Friday’s summit of nine Mediterranean member-states of the European Union is important and useful. The visit by the European Commission president and the leaders of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Cyprus and Malta reminds us that solutions to the problems that dominate public debate can be solved only within the EU framework.
It is significant that just two days earlier, in her annual State of the EU address, Ursula von der Leyen underlined the common strategy for dealing with the climate crisis, the economy and the pandemic. A few hours later, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia signed a defense pact which appears to be a response to China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. This caught the EU unawares.
In addition to the issues that will be on Friday’s agenda (which include security and stability in the Mediterranean, immigration and Afghanistan), Wednesday’s surprise and the growing tension between the United States and China will highlight the need for a common defense policy. Russian and Turkish aggression may not have provoked the necessary alarm among all EU member-states, but the danger of being pushed around in a great power dispute might wake up governments that are still undecided. It is not only the climate and environment, the economy, health and immigration which demand a strong Union, for the good of all its member-states, but also the international realignment of power and balances.
If the Europeans do not stand together, if they do not develop strategy and power, they will lose even more influence, they will be vulnerable to the accumulating dangers.
The EU’s central power, Germany, is not present at Friday’s meeting of the EuroMed 9, which will likely end with a joint declaration on the need for strategy and unity. The current situation, however, provides cause for optimism. The German federal elections on September 26 are expected to strengthen forces that want a closer Union. In addition, the latest Eurobarometer found that eight out of 10 citizens of EU member-states are in favor of a common defense and security policy.
So, there is both the will and a growing number of reasons to take this critical leap into the future.