Europe To Develop an Alternative to the European Union?

Home / Analytics / Europe To Develop an Alternative to the European Union?
Sergiu CEBAN
Under the pressure of domestic and external factors, the EU will either successfully transform itself or give way to other integration projects in Europe, promoted by the United States and Great Britain with the support of Eastern European allies
On October 3, Germany celebrated an important date – not only for the Germans, but for all of Europe. German reunification was a historic event on a continental scale, a symbol of national and democratic upheaval and the acceleration of integration processes. Times are very different now. After three decades, the European states united in a single community stand before serious trials. The widening split of European elites, de-solidarization, and loss of unity are serious challenges that call into question the EU’s survival. Previously, supporters of European unity managed to maintain at least a semblance of the Union’s cohesion. But the pandemic period demystified the rifts within the community, revealing the extent that they had in fact reached. Collective Brussels proved unable to overcome the sudden selfishness of states that, perhaps for the first time in a long time, began to think in terms of national interests, ignoring the policies of pan-European institutions. This reality fuels centrifugal forces and strengthens the popularity of politicians promoting sovereignty. Such as Viktor Orban, who won another convincing victory in Hungary’s spring elections. In Poland as well, politicians are actively cultivating the importance of nation-states. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front has firmly established itself as the main opposition force in parliament. The most recent example is Italy, where a coalition of three parties advocating decentralization of the Union has recently won a majority of seats in both chambers of parliament. The military escalation of the Ukrainian crisis initially united the EU around an anti-Russian sanctions policy, but it did not last long. Already in May, disagreements emerged over the embargo on Russian oil. In fact, all the European Union members were divided into three conventional camps. The first are the Eastern European countries bordering Russia and, in one way or another, involved in providing military assistance to Ukraine. The second are states mainly from the southern regions of Europe, which are not particularly active and take a wait-and-see stance. The third category is a number of leading EU countries that are trying hard to roll back the situation to the pre-war phase and are pushing Kyiv and Moscow for a cease-fire. A classic “circular firing squad”, with each party unsuccessfully pulling the Union in its direction, in fact, only sinking it further into the abyss of internal crisis. Amidst the constant tensions between these groups, ideas about the need to restructure the Union are voiced more and more often. Recently, the German chancellor called for further expansion, for which the EU needs a number of fundamental changes, including reform of the European Parliament and the abandonment of the principle of unanimity in decision-making in foreign and fiscal policy. Berlin also wants to transform the European Union into a functional international actor capable of decisive action on a global scale. For this purpose, it is proposed to form a European rapid reaction force by 2025, including a unified air defense system. The German leadership is trying to find a way out of the dilemma faced by German elites. The locomotive of the European economy is clearly in disarray after last year’s domestic political reset and the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Berlin is caught between the desire to maintain the continuity of a long-standing course and the need to readjust under the pressure of geopolitical circumstances. There are enough influential supporters of both lines, and they are not all ready to engage in the “never-ending” confrontation with Russia. Merkel, for example, still advocates the creation of a pan-European security system with Russia’s mandatory participation. However, while the continental leaders are unable to decide on a future strategy, Britain, supported by the United States, is snatching the initiative from Paris and Berlin, offering its own vision for Europe’s future. It is no coincidence that the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, upon taking office, instantly supported the idea of a “European political community”, which implies a reconfiguration of the EU. Her predecessor, Boris Johnson, also proposed something similar. This would be a “European commonwealth,” which London’s traditional allies, the Baltic States, Poland, and Ukraine, immediately expressed interest in. The purpose of this alternative political-military and economic association was not only to become a counterweight to the core of the European Union, but also to weaken Germany’s role and influence in pan-European affairs. Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe seems ready to shake off Germanocentrism and return to rigid Euro-Atlanticism. The pacifism and diplomacy laid down by Berlin as the basis of its foreign policy and, essentially, the foundations of the EU are crumbling down before our eyes. The process of rethinking Europe’s relations with Russia, in which Berlin’s position has been decisive for many years, is also inevitable. The German model of economic success based on cheap Russian energy resources has been losing its appeal. Military power and NATO are now the continent’s priorities, and hence the strengthening of Washington’s position in European affairs. Europe is facing a new geopolitical rift and a lengthy “Cold War 2.0” with Russia and beyond. There is no doubt that under the pressure of domestic and external factors, the European Union will still have to transform or give way to new integration projects in Europe, which will be actively promoted by the US and the UK, relying on Eastern European allies. It is only logical to wonder where Moldova's place is in all these complex layouts, and what significance EU candidate status will have in a few years. In this sense, the recent visit of the British Minister for European Affairs to Chisinau looks like a natural phenomenon. By virtue of our geographical position, we seem to be ready to be offered a more promising Euro-Atlantic alternative and to be supported accordingly. The only thing left to see is (whether) how soon the British advisors will appear in the presidency.