The sea of names and acronyms that surrounds the European Union (EU) can end up confusing what has been seen this week in Granada. On two successive days, the third meeting of the European Political Community and a European Council were held, all with Spain as host as it held the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
And the first impression that is drawn as a balance of what happened is that they have been meetings with more continent than content, within the framework of an extraordinary Spanish commitment to transmit its image to the world, making Spain a brand in the best sense of the term.
From there, the analysis of what we have seen leads us to understand that the European Political Community (EPC) is a shell that has yet to be filled. Apparently, since its start in May 2022, it is a reflection of that Europe that has yet to be defined in a political and geographical key. In practice, it is a French invention to make Russia’s loneliness visible in the context of the war in Ukraine. In addition to this objective, its main promoter, Emmanuel Macron, also sought to establish a kind of alternative to integration into the EU for countries that, like Turkey, are unlikely to become members, but with which it is interesting to maintain special ties.
As occurred in the two CPE summits prior to Granada (Prague and Bulboaca), it is not possible to identify a single result embodied in an agreement or pact, without this detracting from its value as a forum for agreeing positions on support to lend to Ukraine.
On this occasion, the call was made with the idea that the Twenty-Seven and the main leaders of 17 other countries could share their opinions on “the future challenges for the region.” And in the absence of concrete results, the most striking thing has been the presence of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urging his interlocutors to maintain unity in supporting Kiev and to supply more military material to be able to stop the foreseeable Russian artillery campaign next year. winter.
As for the absences, the most notable has been that of the Azeri president, Ilham Aliyev, surely aware of the criticism he was going to receive for his brutal aggression against the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh, in a gesture that raises many doubts about the possibility that Yerevan and Baku can sign a peace agreement in the short term.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also decided to stay on the sidelines, both to avoid the unpleasant experience of enduring accusations of military alignment with Azerbaijan – in what can only be described as Armenian ethnic cleansing – and to show his rejection of the French attempt, and others, to accommodate Turkey in a body that does not satisfy its aspirations in Europe.
As for the European Council, its informal nature already showed that everything would remain at the level of discussions to unite wills that do not always coincide in such difficult matters as support for Ukraine, enlargement and migration and asylum policy.
At the moment it can be understood that economic and military support for kyiv is broadly maintained. But no one can escape the fact that this image of unity, which Hungarian president Viktor Orbán regularly puts to the test, will be in even more trouble with the entry on the scene of the possible new Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico. A trend that will make it increasingly difficult to approve new sanctions on Moscow, maintain support to avoid Ukraine’s military and economic collapse, and establish a reconstruction program where appropriate.
Expansion: Which countries and how?
For its part, the debate on the enlargement of the EU (including Ukraine) is already launched, with positions still divergent. The idea of increasing the size of the community club seems clear, but there is still a long way to go before defining which countries can finally become members and what the most suitable process is.
And if in the first case there are already nine potential candidates in very different situations of political stability and economic development (from the Balkans to the Caucasus), in the second case there is still no clear consensus on whether it is necessary to first modify the rules of the game. to make an EU of 36 members governable – eliminating, for example, the unanimity rule to move to qualified majorities depending on the issues to be decided – or whether it is appropriate to open the door to those who are already better prepared.
Whatever decision is taken, it is not difficult to guess that there will be many problems in bringing positions closer together and nothing indicates that much progress has been made in Granada.
Finally, the unblocking of the immigration pact that had been stuck for years was presented as a success of the meeting. And, while it is true that Spanish diplomacy has achieved this step, that does not necessarily make it good news when its content is examined. Furthermore, Poland and Hungary are already threatening to kill the agreement even before its formal birth.
First of all, it must be remembered that this pact refers to a regulation that, together with three others, aims to update the structure of the EU policy on migration and asylum. A set of measures that still have to go through other community bodies before becoming final (without forgetting so many cases in which some governments later refuse to comply with what was agreed).
But, in addition, in order to get here we have chosen to assume the positions of the toughest governments on immigration matters, such as Italy. Or, in other words, the possibility is reinforced that what is finally approved is a tightening that leads to more violations of human rights and more criminalization of those who decide to save lives in danger for purely humanitarian reasons.
In short, a success for the Spain brand, but without much joy.