By Lionel Laurent
In genuine Zeus style, French President Emmanuel Macron did not say anything publicly when the AUKUS bombing erupted, leaving his ministers and European partners to speak out after Australia canceled a French submarine deal with Paris. a US-led alliance in the wider Indo-Pacific region.
However, now that a “power vacuum” is opening up in Europe, as Germany’s Angela Merkel leaves the scene after 16 years in the German government’s risk-taking position, Macron has re-emerged to awaken people and situations in Brussels and give the tone of a new era – probably more like a “bad cop” who lost the classic self-control of the “good cop”.
The recent French “victories” included a new defense agreement with Greece, which returned with the purchase of three French warships, and a downgrading – at the initiative of Paris – of the agenda of negotiating EU trade plans with the US and Australia. head of AUKUS.
The problem, according to Bloomberg News, is that the French have annoyed, among other EU officials and diplomats, who believe the bloc is heading in a direction – led by Macron – that threatens to alienate the Biden government.
With France preparing to take over the six-month rotating EU presidency, which will coincide with Macron himself’s battle for re-election to his country’s top post, the time has come for a different approach.
The message for Europe
Ultimately, Macron’s “message” is right: Europe will cease to matter and remain a burden if nothing more than a “soft” power bloc trapped in the crossfire of a US-China power struggle.
The striking weaknesses of the 27-member bloc are hard to miss in the eyes of competitors at the moment, as gas supplies from Russia are declining and migrants are being allowed to die on the border with Belarus. France was very willing to show its teeth partially against Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and the new agreement with Greece is a symbolic example of what the spirit of European defense should be: help to other members.
However, the tone and reliability of the “messenger” is the “brake” at this point. Greece feels supported by France. The Baltic states close to Russia do not feel the same way. When Macron says Europe must “stop being naive,” he is recalling his view of a NATO that has become “brain dead” – despite his assurances to the contrary.
There is also a shift in political momentum within the EU after Brexit, with new blocs seeking to curb the ambitions of Paris and Berlin. Macron’s plans for a single eurozone budget were weakened after resistance from a coalition of Dutch-led countries.
The impetus to stimulate the economy in the face of the Covid-19 crisis has led to the outbreak of similar intra-European battles. Macron’s voice had more weight in 2017, with Trump in the White House and France then entering a phase of reform.
It is time for Paris to look beyond Berlin. Even though Macron’s “militaristic” ideals meant that the Franco-German relationship would always be central, the government had not invested enough energy in cultivating other collaborations.
Merkel’s support was obviously crucial for the EU to pass on the “Rubicon” of common borrowing after the Covid crisis, but it is doubtful whether the successor would be fully aligned with France, both economically and geopolitically.
Ad-hoc coalitions will be the key to making progress in us where unity in 27 countries seems very difficult to achieve. The agreement with Greece, which was “drafted” before even the publication of the EU Strategic Roadmap for Defense, could be managed or repeated with other partners.
Pierre Morcos, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says there are already examples: Estonia, the Czech Republic and Sweden have stopped supporting jihadist crackdowns on the French leadership in the Sahel, while French, Dutch have worked together to protect maritime safety in the Strait of Hormuz.
Deeper ties could possibly be forged in the Mediterranean, where Italian Mario Draghi is a class for ambitious post-Covid spending plans and more expanded defense co-operation or with the Netherlands, the only EU country other than France and Germany itself. has its own autonomous strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.
The last president of Europe
If, however, France can show that its message is being introduced in its neighborhood, it may also receive a better reception from the other side of the Atlantic. It is in the US interest to deal with a more recent EU, as is the case with the United Kingdom, given the bilateral bilateral treaties with France in the fields of defense and security.
The West needs a prosperous and secure Europe that spends money to determine its fate on issues such as defense. It is not yet at this point and Macron’s vision for the EU will find it difficult to find listeners even inside France, if one does not judge by an election campaign proposing – among other things – the country’s withdrawal from its Treaties. EU and the cultivation of warm relations with Russia and China.
Macron has been described as “Europe’s last president” – the next six months may see if that turns out to be true.