Why we need the European Political Community
Part 1 - Macedonian Géopoliticienne, Katerina Klimoska, explains what the reality is in the European neighbourhood and why the EPC is a key tool for the EU's geopolitical influence
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This article is part one of a series of articles on the European Political Community. If you would like to read part two, you can find it here:
After the Second World War, Europe entered a period of relative calm, especially after establishing the European Community, whose primary objective was to prevent another war on the European continent—at least not between European nations.
As the concept of Europe has evolved through the European Community to the European Union, Europeans have long focused only on its functionally normative aspect, namely the building of “civilian power”, ignoring the shifts on the geopolitical chessboard in the surroundings.
In metaphorical terms, Europeans played elegant tennis while the rest of the world played chess. Since the beginning of 2000, there have been indications of the growth of the five actors that will occupy the geopolitical space in the following years; China, Russia, Brazil, India, and, of course, the United States of America, especially in terms of their investments in the economy and the military.
According to the PowerIndex 2022 score, which ranks states across categories ranging from military might and financials to logistical capability and geography, the top ten countries include: the USA, Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, France, United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Brazil, and all 10 have seen upward trends in their ‘power’ compared to previous years.
This index indicates an increase in the stability of world powers’ growth on the geopolitical map, from 2000 to 2022, with France being the only EU country in the top ten. Next is Italy in 11th place and Germany in 16th place; other EU countries are lower.
However, if the EU were a unified entity and pooled all its independent forces together, it would have been ranked amongst the greatest global powers in 2022. We’ve seen this remarked upon by countless experts and politicians, including Moravcik, who argues that Europe is the ‘Quiet Superpower’.
The Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy in 2016 stated that “An appropriate level of ambition and strategic autonomy is important for Europe’s ability to promote peace and security within and beyond its borders”; and luckily, in 2017, we saw the election of a powerful, pro-European president in France.
Advocating for a powerful, sovereign European state, President Emmanuel Macron made a key pillar of his presidency the development of a strong, independent, sovereign Europe and, most importantly, advocated for the idea of Europe as a power.
A few years later, following his support for a “geopolitical” President of the European Commission in the form of Ursula von der Leyen, we saw several strong steps towards developing Europe as a power.
Most notably, Commission President Von der Leyen gave a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg announcing the geopolitical Commission that Europe urgently needed. Here, she emphasised the importance of the strategic enlargement of the Western Balkans, with the Western Balkans having long been considered a strategic vulnerability of the EU.
However, the most critical challenge that the EU Commission faces in making the EU a relevant geopolitical actor remains the lack of unity among member states towards its immediate neighbourhood.
The EU Commission, especially in this ongoing debate on EU strategic autonomy, states an obligatory point of reference towards Western Balkans, all the way emphasising that promoting enlargement policy towards the Western Balkans would be essential to ensure the credibility, success, and influence of the EU in the region, especially taking into account the current global scenario, characterised by great geopolitical rivalry, and to verify the ambitions of the EU to effectively assert itself as a strategically autonomous actor in the years to come.
In short, Europe must find a way to transform itself to play an increasingly influential role in geopolitical space in the years to come.
But what defines a country as a geopolitical power? How can Europe achieve this, given the construction of the EU?
Europe has been built as an ordered space, able to radiate its beneficial effect and provide order to the disorder outside. Hence, in addition to its military capabilities, Europe’s real geopolitical comparative advantage lies in its civilian influence or use of ideological or soft power through economic and cultural influence, international law / the rule of law and democracy, reforms, and institutional changes prompted by the EU.
This is the attractive power of the EU.
The EU is pre-eminently a civilian power, which can be seen in Its goals and priorities. These include: establishing a single market among its members, a zone without internal borders- the Schengen area, common security, foreign and internal security policy, and own single currency.
All that, from the initial 6 to today’s 27 members, but also much broader, if are taken into consideration her policies of cooperation, partnerships, as well as the EU enlargement, whit it’s Enlargement Policy towards Western Balkans and Turkey, and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
As Straw said back in 2003, “The EU’s greatest achievement has been to help secure an absence of war amongst its member states. Enlargement will extend this achievement and cement the intrinsic values to peace across the continent”.
EU Enlargement is one of the most potent instruments the EU has at its disposal, allowing it to expand its power by using soft/ideological or attractive power. Through this instrument, Europe is expanding its influence for peace and stability, making it a unique geopolitical actor globally.
The attractive power of Europe helped stabilise the polities and economies of over a dozen neighbouring countries, creating a security zone across Europe. Vachudova claims that enlargement largely reinforced domestic reforms through incentives on already converged EU acquis, accession which is a rule-based process using objective criteria backed by strict monitoring and enforcement, thereby stabilising fledgling democratic and capitalist systems.
Going back to the above, the EU is building its power primarily through EU Enlargement: the inclusion of more economies, a larger population, and a progressively greater war readiness. However, whether this is in the function of its relative power, i.e. an increase in its comparative power with relation to the other forces on the geopolitical board, depends on the indicators that can be drawn from enlargement, as well as the cohesiveness of all members within the EU- how could joint decisions be made on important issues.
In short, the success of this policy towards the creation of Europe as a power depends on the homogeneity and the capacity for EU integration within its borders, especially in the field of defence and foreign policy.
For this reason, the European Political Community is so important to the EU. With its potential to serve as the perfect vehicle for maintaining EU influence across its neighbourhoods and ensure that partnerships and friendships are maintained as much as possible while positioning itself as a geopolitical actor on the global geopolitical chessboard.
But where could this go? And what can we expect from it?
You’ll have to tune in next week to find out.
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What you say as All well and good, but will the Sovereign States of Europe allow an EU President speak and act for them.
Seeing Ms von der Lyan sit as an equal at last week's G7 meeting shows why. Europe does not get an extra vote, when the actual members are Germany and France. She was superfluous as will her successor be, unless Europe decides that the EU speaks instead of any individual member. I suspect this is a bridge too far, for the member states.