Farewell Franco-German couple? This new center of gravity in Europe is being built right before our eyes

Atlantico: The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has revealed a new center of strong influence before the traditional Franco-German couple. When gunfire stops at the European Union border, can the Union’s center of influence shift from west to east (economically and militarily)? Can their support for this war come to them?

Guillaume Closa: Europe’s gravitational field is not changing. The European Union, from a “hard core” perspective, is considering its new members in a union with its historical members, which is becoming more inclusive. This is good news because Baltic countries like Poland are interested in strengthening the European Union and especially the institutional strengthening of the Union. This paved the way for the union to move from an economic union to a real political force.

The second consequence of this war is the realization that the European Union is much more than a technocratic project. It appeared as a political and civilizational project. President Jelensky has spoken out in almost every speech since his election, highlighting the cultural aspect of the European Union. This war created a kind of awareness among Europeans that a new civilization born after the Union War would provide peace, security, common law, human dignity, equality.

Michael Lambert: The idea of ​​a Europe revolving around the Franco-German couple is a remnant of the Cold War and has virtually no relevance to the contemporary European Union (EU). In fact, if the couple was important in Europe of 6 (1957) or even 12 (1986), it was rarely relevant in Europe of 27 (2022).

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Moreover, since the end of the Cold War, we have seen changes in the EU’s center of gravity from west to east, as no integrated strategy has been adopted between France and Germany on a few large projects or dying projects (e.g.). As 5th generation aircraft).

At the same time, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are emerging as new powers. Estonia is now a cyberspace giant, and the Nordic country, formerly occupied by the USSR, will surpass Switzerland and Singapore in terms of per capita income in the next twenty years. The Czech Republic also became an industrial and economic power before World War II. It has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU (3.5%) and attracts many expatriates. Poland, for its part, has become a leading diplomatic actor, as evidenced by its initiatives on behalf of Ukrainian refugees. These are just a few of the many examples that bear witness to this rebalancing of economic power in the EU from west to east.

However, if the countries of Central and Eastern Europe regain their strength, it will still take several years to modernize their armies and countries like the Czech Republic and Poland are not ready to fight global warming, which will strongly affect their economic and agricultural resilience. . In short, Estonia is by far the only country that has the best chance of becoming a European power in its own right, with others having the opposite effect.

Finally, it seems appropriate to recall that not all countries in Central and Eastern Europe have the military power, nor the tools, the industrial equipment, or the financial means to achieve their ambitions. Therefore, they rely on NATO to ensure their defense. The latter also favored doctrine and struggled for innovation at the military level. Pauls, for example, purchased a large portion of the American material, where French material such as the Leclerc tank and MAMBA, and the Swedish sub-gripen, would be more suitable.

In short, the countries of the former Eastern bloc are good at communicating and providing supplies to Ukraine, but when it comes to waging a real war, only one EU member state seems to have the knowledge: France.

Atlantic: Could the more limited support of the Franco-German couple reduce its impact for the benefit of other European countries?

Michael Lambert: The Franco-German couple is symbolic, and contemporary Europe no longer surrounds it. Tomorrow’s strength will be those countries which will give themselves the means and ambitions to develop excellence in certain sectors.

At the risk of repeating itself, Estonia will have European cyber power in the next decade. Joining NATO would make Sweden a great military power. In fact, Sweden has excellent military companies (sub) and it is a low level military power.

Apart from these two examples, other countries like Czech Republic and Poland will not be able to emerge as great military power because they are not innovating enough and they do not have sector of excellence. The same is true of Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the two Baltic states (Latvia and Lithuania), which will be in the background for the lack of budget for modernization.

Economically, only three countries – Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia – would become full-fledged and merge with the countries of Western Europe.

At the diplomatic level, it will again be Estonia, but this time accompanied by Poland and the Czech Republic, which will be the main diplomatic players. Thus, Poland would emerge as a European agricultural power, and agriculture would become an essential component of soft energy in a world of scarcity.

Environmentally, Slovenia will be at the forefront of Europe in a few years. As I write this article, it may seem old, but environmental protection and resource management, especially water, will also be an essential element of soft energy.

The Franco-German couple, even France and Germany separately, will not increase their influence but will remain stable in the European Union without seeing it diminish.

Guillaume Closa: Ukraine has a cultural, geographical, or historical proximity to the Baltic, Scandinavian, and Central European countries. Some even feel that they are being directly threatened. With France and Germany playing a specific role in this regard, Europeans without France or Germany would not have the capacity to supply arms to Ukraine. There is a collective dynamic and it was clearly not a contradictory gas and oil promise. Nevertheless, we have created a dynamic of unity.

Atlantic: With its new defense alliances with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland, it shows that in a small way it weighs so much in diplomacy?

Michael Lambert: The United Kingdom remains a great power not only in Europe but all over the world. The country’s economy is growing strongly, with high wages for young people and a sharp decline in unemployment. British universities are among the best in the world and have been able to increase their income and the international influence of London is a reality that shows that this country is still able to surprise us. In addition, the UK is facing a high-quality debate over environmental issues and its tourism is booming.

In short, with or without Sweden, Britain remains a model for many, and as we have seen in Boris Johnson’s visit to Ukraine, the British communication strategy is much better than that of the European Union. London was and remains a major European player and its relationship with Sweden will strengthen this dynamic.

Guillaume Closa: The Ukrainian crisis has marginalized the United Kingdom and we see that we can rely less on it than in previous crises. Across the channel, we try to show in every way, especially by talking, that we exist. But words do not replace effects or actions.

This alliance is philosophical and it is a second level alliance. The foremost alliance in terms of security is NATO and the European Union in terms of politics.

Atlantic: In the end, are we moving towards a new argument for Europe that deviates from the familiar pattern?

Michael Lambert: In the long run, we must acknowledge that the European Union has little or no relevance to the war. As we have seen during the Covid-19 or Ukraine war, these states play a defensive role, only in the Shenzhen area of ​​the European Union, the euro is interested. Even now under inflation and therefore no longer protecting citizens, however, there has been a shift in Europe with countries emerging as regional powers and have a philosophy of excellence in certain sectors (cyber Estonia, Slovenia in the environment, Poland for diplomacy). Along with the war in Ukraine, global warming, which will affect the economic resilience of European countries, will shift the center of gravity risk of the European Union from the Franco-German couple to more northern countries, which is more conducive to global change. The Nordic countries, the Netherlands, as well as Ireland, will be the hub of European power in the future, especially if Sweden and Finland join NATO.

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