Special Envoy to Bratislava, Slovakia
This is the first time that a French president has spoken at Globsec, Central Europe's main forum for European security issues. His visit was therefore highly symbolic, due to Emmanuel Macron's record in the region. Since the beginning of the war, his desire "not to humiliate Russia", to offer it "security guarantees", the dialogue he has maintained for too long with Vladimir Putin, despite the lack of results, had made the France's foreign policy unreadable. The ambiguity of the French president's Russian policy had also thwarted his ambition to become the undisputed leader of the European Union. The Bratislava speech set the record straight by clarifying Emmanuel Macron's positions.
In many ways, the words spoken to the leaders of Central and Eastern Europe are historic. "There is only one Europe," said Emmanuel Macron, welcoming the "return" of Eastern countries to the European family at the fall of communism. He spoke of Milan Kundera's "kidnapped West" and promised that neither the West nor Europe would be "kidnapped" a second time. But above all, he, who usually never judges himself, made a long-awaited mea culpa vis-à-vis the countries of the East that lived the Soviet occupation in their flesh. "We haven't always heard that voice that you carry," he acknowledged. Referring directly to Jacques Chirac, who, criticizing their support for the US war in Iraq in 2003, claimed that these countries had "lost an opportunity to remain silent," he humbly conceded: "We have lost an opportunity to listen to you." This was a salutary clarification for those countries that had never forgotten the contempt with which they had been treated. In Bratislava, the French voice was suddenly no longer the same. "You can count on France. She was sometimes perceived as arrogant or not interested in this region. Let us assume together what our Europe, a great democratic power, must be.»
Comments were also clarified on Ukraine. Regretting the lack of coherence with which Europe had treated the region before the Russian invasion, Emmanuel Macron promised that Ukraine "will not be conquered". The time is no longer for a compromise peace between Moscow and Kiev. "There can only be one peace, the one chosen by the Ukrainian people," he maintained, rejecting any idea of a "ceasefire" or "frozen conflict", which would only fuel new wars. "We must prepare for this conflict to last and we must prepare ourselves to support Ukraine in the long term." That is to say, to provide it with the necessary security guarantees.
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On this ground too, the war changed the French president. In 2008, France, along with Germany, vetoed the entry of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. "At the time we were unable to provide a European response. We provoked Russian vindictiveness without giving sufficient guarantees to these countries," he said. Today, while Russian aggression has made Ukraine "a major player", Emmanuel Macron quotes the American diplomat Henry Kissinger, who after having been very opposed to it, now defends Ukraine's entry into NATO. "I share his vision. Tangible and credible security guarantees must be given to Ukraine", even if he also knows that the lack of unanimity on the subject makes Ukraine's integration into NATO at the next Vilnius summit "unrealistic". At least this time, France will not be the country blocking the rapprochement with the Atlantic Alliance...
Emmanuel Macron's strategic autonomy was a dream. We made it the reality
Olha Stefanichyna, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine
But we must also prepare for the future of Europe in a world where Russia's geography "will not change" and where the next American administration will not necessarily be in tune with European choices. "I want to dismiss all fantasies: I do not want to replace NATO not a Franco-German condominium," he told an audience that has often suspected the France of working to weaken the Atlantic Alliance.
The Russian war in Ukraine vindicated the French vision of a strategic Europe. It has pushed European countries to increase their defence budgets and to reflect on a new organisation of the continent's security. "Emmanuel Macron's strategic autonomy was a dream. We have made it a reality," said Olha Stefanichyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister. "Sovereignty is no longer a French fad," the president said. It calls on its partners to accelerate the construction of a more sovereign European capability. While working hand in hand with the United States, European resilience, he warns, must continue to be built, especially at the military and industrial levels. It is, he believes, "the future of our continent".