The prospects of Ukraine and other countries joining the EU force Europe to rethink the very basic way it functions. This moment of crisis can be a bonafide opportunity for the European Union, but will require a level of courage and ambition that has been lacking.
PARIS — The question of whether or not the European Union should offer Ukraine a chance at membership is a false choice: The answer is necessarily "yes." Vladimir Putin’s slaughter, this senseless war at the gates of Europe, forces us to accept what still seemed unthinkable at the start of the year — especially for France, known for its historical resistance to eastward expansion.
Joining the bloc will require considerable efforts from Kyiv, notably to eradicate corruption. It will also require the withdrawal of Russian troops from its soil, a condition that would also apply to Georgia and Moldova.
But above all, this requires rethinking Europe. France can accept that the Union is enlarging — an idea opposed to all its recent instincts and stances. But France must do so with the assurance that the Union will continue to advance.
Can we imagine a Europe of 30, or even 35 members, without abolishing the right to veto that has caused us so much harm? Its latest victim is the global minimum tax rate, which has long come up against the shameful blackmail of Warsaw, and now of Budapest. If both these countries are so eager to see Ukraine joining the European bloc, they must accept that the principle of majority prevails over that of unanimity.
Geopolitical and economic bargainings
The fact that the candidates for membership of the EU are plagued by corruption imposes another requirement: that of reviewing the rules of citizenship. The issuing of passports obviously remains the prerogative of each country. But it becomes everyone’s business when it allows people, and above all, capital to circulate freely across the continent.
EU members Malta and Cyprus are already gateways to money laundering in Europe. It is simply inconceivable that a country like Ukraine — the size of France! — can offer such services.
Let’s remember how Mitterrand extracted an agreement from the Germans on the creation of the euro.
Let’s go even further: These negotiations about enlarging the Union are also an opportunity for Paris to push unresolved issues, including the banking union that the Eurozone so badly lacks.
Obviously, this seems far removed from the stakes at hand on the ground in Ukraine. But Europe was often built on bargainings that involved geopolitics and economics. Let’s remember, for instance, how French President François Mitterrand had managed to squeeze an agreement on the creation of the euro single currency out of a skeptical German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in exchange for Paris greenlighting German reunification.
Mitterrand and many others in France were very wary of a reunified Germany, but what prevailed was the very French conviction that Europe’s deepening must be the corollary to its enlargement.
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