In the current circumstances, as a European summit meets in Prague, many people would like to see an end to the European Union: Vladimir Putin’s Russia, first of all, for whom the Union is a counter-model and a hope for his own people. Xi Jin Ping’s China, which would like to get rid of a cumbersome economic rival and a political agitator who denounces its turpitude. The United States, which has always regarded the European project with scepticism and hostility and to whom the war in Ukraine has given wings, pushing them to go so far as to incite German manufacturers to move their factories to the United States, where energy is structurally cheaper: any opportunity is good to weaken a competitor. Britain, which would see the dismantling of the Union as the ultimate justification for Brexit, and the return of the possibility of resuming its age-old game of balance between continental countries. Not to mention the populist forces in Poland, Hungary, Italy, France, Germany; on the far right; and on the far left, wherever everyone dreams of socialism, or nationalism, in one country.
At the same time, conversely, more countries than ever before are dreaming of becoming members, from Albania to Ukraine, from Armenia to Serbia. Many of them, including the Ukrainians and Moldovans, are even present at the European summit in Prague on 6 October 2022, to discuss an idea launched by Mario Draghi and taken up by Emmanuel Macron: Why not immediately create a “European Political Community”, larger than the Union, and dedicated to political and military collaboration.
The idea is right: we cannot wait to bring these threatened countries into Europe until they have gone through the decades required by the pre-accession and accession procedures. Similarly, the accession of some countries cannot be accelerated without admitting all of them, i.e. ten countries, further blocking the Community institutions, where almost all important decisions are taken by unanimity.
A new, more flexible institution would therefore be welcome. Provided we do not forget that this is exactly what we tried, in vain, in 1989.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon, the twelve members of the Union were faced with the same dilemma as today: to enlarge as quickly as possible? To whom? To try to avoid a too massive and too rapid enlargement, which would have killed the still fragile euro project and, beyond that, any hope of a political Europe, France launched two ideas: a European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, to finance the rehabilitation of the former Eastern countries, while waiting to admit them into the Union; and a European Confederation, so that all these countries would immediately be in a position to take part in the political and military construction of a peaceful and united Europe.
The Americans did everything, successfully, to kill these two projects.
The dates are worth remembering: On 6 September 1989, François Mitterrand proposed the creation of a common bank for all the member countries of the European Union and Comecon, and on 31 December of the same year he proposed the creation of a “European Confederation” bringing together all the countries of Western and Eastern Europe in a new political institution. The Europeans approved. Working groups were set up, but the Americans did everything they could to ensure that these two institutions were distorted by opening them up to all OECD member countries, including of course themselves. It was on this basis that the EBRD was created in May 1990; and when it was inaugurated in June 1991, the Americans were all-powerful; that same month of June 1991, the founding meeting of the confederation in Prague, where the European summit of 6 October 2022 was held, was similarly distorted by the presence, at the invitation of the Czechs, of the Americans, Canadians and Japanese. The European confederation project is stillborn, while the EBRD has gradually lost its specificity as a unifying institution for both parts of Europe.
Today, nothing has changed: Still the same American obsession: preventing Europeans from coming together without them. Still the same European impotence to build a European defence that is not a collection of American arms buyers.
As long as the main European countries are not ready to behave like adults, as long as they have not understood that the United States will never act, as is normal, according to its sole strategic interests, no European political project will make sense, and we must stick to deepening the construction of the European Union, whose founding fathers cannot be thanked enough for having bequeathed it to us.