La défense de l’Europe
This essay retraces the various stages of a European defence that remains incomplete, along with its failures, the most emblematic of which is still the EDC, and its minor achievements, from the WEU to the CSDP via the ESDP. Despite the incantations on the prospect of a European army and the European Commission entering the scene with its European defence fund, the unavoidable conclusion is that the defence of Europe remains at this stage the prerogative of NATO, the vehicle of an American protectorate whose star is on the wane, for a number of reasons: Europe’s loss of geostrategic and economic importance; the challenges to American hegemony; the increased isolationism of the United States.
“As things stand, Europe has not yet developed a mature common political vision comprising the interests to be defended, the threats to be faced, the operational structures and instruments to be used and adequate resources to pay for it all: the awareness of European accountability in world balances is not yet developed, although many steps forward in this direction have already been taken”, General Pasquale Preziosa and Prof Dario Velo astutely observe (our translation throughout). But in view of the threats (jihadist terrorism, cyber-attacks, destabilisation and numerous crises on Europe’s doorstep), the level of security investment necessary is in the order of several trillion euros, they argue, pointing out “that no European state is large enough to face the major challenges at play on its own and autonomously, that the integration of defence is a necessary step for political union and that a common defence system would help to streamline expenditure on armaments and bolster the defence industry”.
To achieve this, they recommend following the road taken by the United States in developing their own defence on the basis of a federation/federated states dualism. “For the entire 19th century, the federal authorities retained control of the fleet, schools and a small intervention force, while each member state was in charge of National Guard which it could decide, in each specific situation, whether or not to make available to the federation”, the authors point out, arguing that a solution of this kind could be adapted to work full the European Union. “The member states can retain their sovereignty over the national guard, a pool of land forces to be mobilised under federal command in the event of conflict. Military staff (…) would continue to answer to the national authorities. Competences in terms of investment, management and handling (not having had access to the original text in Italian, I consider that the term “logistics” should have been used instead of “handling”: Ed), training, border protection, aerial policing and maritime security could be transferred to the European Union”, the authors continue. As regards the components of the armed forces, the Union would have competence for: aerospace; IT activities; research and development; promotion of federal businesses on the basis of public-private partnerships; border protection; naval affairs; an intervention corps on a limited scale.
As attractive as this dual architecture may be, it raises many questions as to the inclination of the member states to come on board. In the American system of the 19th century, the federal states were in reality still in charge of the land forces, in other words virtually everything apart from the Navy. In the proposed European adaptation, the member states of the EU would retain only land troops and would give up everything else. It is also worth noting in the context that the authors remain silent on the question of nuclear capabilities; however, this concerns only France. The dual model is unquestionably an area that deserves more work, but the huge leap forward suggested by the authors has little chance of success, unless the government debt caused by the Covid-19 crisis forces the member states to make huge cuts to their defence instruments, which cannot be ruled out.
Pasquale Preziosa and Dario Velo. La défense de l’Europe – La nouvelle défense européenne face aux grands défis européens (translated from the original Italian; available in French and Italian only). Fondation Jean Monnet. Collection débats et documents, edition 15, February 2020. ISBN : 977-2-296-77100-1. 90 pages.
L’Europe d’après. Pour un nouveau récit de l’élargissement
“The coronavirus pandemic and its heavy human and economic cost to our continent have plunged the European Union into one of its new existential crises, in which the rug seems to have been pulled out from under the future of a project that was initiated exactly 70 years ago”, observe Sébastien Maillard, Director of the Institut Jacques Delors, Thierry Chopin, lecturer in political science at the Catholic University of Lille, Lukas Macek (political science) and political scientist Jacques Rupnik. However, this crisis could also give new legitimacy to an initiative of unification that should go hand in hand with continued integration if Europe wants to have a say in the world of the future.
The authors take the view that the development of the European Union as a strategic player requires enlargement to be pursued, “as it will help to give the EU the critical size and mass (economically, demographically, politically) it needs to stand on an equal footing with the other centres of power in the business world”. To do this, enlargement would have to be based on a “political recipe” that enables it to be accepted by all. They consider that “using the word reunification instead of enlargement could help to avoid feeding into the sentiment of indefinite expansion and territorial indetermination that is inherent to the word ‘enlargement’, which is a concern, particularly in the West, and to tackle the scepticism towards the countries of central and eastern Europe that persists at the heart of Community Europe, France in particular”. They go on to stress that “in the east, it would temper the feeling of being seen as second-tier Europeans, nothing more than a periphery latched on to an idea brought about and steered by the West – a feeling that explains many of the current tensions and frustrations. And it should be more than just a matter of terminology: reunifying Europe also means taking into account the experiences and specifics of that part of the continent, with its obsessions and demons which the current crisis has done nothing to remove”.
As for Turkey, “once the current crisis is over, a new privileged partnership must be devised”, but it is also necessary to “make the end of its accession prospects are a matter of public record, as this has only made the debates on enlargement more difficult”. According to the authors, “the process will end with the Western Balkans joining, as this will represent no less than the historic unification of the European continent”. Available in May’s edition of the Esprit review. (OJ)
Sébastien Maillard, Thierry Chopin, Lukas Macek and Jacques Rupnik. L’Europe d’après. Pour un nouveau récit de l’élargissement (available in French only). Revue Esprit (https://esprit.presse.fr ). May 2020.
COVID-19 Géopolitique du monde qui vient
In this article, published on diploweb.com, the French geopolitician Cyrille Bret argues that the current crisis is having the effect of reinforcing a number of basic tendencies that were already helping to shape the world to come. They include the rivalry between China and America, the gradual disengagement of the United States from multilateral bodies and its isolationism and, no doubt we will have to add the existential crisis the European Union is struggling to leave behind.
“China has skilfully succeeded in selling itself as a model of pandemic management”, the author notes, also considering that it has “made clear its stance for the coming world: in all areas (economically but also in the media, science, health, standards and, of course, military) and by all means, it will be shooting for first place and will step up its bilateral initiatives (in Europe, in Africa and in the Middle East) to supplant the United States”. He adds that “China will come out of the crisis as an even more nationalistic entity, as its economy cannot avoid stagnation”.
Cyrille Bret also identifies a number of turning points, the most important of which is unquestionably the calling into question of globalisation, with a return of the states to the economic and social lives of people. He does not hesitate to refer to a “mass wave of renationalisation”. He also states that the “Islamic Republic of Iran is certainly in the process of deeply downgrading itself on the regional stage of the Middle East” and that Africa risks losing the progress it has made, if it suffers “a state of sanitary, then economic and political, relegation”. (OJ)
Cyrille Bret. COVID-19 Géopolitique du monde qui vient (available in French only). Diploweb.com the geopolitical review. 29 April 2020.
COVID-19 Outbreak: Political, Economic and Social Repercussions
The special edition given over by the Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs to the current pandemic is an interesting read in many respects. In it, some dozen academics analyse the repercussions of this crisis in the European Union and, more broadly, the world, often in a highly critical way. These criticisms echo a strong feeling of resentment among large sections of the general public in the countries of southern Europe over the lack of solidarity from their neighbours from the North, Germany and the Netherlands in particular, but they are not the only ones.
As Prof Achilles C. Emilianides makes clear, there has been one crisis after another since the beginning of the 21st century, with the development of international terrorism becoming extended in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the migration crisis, the financial crisis, with its devastating social consequences, and the pandemic, the economic and social impacts of which are not yet known. Every time, it has been the people of southern Europe who have been the most adversely affected. This will be the case once again with Covid-19. Not only are the countries of the South already registering the highest number of deaths (89,000 as of 15 May out of a total of 120,000 at EU level), but for many of them, this public health crisis means a new spike in government debt and the further impoverishment of the populations. As Constantine Dimoulas points out, recession rates are likely to fall to between -8% and -10% in the Mediterranean countries of the EU, with unemployment rates rising to between 20% and 30%. The fear of travelling and changes in tourist behaviour could further worsen the situation in the months or even years to come in countries that depend heavily on tourism. The raft of measures taken by the ECB, the European Commission and, after much procrastination, the Eurogroup, is certainly not insignificant, but is not commensurate to the crisis and falls short of being the “Marshall plan” hoped for by the authors. Everything will now depend on the details and strike force of the relaunched plan to be presented by the Commission by the end of the month and its rapid approval by the leaders of the 27. As Jacques Delors pointed out, a further lack of solidarity could be fatal to the EU.
Once again, this crisis throws into sharp relief the vacuousness of a slogan that actually makes sense: “a Europe that protects”. This, certainly, is what the citizens expect. And it is their perception of a lack of protection that is widening the gulf between the citizens and the EU, breeding Euroscepticism. As former European civil servant Kyriakos Revelas points out, the EU basically has supporting competences (article 6 TFEU) in an area, public health, over which the member states wanted to retain control. Nonetheless, as Prof Emilianides observes, it has shared competence in security matters (article 4) and, with some restrictions, the fight against major cross-border health scourges (article 168). The evidence shows, however, that the institutions of the EU have shown a lack of foresight, considerable lack of preparedness and delays in coming on board and in the response to the health crisis. The lack of foresight and response on the part of most of the national governments does not excuse this. As Revelas rightly observes, “the EU has in the past attached importance to a high degree of self-sufficiency and avoiding dependency in many sectors (food production, stocks following oil crises, energy diversification, the Galileo satellite programme). It is therefore hard to understand why the EU has tolerated a high degree of dependence on imports, particularly from China, in the production of drugs and medical equipment and faced shortages of basic products at the start of the pandemic”. He concludes: “radical policy changes and better preparedness are vital, alongside a reorientation of global supply chains, possibly favouring shorter distances with beneficial effects for sustainable development”. (OJ)
Andreas Theophanous and Michalis Kontos (under the direction of). COVID-19 Outbreak: Political, Economic and Social Repercussions. Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs – University of Nicosia. Bimonthly electronic newsletter. May 2020. 30 pages. The letter may be downloaded from http://cceia.unic.ac.cy or via its ISSN number: 2421-8111.
De Le Pen à Trump: le défi populiste
In this work, Gilles Ivaldi, researcher at CNRS, analyses the rise in populism and, more specifically, of the far right, characterised by nativism, authoritarianism and populism, both in Europe and the United States, over the last two decades.
In particular, it also stresses that although the reference framework of populism is based around an antagonism between a “noble” people and a “corrupt” elite, “politico-legal cases have not spared populist actors, as can be seen in the very many times that executives of the Rassemblement national in France have been called into question and the investigations into its president in October 2018 for ‘embezzlement of public funds’, the likely conflict of interests concerning Andrej Babis in the Czech Republic and the countless question marks over the way the Trump administration in the United States practises power”. He relates that one study shows that no fewer than 40% of populist heads of government in the world have been questioned over corruption cases.
“The year 2016, which saw both Brexit and the unexpected victory of the former real estate magnate in the American presidential elections, represented a turning point in the symbolic construction of this global ‘populist moment’”, Ivaldi observes, stressing that over and above their ethnic identity matrix, with their rejection of immigration and Islam, the European far-right parties share a common ambition to “dismantle the European Union”. Although the widening of inequalities and the cultural and identity crisis this has fed into have also benefited from the fact that the traditional parties have been in power for so long that their credibility has been eroded: they have become parties of government rather than parties of representation. (OJ)
Gilles Ivaldi. De Le Pen à Trump: le défi populiste (available in French only). Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles. ISBN: 978-2-80041-643-4. 400 pages. €13,00 €
L’extrême droite en Europe centrale et orientale (2004-2019)
Having provided us with an in-depth analysis of the far right in Western Europe at the end of last year (see Kiosk 2), Benjamin Biard examines the evolution of the far right in 13 countries of central and eastern Europe (CEECs) which are also members of the European Union, in this latest CRISP Courrier hebdomadaire.
While no Neo-Nazi far-right party has succeeded in winning power in Western Europe in the last 15 years, XA in Greece, the SNS in Slovakia and ELAM in Cyprus have succeeded in doing so in the CEECs, even though the election fortunes of these political groupings have been on a downwards trajectory in recent years, the author reports, also pointing out that the far right in CEECs is often irrendentist, as is the case in Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia. Far-right parties in CEECs always identify themselves through the enemy or, at the very least, the scapegoat they appoint. Unlike usual practice in Western Europe, this enemy figure is not always external (the figure of the foreigner), but can also be found within national borders: Russian minorities in the Baltic states, the Roma in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, Bulgarian-speaking minorities in Romania and Slovakia, Serbian minorities in Croatia, Turkish minorities in Bulgaria and Greece, Jews in Hungary and Romania. Such political parties are also characterised by their radicalism and violence, for instance through militia, as in Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia. However, the researcher stresses, there are also many political formations which, like their opposite numbers from Western Europe, have adopted a strategy of moderation. In some cases, this moderation and, for some of them, participation in government has led to an electoral decline. But even without joining an inter-governmental coalition, these parties succeed in bringing considerable political influence to bear, the author goes on to stress, referring to the radicalisation of more traditional right-wing parties such as HDZ in Croatia, Nea Demokratia in Greece, Fidesz in Hungary, PiS in Poland, SMER-SD in Slovakia and SDS in Slovenia. Conclusion: “a tendency towards the marginalisation of the far right in a given country does not mean the marginalisation of its ideas”. (OJ)
Benjamin Biard. L’extrême droite en Europe centrale et orientale (2004-2019) (available in French only). CRISP (http://www.crisp.be ). Courrier hebdomadaire. Edition no. 2440-2441. ISBN: 978-2-87075-229-6. 68 pages. €12,40