column | The European Union in the Black Sea is more than symbolic

Oekraïne een tijd neutraal, zo schokkend is dat niet

The European Union is mentally moving quickly towards the east, towards the Black Sea and the border with Russia. The final decision at last week’s EU summit was to place the candidate for Ukraine and Moldova, much to the delight of the political leaders and people there. On the other hand, Georgia saw the rejection of the application, mainly due to the weakness of democracy. This has led to disappointment in Tbilisi.

This is how exposed he is to it all three These Black Sea countries have been promised something new: a “European perspective”. In diplomatic language: “The European Council recognizes the European perspective of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. The future of these countries and their citizens lies in the European Union.” Ruti, Schulz, Macron, Morawiki, Draghi and all their colleagues signed.

So Georgia can also be happy with the move. So far, such statements have not gone beyond the irony “we are aware of your European aspirations.” In other words: you can want it, but we’re not committed to anything. Now the EU is telling Georgia: It won’t open yet, but there’s a door for you too.

The precedent is the Balkans. Already in 2003, at the summit of Greece, the heads of government of the European Union declared: “Future [Westelijke] The Balkans in the EU.” Until then it was already clear: This could take decades, and we wouldn’t immediately negotiate with everyone — including a bond in 2022 — but one day you would join us. The key word of the distant promise was the “European Perspective.” .

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Compare it to the United States. It was our destiny From the nascent American republic, founded by 13 states on the Atlantic coast, until one day it will reach the Pacific Ocean. Likewise, the European Union gave itself the geographical profession to include all of the Balkans. The dual goal: to bring stability to a region torn by civil wars and to keep other powers out. Everyone was behind her.

This promise was not intentionally made to other neighbours. The European Union established a Neighborhood Policy for this group, which culminated in 2014 with the famous Association Agreements with the Black Sea Trio. Closer ties than ever, but the goal (at least for most member states) remained to create an outer ring around the EU, a buffer zone between Europe and Russia.

This approach is now disabled. Last week, the European Union not only granted Ukraine candidate status, but also moved its geographic destination even further – even Georgia, across the Black Sea. To exclude the latter as “symbolic” in the absence of a concrete and direct result would be a mistake. The European Union, eager to be geopolitical, is doing a regional projection here.

However, the situation is still full of mystery. Because this is a good idea? President Macron also does not know yet, Watch some single words After the summit: When we want the stability of our region, we say come and live with us. This is crazy: should we also be able to have neighbors who do not live with us? “

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Two conflicting logics. On the other hand, the desire to make the European Union coincide with the continent, with all the European countries with whom we share geography and values. On the other hand, the desire to keep the union itself able to function, to protect the “intimacy” (Macron) of what has been built since 1950. There is a tremendous tension between the two, which will lead to headaches, debate and dynamics in the years to come. It is also why the French president called for a “European political community” in May. Such a new European forum would reveal the existence of the broader European political family this year; “Europe” was conceived as a political space for democratic states with a common history, culture and values.

President Zelensky supported the EU’s request with the fact that Ukrainians are dying “for European values”. “They are part of us, they are part of the family,” Commission President von der Leyen said repeatedly. Understandably, both left the friction between the EU and “Europe” unmentioned.

However, friction exists. Take the United Kingdom for example: despite Brexit, the country is still part of European geography, culture and family. Norway and Switzerland are non-EU European countries. That is why Macron should not shape his continental club as an outer ring or antechamber in Brussels: the British will flee at once and the European conversation about security between the Atlantic and the Black Sea will not begin.

In return, Putin’s Russia left this civilized space. There is no place for him at the new European family table. But for Johnson, Zelensky and Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.

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Luke Medlar He is a political philosopher and historian.

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