*European dreams and fears for 2018
VIEW FROM PARIS
In 2017, a new president was elected in France on a clear pro-European platform, and with the intention to reclaim a strong international role for France. With Emmanuel Macron’s victory, France aims at returning to the forefront not just of Europe, but of global affairs.
Consolidating the new momentum in Europe is obviously France’s key priority. With the uncertainties around the next German government, and several other roadblocks to be overcome, this is far from guaranteed.
For France, this is not just about tackling the European Union’s internal challenges. A European renewal should also help Europe to assert its views and interests on the global stage. In Macron’s vision, this new European impetus needs to be extrovert too: as he said in his speech at the Sorbonne, only Europe can “ensure a real sovereignty, i.e. our capacity to exist in the current world”.
Hence France’s renewed ambition — against the global backdrop of a retreating United States and increasingly assertive China — to act as the champion of multilateralism. Europe will better thrive if intrinsically global challenges, such as terrorism, migration, climate change, and digitalisation, are tackled under a multilateral approach. France’s hopes for a more effective multilateralism go beyond immediate security crises such as in Syria or in the Sahel, as illustrated in Macron’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly last September 2017.
France’s hope is that the multilateral architecture is strong enough to resist the current assaults, allowing Europe time to get its act together.
Macron’s initiatives even suggest that he plans that international institutions succeed in reforming themselves in a direction that will make them more effective, more responsive, and closer to a “multilateralism that protects”, to paraphrase one of his famous slogans.
The worry for the French leader is that something could trigger the demise of this multilateral order — in particular, renewed international proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. From a French perspective, international security is among the primary missions of the multilateral order.
France’s official assessment of the current international environment points to an unprecedented “concentration of threats and crises”, but notes that “proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems remains a particularly troubling development”, which could pose “direct challenges to… international institutions and norms.”
France is particularly concerned about the potential for proliferation in the context of three international security crises. The repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria is all the more appalling in France’s views given the lack of meaningful international response. The Élysée is also vehemently opposed to US moves which risk the unravelling of the Iran nuclear deal. And Paris is closely following the deteriorating situation around the Korean peninsula, which it sees as at serious risk of conflagration.
The latter case is a significant example of how Macron is keen to maintain France‘s global reach, and of how it hopes to sweep along the rest of Europe to defend a renewed multilateral agenda.
have to happen in the most disastrous way possible.
* The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: http://ecfr.eu
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