What is happening this week at the European level is crucial. I already told you about Macron’s speech this Monday in Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament. Macron made proposals that are heading towards a multi-speed Europe, with the introduction of a novel idea, a framework called “European political community”.
Emmanuel Macron calls it the “Strasbourg oath”
In that speech, Macron talked about:
- reforming European treaties
- And the qualified majority voting.
The current President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is committing to carry this proposal forward.
And I had told you that it will be crucial to observe the reaction from every single member state. Lo and behold, that reaction was quick and swift. Around 10 countries already voiced their opposition quite strongly.
Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria; for example said NO. They are saying that they would lose some of their voting privileges.
In fact, from the French perspective, it’s an old topic. It’s important to take swift and rapid decisions in these times of deep challenges. The current war in Ukraine and climate change will require rapid reactions and initiatives. With the current vote at a unanimity, with 27 Members, clearly the European Union is stuck. It can take months if not years to come to a unanimity, not even to a consensus.
Unanimity means that all EU Member States have to agree. It is one of the rules used at a Council level. But it applies on a series of sensitive topics that are listed very precisely by the Treaties.
That is precisely what Macron is proposing to reform.
A qualified majority in some of these areas may be needed and could allow to take swiffer decisions. Modification of the treaties and qualified majority seem to be the most obvious path now that the European Union has reached a number of 27 members.
This search for efficiency will no doubt lead to some painful discussions but it will be necessary and unavoidable.
Many countries are now saying that they would lose their sovereignty and that it would be a jump into federalism that is too quick and too sudden.
So you can see how smaller countries will see Macron’s proposals as an attempt to curtail their respective sovereignty, while the larger countries, mainly founding members of the E.U or earlier members, could see these proposals as an attempt to curb the boiling opposition to Brussels that is growing among their voters. The latest French elections just showed us that close to 60% of voters chose a Euroskeptic candidate in the first round of the Presidential Election.
Would a referendum be needed to move forward with these proposals? Would a transfer of sovereignty be needed, and in that case, isn’t it leading to that loss of sovereignty that many nationalistic or populist movements are precisely blaming on the European Union.
This is why Macron is now opening the door to that “new political community”.
In fact, Macron goes back to an idea that had first emerged when the Soviet Union had collapsed and that had been expressed by then President Mitterrand. The idea was that the European Union would not be in a position to structure and coordinate that enlarged Union. He could already envision that the European Union would extend further East and that it would include a larger number of members. The concept of a Confederation was then proposed in order to allow for a better collaboration in various fields such as security for example. Yet, that idea never really took off, because of the mistaken realization that the E.U. could still afford to go along just by “kicking the can down the road.” No one really focused much more than that on the idea and all the focus went on the creation of the Euro, the monetary union that every new member could then dream of joining at one point on the horizon. It was a dream that everyone had in mind. And thanks to the Euro, it was assumed that free market policies would take care of the proper allocation of capital and investment flows that new opportunities would attract. That was the extent of that coordination with the new enlarged E.U.
As a result, while the monetary union did go ahead and moved forward successfully, nothing of substance really happened on the political front. Although some political coordination did take place on the fiscal and economic front, with the creation of a stability and growth pact, and the launch of European Bonds, other areas of political coordination remained open and completely untapped. Defense and security policies remained at a standstill and there was no real incentive to move past the NATO framework that came from the cold war era.
In other words, the European Union found itself stuck, unable to create or invent a new framework past the launch of the Euro. All it could do was to issue new standards with a bureaucratic administration that the rest of the population felt was too disconnected from its real daily needs.
That’s what I wanted to share with you.
Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Feel free to comment.