19 May 2017

Keeping the peace in Europe

In the previous post, I disagreed with Emmanuel Macron’s remark that “Europe is what has enabled us since 1945 to preserve peace … in our continent” rather than NATO. This view is not unique to the President of France, for example, as expressed in this tweet, much liked and retweeted, from Andrew Stroehlein* on Europe Day:

But if we zoom in on the period since the end of the Second World War in 1945, something is not quite right:

NATO was established in April 1949, the date apparently being staked out for the EU flag. The latter was designed in 1955 and adopted by the Council of Europe in December that year. In 1985 it was also taken up for the European Communities from which the EU inherited it in 1993. The Council of Europe**, which like NATO was founded in 1949, is distinct from the EU and aims to uphold human rights, democracy, rule of law in Europe and promote European culture. No doubt it can be regarded in doing so as contributing to the preservation of peace, whether its existence is sufficient for it is another matter. Something similar could be said to apply to the first of the pan-European institutions which subsequently led to the EU, the European Steel and Coal Community, founded in 1951. 

Meanwhile NATO, to quote, possibly apocryphally, its first Secretary General, General Ismay, got on with its job: "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

*Stroehlein is European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, based in Brussels.

**Not the European Council which is part of the EU, as is yet another body, the Council of the European Union.

9 May 2017

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Macron?*

On Sunday 7 May the Downing Street spokesperson on duty that evening said that Theresa May had congratulated Emmanuel Macron on being voted French president and that
“The leaders briefly discussed Brexit and the Prime Minister reiterated that the UK wants a strong partnership with a secure and prosperous EU once we leave.”
They “looked forward to meeting and holding discussions at the upcoming NATO and G7 summits”. 

So it’s now definitely worth reviewing Macron’s opinions on Brexit and the UK. Eleven months ago, just before the Brexit referendum, when he was economy minister and still a socialist, he gave Le Monde an interview:
How would you vote in the “Brexit” referendum? 
If I were British, I would resolutely vote "Remain" because it is the UK's interest. Leaving the EU would mean "guerneseyfication" (the île anglo-normande [Channel Island] that is a British crown dependency but not part of the EU) of the United Kingdom, which would then be a small country à l’échelle du monde [literally “on the ladder of the world”, so on a much lower rung in the world, or, more loosely, on the world stage]. It would become isolated and a trading post, a place of arbitrage on the border of Europe. 
If the British choose Brexit, what should be their status? 
The European Council of 28 June must collectively have a very firm message and timetable in the event of a negative vote. We cannot, in the interest of the EU, leave ambiguity floating and too much time elapsing. One is in or out. The day after the departure, there will be no financial passport for the British institutions. The European Council will have to issue an ultimatum to the British on their [the UK’s] intentions and the President of the Republic will be very clear on this aspect. If the UK wants a commercial treaty to access the European market, the British will have to contribute to the European budget like the Norwegians or the Swiss. If London does not want it, it must be a total exit. 
"When we are no longer capable of providing a project for Europe, we give room for doubters. Our challenge, the day after, is twofold: to avoid contamination and immediately relaunch the dynamic of a positive project for Europe".
In February 2017, Macron made an En Marche! campaign visit to London which included a visit to Downing Street. It is informative to contrast the versions of what he said outside Number 10.  One was intended for francophone consumption, emphasising the importance of cooperation on defence and counter-terrorism, but in English Macron chose to stress that he wanted to put in place:
… a series of initiatives to get talented people in research and lots of fields working here to come to France. I was very happy to see that some academics and researchers in the UK because of Brexit are considering coming to France to work. It will be part of my programme to be attractive for these kinds of people. I want banks, talents, researchers, academics and so on. I think that France and the European Union are a very attractive space now so in my programme I will do everything I can to make it attractive and successful.
More recently, Macron was interviewed by Monocle magazine:
M: Let’s talk about Brexit. What is the best response to the UK when it comes to negotiations? 
EM: I am a hard Brexiter. I think that Europe has made a mistake negotiating the inter-governmental accord [the “special status” deal David Cameron struck with the EU in February last year]. It created a precedent, which is that a single state can twist the European debate to its own interests. Cameron was toying with Europe and we agreed to go along with it, which was a big mistake. Britain must understand that our interest in the medium to long term is to have clear rules. So if Britain wants to trade with Europe it has to choose a model, such as the Swiss, Norwegian or Canadian. We have to accept that there are losses. But it’s the British who will lose the most. You cannot enjoy rights in Europe if you are not a member – otherwise it will fall apart. Europe is what has enabled us since 1945, in an unprecedented way, to preserve peace, security, freedom and prosperity in our continent. The British are making a serious mistake over the long term. [Foreign secretary] Boris Johnson enjoys giving flamboyant speeches but has no strategic vision; the turmoil he created the day after Brexit proves it. [Former leader of Ukip] Nigel Farage and Mr Johnson are responsible for this crime: they sailed the ship into battle and jumped overboard at the moment of crisis. Theresa May has handled it but what has been happening since then? On the geopolitical level as well as on the financial, realignment and submission to the US. What is going to happen is not “taking back control”: it’s servitude.
These remarks were made during the period when Macron had one eye on the Elysée and some expectation of a second-round contest with Marine Le Pen, distinctively anti-euro and anti-EU. His views as President will perhaps be more nuanced. However, his forecasts for the UK of "guerneseyfication", slipping down the échelle du monde and servitude, combined with his belief that “Europe is what has enabled us since 1945 to preserve peace … in our continent” rather than NATO, suggest that, however brilliant an énarque he may be, his judgements are founded on a view of how France would like the world to be rather than realism.

Ahead of the late-May NATO and G7 summits referred to earlier, here is a reminder of where the UK is currently placed on the global ladder:

An échelle du monde
So when the UK leaves the EU, the latter will lose:
one of its three G7 members,
a key member of NATO and one of the four EU members of NATO which currently meet the 2% of GDP defence expenditure requirement (but see below),
one of its two permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5),
one of its two of the five Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Nuclear Weapon States (NWS),
its only member of the ‘5 Eyes’ intelligence community,
one of its three members of the Commonwealth.

None of this is likely to worry Macron who seems to be focused on Germany as a partner, not in a servile way of course, as he explained to Monocle:
M: What role can France play with Germany on the global stage? 
EM: Paris and Berlin have to reinforce a much stronger partnership that is in line with our common interests. Angela Merkel is well aware of the current dangers and challenges. Germany is becoming a great military power again. Two per cent of its GDP will be spent on defence – more than France, which hasn’t happened since 1945. Burdened by its history, Germany cannot handle this alone. France is not strong enough economically to play the role it once had at international level. Paris must reinforce an independent diplomacy and at the same time build new areas of discussion and co-operation with Berlin.
Bon chance with that!

*Pastiche of the theme song of Dad's Army (a British TV sitcom set during World War 2).