Late to this excellent and thoughtful piece by @StevenErlanger that provoked much debate inside @EurasiaGroup. But I don't buy the idea that there's a structural shift underway in the EU - with power and influence moving east. Longish thread 1/
On most if not all non-war issues eg EU response to US IRA, reform of EU fiscal rulebook, whether to stand up more common borrowing & much else besides, CEE member states exert little or no policy influence in Bxl. They effectively implement the deal larger states sign up to 2/
It's true that Germany & France may not be able to stitch up all EU debates themselves bilaterally anymore, but unless there is Franco & especially German agreement, nothing in Bxl moves (as debate on sanctions, a gas price brake, reform of SGP & fiscal response to IRA shows) 3/
Poland & the Balts have provided a degree of moral & rhetorical leadership over Ukraine. But that’s very different to arguing there’s a structural shift within the EU to their advantage - across the spectrum of other policy issues - or that their leadership is substantive 4/
Poland & Hungary also remain hobbled by significant rule of law issues. This does/will continue to fundamentally subtract from their agency in Bxl. The former may be addressed if @donaldtusk wins elections this yr (see below). Hungary's problems aren't going away anytime soon 5/
Beyond the big two, the harsh truth is that Romania & Bulgaria have little or no voice at the EU-level & the others (Balts, Slovak, Slovenia) are ultimately too small to matter when influence in Brussels is a consequence of GDP and population size 6/
One eg is how the EU has quietly buried Lithuania's fight with China, launching a WTO action & raising it in bilaterals, but effectively tolerating & ignoring for more than a year Chinese diplomatic/political bullying and a de facto economic blockade against Vilnius 7/
That’s because Germany & France don’t want to pick a fight with Beijing. And this despite the fact Beijing’s moves have had a direct impact on the EU Single Market (EU manufacturers have dropped Lithuanian suppliers to avoid getting caught up in unofficial Chinese embargoes) 8/
Imagine if China tried the same on Germany and/or France. We’d have a major trade war on our hands and a hard turn towards the US to jointly take on China 9/
Other "Eastern European" aspirant countries – Ukraine, Moldova etc – also aren’t going to be full EU members for a very long time & will probably end up with some sort of quasi-membership status in the European Political Community for 5-10+ years 10/
Also note: if/when these countries do join the EU it will massively reduce & dilute the benefits of membership for countries like Poland, as their income gap & vast agricultural lands mean CAP & cohesion funds will largely be diverted to them 11/
So there is no pan-Eastern European coalition as such beyond the Ukraine war, and any emerging co-operation over discreet policy issues will be hard to sustain given these political & economic realities 12/
Note also that the Paris/Berlin dynamic is itself evolving - with France building several bilateral treaties with other Southern EU member states to compensate for the current lack of leadership in Berlin 13/
The idea that all influence is moving East assumes an almost static reality for Paris & other "older" EU member states which simply ignores the ways in which their relationships are also maturing (Brexit is another eg which massively reinforced France's role within the EU) 14/
It’s true that European Strategic Autonomy has been set back by the Ukraine war. But the EU was never going to muster the necessary political cohesion, defense investments, security arrangements and integrated foreign policy to make it a serious reality 15/
In practice, Strategic Autonomy has always been more about an economic, commercial and regulatory agenda, and that continues to deliver - as the EU's response to the IRA will likely show 16/
One possible game-changer would Tusk winning in Poland. That would make Poland - in structural & not just cyclical (ie war-related) terms, more influential and a real player in Brussels 17/
But that would likely lead to Tusk working & collaborating with Paris & Berlin (& possibly Rome); not working with other CEE states against French and German interests. When push comes to shove, it all ultimately has to work for Paris & Berlin 18/
A look at the EU's key decision makers within EU's institutions & the capitals they primarily work through also supports this hypothesis: that what we're seeing is cyclical (war related) but not a structural increase in the influence of CEE in the EU 19/
Note this is not a normative argument - I'm not suggesting this is how EU should work. Just my analytical view on how it does. @EPspin @fromTGA @jana_puglierin @LuukvMiddelaar and others will agree/disagree. Thx to @StevenErlanger for writing such a thought-provoking piece ENDS
See All