The surge in Middle East tensions, combined with a dynamic Russian presence and growing Turkish aggression, provides a unique opportunity for the European Union to show that it will not allow itself to be blown about like a feather on the winds of others’ actions. But just as circumstances demand greater unity, so does inaction constitute a direct threat to each member-state and to the Union.
On Thursday, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, declared: “We should not only observe what the others will decide for us. I want Europe to be part of the game and to be able to promote and defend its own interests.” It is already late in the game: Others decide and the EU faces the consequences.
But it is one thing to have to improvise after the actions of the unpredictable leader of a superpower and another to be “played” by countries whose GDP is equal to 8 percent or 5 percent of the EU’s (as are those of Russia and Turkey, respectively), because they have powerful armies and autocratic, determined leaders.
It is time for all EU countries to realize that as in other challenges, only closer cooperation provides security. With the weakening of the system of international governance that we see today, every country is vulnerable to the wishes of the more powerful or the more determined. For a while now, European countries have been aware of the dangers posed by Donald Trump’s policy toward Iran – the possible fallout from the scrapping of the international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program and from the sanctions against Iran.
Already wanting to disassociate themselves from this US policy, the Europeans are now called upon to support Washington. At the same time, Ankara’s agreement with the government that depends upon it in Libya, and the undermining of Greek and Cypriot rights, affects the whole EU, as well as other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is where Europe can show that it is united and determined.
France has recognized the need to protect the Union. It is time for other countries to show the flag – both in the Mediterranean and in the halls of diplomacy. Europe’s joint defense policy may still be unready, but this does not prevent the constant presence of naval vessels from Germany, France and other member-states in Greek island ports. The Europeans must realize that solidarity is their only defense, whereas inertia, complacency and appeasement weaken the Union, strengthen its enemies and divide its people.