Blog post

Newsletter April 2023

A little European notebook for the month

Recommended citation:
Maillard, S. 2023. “A little European notebook for the month“, Blogpost, Paris: Institut Jacques Delors , 1st February.

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It is a good approach for the French Head of State and the President of the European Commission to go together to Beijing. Faced with the power of China, Europe can make a difference by being united, and by making this clear. The EU must not give in to its internal differences. During his state visit to Paris in March 2019, Xi Jinping had already been confronted with the then unprecedented format of a summit at the Elysée Palace that brought together Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Claude Juncker, then President of the Commission, and Chancellor Merkel. The same year, the French president then took a European commissioner and a German minister with him to China. The brutalization of global power relations requires the Europeanization of relations, where bilateralism retains its place but is limited.

Montenegro is moving politically closer to the EU. After Milo Djukanovic’s resounding defeat in the presidential elections on April 2nd, the page on clientelism and widespread corruption in this small Western Balkan country could hopefully be turned. The new president, Jakov Milatovic, and his prime minister, Dritan Abazovic, are expected to make a success of the early legislative elections on 11 June. Perhaps this could re-launch the EU accession negotiations that have been open with this country since 2012? Their stalemate in this part of the Balkans needs concrete progress to regain their credibility with disillusioned populations attracted by other powers on the ground. The country is over-indebted to China. An assured prospect of membership is a guarantee of structural reforms, private investments and a vector for appeasing relations between neighbouring countries. Serbia and Kosovo are currently working on normalisation in a tense but sustained manner, under the auspices of Josep Borrell and under increased international pressure. This ability to make differences overcome is also a sign of European influence.

By the way, this April will also be marked by the commemoration of the Good Friday Agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on 10 April 1998. The US was deeply involved in this. Joe Biden’s expected visit to Belfast will probably overshadow the role that the European Union played in this peace agreement between two of its member states. Europe was a committed player. The European Parliament served as a political arena for dialogue. Jacques Delors supported the peace process through the Commission’s financial support for cooperation between Ulster and the border counties. The Commission has supported reconciliation efforts. Most recently, respect for the agreement has been paramount in the Brexit negotiations in order to avoid the re-establishment of a physical border on the island of Ireland, which would be detrimental to peace.

On the other side of the continent, the war continues. Who said that Brussels still regulated the size of cucumbers? Today it is dealing with 155 mm shells, to be supplied to Ukraine quickly and in quantity. An 11th round of sanctions against Russia will begin to be negotiated this month. The continuation of the conflict does not prevent preparations for the reconstruction of the country. This goes hand in hand with its future accession to the EU. This spring, the Commission is to report orally to the EU-27 on Kiev’s progress in meeting the seven conditions for opening accession negotiations. Such an opening, decided unanimously, is not excluded as early as the end of this year. Ukraine is forcing the pace. Who will be able to set the right pace? Before enlargement can be pushed forward, prospective studies must be carried out on the organisation, competences and financing of this enlarged Union in a more hazardous world. Think tanks are challenged. Even more so when reality moves faster than ideas.

Sébastien Maillard,
Director of the Jacques Delors Institute

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