French President Emmanuel Macron's project for a “European Political Community” is back in the spotlight after months of not much talk about it. It is known that the project also targets partner states outside the EU, but it is not at all clear what it means for the countries that want to join the EU; there are fears that, through the formation of the Community, accession could be postponed indefinitely, that the executive in Brussels will support the French proposal.
The Commission supports the formation of a European Political Community
“It is necessary to get closer to the countries of Europe - beyond the accession process”, said the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on September 14, when she expressed the European executive's support for the French proposal. “This is why I support the call for a European political community - and we will present our ideas to the European Council. But our future also depends on our ability to engage beyond our core democratic partners”, Von der Leyen said.
This time too, no details were given about what exactly the “European Political Community” means, validated by the European Commission. On May 9, when he launched the idea, Macron had said, rather vaguely, that this project was a platform for political dialogue and cooperation that would not replace the European Union's enlargement policy.
For his part, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his support for such an initiative and uttered the phrase “a European Union with 36 countries” which would include Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and some countries from the Western Balkans.
Regarding Macron's proposal, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has stated that this European political community is not a substitute for enlargement or an intermediate step in this process, but a political community that discusses common themes for all European states such as foreign policy or energy security.
A confusing initiative
Veridica has talked with various analysts and politicians in order to learn what such an initiative would mean to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, from a political perspective.
“The problem is that I don't know what this 'European Political Community' plan is. Is it a matter of political consultation, one by means of which certain structures are created within the EU? The Republic of Moldova said yes, we will accept the invitation, provided it will help us achieve our goals, which is becoming a member of the EU”, said the director of the Experts for Security and Global Affairs think tank ( ESGA), Angela Grămada.
She said that in May, both the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine were willing to accept this proposal if it would materialize into something more than a statement by Macron.
“The heads of the Kyiv and Chisinau diplomacies do not see it as a matter of European integration, but rather one of aligning the interests of the EU member states, but not necessarily one that would come together with an institutionalized matter”, she explained.
However, Angela Grămada believes, Macron's initiative must also be seen in the electoral context about a month before the parliamentary elections in France that took place on June 12 and 19.
“Against the background of his failures as a mediator in the dialogue with Russia and the insistence with which Ukraine was pressing for the status of EU candidate country, this came from Macron somehow to temper Ukrainians’ strong speeches”.
The expert also says that no one in Paris has specified how the talks will be conducted, nor has there been any attempt to present the usefulness of such an idea, after France ended its rotating EU presidency at the end of June.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, was rather skeptical of France's idea. “No alternative to Ukraine's European integration will be acceptable”, he said. On the other hand, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was aware that joining the EU would take time.
How Macron’s and von der Leyen's plans are seen in Chisinau
Chisinau received the French idea in a diplomatic way, but is still counting on a “classic type” of accession to the EU. The PAS deputy, Adrian Bălutel, has stated that the political initiative launched by France “is an option that we see as complementary”.
“One that at the current stage deserves to be discussed, but our objective is full integration as a member state of the European Union. That's the ultimate goal and that's what we're aiming for. Meanwhile, in the process of joining the EU, we are obviously ready and willing to opt for other actions related to greater integration: access to the free market, a closer political cohesion and connection with the EU, the accession of the Republic of Moldova to various platforms, projects and initiatives. These things are all welcome and they are all for the benefit of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, he said.
The PAS deputy also stated that a political union closer to these aspiring countries can bring certain benefits in the short term, such as access to the single European market.
“We are doing our homework, we are moving forward with the reforms related to bringing the standards of the Republic of Moldova closer to the European requirements. This gives us hope that when the accession options are fully discussed, we will be ready and we will do it regardless of the situation!”, he added.
On the other hand, the political analyst of IDIS “Viitorul” from Chisinau, Ion Tăbârță, is of the opinion that the current government, with all its internal problems, has a good image outside the country, and this can only bring it benefits with regard to EU enlargement.
“The Republic of Moldova is in the books, it is well regarded. Recently, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, went to New York together with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and other European heads of state. Maia Sandu sat next to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. This shows that the Republic of Moldova is viewed positively as a state”, Tăbârță told Veridica.
It remains to be seen how this plan proposed by Macron and supported by the European Commission will materialize, after the first meeting in the extended format of the “European Political Community” that will take place in Prague, on October 6-7. The meeting can also be a signal: does the EU really want to enlarge, or is it looking for an alternative to enlargement?
Candidate states must remain open and receive any benefits they can get at this stage, especially on the eve of the cold season, and keep doing their homework. Next year, some of them will enter the next phase, namely to receive the green light from Brussels for the opening of the negotiation chapters with the EU. Ukraine and Moldova are credited with the first chance, but that also depends on the evolution of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the political and economic crises related to this war.