What is Europe’s position on the two rival superpowers, the United States and China? Following Afghanistan and the submarine crisis, European Union leaders met for the first time in Slovenia on Tuesday night, declaring their willingness to step up their influence.
The 27 were still discussing late at night at dinner at Berdo Castle, not far from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, on the eve of an informal EU enlargement summit in the western Balkans.
“This is an opportunity, following recent geopolitical developments (…) to see how the EU could exert more influence internationally,” said European Council President Charles Michel, on his arrival in Slovenia. whose government is holding the rotating EU presidency this semester.
“Let’s be clear”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has not yet overcome the cancellation of the huge contract for the supply of French conventional submarines to Australia, which has chosen to conclude a tripartite strategic agreement with the US and the UK, called on Europeans to “be clear”.
Clear about “what we want for ourselves, for our borders, for our security”.
At the dinner menu, the central issue was how to “work in good faith with our historical partners,” while “increasing our independence and sovereignty,” he explained.
Before leaving for Slovenia, Mr Macron had a meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Paris.
However, the Nordic and Baltic countries are calling for prudence, insisting on defending the transatlantic relationship.
“The EU cannot shut itself in,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lβven was quoted as saying by the national news agency TT.
Joe Biden, willing to offer guarantees after the incident, described the EU as a “fundamental partner” during a telephone conversation on Monday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to the White House.
The submarine affair came just weeks after the US military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, which triggered a reflection of autonomy on European leaders.
The creation of a European Rapid Reaction Force with 5,000 troops has been discussed for months and the Afghan fiasco has given new impetus to this dialogue as it has highlighted the military shortcomings of the Old Continent, with France leading the way.
“Recent developments are a sign of profound geopolitical change. “By reacting, we must develop our capacity to take action,” European Foreign Minister Giuseppe Borrell said on Twitter.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also present at one of her last European appointments amid difficult negotiations in Germany to form a new government.
Her imminent departure will leave the field open to other leaders, such as Mr Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi or Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte, who have made no secret of their willingness to make their mark.
Energy in the menu
With regard to China, a market awaited by powerful German industries, Mrs Merkel has sought an approach, but the investment agreement reached at the end of 2020 between Brussels and Beijing remains indefinitely suspended due to tensions for human rights issues.
Another theme of the dinner was “rising energy prices”, a development that alarms many European countries, including Spain, Greece and Poland.
In the face of the spectacular rise of prices and concerns about the social impact, the European Commission will propose short-term solutions next week, before a deeper discussion which will take plase at the October 21st and 22nd Summit.