Correspondent in Brussels
The French President Emmanuel Macron verified this Wednesday that perhaps it has not been a good idea to insist on keeping France’s turn to exercise the presidency of the semester for the first time in an electoral period. First with the debate in the solemn plenary session of the Parliament, in which the most poignant issues of national politics slipped in, and then in its clash with the press for not accepting questions, probably under the suspicion that it would also end up monopolized by the electoral campaign.
This atmosphere partially tarnished his most powerful announcement in which he advanced that he intends to try to get the EU to offer a continental security plan that can be accepted by Moscow, coinciding with the debate on the European security doctrine, the ‘strategic compass’ that prepare the High Representative, Josep Borell. Macron hinted that it may be the basis of the proposal for a new security architecture in Europe that the EU is going to offer Russia to end tensions on the eastern border.
In his speech before the plenary session of the European Parliament that marks the beginning of the semester of the presidency, Macron proposed to maintain dialogue with Russia, based on the so-called «Normandy format», and prepare this new proposal to agree with Moscow on new security rules.
The peculiarity of this Macron proposal is that it tries to put Europe in the foreground, instead of letting it continue to depend on the steps taken by US diplomacy in its direct contacts with Moscow, but also that it ignores the position of Ukraine, which remains excluded from this process proposed by the French president, except for the ‘Normandy format’ formula in which it appears alongside France, Germany and Russia.
“I believe – said Macron – that our credibility with Russia lies mainly in engaging in a demanding dialogue. And we see it in the dialogue that the United States and Russia are currently conducting. I think it is good that there is coordination between Europe and the US, but it is vital that Europe has its own dialogue with Russia’ in which the crucial issue of energy supply must not be excluded.
In any case, the proposal to be drawn up by the EU, whether or not it is based on the document known as the ‘strategic compass’ that is expected to be approved at the March European Council, should then be at least “consulted with our allies in NATO”, but in the end “negotiated with Russia” to create a space of continental stability.
The French president also said that he is in favor of renew the commitments that were made 30 years ago with the Russia that emerged from the disappearance of the Soviet Union to seek “a political solution for Ukraine”, including measures that increase transparency in nuclear and conventional weapons and military maneuvers.
Until now, the EU has limited itself to threatening economic and diplomatic consequences of incalculable dimensions in the event of a new military incursion into Ukraine, but not all countries have the same references when deciding when they should start applying , because the degree of perception of threats is not the same in Poland, Germany, Italy or Spain, especially now that hostile acts can take unprecedented forms. The French president recalled that until now “we have seen manipulated migratory movements. We have seen cyber attacks. We have seen increases in gas prices. and on this front we need to build collective resilience together. The security of our continent requires a strategic rethinking, a strategic rearmament of Europe as a space of balance and peace. And in particular when it comes to dialogue with Russia.”
But first, what is needed is to agree with the member countries to establish that design of the European strategic doctrine, which is something that is not clear from all angles. Macron insisted that right now “we need this collective dialogue to set our own requirements and make sure they are respected, and we need to be in a position to enforce that.”