Kranj (dpa) – Heads of state and government of EU states have launched a debate on greater European independence in the world after the recent solo US foreign policy.
The discussion is particularly important after geopolitical developments in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific and from the perspective of relations with China, EU Council President Charles Michel said at the start of confidential talks at Brdo Castle in Slovenia.
The EU wants to reduce dependencies
The debate should continue in the weeks and months to come and lead to tangible results as quickly as possible. It should not only be more independence in matters of foreign and security policy, but also more autonomy, for example in digital and health policy. For example, the EU could try to drastically reduce its dependencies on the production of pharmaceuticals and the storage of large data sets.
French President Emmanuel Macron underlined the need to lay the foundations for a stronger Europe on technological, industrial, economic, financial and also military issues. The EU must shoulder its share of the responsibility, choose its partners for itself and at the same time work closely with existing allies.
Council chief Michel said that NATO was a cornerstone of security in Europe, but at the same time it was important to see how we could act more autonomously within the framework of existing partnerships. It is also about strengthening them. “Strong allies form strong alliances,” Michel said. Chancellor Angela Merkel initially made no comment.
Horror at the Indo-Pacific Pact
In the EU, there had been recent horror that the United States had negotiated an Indo-Pacific security pact with the United Kingdom and Australia behind the back of the EU in recent months. In particular, the Paris government is furious because the Aukus Pact, a € 56 billion undersea contract between Australia and France, has broken down.
Washington is also accused of having disregarded the interests of the EU’s partners with a view to withdrawing from Afghanistan. In addition, there is great skepticism about the United States’ course of confrontation against China and the attempts to secure EU membership.
The meeting of European heads of state and government was organized in Slovenia as the country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. A summit meeting with the Western Balkans will begin this Wednesday at the same location. He will discuss the prospects for the accession of Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo to the EU.
Compromise on enlargement policy
Before the summit, after a bitter struggle, EU states agreed to a compromise on the six countries’ EU membership hopes. According to information from the German press agency, it should be put in writing at the EU-Western Balkans summit that the European Union continues to engage in the enlargement process which has started. At the same time, it should be emphasized that the ability to integrate new members into the EU also requires further development of the Union itself.
With the addition, according to diplomats, the Paris government wants in particular to keep open the possibility of blocking the admission of new members if, from the French point of view, the EU proves unable to reform in the years to come. . Candidates for membership still do not have absolute clarity on their chances of joining the EU.
Decision on six Balkan states
The EU’s course at the Western Balkans summit had been contested behind closed doors for days until Monday. According to diplomats, Slovenia, the host of the summit, recently called not only for a commitment to the enlargement process, but also a pledge to admit Western Balkan states by 2030. Other states like the France, however, vehemently rejected it. They argue that most of the Western Balkans are unlikely to be able to implement the necessary reforms as quickly by then.
Moreover, Paris in particular considers that the European Union is not expandable at the moment due to unresolved issues within its own ranks. For example, it is feared that an expansion of six more countries will make decision-making processes, which are often very lengthy, even more difficult.
Countries like Germany, on the other hand, argue that there are considerable risks in dashing the hopes of candidates. You point out that the Balkan states are also courted by countries like Russia, China and Turkey. The disappointed hopes in the development of relations with the EU could therefore lead to neglecting the reforms demanded by EU states for more democracy and the rule of law.
It is particularly sensitive that the start of EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia has been blocked by Bulgaria for domestic policy reasons for around a year – even though a clear decision by the EU to start negotiations was taken in March 2020.