November 08, 2019
Rethinking security - Macron edition
Emmanuel Macron is the first European leader in this century who is ready to push an agenda for the future of the EU. His comments in the Economist caused a ruckus yesterday among those, especially in the Anglosphere, who are not used to this kind of narrative. Their favourite EU bedtime story has been one of happily co-existing sovereign member states that pool sovereignty when it is in their advantage; of eternally blissful EU enlargement; and of the EU as a deeply integrated trading block. Our own narrative about Europe has also been different one from that, but also different from Macron's in his early days as president. He misjudged Germany and Angela Merkel. But, as he smartens up, we find ourselves increasingly aligned with his views on what the EU needs to do in the post-Merkel era. This debate is not between pro-Europeans and eurosceptics. This is a debate among pro-Europeans - about what the EU should actually do.
We have a separate story below on Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's speech on defence. This is best understood in the context of Macron's comments. Macron's characterisation of Nato as brain-dead is brutal but realistic. There can be no question that Art. 5 of the Nato treaty is little more than an optical illusion. President Donald Trump has cast doubt on it, and so has Frank-Walter Steinmeier. When he was Germany's foreign minister, he said Germany would under no circumstances ever commit troops to fight against Russia. A combination of American reluctance, German exceptionalism and uncoordinated Turkish aggression has left Nato as an empty shell. Time to move on.
The argument in favour of a separate European defence identity is simple and compelling. The world outside has become more hostile. China poses challenges of a very different kind. And Brexit and the rise of nationalism have weakened the EU internally.
We see many parallels with the monetary union. We always though it was a tragic coincidence of timing that the EU changed its narrative on integration just after it introduced the euro. It wasted a whole decade on enlargement and deluding itself about the need to become more competitive, a toxic misunderstanding that caused internal and external imbalances that ultimately gave rise to financial stress. Twenty years on, we are still debating deposit insurance when we should really be talking about how to deploy the euro and a European safe asset as foreign policy tools.
Macron's strategy consists of changing that narrative, and as the reaction yesterday shows, it is causing disorientation. We noted a comment by Paul Krugmann, whose narrative is also not in sync with the pro-European consensus. In a column in which he tried hard to debunk some Americans myths about Europe, he ended up predicting that the eurozone is the most likely source of the next global financial crisis.
We are encouraged to see that alternative narratives about the future of Europe are gaining more traction. The odds are perhaps not great. If the EU succeeds, it will involve a smaller group of countries than the EU27, with the eurozone and a defence union as its core. There can be no concentric cycles as the euro itself will become a central part of a future security strategy. The EU has the instruments. It will need to find a way to deploy them.