Blog AnalysisEuropean policy

[Analysis] The summit of all dangers

(B2) The European Council next Thursday and Friday (14-15) December promises to be a crucial meeting for the 27 on all levels. Will they be able to overcome their divisions? To overcome their mutual reluctance? The stakes are notable.

At the EU-Latin America summit, smiles and applause are out… for the family photo (Photo: Council of the EU)

A high-risk summit

From division to Union, a very specific rite

Summit meetings are never a great moment of united conviviality. Despite appearances, smiles and hugs. Rather, they are the place where Chefs confront each other. These battles are sometimes Homeric. Their ideas and interests often diverge before the meeting. It's the game and even the usual rite. This meeting is often the time to close ranks and define some common directions. The word division is thus often concomitant with that of vertex as well as that of unity. Thursday's meeting is therefore not exceptional on this point.

A lot of unresolved files

What seems exceptional today is not so much the absence of consensus before the summit meeting, it is the number of files, of prime importance, on which the 27 do not agree, deep and open way. On the future of Europe, its internal rules, its budget, its role in the world, behind the generous and often hollow words, the Leaders no longer have anyaffection society. Europeans do not agree on anything either externally or internally.

Support for Ukraine no longer garners consensus

Externally, they are no longer able to agree on the necessary military support for Ukraine. This point has been a consensus factor since February 2022. This is no longer the case today. Between those who believe that supporting Ukraine is starting to be expensive and that they prefer to spend nationally rather than via Europe (e.g. Germany) and those who believe that helping Ukraine militarily is a dead end ( Hungary, Slovakia, Austria), a certain minority has formed to refuse the latest proposals from the High Representative. Even the opening of the borders provokes an outcry from the closest countries (Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc.), although most of them are ardent supporters of kyiv.

La summa division of Israel and Palestine

The October 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli land caused trauma, not yet cauterized, among Europeans. She blew up the consensus line. To the point that the old European message of a two-state solution, of people living peacefully side by side, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, the illegal nature of the colonies, etc. today seems impossible to reiterate in its entirety. For some quick to follow the Netanyahu strategy, we must put an end to the Palestinians and reoccupy Gaza. For others, the two-state solution is the only possible outcome. Between the two lies a morass of Member States with more vague language. Only humanitarian aid to the Palestinians (and then again!) seems to find some semblance of agreement.

Noaffectio society on the European future

Europeans disagree on vital domestic issues. Neither on the future budget for 2024-2027 (spend more or save more, find new resources), nor on the migration plan (further restrict arrival rules or allow a limited legal pathway for certain potentials), nor on the rules budgetary measures (should we return to a stricter rule on deficits and debt and what margin should be left to Member States). So many essential subjects

…nor on future borders

As for European enlargement to Ukraine, it has today become a tense point. Hungary vetoed any European Council decision on this subject in December. But it would be futile to put Budapest in a corner. Several countries are satisfied behind the scenes with this last minute Hungarian Nem, allowing them to display a more generous position in appearance, and avoid displaying their equally great reluctance. In short, Europeans no longer agree on the European project...

The navel of the world

This lack of consensus and especially of decision is dangerous. The rest of the world is moving, quickly and without Europeans. Russia raised its head. China is sure of its destiny as a world leader, India is asserting itself as an economic power. Regional powers, from Brazil to Turkey, including Saudi Arabia and South Africa, are making themselves comfortable in this new world. Countries of more secondary importance — such as Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso — have already thrown European aid and “recommendations” overboard, preferring other alliances. Others no longer hesitate to “mix” their aid so as not to depend only on Europeans. And this movement does not seem ready to die out.

A Europe lacking leaders

Faced with this global revolution, Europe does not seem to be up to the task. Several Chefs are leaving, not the least among them: the Dutchman Mark Rutte, the Pole Mateusz Morawiecki in particular. Others have major internal difficulties, starting with the main one, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is prey to dissension within his coalition. Even the Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, to whom eyes often turn in search of an impulse, is in a minority in Parliament and his government is only holding on with Articles 49-3 (blocked vote).

A lack of risk-taking

The President of the European Council, the Belgian Charles Michel, does not shine with his stubbornness. If his political insight and his sense of maneuver are well known, it is in fact not political courage that grips him. He is averse to too strong confrontations and often prefers to kick in, postponing the resolution of problems until later, a good connoisseur of the European machine tells us. Hence the number of files that are “unresolved”. As for the Franco-German couple, it seems to subscribers that they are absent. And this is not the doing of Paris. At least this time (read: [Analysis] A shot of firedamp on the Franco-German couple with deeper roots).

A majority trimmed by the extremes

Finally, the campaign for the European elections seems to be difficult for most leaders. The changes that are coming – weakness of the liberal centrists and the Greens, expected rise of the far right and the conservatives – threaten the internal European political balance. Which doesn't really facilitate too strong a commitment and concessions.

The precipice of history

Are Europeans, preoccupied with their navels, losing their grip? Not quite yet. But the precipice is not far away. If everyone is not careful. By dint of little defense of interests and mediocrity, Europeans could miss out on History tomorrow.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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