The EU has had a glorious period of big projects — the single market, enlargement, the euro. Reform in this period, including treaty change, was driven by the sheer scope of these huge projects.
Now, however, the Union no longer has big projects, only big challenges. But we will argue here that the challenges and setbacks are also a driver for reform, not by vision or choice but by necessity. In other words, the EU will be learning and doing things the hard way.
Western European countries have for a long time felt secure as part of the most powerful military alliance in the world, led by the United States.
Eastern European countries rushed to join NATO as soon as the window of opportunity, under Boris Yeltsin, allowed it. But this was not the end of history.
The election of Donald Trump shocked Europeans and they started talking about “strategic autonomy”. Then Trump lost the elections and Joe Biden, an old-school Democrat, took over, much to their relief.
At first, Biden did exactly what the Europeans wanted: He came to Europe and promised that the US would be a predictable partner.
But in the last few days, the newly found faith was broken.
First, the US withdrew from Afghanistan without any consideration for its Western allies.
Then came the submarine affair, when Washington stabbed France in the back, hurting and humiliating the EU’s mightiest military power, its only Security Council member and nuclear power.
And in the post-Brexit world, the U.S. teamed up with the UK, adding insult to injury.
Geopolitically, the gap also seems to be widening.
The U.S. has a vision of the world that doesn’t necessarily coincide with the views of Paris or Berlin.
There is no worst-case scenario where Europe would go to war with China, which is seeking to establish its buffers in the South China Sea.
This article was published by EURACTIV.