French-German disputes are tearing the EU apart

There have already been many hot summits over the history of the European Union, but this one has good chances to enter into the history book as a watershed summit.

The fact that the European Council President Nicolas Sarkozy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown met without German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a slap in the face for Germany. The Franco-German engine is out of synch, as France and Germany engage in a level of competition that has never been witnessed before, with Sarkozy promoting himself as the ‘must-go' person in Europe.

Sarkozy's imperial style of running the EU has been upsetting Germany since his election. His attitude to launch projects without previous consultations is an unwelcome change of style in French-European policy. From the Independent Reflection Group to the Mediterranean Union, France has been busy announcing ideas without asking for other opinions. This clash is thus not the first one. When France pushed for the Mediterranean Union in March Merkel already needed to pull the emergency frame because the details of these proposals did not suit Germany at all. Back then Merkel kept silent. After all, Germany did not want to stay in the way of a successful French EU Presidency. Now, however, this patience is about to run out.

The energy that France has brought to the presidency is impressive. From a modest agenda without any special highlights - a little CAP-health-check, a pact for migration, progress on Europe's energy and climate policy and some ideas for the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) - Sarkozy turned out to be a highly engaged trouble shooter when three crises emerged at the same time: the Irish ‘no' and the deadlock of the Lisbon Treaty ratification process, the war in Georgia and the financial crisis.

With regard to the content, there is not much to add apart from complimenting the French presidency for its quick and tough reactions: Sarlozy kept the EU together on Russia although the member states are largely split when it comes to designing a common diplomatic strategy and he pulled together the G-20 to face the world's biggest financial and economic crisis since 1929.

Luckily, the EU had a big country in the presidential seat; many smaller countries would have been overburdened. However, while Sarkozy was acting without hesitation, Germany became reluctant and was pushed into the seat of an observer. This in itself is not a good sign for the Franco-German tandem and may have negative repercussions for the EU at large considering the country's powerful role within the EU.

Sarkozy probably overlooked this fact while he was busy fixing Europe. Giving away ownership is not one of his strengths. Germany is reacting by withdrawing from the European mainstream. Over the past weeks, it has developed a ‘go-it-alone' rhetoric with a ‘national spin' that sounds more ‘strict' than usual. As a result, the European architecture is crumbling and cracking.

At least on three major policy areas, there is no common European position that France and Germany, in the classical tradition of the engine, would propose to the other members:

First, energy policy and a common, integrated European gas market. Overcoming dependency on Russian gas and resisting the way in which Gazprom mixes up the most strategic and sensitive European energy industries is probably one of the most urgent goals in current foreign policy. However, France and Germany, as most of the other EU countries, defend their existing energy deals. In addition, France promotes nuclear energy and pressures Germany to do the same despite that fact that it has committed to abolishing nuclear power plants. Instead, Germany wants to promote the new Carbon Capture Technique for which it finds little support from others. Even worse, when it comes to energy policy, Germany returns to its favourite historical pattern of making deals with Russia behind the backs of ‘in-between' countries such as Poland and the Baltics. The country clearly aims at a strategic partnership with Russia and thus refuses to stand up against Russia within the EU arena. One glance at history is sufficient to understand which tensions may stem from this.

Second, France and Germany are engaged in a ‘dialogue of the deaf' with respect to the need of economic governance. This dispute is as old as the creation of the Euro. The fundamental misunderstanding is that when France evokes economic governance, Germany sees this as a threat to the independence of the ECB. As soon as Sarkozy asked for the common economic regulation of Europe to overcome the financial crisis, -Germany's press was full of hostile comments condemning regulation and praising the free market economy. This is at odds with reactions in the US and the UK, where the governments seem more willing to admit to the causes of the crisis. As a consequence, Germany is now reluctant to contribute to the European financial aid package that the French presidency has prepared. This resembles pulling away the main pillar from a bridge.

Thirdly, the French attempt to push ESDP got stuck in nitty-gritty disputes about industrial defence cooperation. Most Germans are right to complain about the fact that France always needs to win when it comes to industrial deals. The traditional French inferiority complex with respect to the German industries causes the country to seek deals which are harmful to the German economy. Patience here is also vanishing at the expense of European progress on issues surrounding military capabilities and defense.

All three policy areas put together show that the dynamics of the Franco-German engine are shifting towards more and more competitive behaviour, which negatively affects the EU as a whole. The problem is not the disputes as such. After all, it is sane and healthy when France and Germany argue over European policy issues. In the past, it was this process which helped finding the compromise that was then accepted by many other EU countries and formed the basis for an integrated and vigorous policy. The Euro is the best example of a terrible Franco-German dispute giving birth to a wonderful European project.

No, it's not the disputes per se which are of any significance. It is the fact that beyond them there is no Franco-German project at the horizon which could be turned into a European common goal for the decade to come. There is no vision for Europe if it is not backed by France and Germany. If this leadership tandem falls apart, the future of the EU would be at stake. This is what is worrying. The next summit is thus going to be hot - and it is going to be decisive for the immediate future of the EU!

By Ulrike Guérot - 11 Dec 08

State of the Art of the EU and the French Presidency


I. EU-Russian relations and the Georgian crisis
II. European Energy Policy
III. The future of the EU’s transatlantic relations
IV. Potential solutions for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty
V. Europe’s South-Eastern Strategy
VI. Franco-German dynamics with respect to the domestic situations
VII. Outlook of the European Year 2009


The French Presidency has more or less dropped its initial agenda and has turned nearly exclusively to crisis management with respect to the two major crises the EU stumbled into in the course of the second half of 2008, one domestic, and one external:

1. The institutional crisis after the Irish ‘no’ of June 2008
2. The breakout of the Russian-Georgian war.

The launch of the Mediterranean Union at the beginning of the French Presidency at the EU-Summit in Paris 13th and 14th July was, in a way, the only element of the French presidential agenda successfully achieved on plan so far.

Indeed, the Summit was a success at the end, despite the critic and the tensions that have been accompanying the idea of a Mediterranean Union (MU). In March 2008, Franco-German differences about the shape of the MU had led to a serious clash between the two countries and to speculations that the MU would not be put into place. Until late, observers thought that France would not be able to gather most of the Heads of States and Governments of the Mediterranean countries. But finally, with admittedly huge last-minute efforts, France succeeded to choreograph a surprisingly good Summit-event, wit spectacular pictures, i.e. Israeli Prime-Minister Olmert and Palestinian leader Abbas driving together into the court of Elysée-Palace.

Also in terms of content, the MU finally suited most European governments. It is the overall opinion, that the South of Europe deserves more attention. The moment France had agreed to integrate the MU project into the framework of the Barcelona-Process – especially with respect to the financing – and to open the future general secretariat of the MU to other than Southern EU-countries after two years time, the most ardent dispute points had been clarified and the project had been finally supported by all EU member states. The secretariat will now be opened and start to work on the endorsed working program. In a year’s time, the foreign ministers of the EU and the ones of the Mediterranean countries will meet again for an evaluation summit after the first year of existence. In 2010, another summit of Heads of states and governments shall take place again. However, a fair assessment will need to acknowledge that the launch of the MU had no lasting effect so far and the risk is that the idea will not keep the momentum, but fade away as one of the multiple projects of the EU.

Soon after the launch – and in the middle of European holiday season – the Georgian-Russian conflict broke out and turned around the initial goals of the French presidency. France was in the necessity to go for immediate crisis management, rather than focusing on the EU agenda of energy and climate change or other more routine-business.

In addition, over the summer, the financial crisis took much larger amplitude than expected and is now supposed to have a huge impact on European (banking) markets, but also the broader European Lisbon – and globalization agenda, meaning the modernization of the European economy. It can therefore be expected that the next October council under the French presidency will dedicate some time to discuss the impact of the financial crisis on Europe, whereas concrete solutions for the ratification crisis of the Lisbon treaty due to the Irish ‘no’-vote are not likely to come during the French Presidency. The official agenda for the October Summit indicates that the first topics are Irish proposals on the Lisbon Treaty, but it is not likely that much progress can be achieved (see chapter III). The second topic of the agenda is the European Pact for Migration and Asylum, which is likely to be passed as prepared and without political problems. Key points of the ‘Pact for Migration and Asylum’ are:

- The steering of migration with respects to the job-market needs of the receiver-countries;
- Enhanced ‘return-politics’ of illegal migrants and sharper boarder controls;
- A common asylum-policy and partnerships with origin- and transit-countries.

The third point on the agenda of the October EU-council is the Lexus-nexus between financial crises, economic forecast, energy prices and food-shortage that the Heads of States and Governments want to discuss.

I. EU-Russian relations and the Georgian crisis

It was known since long that the ‘frozen-conflict’ region in the European neighborhood was highly unstable, but the outburst of the Russian-Georgian conflict came to everybody’s surprise. In the retro perspective, even though the EU had to face a lot of critic, it becomes nevertheless clear that the sheer fact that the EU succeeded in getting a common position on the Georgian crisis in its resolution of August 13th was and s a huge success for the French presidency which should not be underestimated. The same accounts for the extraordinary EU-council meeting on September, 1st.

In difference to the Iraq crisis, the EU got a common position despite huge internal differences on Russia. Whereas Poland, the Baltic States, Sweden and the UK favor a rather tough approach towards Russia, similar to the US position, Germany, France and Italy do have a more differentiated approach, in which the new danger stemming from Russia and its clearly anti-democratic and hawky tendencies are not ignored, but is flanked by a strong wish to keep Russia as a strategic partner and to not close the doors of dialogue.

Especially the German position was much differentiated. The interview of former Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, in the German weekly ‘Der Spiegel’, in which he called Michael Saakashvilis behavior ‘hazardous’, was probably the most outspoken defense of Russia and Vladimir Putin’s behavior. However, Klaus Mangold, the head of the German ‘Eastern Commission of the German Economy’ also largely defended Russia in a prominent TV-interview, and argued that Russia will and must remain a strategic partner of Germany, due to the economic ties. Germany would not be more depended from Russia than Russia from Germany. Even broader, the political establishment in Germany is perfectly split on Russia between those who want to cut relations to Russia and those who want to remain strategic ties. The cleavage goes through the Grand Coalition, with Merkel being more on the ‘human-rights’-side, and Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, being more on the ‘strategic-partner’-side; but it also goes through the middle of especially the CDU, where positions from prominent deputie are not in with respect to Russia. It is on the SPD-side that the position tends to be also much in favor of keeping doors open with Russia.

This is the more interesting, as the German position contrasts with much with the main-stream position of the US. Leading US-journals or American analysts pointed to the sole responsibility of Russia, demanded a strong course towards Russia and urged Europe to open NATO and the EU for Georgian membership, what precisely France and Germany together had refused to accept at the last NATO-Summit in Bucharest in April 2008. At an event of the German Council of Foreign Relations (DGAP), Hans-Ulrich Klose said that Europe and the US do not agree any longer on Russia; and that transatlantic relations would be under strain on Russia, especially if Senator McCain should win the elections.

The common position of the EU should therefore not been taken for granted – especially as some European countries tend to sign with the US - and the achievement of the French Presidency, perhaps more in terms of content than in terms of style, is broadly acknowledged. The Chancellery admitted that Nikolas Sarkozy’s very pushy style to drive the agenda on the Georgia conflict when he negotiated the cease-fire agreement did not please the chancellor, who had scheduled her own visit to Georgia only four days later. However, German officials do except that France needed to act quickly on behalf of the European Union. When Angela Merkel somehow changed her position on Georgia’s potential NATO-Membership after her trip, this had taken place in narrow concertation with the French presidency. By this time, it was clear that the EU would need to take over much more responsibility for the region and would also need to get much bolder in what it expects from Russia as much as in what it could do for and offer to Georgia.

It was clear that, in preparation of the extraordinary EU-summit on September 1st, Germany took a leading role in a well-orchestred cooperation with France. France and Germany were both together the broker of this deal, both committed to keep the EU together and to avoid a split at all price. Germany and France, hence, needed to respect the more Russia-hostile positions of the Baltic countries and Poland; but tried to forge a realistic consensus. I.e. it was mainly Germany who argued against sanctions against Russia, which at some point had been considered, as much as a postponement, if not suspension of the just shortly started negotiations on the Partnership- and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia. None of this happened so far, although Russia did not fully comply with the stipulations of the cease-fire agreement. There is evidence that the French presidency is now changing course in the Russia policy of the EU, taking a tougher stance. On the hand, through the commitment to a donor conference and European contribution to the reconstruction of Georgia infrastructure, Europe has quickly shown engagement.

This paper is not the place to analyze in detail the sequences of the Russian-Georgian war, which are also much disputed in the details. Also, the American role to back Saakashvili is discussed and remains unclear for the time being. But it is important to underscore that Europe is in a total revision of its policy towards Russia; that the EU is called to take greater care of its Eastern neighborhood and that European credibility in foreign policy is at stake. Therefore, the French presidency attaches its utmost biggest energy to this conflict and the future positioning of the EU towards Russia. On 8th October, the EU-Commission is due to present an evaluation of its Russia strategy.

Germany clearly opposes - although Merkel’s statement from 10th August could have been interpreted that way – the NATO accession of Georgia as consequence of the war. It would lead the article 5 guarantee of NATO ad absurdum. The EU would ultimately not defend Georgia – nor would the US. In case of a Russian attack with Georgia being NATO member – and neither the US nor Europe reacting – this would mean the definite death of NATO.

In more general terms, the German position that will be essential for the common EU position on Russia – can be resumed as follows: Russia is clearly too central for Germany to cut relations. However, it is also clear that Russia crossed the Rubicon when it attacked Russia. If Russia complies now (retreat of troops etc), the German assessment is that the conflict on South-Ossetia and Abkhazia will be somehow ‘frozen’ again (‘Cypriotisation’ of the conflict) without any clear solutions – or the reach of the status quo ante in some due time to come. The real question for Germany is now, whether the ‘Georgian case’ has been the one exception of Russian policy in its near neighborhood; or whether Russia makes a pattern or a method out of it in the month to come (with respect to other ‘frozen conflict zones, i.e. Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan), but especially with respect to Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine – and Russia’s behavior towards Ukraine – would be key in the next month and there is a clear risk of Russian agitation in Ukraine. The EU would not be able to accept one wrong move of Russia towards Ukraine, also because the US would not permit it. But the solutions in which relationship Ukraine wants to live with both, the EU and Russia, need to come from the Ukraine itself and a EU-membership perspective cannot be the answer (for now). The EU can and wants to help stabilizing Ukraine through cooperation, trade, exports and opening of markets, but the real stabilization efforts needs to come from Ukraine itself (i.e. constitutional reform!). The policy of Germany is oriented to avoid anything that could further split the country into East- and West- Ukraine. It would be wrong to assume that if the West-Ukraine can be pulled into the ‘camp of the West’, East-Ukraine would follow. Unfortunately, this would precisely be the strategy of (some in) the US, so that there is a real need for better EU-US understanding on what to do with Ukraine. Germany is committed to bring this question up at the EUs October Council meeting.

II. European Energy Policy

The problems with Russia lead to problems in the shaping of a European Energy Policy. The negotiations of the Partnership- and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia had been blocked for quite a while because of Lithuania and only in March an agreement had been reached to pursue the talks. Now, further talks with Russia will depend on full compliance of Russia with the cease-fire agreement that the French Presidency has negotiated on behalf of the EU in August. Germany clearly opts for not suspending durably the PCA-talks, but this position is difficult within in the EU, especially (again) with respect to Lithuania. In the German view, EU talks with Russia are the only way to give countries like Lithuania a say – and ultimately influence – on the EU position towards Russia. If countries like Lithuania refuse talks with Russia, the alternative for countries like Germany (but also France or Italy) – who are not willing to accept cutting down talks with Russia – is ultimately to ‘go alone’ with Russia. Therefore, the German reasoning is that especially countries like Lithuania should have an utmost interest in a common position towards Russia, because for them this would be the only way to shape EU-policies and to not be circumvented by Germany and others. In this case, Lithuania alone would have no speaking-channel towards Russia. However, German officials strengthen that the engagement into talks needs to be worded in a way that is does not mean a de facto recognition of South-Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence.

Germany objects that in this context, especially Lithuania – in difference to the other Baltic countries – puts itself into the role of a ‘victim-country’. Nobody within the EU wants to deliver Lithuania to the Russian risks, but Lithuania needs to understand that it is perfectly hedged in the EU and within NATO. Lithuania, however, tries apparently to make use of its ‘victim-position’ to squeeze economic privileges out of the EU. Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all had guaranteed to close their old-fashioned (Chernobyl-style) nuclear power plants, when signing the accession treaties to the EU, and they all got large economic compensations in the order of 1,3 Billion Euro for doing so and to develop alternative energy resources.

However, Lithuania still refuses to close its nuclear power plant Ignalina, although a new power plant has already been built. Lithuania still wants to produce the rather cheap energy – and to sell it also to Euro with dumping prices – as the energy of the old nuclear power plant, due to the fact there are no more investment costs to cover – is relatively cheap and Lithuania does not want to give up this competitive advantage on the European energy market. The new power plant therefore is not yet attached to the energy net. Germany, however, does not want to allow this and requests that Lithuania fully respects its European engagements, if Lithuania on the other side requests full political, moral, military and financial backing of the EU in its relations with Russia. For Germany, this is a question of fundamental EU solidarity with goes in two directions and cannot be a ‘one-way’-street. Most likely, this question will be debated at the EU’s forthcoming October Summit. And it is likely that this – at first glance rather tiny German-Lithuanian conflicts – will have a high impact on the overall EU-Russia policy; or the difficulties that the EU will have in the next month to reach a common position on Russia.

Another question Germany wants to bring up at this Summit is the question of energy reserves, requesting that all countries should care for and have their own energy reserves for three month in terms of gas or oil. This is a cost question and for Germany there is no point that some EU-countries shoulder the costs of having energy reserves, but are forced to share them in a crisis with those who refuse to shoulder the costs for their own reserves. Real EU solidarity would request common efforts for energy reserves and market criteria should apply. On the other hand, Germany has no intention to exclude i.e. the Baltic countries (or Poland) from ‘national’ energy deals with Russia and would perfectly agree a scenario in which the Baltic countries and/ or Poland get special pipeline access to the North Stream pipeline that is under construction.

In terms of broader energy policy consideration, Germany will oppose all tendencies that European Energy Policy goes straight into the direction of ‘Plan-economy’. At the October Council meeting of the EU, Germany will therefore shape the Council resolution in a way that there is no competence of the EU to dictate where a country gets its energy from and how much: ‘The EU must not regulate where a country gets its gas from’. By the same token, Germany will not accept European regulations on questions like energy mix (i.e. the share of nuclear energy, coal etc); nor will it accept to reduce its own gas import from Russia. There is a clear refusal to accept a central management of energy resources through the EU, and German officials state clearly that there should not be a community competence on energy for the EU: ‘The EU does not decide where we buy’.

III. The future of the EU’s transatlantic relations and external policies of the EU

The Georgian crisis has put on the table the EU’S external relation policies at large, meaning the EU’S positioning towards Russia as well as the US; or with respect to crisis regions such as Afghanistan, Iran or the Middle East; and, in more general terms, Europe’s responsibility and its involvement in the big global challenges such as climate change, energy security or the reform of the multilateral system. Never before, the external pressure on the EU has been so high.

The sharp deterioration of relations with Russia through the conflict on Georgia has brought the French Presidency to rethink the EU’s relationship with the US and to push for a renewal of US-European relations after the US-elections. If Russia falls apart as a partner, the US come back. France analyses very clearly that for all major crisis the EU is involved – Afghanistan, Iran, Middle-East – a solution can only be found together with the US.

France is therefore aiming for a very strong claim for a renewed and re-energized transatlantic alliance – something that in this form one would never had expected from a French government and that suits current American positions. It goes along with other moves in French foreign policy, through which France had already signaled that it wants to change course with respect to the US, i.e. its commitment to join the military structure of NATO.

France wants to restore the value-basis and the confidence between Europe and the US. Only a common set of values and an uncompromised defense of international law and multilateralism would be the way and means to stem against realpolitik, as pursuit by especially Russia, but also China. France (on behalf of the French Presidency) now sketches out common EU-US approaches for common external policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle-East, Iran and Russia, with a strong focus on human rights and security aspects, including new agreements on disarmament treaties; beyond this, France suggests common approaches between the US and Europe on issues like climate change or the reform of the multilateral system.

III. Potential solutions for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty

After the Irish ‘no’, it had been expected that the French Presidency would try to very quickly find a solutions and come up with possible solutions as early as at the October Summit. In the meantime, this assessment has changed. New Irish polls indicate that, if the Irish were to vote again in some time soon, the ‘no’-vote would even been higher than in June 2008. Initially, speculations assumed that it would be possible to organize another referendum in Ireland in spring 2009. As the Lisbon Treaty also changes the seats of the European deputies per country, March 2009 would be the last moment to adopt the Lisbon treaty, if the European elections of June 2009 should be run under the Lisbon treaty. The French idea was to prepare the territory for a new Irish vote already in October, but at the latest at the December council. However, after Nicolas Sarkozy’s trip to Ireland over in July 2008, it became clear that Ireland cannot be pressured and that the French Presidency would not be able to present any concrete steps to be taken on the ratification issue. 71% of Irish people pronounced against a second vote, and 62% of those who would vote again would go for a ’no’. Given these results, the institutional crisis of the EU is clearly not longer a priority for the French Presidency in the immediate term.

Interestingly enough, there are also rumors that the Irish ‘no’ campaign has largely been sponsored and pushed by anti-European movements from Austria to the UK and that even neo-conservative Americans have tried to torpedo the ratification of Lisbon in order to weaken the EU. As the Irish referendum is the only device for all EU-hostile groups to stop the ratification of Lisbon, it can be expected that the next Irish referendum – if there is a second – will be under high scrutiny. In addition, the entourage of Mr Cameron, who has chances to win the next parliamentarian elections in the UK in spring 2010, is doubtful whether or not Mr Cameron would submit the Lisbon treaty – in case of another Irish vote – also to a referendum in the UK, although formally the British Parliament has already ratified the treaty last June. Of course, another referendum in the UK would mean an enormous hurdle for the Lisbon Treaty.

The forthcoming Czech EU-Presidency in the 1st half of 2009 has therefore already put strong emphasis on solving the institutional crisis, as no major steps are expected for the French Presidency. Beyond the Irish ‘no’-vote, Poland, the Czech Republic itself, but also Germany are still faced with the problem that plaints have been brought to their constitutional courts. In Germany, this legal handicap is a formal one, as officials are eager to underscore. Mr. Gauweiler, CSU, has appealed the Bundesverfassungsgericht (constitutional court) to make the case that the Lisbon Treaty is not in concordance with the German basic law. The German government needed to suspend for the time being all activities to prepare for the stipulations resulting of Lisbon, i.e. preparations to establish the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the President of the Republic, Horst Köhler, did not yet sign the law in order to wait for the court’s decision – which however, seems more a formal problem, as there is no risks that the German court will oppose Lisbon. The situation is similar in the Czech Republic and in Poland. Legal experts say that the Czech Republic and Poland will follow the German course. Once Germany has formally solved its legal problem with Lisbon, solutions will follow in both countries. The real problem therefore remains the Irish ‘no’ and no solution is in view before 2010.

IV. Europe’s South-Eastern Strategy

It is interesting to note that – behind the scenes – one can detect slight changes of the French position on EU-enlargement. France has been one of the most prominent defenders of a ‘core’-Europe and has been more or openly against further enlargement of the EU in the past decade, under the previous governments. It was also France that never had been truly committed to give a clear enlargement perspective to the countries of the Western Balkans. And it was France that changed its constitution in early 2005 stipulating that any newcomer to the EU would be submitted to a French referendum, a move clearly seen to torpedo Turkish EU-membership.

Now, however, due to a much more complex geo-strategic positioning of the EU between Russia, Turkey, Central-Asia and Iran, and with the energy/ pipeline-questions getting ever more important, it seems as if France is quietly changing position. French officials start to voice that of course the Balkan countries must join the EU and soon. The EU should go for visa-regulations with the Balkan countries soon and Balkan countries should soon get a date for membership, and this largely before 2014. The Turkish case is more complex. It’s too soon to talk explicitly of full membership – hence, Turkey clearly needs a European perspective. This does not resemble to what is normally the discourse of the UMP party on European enlargement. The UMP party (the French conservatives) is one of the most reluctant parties against further enlargement, so slight changes in the wording on enlargement should not be taken for granted.

Shifts in French policy can be explained through three things: First, France, particularly Nicolas Sarkozy, wants to please the US. Second, with Russia becoming an extremely difficult partner for Europe, there is a fear that Europe cannot afford to lose the two most important and biggest countries in its neighborhood altogether. And third, with President Sarkozy being keen on playing a major role in the Middle-East, France is realizing that good relations to Turkey might be very helpful, i.e. with respect to Syria.

The French policy shift fits into the plans for the Swedish EU presidency to bring enlargement polices back to action. Swedish government officials say that enlargement will be the cornerstone of the forthcoming Swedish presidency in the 2nd half of 2009. One central idea would be to make a package out of Turkey and the Balkan countries and to bring them into the EU at ones, as it would not be possible to take the Balkan countries first, leaving Turkey again behind. Binding essentially Serbia and Turkey together would also make it difficult for France to go for a referendum on enlargement, as France is pro-Serbian and would not like to vote on Serbia, but would be squeezed it were to vote on Turkey alone. It can therefore be expected that further commitment of the EU towards the Balkan countries will happen during the Swedish Presidency.

V. Franco-German dynamics with respect to the domestic situations

The Franco-German engine is finally getting closer together after a rather difficult starting period right after Nikolas Sarkozy’s election and a first year of problematic relations. With smaller – and not really experienced countries – like Sweden and the Czech Republic taking over the EU-Presidency in 2009, France and Germany will have an indirect function of a leadership-role to provide. The Czech Republic is working together extremely close with the two. It is clear that, with respect to the major new orientation of the EU to come (Russia, US and new US-administration, neighborhood policies), the grand orientation or commitment will and needs to come from France and Germany.

However, in 2009, there will be a new US-administration, EP-elections, a new EU-Commission, German elections (and elections in the UZK in spring 2010), let alone that a difficult relationship towards Russia will need to be managed in the middle of a lasting financial crises which’s impact on Europe is quite unknown for the moment, and with growing concerns to the overall economic environment in Europe, let alone energy prices and security. France and Germany will have the difficult task to combine the increasingly difficult aspect of internal European integration (social Europe, migration, wealth, economic growth etc) and the broader geo-strategic dimension of the EU (Mediterranean Union, South-Eastern enlargement, neighborhood policies).

It is not that there is no awareness of these problems or that Franco-German cooperation is principally under strain. Even if most say that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy do not really like each other, they perfectly work together on a very pragmatic level. However, it is hard to assess whether or not France and Germany will find the energy and the dynamics to develop commonly a ‘big picture’ for the future of the European integration process. Even if the cooperation is good first glance, there is beneath the surface a growing skepticism in Germany with respect to its cooperation with France. Also, France may suffer quite more from the financial crisis due to a different structure from its economy, which may put France much under strain with respect to its domestic situation and turn away interest from Europe once the presidency is over.

The problem, official voices say, is that France feels increasingly marginalized within Europe and ‘always needs to win’, i.e. when it comes down to European industry cooperation in European Security and Defense Policy. In short, the German ‘trust-level’ towards France is reduced, and French attempts to out pass Ms Merkel making France the ‘must-go’ country within Europe displease many in the German European and foreign policy establishment. Franco-German relations are therefore also at a turning point and the tandem needs to be enlarged.

VI. Outlook of the European Year in 2009

The institutional gridlock will derange the European Union over the course of the year 2009, which, in many respects, is likely to become a difficult year for the EU. Firstly, without formal ratification, it will be impossible to implement those stipulations of the Lisbon Treaty that the EU needs most, especially the European External Action Service (EEAS) and progress in European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) through structured cooperation.

Secondly, given recent trends in national or regional elections – i.e. in Bavaria and Austria on September 28th – here are growing fears that the EP elections may also see sharp fissures in the European party system with the major European parties (European Peoples Party, PPE; and European Socialists) that would lose with respect to the more radical parties at the left or right wing of the political spectrum.

The very fact that most likely no solution on the Lisbon Treaty will be found will give the Czech Presidency a difficult time and will leave this presidency with un unclear set of priorities, including the difficulty to welcome a new Commission that may only have interim character. The Czechs will have the difficult task to pursue the difficult relationship the EU has with Russia and to shape the new agenda for transatlantic relations with a new US-administration.

Ulrike Guérot

1 The MU working program will have a special focus on energy security, counter-terrorism, immigration and trade.
2 The official council agenda is at
3 Exact content can be found at
4 Der Spiegel, August 11th, 2008
5 Dr. Klaus Mangold, Ostausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft, in the TV-Talk-Show ‘Anne Will’ on Sunday, 10th August
6 Ron Asmus: ‘New Purposes, New Plumbing: ‘Rebuilding the Atlantic Alliance’, in: American Interest, November/ December 2008; Ron Asmus and Tod Lindberg: ‘Global Ambition of the European Project’. Powers and Principles. International leadership in a shrinking world. Working Paper of the Stanley Foundation, September 2008; Jörg Himmelreich: ‘Großreich Putin. Russland fällt zurück in zaristische System – und schadet sich damit selbst’, Internationale Politik, Oktober 2008.
7 ‘Der Krieg in Georgien’, Panel-Discussion organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin, 22nd August 2008.
8 Especially the Baltic countries and Poland; and, to a lesser extent, Sweden and the UK.
9 See Spiegel-online, 17th August
10 See i.e. Nicu Popescu, Andrew Wilson and Mark Leonard: ‘Can the EU win the piece in Georgia’, ECFR-Policy Brief, 25th August 2008
11 See: ‘Paris stellt Russlandpolitik der EU in Frage. Frankreich hält Anbindung an Europa gescheitert‘, in: Financial Times Germany, 22the September 2008.
12 The very fact that François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, has already announced Franco-Russian talks for November 2008 in a press conference last week points precisely into the direction that France also would opt for a ‘go-alone’ strategy in case that there is no EU agreement.
13 Ron Asmus: ‘New Purposes, new Plombers’, op. cit.
14 See opinion poll by ‚openeurope‘. Poll amongst 1000 representative Irish people, 21th und 23th July, details at
15 This is so, because national parliaments need some three month in average to adopt national election laws for the EP-elections to the Lisbon stipulations.
16 See poll ‘openeurope’, op. cit (footnote 23)
17 See: Economist / certain ideas of Europe blog, June 26th or
18 Similarly, the idea of a Mediterranean Union had, at least at the beginning, a clear spin to put Turkey rather in the MU than in the EU.
19 i.e. France has been refused to participate in the consortium of the Nabucco-Pipeline if it does not favor Turkish membership in the EU.
20 ‚The challenges of the EU in the 21st century‘. Conference organized by Aspen France, in cooperation with La Fondation pour vie Politique (Fondapol) and the OECD, Paris, 19/ 20th October 2008.
21 European Conference of CIDOB and ESI (European Stability Initiative): ‚EU-enlargement: is all still going well?‘ in Barcelona, 20/ 21th September

Is Europe at odds with Russia? // New shape of Europe after Georgia // Redefining EU policy in the Caucasus

ES 25 August 2008

The surprise calling of an EU Summit for next week (1 September. NDLR) suggests the EU is at last getting serious about Georgia, and by implication about policy in the Caucasus altogether. Does this debacle spell the end of the soft-language doctrine? Is the EU to become a real player in the region?

The EU declaration of August 13 was imperfect. But Georgia has not become another Iraq, and there is a common position. So at least two cheers for the French presidency and the back-up of Angela Merkel. Crucially, it is now clear that the US and Europe no longer agree about Russia. There is no common geo-strategic view of transatlantic security, of how it should work, and how far it should extend.

Nor is there consensus about how to reanimate the relationship between the US, the EU and Russia without turning it into a Bermuda Triangle. Russia and Europe share the same continent, are mutually dependent, and cannot afford lasting conflicts. This is far less true of Russia and the US.

The US and USSR were what drove European federation, the US in a positive sense, the USSR because it posed a threat. It is now up to Europe to redefine its relationship to both, ranscending the faultlines of the Cold War (a trap the US is currently falling into again) as well as the mistakes made since 1989, among them the illusion that there is nothing more to fear from Russia.
Post-mortems of the ugly little Georgian war tend to focus on whether the EU could have done more, and whether a clear commitment at the Bucharest Summit to Georgian NATO membership might have avoided the conflict. Especially France and Germany are blamed for their reluctance. But they were right.

Neither Georgia nor Ukraine complies with NATO's core values. If Art. 5, the cornerstone of 'Pax Atlantica' is to mean anything, its guarantee should be dispersed with greatest caution. NATO enlargement sets the course and the agenda for EU enlargement. But NATO and the EU are not the same thing, and one of the 'triangle's' main problems is that the US tries to channel its European policy through NATO, not the EU, which is increasingly the main player and pole of attraction to its European neighbours.

NATO can win wars. Only the EU can sustain peace and prosperity. The Balkans are the best example for this, and it is now up to the EU to set the agenda for the grey-zone to its east. That implies more EU engagement in the Caucasus, and a realistic, 'art of the possible', assessment of what is doable with respect to Russia. Bold statements about 'new' Europe sound sweeter to Georgian ears than more matter-of-fact Franco-German formulations, but the latter are grounded in realpolitik. 'Core'-Europe, as evidenced by Germany shifting its position on Georgian NATO membership, is waking up to its responsibilities. A profound reassessment of the EU-Russia relationship has become urgent and, at least on this side of the Atlantic, there is a clear understanding that this is better (and perhaps only) achieved through the 1994 Partnership and Co-operation Agreement than with a new isolation of Russia.

The more unified Europe is the better. More hawkish member states have to understand that, even if they block a European consensus, trusting in US protection, they cannot prevent larger EU countries from making their own arrangements with Russia. At the same time the larger countries, notably Germany, have to recognise that, on their own, they have little leverage against Russia.

Given respect for - especially - Polish and Baltic States' concerns, a moderating approach to the US, and more firmness towards Russia, the Franco-German tandem can and should seize the opportunity to make Europe the balance between the US and Russia.

Ulrike Guérot


Beitrag im Handelsblatt - So nah und doch so fern

Artikel im Handelsblatt vom 1.7.2008

Nach dem irischen Nein zum europäischen Reformvertrag: Die Europäische Union braucht einen Paradigmenwechsel - und zwar auf allen Gebieten. Denn es sind nicht die Bürger, sondern die nationalen Politker, die den Fortschritt verhindern. Ein Essay.

Das irische Nein zum europäischen Reformvertrag ist eine Tragödie. In diesem Fall von Europa und allen seinen Akteuren, die seit dem Maastrichter Vertrag von 1992 um die Anpassung ihrer Institutionen an die Erweiterung kämpfen.

Die Kerneuropa-Debatte ist so schal wie abgestandenes Bier, die Europäische Union ist längst - Stichwörter: Euro, Schengen - überaus differenziert, und in nichts ist die EU so clever wie darin, Ausnahmeregelungen zu finden für Länder, die ein unerwartetes Problem haben. Sollen die Iren doch sagen, was sie stört, die Rechtsexperten der Union finden mit Sicherheit eine Möglichkeit.

Geradezu zynisch ist der derzeitige Diskurs. Denn das beschwörende "Wir müssen die Iren ernst nehmen" steht im krassen Gegensatz zu der Tatsache, dass im Grunde niemand einen neuen Vertrag will. Die Sprachregelung, die spätestens seit dem letzten Europäischen Rat ausgegeben wurde, lautet: weiter ratifizieren, den Iren Zeit lassen (keiner will sie aus der Gemeinschaft werfen). Aber wenn es dann (hoffentlich) 26 zu 1 steht, wird sich schon eine Lösung finden lassen, und sei es, dass die Iren erneut abstimmen. Das haben sie ja schon mal getan. Natürlich ganz ohne Druck.

Ehrlicher wäre es zu sagen: Keine Verfassung der Welt, die amerikanische nicht und auch nicht die deutsche (Bayern hat bis heute das Grundgesetz nicht ratifiziert!) ist je mit Einstimmigkeit angenommen worden. Sogar die Charta der Vereinten Nationen kann mit Zweidrittelmehrheit geändert werden. Warum sollte es ausgerechnet Europa schaffen, seine Verfassung einstimmig zu verabschieden?

Diese Ehrlichkeit bringt das politische System Europas aber nicht auf. Das institutionelle System führt sich mithin ad absurdum. Ehrlichkeit könnte bedeuten, dass die Europäische Verfassung - nennen wir den Vertrag von Lissabon noch einmal so, denn er ist zu 95 Prozent identisch mit dem Reformvertrag - zum Beispiel mit einer doppelten (Staaten und Bevölkerung) Vierfünftelmehrheit verabschiedet wird. Das wäre eine sehr solide Mehrheit, und es gäbe doch kein irisches Problem. Irland wäre das Bayern der EU. Ein bisschen anders, aber mit Gewinn dabei. Das würde die EU im Übrigen nicht zum Bundesstaat machen, wie einige deutsche Staatsrechtler fürchten, sondern nur entwicklungsfähig.

Da man sich darauf aber nicht einstimmig einigen kann, beißt sich die Katze in den Schwanz. In der EU ist die Änderung des Änderungsverfahrens (Art. 48) das Kernproblem. Es verhindert die Fortentwicklung des Rechts, die Anpassung der EU an eine veränderte Umwelt und damit den Sprung der EU in das 21. Jahrhundert.

Absurd wird dies, wenn es, gerade weil es nicht weitergeht, nicht besser wird. Der Lissabonner Vertrag würde genau die Elemente einführen, die Europagegner immer wieder einklagen: mehr Mitspracherechte für die nationalen Parlamente, einen Volksentscheid, ausgedehnte Mitsprache des Europäischen Parlaments und sogar eine Austrittsklausel. Kein Vertrag hat die Bedenken der Europagegner so ernst genommen wie der Lissabonner Vertrag. Und gerade gegen den stimmen die Europagegner. Das ist gefährlich an der Grenze zur Schizophrenie!

Deshalb sollte auf diese vertragliche Kakofonie kein weiterer Satz mehr verschwendet werden. Denn die Tatsache, dass rechtliche Lösungen gefunden werden können, löst die politische Legitimitätskrise nicht. Die wenigsten Bürger sind gegen Europa, eigentlich sind die meisten irgendwie dafür - übrigens auch die Iren, wie das letzte Euro-Barometer beweist. Warum dies beim Urnengang nicht in Stimmen umgemünzt werden kann, das ist die eigentliche Frage.

Die Antwort liegt, so jüngst die EU-Kommission, im "wirtschaftlichen Schlechtfühlfaktor". Zwei Gruppen sind davon offensichtlich am stärksten betroffen, die Jugendlichen und die Arbeiter. Warum kann Europa die Jugend nicht mehr für sich gewinnen? Schon beim französischen Referendum haben die Altersgruppen 18 bis 25 und 26 bis 40 überproportional mit Nein gestimmt, in Irland waren es 65 Prozent. Warum erreicht die EU die Generation von Euro und Erasmus, Billigfliegern und Backpackern nicht? Mit welcher Geschichte könnte Europa die Jugend emotional an sich binden, wo Frieden und offene Grenzen zum Standard gehören?

Dies dürfte die schwierigste Aufgabe werden, denn die Wahrheit, die keiner aussprechen will, ist wahrscheinlich, dass man sich in Europa auf Zeiten wird einstellen müssen, in denen es den Kindern nicht notwendigerweise bessergeht als den Eltern. Und mit Frieden ist kein Staat mehr zu machen und kein Referendum mehr zu gewinnen.

Auch die Arbeiter haben mit 74 Prozent überproportional gegen Europa gestimmt. Sie fühlen sich als Globalisierungsverlierer zunehmend aus Europa ausgeschlossen. Denn kollektiver Nutzen heißt leider nicht automatisch, dass es individuell keine Verlierer gibt. Das aber wiederum liegt nicht an der EU, sondern daran, dass sich die Kräfteverhältnisse und die Demografie weltweit verschieben: Europa macht heute noch knapp sieben Prozent der Weltbevölkerung aus, 2050 voraussichtlich noch drei Prozent. Die "zweite Welt" fordert Verteilungsgerechtigkeit. Fakt ist, dass sich das Wohlstandsgefälle der Staaten heute einander angleicht, die Einkommensunterschiede in den einzelnen Ländern sich hingegen erhöhen. Das ist in China im Übrigen nicht anders als in Deutschland, und es ist zutiefst problematisch. Aber es ist nicht die Schuld der EU.

Die EU schafft keinen Arbeitsplatz und sie vernichtet auch keinen. Aber sie schafft den Ordnungsrahmen und einen großen Markt, in dem nationale Unternehmen sich behaupten und expandieren können. Deutschland hat überproportional von der Osterweiterung profitiert. Derweil hört man von Gregor Gysi bis Jürgen Habermas, dass die EU nicht so konstituiert sein darf, dass sie Alternativen zur vorherrschenden marktliberalen Wirtschaftspolitik ausschließt. Das klingt wie das SPD-Parteiprogramm vor Bad-Godesberg oder Mitterrands Versuch des "socialisme dans un seul pays". Denn jeder weiß, dass Öffnung - und nicht Abschottung - die Lösung ist, vor allem im Land des Exportweltmeisters Deutschland.

Das europäische Sozialmodell kann nicht mumifiziert, sondern nur durch europäische Ordnungspolitik verteidigt werden. Die EU ist nicht daran schuld, dass Indien und China auf den Weltmarkt drängen und damit zwei Milliarden Arbeitssuchende. Als Sündenbock ist die EU indes stets herzlich willkommen. Die "EU als Bollwerk"-Debatte läuft daher in die Irre, denn die EU ist genau das Gegenteil: Sie ist der Rahmen, in dem sich Europa an die Globalisierung anpassen kann, während die Nationalstaaten allzu oft schmerzliche Anpassungen verzögern.

Es ist deswegen an der Zeit, mit der irreführenden Debatte aufzuräumen, Europa müsse sozialer werden. Das ist zwar richtig, aber wenn man es will, könnte man es eben tun. Das ist keine Frage systemischer Alternativen, sondern schlichtweg eine Frage des politischen Willens.

Doch alle Nationalstaaten treiben gerade hier ein unehrliches Spiel: Jeder fordert das soziale Europa, aber immer wenn es darum geht, in der Sozial- oder Wirtschaftspolitik Kompetenzen zu verlagern, sind alle dagegen, auch in Deutschland. Nirgendwo kann und darf die EU weniger als in der Sozialpolitik, aber nirgendwo wird sie mehr für mangelnde Resultate abgestraft. Die EU hat es gar nicht in der Hand, Jobs zu schaffen oder sozialer zu werden. Und da, wo es um die Vereinheitlichung von Rahmengesetzen geht - z.B. in der Bildungspolitik zur Sicherung von Chancengleichheit - sind gerade in Deutschland die Bundesländer immer bemüht klarzustellen, wer die Kompetenz hat.

Einheitliche Rahmenbedingungen zu verhindern, aber mangelnde Resultate auf EU-Ebene zu beklagen ist unehrlich. Und nichts wäre schlimmer, als wenn die EU sich jetzt auch noch wie Nationalstaaten in eine Politik kurzfristiger Wahlgeschenke verstrickt (man denke nur an Sarkozys Pläne zur Subventionierung von Branchen, die besonders von der Erhöhung des Ölpreises betroffen sind), um zu dokumentieren, dass die EU konkret Gutes tut.

Die EU könnte indes eine Menge positiver Rahmenbedingungen für wirtschaftlichen Fortschritt und damit sozialen Ausgleich schaffen: ein europäisches Technologieinstitut (EIT) zur Bündelung von Forschung, Innovation und Entwicklung, die Förderung von schlagkräftigen Großunternehmen oder einen ambitionierten Bolognaprozess - vor allem aber eine bessere europäische Förderung derer, die nicht studieren. Doch immer, wenn dieses zur Debatte steht, will entweder niemand dafür bezahlen oder geht das Gerangel los um den Sitz des EIT oder der Streit bei EADS um Standorte in Toulouse oder Hamburg. Europa ist wie der Esel, der zwischen zwei Heuhaufen - dem nationalen und dem europäischen - verhungert.

Die neue Gründungsgeschichte der EU muss sich im 21. Jahrhundert an seiner Außenpolitik messen lassen. Vielleicht muss Europa dazu nicht bürgernäher, sondern bürgerferner werden? Vielleicht spräche nichts dagegen, auf Sonnenschutzrichtlinien, Gurkenkrümmungen, einen Teil der Agrarpolitik oder die Flora-und-Fauna-Richtlinie zu verzichten. Auf alles also, an dem sich die Bürger am meisten stoßen. Dafür könnte die EU sich vornehmlich darum kümmern, was sie am besten kann: einen internationalen Ordnungsrahmen herzustellen, in dem die Nationalstaaten besser gedeihen können. Jeder nach seiner Façon und ohne Überregulierung. Vielleicht sollte die EU ganz weit weg vom Bürger und nur dazu da sein, dass dieser sich weltweit gleichsam in einem europäischen Grundvertrauen in Sicherheit wiegen kann.

Dazu müsste freilich klargestellt werden, dass in der globalisierten Welt des 21. Jahrhunderts eine gute, gemeinsame Außenpolitik die beste Innenpolitik und auch indirekte Sozialpolitik ist: Schutz vor Terror, ambitionierte Klimapolitik (und als Bonbon dafür z.B. Weltmarktführerschaft in umweltfreundlichen Technologien), Einfluss auf den Mittleren Osten, eine einheitliche Energiepolitik, ein einheitliches Auftreten gegenüber Russland, eine einheitlich gesteuerte Migration.

Dies sind die Themen der Zeit. Sie alle sind nur europäisch zu lösen, und sie alle nützen direkt dem Bürger. Denn daran hängen die Energiepreise und-sicherheit in Europa, die Attraktivität und Sicherheit unserer Städte, der Einfluss der EU auf Länder in der europäischen Nachbarschaft und damit auf Migrationsbewegungen oder der europäische Einfluss auf die internationale Rechtsetzung.

Ein in Euro denominiertes Fass Öl würde der EU weltweiten Einfluss auf Märkte und Mitsprache im Nahen Osten garantieren. Das ist freilich nicht immer unmittelbar in Jobs einzulösen. Aber das ist die Voraussetzung dafür, dass die Mitgliedstaaten den Sprung ins 21. Jahrhundert schaffen und sich ihre internationale Steuerungsfähigkeit bewahren können, die allein nationale Gestaltungsspielräume gewährleistet. Ein machtbewusstes Europa schafft einen globalen Ordnungsrahmen, wenn auch direkt keine Arbeitsplätze. Das zu sagen wäre ehrlich.

Die EU braucht also einen Paradigmenwechsel von ihrer bilanzpolitischen zu einer außenpolitischen Dimension, vor allem eine Diskussion darüber, dass die Erweiterung Teil der Lösung ist und nicht des Problems und dass die Kosten der Nichterweiterung höher als die Kosten der Erweiterung sind. Auf dem Balkan z.B. kostet der Krieg mehr als der Frieden. Kroatien wegen der Iren jetzt nicht aufzunehmen wäre die falsche Antwort.

Zu einem solchen Paradigmenwechsel würde auch eine Umschichtung des EU-Haushaltes gehören: weg von der Agrarpolitik, hin zu Friedens-, Sicherheits- und Entwicklungspolitik. Dazu würde ein schlagkräftiger europäischer Auswärtiger Dienst gehören, den der Lissabonner Vertrag im Übrigen vorsieht.

Eine wirkliche gemeinsame, solidarische Energiepolitik, analog zur Montanunion von 1950, könnte auch zusammenschweißen. Ein Tor, wer denkt, Hauptsache in Deutschland brennen Öfen und Lichter. Dies ist in einem Binnenmarkt, geschweige denn innerhalb der Euro-Zone, nicht mehr darstellbar. Dazu würde ferner der Mut gehören, Einfluss in der Welt haben zu wollen und Verantwortung zu übernehmen.

Kann man diesen Paradigmenwechsel den Bürgern vermitteln? Wahrscheinlich. Erstens, weil man mit Ehrlichkeit jeden erreichen kann und zumindest die falschen Versprechungen aufhören würden. Und zweitens, weil 70 Prozent der europäischen Bürger für eine gemeinsame Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik sind - auch die Iren. Nur sind es oft nicht die Bürger, die diese nicht wollen oder gar verhindern, sondern die nationalen Politiker, die entweder nicht mutig genug sind oder nicht auf ihre eigenen Kompetenzen und Machtbereiche verzichten wollen, um jenes Europa zu schaffen, auf das alle stolz sein können. Der ehemalige irische Premierminister John Bruton hat einmal auf einer Konferenz in Washington gesagt: "Ohne Euro-Patriotismus geht es nicht." Diese Debatte brauchen wir jetzt.

Ulrike Guérot

The French EU presidency after the Irish no

There is much on the EU's plate, above all dealing with the fall-out of the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty. Unperturbed, and unlike Germany's turn at the helm, France has begun its presidency with high ambitions.

France has five priorities for its EU presidency:

1.) Energy- and climate policy
2.) CAP health-check and budget review process
3.) a ‘Pact on Migration'
4.) Progress in ESDP
5.) implementation of the Lisbon Treaty

Besides this, it will inaugurate the Mediterranean Union at the special summit in Paris on July 13th. In addition, France will host no less than thirteen bilateral summits with third countries and begin new EU negotiations with Russia.

However, under the shadow of the Irish ‘no' to the Lisbon treaty, the French Presidency has begun shifting its priorities. Recent speeches by French leaders have indicated that France would use its EU presidency to try to win over discontenting voters in Europe by getting ‘back to basics'. In his inaugural speech, Mr. Sarkozy focused on the economic and social situation in Europe, implicitly arguing that the Irish ‘no' vote largely reflected social concerns. His speech pointed to deficiencies in EU trade policies and he again requested more comprehensive goals for the Euro-management of the ECB. But to succeed, France has to understand that its discussion about economic governance in Europe - as much as it is necessary- needs to be framed differently.

...but France will first need to deal with the Irish ‘no'

The consequences of the Irish ‘no' are not clear. While some argue that the Lisbon Treaty is dead, this view does not reflect mainstream thinking. When European leaders met on 19/ 20 June, the reaction was hesitant. In the main, the leaders argued that the ratification process should be continued. As Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jana declared: ‘There is firm resolve to proceed, to seek a way out of this situation within the framework as set by the Lisbon Reform Treaty'.

But a few weeks after the referendum, it is still not clear what will happen. Clearly, the Irish ‘no' has to be respected. Everyone also agreed that the EU is not facing a ‘major political crisis'. Britain's ratification of the Treaty four days after the Irish ‘no' carried an important symbolic message that the Treaty was not dead. But over the past two days things have become blurrier with the refusal of the Polish President, Kascinski to sign the ratification law, a new contest from the Czech side and even German concerns.

The official position is that the Irish are to be given time and that the Irish ‘no' will be debated at the next Council meeting on October 2008. During the French presidency, the Irish are supposed to work on solutions, specifying which Treaty stipulations they cannot accept. The political reading is that the Irish may - as they did in 2001 and as Denmark did in 1992 - sign up to the Treaty albeit with op-outs (in legal terms, a declaration has not the same legal status than a protocol and needs no ratification in all EU countries). The Irish people would then vote a second time on the amended Treaty without a new ratification required in other countries.

Strong leadership is required

But even if this strategy succeeds, the French EU Presidency will depend in large part on whether Franco-German cooperation can be revived. In that seemingly long-gone era, common initiatives for Europe were the rule, and a Franco-German proposal usually constituted an acceptable compromise for Europe as a whole. The Maastricht Treaty was probably the zenith of Franco-German cooperation. But nothing of this is visible today. The Mediterranean Union was a French project, which led to a dispute with the German chancellery.

This will have to change if the Lisbon Treaty is to be salvaged. To do so, France must show that it truly cares for Europe and its role in the world, and that the EU is more than a tool for French foreign policy. Working with Germany, France has to build a new team for the EU. An easy way would be for French leaders to be more circumspect in how they present French proposals.

But this will not be enough. What is really needed is a new and compelling geo-strategic vision for Europe. And this needs to be developed between Paris and Berlin. Europe's two giants may have lost some of their authority, but without them nothing happens in the EU. Hence, the revamping of the Franco-German engine alone would not yet be sufficient.

The UK is needed for European defense policies

Closer Franco-British cooperation - Sarkozy's discussions with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his two-day state visit to London in March and a Franco-British commitment to promote the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) - should be viewed as a positive development, for it pulls the United Kingdom towards Europe. And German-British relations are also improving.

France is still keen to make serious moves progress in ESDP, but it has to accept that major advance will not happen during their presidency without strong British support. And that the domestic political scene in the UK may not provide such support. ESDP may therefore see only some small steps of progress at the end of the French presidency, even if spectacular will have to wait. The likelihood of getting a European Headquarters are slim, though not hopeless. But French officials admit that they do not want a teleological dispute and they are happy to abandon to use the words European Headquarter' into to avoid a fight with those who see an in it attack against the NATO headquarter. The intention is, thus, to stress the need for permanent personnel to manage EU missions abroad, i.e. in the Balkans or in Congo.

France will focus mainly on the increase of European military capabilities (including the need for pan-European, industrial cooperation and more synergies), and has already launched the idea of a ‘European White-book'. The idea has been well-received in principle, but nobody has yet agreed on how to achieve this goal. France has set out a fairly realistic and pragmatic set of ambitions (i.e. helicopters) and may hope to attract enough UK support with respect to common funding for operations and better resourcing of the EDA. Most of this can basically be achieved without the implementation of the Lisbon treaty by pioneer groups (structured cooperation).

Finally, a revision of the European Security Strategy (ESS) will take place, but again, it will be less ambitious than initially planned. The French presidency will try to do two things: Firstly, to amend the strategy with respects to new security risks and to dedicate another chapter to the risks of climate change and questions of energy security. Also, it is intended to precise the strategy with respect to the risks of nuclear proliferation. Secondly, Javier Solana's team is working on better synergies between development policies and security policies. However, there is a clear consensus that the ESS will not be re-written from scratch, as that would mean open Pandora's box.

Foreign policy is the future of the EU

The larger geo-strategic questions, such as the EU's relations with Russia and its links to NATO, require the attention of a larger leadership team, including Eastern European countries. Poland has that leadership potential, even if Germany will remain the glue between East and West. Recent improvements of Franco-Polish relations as much as the revival of the ‘Weimar Triangle' are the next step to distribute European leadership on more shoulders, and to tie Eastern and Western Europe closer together.

For the European Union will find its new narrative for the 21st century in a strong and united foreign policy. This will require a shift from domestic concerns to foreign policy concerns and a corresponding shift of resources. Europe will need to engage in the world, shoulder responsibility and cope with the big global challenges whether they be climate changes or terrorism, neighborhood policies or Russia and China. Even if the social dimension of the EU is again disputed now after the Irish ‘no' and the density of the common economic and social policy making need to be discussed now in order to save the legitimacy for the EU, most citizens agree that it is precisely foreign policy that should be more united in the EU.

The larger EU countries that need to pave the way for this, as they have the biggest involvement in foreign policy. A couple of simple things need to put into public discussion therefore: Firstly, the EU should not be split into a Southern and as Eastern dimension. Secondly, that foreign policy is directly intertwined with most of the most ardent domestic problems that all EU countries face, as there are migration, security, energy security etc.

Only the EU can provide the framework to protect the interest of European citizens here. It will be a challenge for the French presidency - with the help of especially Germany, but hopefully other countries of a European leadership team - to convey this in the public debate, to save especially those stipulations of the treaty of Lisbon that lay the basis for a stronger and more united foreign policy (i.e. the European External Action Service) and to provide Europe and the European citizens with a strong geo-strategic vision on where it stands in the world and what it could and should to in the world.

03.07.08 - Ulrike Guérot and Felix Mengel

Contribution for Italia Europei - Why European neighborhood policies are so difficult?

The structural core-deficiency: ENP is only second best

European neighborhood policies (ENP) are difficult. The reason for this is, in a nutshell, that they do not offer a membership perspective. They are a silver carrot of cooperation with the EU, where many of the countries concerned wished to have the golden carrot of a membership perspective. The ENP is since its invention wavering around this problematic.

The question of the European borders is, indeed, one of the oldest of European integration. For long, it has been true that any enlargement, or widening, of the EU triggered also jumps in deepening: the UK and Ireland came in the 70s, when the EU was preparing the monetary system and direct elections of the EP; Spain and Portugal came in the 80s, when the EU was preparing for the European Single Act; ‘Northern Enlargement’ fall more or less together with the making of the Maastricht- and Amsterdam-Treaty; and finally, the most recent Eastern enlargement of 2004 triggered the constitutional progress of the EU with the Lisbon Treaty at its end was the ‘deepening-reaction’ to twelve more countries within the EU: one most fundamental reason to engage into the European Convention in 2002 was to prepare the EU for enlargement. Keeping the balance between deepening and widening was over the past 30 years a permanent question and challenge for the EU. Now, it seems that the balance has come to an end. Whereas ever more countries voice an interest in becoming a member, the EU has an ever intensive public discourse about the ‘final borders’ of the EU. The ENP is in the middle of this difficult discussion. It promises countries to come closer to the EU, without ever reaching it fully. Although the official language is clear, meaning that being in the ENP-frame does not mean getting a membership perspective for the EU, for many countries it is precisely the hope that ENP is just the first step towards more. The perception gap is one of the biggest hurdles of the ENP for the countries who are in. But it is also the reason for the rather weak success of ENP from the EU’s side: the EU depends on good relations with the neighboring countries and a peaceful, stable and prosper environment, however, the loose agreement of ENP policies does not provide the EU with enough leverage to really substantially change the political or economic situation of the surrounding countries. So the EU does not necessarily get out of ENP what would be in the Union’s interest.

Today, this discussion comes in a changing international environment in which geo-strategy matters more. Notions like energy security, foreign energy policy, spaces of influence and stability-export are dominating the discussion about neighboring countries. Domestic and foreign policies get more intertwined.

The discrepancy between geostrategic advantages and ‘domestic’ inconveniences

The EU is, thus, facing again the old-new question of borders and enlargement in a new context and ENP is the crux of this discussion: the underlying discrepancy is that it is easy, i.e. with respect to Ukraine or Georgia, to point to geo-strategic reasons to bring these countries closer to the EU, whereas domestic public opinion is worrisome of new waves of immigration and industries lobby against free movement of people or visa for neighboring countries. The cleavage between ‘external’ or geo-strategic advantages on the one hand and ‘domestic’ inconveniences or uneasiness is also striking with respect to Turkey, who is already negotiating with the EU about membership. Whereas it is easy to find good geo-strategic arguments for Turkey’s membership in the EU – energy security, increased impact on the Middle East – the ‘domestic’ uneasiness stems from factors such as religion, labor market access or fear of migration.

All too often, ENP is considered to be a sort of preparatory step towards full membership, at least with respect to many countries at the Eastern borders of the EU: Ukraine or Georgia are voicing more or less openly that they wish to have ultimately a membership perspective. The truth is also that this is most of the time what the neighboring country within the EU wants: Poland strongly lobbies for Ukraine getting a membership perspective, Rumania for Moldova etc. Evidently, simple trade theory suggests that no country has an interest to be at the periphery of a larger economic entity, and that bordering countries therefore always wish to include the surrounding countries into the same economic area. This tends to make out of the rather unclearly shaped ENP an amorphous mass of countries with which the EU needs and wants to cooperate, without tailoring the approaches individually to the countries and with a legal framework that resembles rather a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model – from Morocco to Moldova – which does not necessarily suit the concerned countries. In addition, the need to have permeable borders with respect to trade and economic flows contrasts sharply with the political need of the EU to constitute itself around a sizable political entity.

The discussion about ENP gets even more opaque as public opinion tends to not differentiate between the various instruments and status the EU engages with neighboring countries, i.e. with Turkey or the Balkans, with Ukraine, Georgia or Morocco. In public opinion, often there is no legal distinction, but just one fear which is that the EU is becoming too big and that the EU-borders should be definitely fixed. ENP lures promises that the EU cannot hold. Above all, there is an amalgam about which countries the EU is currently negotiating with, or which countries are in pre-accession agreements or which ones are ‘only’ in ENP. However, in legal terms, this matters a lot: the EU is currently negotiating with Croatia and Turkey about full membership. The countries of the Western Balkans have the promise to accede to pre-accession agreements or they are already in such agreements like Montenegro or Bosnia; Ukraine and Georgia are in the frame of neighborhood policy only, such as most Mediterranean countries. For any serious discussion about European geo-strategy, a clear distinction would however be necessary. Further, a realistic assessment about the time-frame would be helpful. Sometimes, the current discussion gives the impression of an enormous time-pressure. Countries being in pre-accession agreements – or in the ENP-frame – sometimes want dates for the start of negotiations, whereas this leaves citizens in the EU with the impression that new enlargement waves are for tomorrow. To develop ENP into the instrument that the EU needs, the disentanglement of the legal status of the various countries enjoy with the EU as much as a realistic assessment of the time frame would be constructive. One could point to the fact that it is one of the EU’s biggest assets that it is not static and can adapt to tomorrow’s necessities, and that ENP is a perfect policy tool for that that has potential to fine-tune and to improve a countries relationship to the EU. In that respect, it is the strength of ENP to be a little vague and to leave further options open.

Enlargement fatigue impacts negatively on ENP

Hence, not only in Germany, but also in many other EU countries, there is measurable ‘enlargement fatigue’. The UK which liberalized migration and labor markets very quickly has to cope with a huge influx von Polish working migrants, bringing polish pupils to British schools etc. Italy has buses of Rumanian workers arriving in Rom. Ukrainians are in domestic positions in Portugal and so forth. Labor migration is one of the things strongly felt in ‘Western’ European countries and this has definitely changed the mood and created certain hostility against further enlargement. The criteria of the ‘absorption capacity’ of the EU is one of the most mentioned when it comes to the discussion of EU membership.

Figures tell another language, though. Enlargement has been beneficial for all countries, the newcomers and much as for the ‘old’ countries. For countries like Germany, Italy or Austria, East-West trade increased by double-digits. Enlargement allowed market extension and there is a clear statistical or collective gain for the economies. The political problems lies in the fact that a collective win does not mean that there are no ‘looser’ in the equation. Even though the statistical balance for Germany is positive, this does not mean that a construction worker in Northern Brandenburg lost its job because of cheap competition. The discussion does not capture this properly. The fault-line is not that i.e. Poland has ‘won’ through enlargement and Germany has ‘lost’; the fact is that all those being flexible, educated, young and qualified in Poland and in Germany have most likely and above-average benefitted, whereas all those who are not, may feel wiped-off the market.

ENP now projects the same fears experienced through the last enlargement even further. The missing point in the discussion about ENP is that public awareness of the interconnection between domestic problems and foreign policy is still missing. The policy reflex is more about borders and protection than about opening. In short, the discussion is about the ‘costs of enlargement’, where it should be about the ‘costs of non-enlargement’. Enlargement is considered a problem, not a solution. It is overlooked that bringing countries into the EU offers the chance to adopt their economic regulation to EU market standards in order to precisely avoid social and economic dumping; that it allows to manage rather than to suffer from migration. It is also overlooked that the EU needs permeability of its borders to the neighboring countries and that the leverage of the EU on these countries is bigger when they are tied into the regulatory frames of the EU rather than when they are not.

The new game: Sarkozy and the Mediterranean Union

In a way, Nicolas Sarkozy had done the EU a huge favor when starting the discussion about the Mediterranean Union. The plan has forced the EU to think about the success so far of the Barcelona process, which has been launched more than 10 years ago and has not shown much result. The awareness of the need to do more with respect to the South is now there. One asset of the Mediterranean Union – leaving aside the recent disputes about the structure and the concept, especially between France and Germany – is that it builds on both, the Barcelona Process and ENP, trying to reframe the whole European policies towards the Mediterranean area. It looks for greater responsibility for Europe in the region; it wants to enhance the cooperation of the countries among themselves; it wants to look for private-public partnerships and private Arabic investment to match European funds.

It goes without saying that Europe, especially France, is not doing that for altruistic motives. Europe, especially the Mediterranean countries, is touched by migration from the Maghreb. The poverty of North Africa starts therefore to be a real problem. Further, in terms of broader geo-strategy, some of the countries have precious energy resources. Africa starts to matter and appears increasingly on the agenda of the big players in international relations, i.e. the US and China. China has an active Africa policy and the US recently created an Africa Corps. So there is reason for Europe to be interested in Africa, above all North Africa, especially as it has a long tradition. The Mediterranean Union is an attempt to bring more structure into what the EU could and should do with the neighboring countries in the South and which would go beyond ENP – without, of course, offering a membership perspective. The title ‘Mediterranean Union’ has precisely be selected to create a sort of second political entity existing outside of the EU and hence to cut short any potential ambitions to join the EU, offering also a potential second home for Turkey, at least in the French initial idea, if the Turkish EU-membership perspective fails.

The splitting potential of the Mediterranean Union

The focus on the South, not surprisingly, did not please the Eastern European countries, especially Poland. The recent Polish proposal to create, in reaction to the French plans, an ‘Eastern Union’ with a special focus on Ukraine shows this. There is reluctance of some EU countries to accept a ‘special treatment’ for the South such as mirrored in the Mediterranean Union, which is now going to be institutionalized with a secretariat, whereas the management of ENP remains at the Commission with no further institutional dynamics. The EU, if Poland pushes further ahead its plans on an ‘Eastern Union’, is increasingly driving into an ‘East-South’-division.

This division is old and it has a Franco-German dimension. Already at the EU-Summit in Essen in 1994, at moment when Eastern enlargement was shaping ever more precisely at the horizon, there was a Franco-German dispute on how much money should be spend on the East and how much for the South. By then, it was a German demand to distinguish between those countries that have a ‘vocation to join the EU’ and those who have none. In a nutshell, France has always been reluctant to Eastern enlargement and has tried to delay policies of enlargement, with the suspicion that enlargement nourishes only the German ‘Hinterhof’, revamping Germany’s political and economic interests in the EU. France felt – rightly or wrongly – marginalized in the enlarged EU and the Mediterranean Union is a reaction to this. Probably due to these feelings of being ‘left-behind’, France tried initially to shape the Mediterranean Union in a way that it would exclude Germany, i.e. from the EU-Mediterranean Summit that is now planned for 13 July. This triggered the recent Franco-German in the weeks ago. The problem has been solved: all EU countries will now be invited to the Summit. Hence, this hardly hides the fact that France and Germany are not convinced that they need to equally care for both, the East and the South, instead of competing about influence zones. German suspicions, however, that the concept of the Mediterranean Union first deserves French economic interests, are high, such as where the French one ten years ago with respect to the East. Time has come for France to realize that it also has largely benefited from Eastern enlargement; and for Germany to truly care for the South. The new holistic European geo-strategy needs to come from Paris and Berlin together.

The broader EU geo-strategy

In the next decade, Europe will be measured on its success in foreign policy. Therefore, Europe needs to overcome the fault-line between ‘external’ and ‘domestic’ and start to see geo-strategy as part of domestic policies. Next, Europe needs to overcome the distinction into East and South to the respect that both matter equally; but not to the point that policies towards the East and the South should necessarily be streamlined: at the opposite, Eastern and Southern countries need more tailored polices within the ENP-frame. However, the geo-strategic approach should be holistic, and for that, the EU, first, must admit that it has geo-strategic interests. The EU needs a shift from value-based foreign policy to interest-based foreign policy, but needs to admit that this may not be for free. Revamping our economic, political, military or cultural engagement in neighboring countries – East or South – will cost. The EU will need to engage into a broader discussion about protectionism or opening. Normally, protectionism has short term benefits and long term costs, whereas a policy of opening trades off short term costs – adaptation of labor markets, problems of migration - against long term benefits.

Next, the next century will be the one of new geo-strategy and interest zones of global players, despite the mantra of consensual multilateralism. Europe has to decide whether it wants to have a common geo-strategy, considering that there are Euro-national interests at stake. If so, the EU should, indeed, be happy and proud about any country that it can tie more to EU regulations, rules and standards and, in principle, about any country that wants to join the EU: this would simply make the Euro- and Schengen-zones, the European common market and therefore the European influence bigger, assumed that institutional progress within the EU is enhanced in parallel. ENP is a perfect instrument to expand European values and interests for a start. It is already true that i.e. Russia and the EU are competing actors in terms of neighborhood policies in the ‘frozen-conflict’ zone, and it is not so sure that the EU – in the perception of the concerned countries – has the ‘better’ model to offer.

When arguing about potential enlargement costs, i.e. with respect to the countries of the Western Balkans, ahead of ENP, one may also point to the fact that war is more expensive than peace in the long run; or, that 22 million new customers in the single market area and euro-users are beneficial to the EU; and with respect to the ‘frozen-conflict’ zone, the ENP is the perfect instrument to build ties with neighboring countries, until things get more precise. The only condition is that the EU is bold in this process and puts flesh on the bones.

Ulrike Guérot