To “prevent this catastrophic scenario”, he bets on “the Franco-German agreement”, which he considers as “the first cement of the Union”. This day of May 9 will again be the symbol: Chancellor Olaf Scholz will deliver a speech in the European Parliament, in response to President Macron, who took part in the same exercise last year.