In POLITICO interview, Clément Beaune says Brussels has been ‘bad at dealing with power’ and wants to change that.
The EU must learn to use hard power to deal with “not so nice” neighbors such as Russia and Turkey, France’s Europe minister said.
Speaking at a POLITICO live interview on Tuesday, Clément Beaune said European countries had for centuries “directed power at each other,” which led to two world wars and, as a consequence, the setting up of the EU to help foster cooperation among former enemies.
“But we were so bad at dealing with power that we just delegated it, if I may put it like that, to NATO, to the U.S., to national states, armies and so on,” Beaune said.
“The EU was not about this. So the EU is learning that, hello, there are some powers on the doorstep — Russia, Turkey, just to mention two of them, the main ones — and they are not so nice. So we have to unite and we have to develop tools, and we don’t have them at this stage,” he said.
He added: “France is, I think, leading the way in this direction, and the novelty is that we’re not alone.” He said “a vast majority of EU member states” are in favor of a more hard-headed approach. “We are not all on the same page, we are not fully equipped with these tools of power, clearly, but we have understood that we need them, which is a big first step.”
The French minister said that a change in the European approach could already be detected when it comes to dealing with Turkey. Last month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was considering hitting Ankara with economic sanctions if it does not stop its controversial drilling in the Mediterranean Sea. France has sent military ships and planes to the region.
“Usually the way to think in the EU is to say, when there is a tension or provocation, let’s hide and hope that it will go for the better in one week, one month, one year,” Beaune said. “It never works like that. The more you are weak, the weaker you are, the stronger the other is. So I think by having this tough, credible language, we are also helping dialogue to resume [with Turkey].”
Beaune stressed that the EU “should be as tough as needed” with Turkey, and added, “what France has been clear about is that when there is a provocation, we are ready to react.”