European Union heads of state and government discussed the future of relations with the United States at their first summit since the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The basics in brief
- Macron for greater “independence” from Washington.
French President Emmanuel Macron called, on Tuesday evening, in the Slovenian town of Brdo Pree Krango, for the European Union to “increase its independence and sovereignty.” But in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, this leads to defensive reactions.
“We must lay the foundations for a stronger Europe at the technological, industrial, financial and military level,” Macron stressed. The French head of state had already called for greater military independence from the United States after the rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. On defense and security, he wants to hold his own EU summit under the French presidency in the first half of 2022.
The request for EU autonomy was met with resistance from Eastern European and Baltic states. They see the United States and NATO as the guarantors of their security against Russia. So it should be about starting a process that defines a new role for NATO, but integrates Eastern Europe and France, the summit participants said.
The question is “how can the EU exert sufficient influence at the international level to defend our values and interests,” EU Council President Charles Michel said in the Slovenian town of Brdo Pree Krango.
EU foreign representative Josep Borrell urged on Twitter: “We must strengthen our ability to act.” This was demonstrated by the recent “deep geopolitical shifts”. With this, the Spaniard also alluded to the new Indo-Pacific alliance of the USA with Great Britain and Australia (Aukus).
France reacted so furiously that the alliance meant the country missed out on a billion-dollar submarine deal with Australia, which now wants to buy submarines from the United States instead.
Even after meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Paris, Macron expressed skepticism about US President Joe Biden’s assertions that France was an important partner of the United States. The French president stressed that he does not believe in words, but in “facts.” Macron said he would meet Biden at the G20 meeting in Rome later this month and then “see how we can communicate with each other.”
Other topics at the EU Heads of State and Government Dinner include relations with China and the dramatic increase in energy prices. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) also participated in the summit, but did not comment at the moment.
Consultations with Western Balkan countries should continue on Wednesday in an expanded manner. Heads of state and government of Albania, North Macedonia and four other Balkan countries are expected to attend.
Albania and North Macedonia hope to start accession negotiations with the European Union. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had called for a clear signal before the summit. However, the enlargement process has stalled for years due to the reservations of various member states.
Austria also called for progress. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter that “it is very important that we reaffirm the EU’s perspective for all Western Balkan countries and continue to actively support them in reforms.” The multi-billion dollar investment package will be a catalyst that the EU will link to progress on reform in the candidate countries.
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