ANALYSES

Judy Asks: Do the Europeans Trust France?

Presse
10 février 2022

Following Russia’s occupation of Eastern Europe during the first Crimean War, then German chancellor Otto von Bismarck scribbled a note in the margins of a diplomatic dispatch to Russian Prince Alexander Gorchakov. It read: “Who is Europe?”


Past and present European leaders have not always been able to provide an answer to the question. Emmanuel Macron’s recent endeavors in Ukraine suggests he is less reticent, and that his answer might be: “L’Europe, c’est moi” (“I am Europe”).


After Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, he is the third successive French leader to exert himself in the region. He is also the latest to succumb to the Fifth Republic’s unspoken law: faced with vexing domestic issues, such as a pandemic, the president needs to carve out a legacy on the external front—particularly in an election year.


European counterparts may argue that by doing so, French leaders have been known to confuse the constitution of the Fifth Republic with the Lisbon Treaty. Here, Europeans would be right. After all, when Louis XIV first explained that “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state”), the Treaty of Lisbon did not yet exist.


But this begs Bismarck’s fundamental question, as the Ukraine crisis festers on: if Macron is not Europe, who is?

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