In her recent speech about the State of the Union, President Von der Leyen was right to focus on the challenges raised by the war in Ukraine, but she was short on a long-term vision, and on a plan to cope with its real nature. Yes, the war in our continent is certainly the central […]
Not discretion, but clarity is the better part of valour. Ukraine has courageously resisted the imperialist assault on its sovereignty by Russia, whose most important war aim is to reach back to Peter the Great. Russia wants access to warm-water ports, and buffers against invasion to its West and North. Whatever the successes of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, these aims have all been tainted in one way or another.
While offering candidate status for EU accession to Ukraine was the right decision, stalling the accession of the Western Balkans however was a big strategic mistake – one that will be difficult to mend.
By granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova and by recommitting to the EU membership of the Western Balkans, the European Union opened a new phase of its enlargement which will redesign the European political map again. It was undoubtedly the right decision to assert European sovereignty and also to welcome an embattled country which is showing with bravery that it belongs to the European future and not to a war of the past. A war of the past in Europe because it combines the clash of empires of WW I with the clash of political regimes of WW II. The future in Europe is being created by the values of freedom, equality, solidarity, democracy and sustainability and by a process of European integration which involves enlargement but also deepening. Deepening is a pre-condition for successful enlargement. But as enlargement has now become a political and moral imperative, the issue today is not about choosing between one or another. It is rather about how to make both with a new approach.
The war in Ukraine has exposed different views on sanctions against Russia by Serbia, and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the one side, and other Western Balkan states and entities on the other. The EU should handle the issue cautiously, to avoid further splits and to prevent securitisation of the issue.
When Vladimir Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014, Europeans had a simple choice: increase or decrease their energy dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Europeans chose to increase. National governments like Spain and France could have freed themselves from Russian gas just by implementing their own national building renovation plans. But they chose not to.