Can Europe Master Its Destiny through the European Political Community?

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Publication Date 27/10/2022
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Forty-four countries recently participated the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community (EPC), a forum to consider Europe’s linked energy and security crises, with a second meeting scheduled for next spring.

Although not meant to displace existing European institutions or structures, or to create a new one “at this stage” according to the European Council, the forum’s animating impulse is much grander. In proposing the EPC last May, France’s President Emmanuel Macron challenged Europe to think beyond its present arrangements and organize itself “with a broader scope than that of the European Union,” in order to become the “master of its own destiny,” to “choose our partners and not depend on them,” and to “act decisively. Move swiftly. Dream big.” And, ultimately, to show that “these words are not only the prerogative of China or the United States of America.”

Whether through the EPC, or any other similar effort, Europe can truly become the master of its own destiny rests on three substantial challenges. First, the EPC must develop a shared political vision for Europe that transcends the national differences of its members and imbues their actions with moral legitimacy and common purpose. Second, it must build the norms, practices, and institutions that align members’ actions in ways that make this vision real. Third, and most critically, it must create a military capacity that credibly protects this vision — and the community it embodies — in a world that can turn hostile and dangerous.

These three elements — shared political vision, institutions that align actions with values, and sufficient credible force — are the essential building blocks for any resilient political community among sovereign states. They comprised the core infrastructure of both episodes of long peace in Europe over the past 200-plus years. The Concert of Europe from 1815 to 1914 was built around the vision of preserving monarchy and aristocratic privilege (and containing liberalism) through a concert of the great powers whose decisions and accommodations were backed by their willingness to stand behind them with military force.

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