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A “European Political Community” to bind the continent together

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On the eve of its founding summit in Prague on 6 October, expectations for the European Political Community (EPC) have changed. Delays in expressions of support, vacillations over the scope of guests and the hesitation of some to attend reflected the inevitable vagueness that envelops any nascent organising concept. President Macron had defined it on 9 May in Strasbourg, opening the reflection in favour of an organisation that would allow “democratic European nations adhering to our core values to find a new space for political cooperation, security, cooperation in energy, transport, investment, infrastructure, the movement of people and in particular of our youth.” The ambition of the Head of State, using the Schumanian term “Community”, is to “bring our Europe together in the truth of its geography, on the basis of its democratic values”.

In view of the long list of 44 participants invited to Prague – including President Erdogan – this basis seems tenuous today in what is primarily a demonstration of continental unity. Giving a glimpse of Greater Europe is a welcome feat in the midst of Russian aggression, when Putin is seeking to divide us in a world opposing the so-called West and the Rest.

But what will the unity displayed be based on once the family photo is over? This is the issue at stake in the following steps. Even without conclusions, the summit aims to create an area of interconnections in the fields of energy, cybersecurity, telecommunications and transport. This intergovernmental cooperation, which a form of general secretariat will have to carry and for which various types of financing will have to be found, will serve to make the continent collectively less vulnerable to geopolitical shocks, wherever they may come from. In short, the EPC could serve as a framework for structuring the continent’s economic security – which would already be enormous. Covering a disparate set of countries up to Azerbaijan, it pragmatically focuses on pan-European cooperation projects of a technical nature.

However, as it stands, it leaves to the EU the demand for liberal democratic principles from its current and future members. This runs the risk of making European integration less attractive in the end, in favour of a looser framework that accommodates all forms of nationalism. This is why the political community, if it is to be truly one, must not lose sight of its democratic horizon, with the support of the Council of Europe Let us recall that the idea, also initiated by our President Enrico Letta, started from the membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia that the European Union suddenly received at the very beginning of the Russian invasion. The aim is to bring these countries and potential or existing candidates, such as the Balkans, into the EU. The accession procedure, even if recently reformed, is a long, rough and winding road for each State. The EPC would immediatly create a space for political closeness on equal footing. The aim, which is continental in scope but focused on the EU, is to bring in not only leaders but also national MPs and citizens, over and above, beyond what the association agreements and other relations with the Union already provide for. It is to give a foretaste of the EU to prevent the frustrations of waiting and to spread its liberal democratic culture ahead of the accessions to prevent current Hungarian-style situations.

Such a Community should also encourage an alignment of the candidate countries’ foreign policies with that of the EU. This is the exact opposite of what Serbia is currently doing, which is negotiating its European membership and, at the same time, refusing to apply sanctions against Russia and has just signed, in the middle of a war, a diplomatic consultation agreement with Moscow.

The EPC is still an elastic concept that will mature again. Whatever the outcome, it already has the merit of pushing European leaders, who are improvising themselves as firemen in the face of war, to also become architects of the Europe of the future.