10 maggio 2022 10:02
Sometimes some ideas come too soon and don’t find a way to catch on. In his speech before the European Parliament, delivered on 9 May, Emmanuel Macron referred to one of these ideas, illustrated thirty years ago by one of his most illustrious predecessors, François Mitterrand.
In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mitterrand had proposed the creation of a “European Confederation” which would offer a reception structure to the newly liberated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This project made it possible not to immediately enlarge the European Community of the time.
A summit was organized in Prague in June 1991, but it turned out to be unsuccessful. And so the project was shelved. Macron revived it by proposing a European political community that takes up the same idea: a reception structure around the European Union.
In 1991, the French proposal broke on two rocks. The first was the desire of the new democracies of the east to join NATO as soon as possible to benefit from its security guarantees at a time when the USSR was still unstable. The Mitterrand Confederation did not offer the same guarantees as the Atlantic Alliance.
The second stumbling block was Mitterrand’s idea of inviting the USSR to join the confederation to anchor it in Europe. But this would have meant ignoring the resentment of Eastern Europeans towards the old masters and above all the frontal opposition of the United States, which in practice would have been excluded. At the time, I attended the Prague Summit and it was clear to Mitterrand that American diplomacy had sabotaged his initiative by offering former Communist countries quick entry into NATO.
With France’s support for the revision of the European treaties, the proposal launches the great construction site for the future of Europe
These issues are very topical in the context of the war in Ukraine, initially justified by Vladimir Putin as a response to NATO enlargement before returning, as in the speech he gave on May 9, to more topical issues declaring that Russian troops are fighting “at home. ” in Ukraine.
Will Macron’s proposal have a chance for success? Certainly, at this moment, it responds to a clear demand: a good number of European countries today feel that they are “orphans”, that is, they do not belong to any structure. This is the case of the three former Soviet republics – Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova – but also that of the countries of the Western Balkans.
All these countries are candidates for entry into the European Union, and some have already started negotiations on them. But barring a bias in the criteria, it will be years before they are admitted. This, however, does not correspond to the political needs of the moment. The political community conceived by Macron has the merit of offering him a framework of rapprochement, with concrete cooperation with the 27 which would constitute a safety buffer. The idea had been in the air for some time, recently evoked by the leader of the Italian Democratic Party Enrico Letta.
With France’s support for the revision of the European treaties, announced on 9 May, this proposal launches the great construction site for Europe’s future, which will inevitably come up against various obstacles. But it was important to take this step, especially considering the war at the gates. Evoking Mitterrand’s position, as Macron did on May 9, certainly cannot be a negative choice in the context of French politics.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)