Norms and Values
Enlargement of the European Union?

Without a major pan-European peace agreement, the enlargement of the European Union could lead to war, and this would be suicide, in an era of nuclear weapons, for everyone and first and foremost for Europe, Dario Velo writes.

Ursula von der Leyen has recommended, on behalf of the European Commission, the opening of accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova; she has also recommended granting Georgia candidate status for entry into the European Union. Additionally, von der Leyen is in favour of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other Western Balkan countries joining the European Union. The list of countries that would be profoundly influenced by von der Leyen’s project is destined to expand further; this is presumably true for Armenia.

The debate immediately focused on two aspects: how and when to carry out this enlargement. The implications of this enlargement for the role of the European Union at an international level and on the nature of the European model that has accompanied the development of unification to date have not yet been taken into consideration.

If the process of enlargement of the Union were to be achieved with the accession of these countries, the balance within the European Union would be profoundly changed.

An even more important aspect must be carefully evaluated. The accession of these countries would create an encirclement of Russia by the new member countries of the European Union and, presumably, candidates to join NATO.

Russia’s fear for its own security is one of the causes of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The accession of Bosnia and other Western Balkan countries would also be bound to have repercussions with respect to the role that Russia has traditionally played in the Balkans.

It is questionable whether the strategy proposed by the President of the European Commission could lead to conflicts. We need to reflect on the precedent of Ukraine; propaganda has replaced broad reflection, with the result of providing less clarity on the facts.

It may be useful to recall some aspects of the conflict in Ukraine to better evaluate the implications of the decisions currently under discussion at the European level.

In an attempt to better evaluate the facts, it may be useful to refer to ancient teachings, which are still relevant. Here we must consider the words of Socrates, who said no one is ever totally right and no one is totally wrong. It is necessary to evaluate the reasons of the parties involved, even more so in the event of war.

It is not our intention to establish who is right or even who is right to a greater extent. Our goal is to identify the aspects that each of us can critically evaluate, to orient ourselves in the attempt to understand what would otherwise remain obscure. It is necessary to reflect on the aspects that are invoked by the Government of the Russian Federation to motivate the conflict with Ukraine and on the aspects that are invoked by the Government of Ukraine to motivate the war with the Russian Federation.

As for the Ukrainian government, it motivated the conflict with the Russian Federation by underlining three main aspects above all.

First, the right to carry out, at a national level, the policies it deems right; the Ukrainian government is faithful to the model of the centralized bureaucratic nation-state and believes it has the right to nullify regional autonomy. The Italian model which recognized broad autonomy for South Tyrol — Alto Adige is not shared by the Ukrainian government in office.

Secondly, the Ukrainian government has asserted the right to enforce compliance with its decision to fully enter the Western order, including entry into the European Union and NATO; resorting to rearmament to prepare to defend their strategic choices with weapons.

Thirdly, it has justified its own positions by insisting that Russia is guilty of having invaded territories where the Russian-speaking minorities who belong to the Ukrainian nation-state live.

The Russian government, in turn, has repeatedly recalled that its decisions must be linked to three fundamental problems.

First of all, the current Ukrainian government has failed to respect the autonomy of Russian-speaking Ukrainians. It has prohibited the teaching of Russian culture to this minority, the use of the Russian language by this same minority, and came to renew the medieval tradition according to which it is up to the Prince to select the Church to which his subjects must be faithful. Zelensky’s elite troops used weapons against the Russian-speaking minority.

Secondly, the government of the Russian Federation felt it was legitimate in conducting an armed intervention to defend the security of the country, in the face of Ukraine’s rearmament and its rapprochement with NATO and the United States. Mutatis mutandis, this concern is similar to the fears expressed by US President John F. Kennedy, when the USSR sent nuclear-tipped missiles to Cuba. Although the Soviet Union withdrew the missiles from Cuba, the United States has always maintained a military base on the island, while the Ukrainian government has increasingly developed its own armaments.

Thirdly, the government of the Russian Federation has always supported the historical need to found a new shared international order, overcoming the crisis of the unipolar world that Ukraine seeks to perpetuate.

This brief reconstruction, which certainly needs to be explored further, is sufficient to indicate the way out of the current stalemate. It is the path of a large pan-European agreement, in which the United States must participate. At the same time, it is the path that can allow an enlargement of the European Union with the accession of countries on Russia’s borders, which affirms a federal order and definitively consigns to history the model of the nation-state already defeated in the Second World War thanks to the great alliance between the USA, USSR, Great Britain and the French Resistance.

Without a major pan-European peace agreement, the enlargement of the European Union could lead to war, and this would be suicide, in an era of nuclear weapons, for everyone and first and foremost for Europe.

A pan-European agreement must include the participation of religions. The diplomacies of the United States, the Russian Federation and the European Union could be supported by representatives of universal religions with their role of wisdom and moral teaching. The Catholic Church is a centralized organization and this makes it easier to choose a representative that contributes to this agreement. Already today the Bishop of Rome and the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference play a peace-making role at a pan-European and global level. For other churches, identifying a representative may be more laborious.

It is among the peoples that a great agreement must be sought, which will contribute to starting the construction of a new pan-European and international order.

2024 will see new elections, in the US, in the European Union, in the Russian Federation. Citizens’ opinions will be important. In Europe, the European elections will see three basic trends clash.

The first tendency will be based on the attempt to convene a constituent assembly. It is the path supported throughout his life by Altiero Spinelli and today supported by those who identify with his teachings.

The second trend will be based on the plan to advance European unification by completing a new stage, realistically the creation of the Economic Union by completing the original plan of the Werner Plan, the European Economic — Monetary Union.

These two trends can find convergence by defining the necessary and possible solutions on the basis of a democratic debate. They would protect the European model that has established itself since the birth of the unification process, which is based on peace, freedom, equality, solidarity, on the definition of a federal order capable of setting an example in all countries and in the world in its unity.

The third trend is completely different. It is the desire to reaffirm Europe as a power. The enlargement of Europe in a short time without the consensus guaranteed by a broad agreement is part of this third alternative.

For some years, concern has been spreading that Germany may harbour the desire to assert its own leadership at a European level as the basis for the affirmation of Europe as a power. This concern was first raised by Charles de Gaulle at the time of West German reunification. These fears are realistically unfounded, but this suggests the opportunity to be vigilant to avoid the development of opportunities to strengthen Europe’s role as a power, on the initiative of any European country or any grouping.

Among the three elections, American, Russian and European, the most important is certainly the European one. Europe has already triggered a world war several times. It is necessary to reaffirm the peaceful European model and defeat the ambitions of a powerful Europe. In an era of nuclear weapons, Europe would risk disappearing.

The Middle East teaches us a lot these days. The Palestinians should not be confused with Hamas. The Jews should not be confused with the government of Israel. Extremists can destroy both peoples. The world must learn to affirm a new shared international order, rooted in all the countries of the world.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.