“Europe as a power”, the shared ambition of Macron and von der Leyen … in theory

“We are essential […] We are a geopolitical power ”. During her joint press conference at the Elysee Palace this Friday, January 7 alongside Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen replied in the affirmative to French wishes to move forward on the project of a new autonomous security architecture for the EU, between the Atlantic alliance, dominated by the Americans, and Russia. Indispensable? Geopolitical power? It is difficult, however, to put more than words to these ambitions, at a time when the rotating French presidency of the Union for six months opens, and when the political crisis in Kazakhstan once again highlights the key role of Russia in its area of ​​influence.

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“Europe must propose its vision of things to move forward […] Whatever the solution for Ukraine, it must go through Europe, ”continued Ursula von der Leyen, relying on a single concrete fact: the six billion euros in aid disbursed by Brussels each year. to support Ukraine. Nothing, on the other hand, on a possible revision of the sanctions policy applied by the EU against Moscow, or on a formal request from the members of the EU present within NATO, while the 29 member countries of the most A powerful world military alliance are meeting their foreign ministers in Brussels this Friday, a few days before the Russia-United States talks scheduled for Monday in Geneva.

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Two dates were mentioned by Emmanuel Macron to move forward on this issue of a future European defense, which few observers think could be released during the six months of French presidency: the informal summit of heads of state or of government of the Twenty-Seven in France, on March 10 and 11, and the Brussels summit on March 24 and 25, three weeks before the first round of the French presidential election on April 10. It is then that Paris intends to present its options to concretize, on the military and diplomatic level, this “sovereign Europe” which is the first pillar of its agenda.

The French head of state, who in 2019 denounced “the brain death of NATO” to the chagrin of the allies, however, has few assets up his sleeve. “NATO is crucial in this dialogue,” he conceded, acknowledging that in this period of tension with Russia, most of the joint member countries of the EU and the Atlantic Alliance are watching. first on the Washington side. The idea of ​​an EU-Russia summit proposed in June 2021 by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron has still not returned to the table, due to the opposition of countries most hostile to Moscow such as Poland or the Baltic countries. .

Financial manna

There remains geography, diplomacy and… the financial manna in times of pandemic. The European Union, often condemned in theaters of major crises to pay without having a say, today finds itself in the situation of a player that is certainly essential, but tied up by its internal disagreements, both in the face of the confrontation with Russia, than in the face of NATO’s security embrace. “Europe as a power” remains the stated ambition. But beyond words and theory, there are still too few outstanding acts to be able to believe in an imminent and credible leap.

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