In the Declaration that emerged from the December 2019 London Leaders Meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was tasked to present Foreign Ministers with “a forward-looking reflection process under his auspices, drawing on relevant expertise, to further strengthen NATO’s political dimension including consultation”.1 This new tasking has been largely attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron’s remark the previous month that the Alliance was suffering from “brain death”.2 Speaking at a press conference alongside Stoltenberg, Macron elaborated on his comment, complaining the Alliance was overly focused on “cost-sharing or burden-sharing” whereas too little attention was being placed on major policy issues such as “peace in Europe, the post-INF, the relationship with Russia, the issue of Turkey, who is the enemy?”3
Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), launched by the EU in December 2017, has grown quickly. Yet, its role in developing European defence capacity may turn out to be marginal if a compromise is not found on the issue of the participation of non-EU states in PESCO projects and on the size of the European Defence Fund (EDF). PESCO’s importance may be diminished by advances by big, European defence initiatives led outside the EU’s legal framework.
For the first time since 1957, Europe finds itself in a situation where three major powers—the United States, China and Russia—have an interest in weakening it. They may squeeze the European Union in very different ways, but they share an essential hostility to its governance model.
The European model, after all, is based on the principle of shared sovereignty among states in crucial areas such as market standards and trade. That liberal idea is antithetical to the American, Chinese and Russian view of sovereignty, which places the prerogative of states above global rules and norms of behaviour. Shared sovereignty is possible only among liberal states; unalloyed sovereignty is the preserve of populists and authoritarians.
A few months after the European Parliament elections, and a few weeks before a new European Commission is fully operational, the European Union is facing old and new challenges, both domestic and international.
Since the Russian aggression in Ukraine, relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation have been at an impasse. The EU has limited cooperation with Russia to the principle of selective engagement. This model lacks precise definition and is not conditional on changes in Russian politics, so may weaken the EU’s external policy and threaten the bloc’s security.