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Ukraine war gives Macron new impetus for EU autonomy – POLITICO

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PARIS – Russia’s war in Ukraine has given new impetus to Emmanuel Macron’s push for a more autonomous EU. But the leaders of the Continent still needed to figure out what that meant in practice.

The French president, who welcomes EU leaders to Versailles on Thursday for a summit overshadowed by the war, has long argued that the EU needs to be less dependent on others – when It says everything from its own security to its semiconductor supply.

For Macron’s government, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and its consequences made clear its point – showing the danger of a militarily defenseless Europe, heavily dependent on Russian energy and too vulnerable to external economic shocks.

The fight will push the EU to “reduce our interdependence with the outside world, to create not autocracy but a form of European independence,” said Clément Beaune, EU Minister of France, speak this week. “If this is the result of this crisis, it will be a success for Europe.”

Some EU members – especially economic liberals and countries with strong transatlantic ties – have always opposed Macron’s buzzword of “strategic autonomy”, fearing that it is a code for protectionism, protectionism, and a ploy to make Europe “buy France”.

And when it comes to the impact of war on defense policy, some senior European officials are drawing a radically different lesson from Macron’s – that the United States plays a vital role in protecting Europe. Europe and NATO are more involved now than in decades.

But even former skeptics are embracing Macron’s overall agenda, at least for a moment.

“We must strengthen our open strategic autonomy, which France has long urged,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speak on Wednesday at an event in Paris.

When asked by POLITICO whether the Netherlands and other countries like Nordic are changing their mind about the concept, Rutte replied: “Yes.”

However, Rutte was also quick to stress that the European economy should open up. And his use of the phrase “open strategic autonomy” has become its own code, used by those who want a more balanced approach.

A diplomat from an economically more liberal EU member said: “Everybody agrees that we have to rethink our dependence on certain countries and Ukraine has made it clearer. that”. building new walls. “

In rhetorical terms, however, the political focus has shifted in Macron’s direction. In Versailles, EU leaders are expected to adopt a statement that resembles a French wish list.

In draft text, The EU leaders are committed to increasing defense spending, phasing out Russia’s dependence on fossil fuels and investing to reduce strategic dependence on foreign goods, POLITICO said.

These are also the priorities that Macron state in a speech to the nation of France last week as he laid out his vision of transforming the EU into a incompetence – a real power.

Pascal Lamy, a former French World Trade Organization director and former European commissioner, said crises such as the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have pushed Europe towards that goal, which is France’s long-term goal.

“The idea that building Europe is the French dream of power doesn’t exist since yesterday, it has always existed,” Lamy told POLITICO.

Strengthen defense

On defense policy, the shock of Russia’s attack on Ukraine had an immediate effect, most notably in Germany, which abandoned decades of caution to commit to increased military spending.

In the draft Versailles declaration, EU leaders collectively agreed to “resolutely increase our investment” in defense capabilities and to “significantly increase” defense spending.

But how that money will be used remains to be calculated. Proponents of the EU developing its own defense capabilities argue that this will also strengthen NATO. But skeptics fear EU money could be wasted on projects that don’t align with NATO priorities.

While advocating for increased European defense spending, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg also offered a blunt message in recent days on the limits of the Continent’s ambitions: “The EU cannot protect Europe,” he declared.

The idea of ​​strategic autonomy has long been associated with defense. But now it is also at the forefront of discussions across many areas of EU policy, particularly energy.

At their summit, EU leaders will also agree on cutting ties with Russia’s fossil fuels by 2030. And the European Commission this week doubled down on its plan to “reach out” independent from Russian gas”.

The drive to achieve greater “energy sovereignty” by rapidly moving away from fossil fuels aligns with the priorities of the German government that took office late last year, in which the Greens played a key role.

“The more we rely on our own energy sources, and the more independent these energy sources are from imports, the more sovereign we will be in our foreign policy.” speak German Minister of Climate and Economy Robert Habeck, a senior Green. “This is what we mean when we say that renewable energy gives us more freedom or freedom in terms of foreign policy.”

Agricultural policymakers are also tending to give autonomy. French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie went as far as calling for “food sovereignty” at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers last week, as Moscow’s fight showed how much the EU depends on imports. fertilizers from Russia and Belarus and crops such as corn and soybeans. from Ukraine.

At Versailles, leaders will agree to “improve our food security by reducing our dependence on imported agricultural products and inputs” and also boost investment to make the bloc more independent in key areas such as raw materials, semiconductors and drugs.

Digital Debate

On the technological front, the threat of Russian cyberattacks has prompted new calls to strengthen the EU’s digital security and resilience, including by boosting EU businesses. in the field and politically control a number of key parts of the technology supply chain.

EU ministers responsible for cybersecurity have called on the bloc this week to “increase EU funds to promote the emergence of trusted cybersecurity service providers”, adding that it is “incentivized” The development of such suppliers in the EU should be a priority in EU industrial policy in the field of cybersecurity,” according to the draft statement obtained by POLITICO.

France’s push for strategic autonomy is happening so quickly that more economically liberal countries are having a hard time finding the brakes.

They argue that the way to make the EU more resilient is to build more networks with other like-minded countries, rather than let the bloc fend for itself.

That is an approach echoed by the European Commission’s head of economic and trade policy, Valdis Dombrovskis. “The more diversified, the more flexible the EU trade flows will be,” he told POLITICO earlier this week. “That is why I insist on this open strategic autonomy view to diversify the supply chains that need to be open.”

How far Europe will follow France’s play is yet to be determined. In some areas, such as trade and agriculture, the fight is not yet over, especially as the more liberal Czechs and Swedes will take the helm of the EU Council after France.

But Paris feels it has the wind in its sails. As French Trade Minister Franck Riester said this week: “Strategic autonomy is no longer a taboo.”

Laurens Cerulus, David M. Herszenhorn, Laura Kayali, Eddy Wax and Zia Weise contributed reporting.

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