By Jean-Dominique Giuliani*
The Russian aggression in Ukraine, i.e. the return, once again, of war to the European continent, prompted it to react.
It did so with unexpected speed. The Union set about its work in conditions that no one could have imagined a few days before 24 February 2022.
It unanimously adopted ten packages of sanctions affecting 1, 484 individuals and 212 entities.
The emergency measures adopted jointly to break off the numerous energy relations with Russia were immediate, going, for example, for gas, from a dependence of almost 50% to less than 10% in a few months.
Support for Ukraine has been massive and has not caused any serious divisions. More than €67 billion has been spent, including €12 billion in military aid.
More than 8 million refugees have been welcomed in Europe and temporary protection status has been granted to almost 5 million of them by virtue of an exceptional European decision taken in March 2022.
The European Union and its member states have demonstrated that they can work with a reinvigorated NATO, while launching a defence effort that was unimaginable until recently. The complementarity between the two organisations has worked perfectly.
The Europeans have succeeded in being “reasonable for two” in the face of Russian aggression. Their objective is clear: to dissuade any European actor from violating the law, its commitments and from challenging internationally recognised borders. Nothing else. They are right to be focused on this goal, which is an existential achievement for European integration and for the future of multilateralism in the world.
This is probably why, for the third time, the UN General Assembly has just condemned Russia by 141 votes or 73% of the nations. Opposition to the injunction to withdraw the invasion forces was expressed by only seven dictatorships.
As for the weak or hypocritical abstentions on the part of a few other actors, they were not significant. The European position, based on the respect of the sovereignty of states and the freedom of peoples, is understood and supported by a very large majority of the countries of the planet, contradicting the self-serving discourse of the propagandists of a new division of the world.
The alliance of democracies, which pleads for the respect of international law and treaties, for organised and stable international relations, is not isolated, contrary to the “narrative” of their violators.
It is regrettable that a major country, a member of the Security Council, should isolate itself to the point of being expelled or withdrawing from all of the major organisations, at the risk of becoming the pariah of international life, but this is proof that the European message, particularly on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, remains universal and sustained.
It is customary to quibble about the unity or effectiveness of the European Union. This is a local speciality, part of a declinist discourse in vogue in the West. But, apart from the fact that it always urges us to do better, we cannot hide the fact that the Europeans have shown, this time, and in an emergency, true efficiency, unity and a common will that has rarely been seen before.
*Jean-Dominique Giuliani, chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a pro-European research center