The contrast is striking. At the end of the last century, the United States had to take matters into its own hands to silence the guns in the former Yugoslavia, whereas today, faced with the new fire threatening Kosovo, the firefighters are European.
The French President and the German Chancellor have gathered the Serbian and Kosovar leaders on Thursday to tell them that the Union would not tolerate the opening of a second front on the continent. They told the authorities of the Albanian Kosovars that new elections had to be organised in the Serb-majority towns in the north. To both Serbia and to the Kosovo Serbs, they said that it was no longer a question of boycotting these elections but of ensuring a high turnout and thus moving towards recognition of the territory’s independence. This is also what the Americans had made them acknowledge but, through Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, it was the EU that was at the helm, telling Kosovo and Serbia that it would close its doors to them and withdraw its aid if they did nothing to ease the tension.
This does not mean that the Kosovar problem has been resolved, though. It will undoubtedly take a great deal more time to persuade Serbia to give up its lost province and to convince the Albanian majority to grant autonomy to the Serbian minorities, but the Europeans are now in the driving seat in Europe, where the leading role is no longer held by the United States.
So, let’s widen the scope. Twenty-four hours earlier, in Bratislava, in a landmark speech, the French President had not contented himself with acknowledging that Western Europe had underestimated the Kremlin’s desire for imperial revenge, against which Central Europe had unsuccessfully warned the Union. This is what was retained from his speech, because self-criticism is rare in politics, but two of his other points were even more important.
The first was the clarity with which Emmanuel Macron has insisted that the purpose of European defence was not to replace NATO but to strengthen it by constituting the European pillar that it currently lacks. For France, this is not a change of policy. This has always been the view of its leaders since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, but many people suspect that France only wants to assert a European defence in order to dismantle the Atlantic Alliance, a misconception that President Macron has all the more readily denied as the facts demonstrate its absurdity.
In Ukraine as in Kosovo, the European Union is now acting as a player on the international stage. United as never before by the Russian aggression, it is supporting Ukraine. In Kosovo, it is appealing to Reason. It is doing so by itself, for itself and on the front line, but with the support of an American ally who wants the EU to shoulder its responsibilities in Europe as it does in Asia.
This sharing of responsibilities is taking place naturally, without useless debates or rewriting of treaties. It is completely new and self-evident because the vital interests of the United States are just as committed in Asia as those of the 27 are in Europe, but Emmanuel Macron’s speech did not stop at this new reality of a new century.
At a time when the European Union has already granted candidate country status to Ukraine and Moldova, at a time when it is directly involved in Kosovo and must consider enlarging to include some ten other states on the continent, the French President also outlined the Union of tomorrow. It will have to be built around different “formats”, in other words different degrees of integration, because not all European countries want to be involved in all the common policies, and it would be just as impossible to leave the candidate countries in the waiting room for fifteen or twenty years as it would be to go straight to paralysis by integrating too many people too quickly.
What Emmanuel Macron has just proposed is to gradually unite the whole continent minus Russia in a single entity, the foundations of which have just been laid by the European Political Community, his brainchild. Eventually, the European Union would have at least three formats, nested like nesting dolls, and to which we would not be confined for eternity: first a common market, then the Union of today and, finally, a much closer political union. That’s what this four-way meeting and the keynote speech that preceded it were all about.