Un old French proverb assures that the rain in San Marco is the symptom of an apple harvest condemned to be very poor. The peasant prophecy has been verified for centuries every 25 April, but this year it risks taking a back seat, canceled out by the interest in a completely different series of global events destined to be influenced by what will happen on the day the Evangelist is remembered. of Cyrene. Paris will announce the name of the new President of the Republic and, depending on how the votes are cast across the Alps, the destinies of Europe will take one or the other path, they will be coherent on the path of the Union that is taking the come on, they will alternatively take a pro-European or, third hypothetical case, a violently Eurosceptic turn. Whatever happens, it will certainly be an intriguing domino effect and not without risks.
As far as we know now, the Elysee man could be Emmanuel Macron, outgoing president, centrist accused of having betrayed the left, a pro-European attentive to French prerogatives, a friend of Italy, a possible bank for a reform that creates a Union more supportive, flexible and modern. Or it could be a woman, Valérie Pécresse, Republican jacket, moderate tending to traditionalist, aspiring Iron Lady “a la Thatcher” with a past as a budget minister in which she made herself known for being predisposed to spending cuts. A “steamroller”, say his enemies. “Destined for the ballot in place of Marine Le Pen”, reveal the polls that give her the chance to come out as the winner. In fact, in the duel with the most pro-European of French presidents since Mitterrand, he could coagulate the conservative forces and make the coup.
Europe awaits. With the usual existential pains and difficult coordinated development that the Twenty-seven are unable to soothe even with the awareness of being in the shadow of the same boat and in the throes of a pandemic. It will be a year of pitfalls, 2022, and difficulties as great as hopes will be needed on canteens. The uncertainty is there, predictable. The economy will rebound if the virus is harnessed by vaccines. The abundant liquidity will help, as much money as has never been seen, thanks also to the first concession to the European common fund to which the viruses have persuaded national governments. All around is turbulent Asia, pawing Russia, Biden’s America allied but somewhat disrupted. “Geopolitical and military tensions are on the rise,” Macron and Draghi wrote together on Financial Times.
We need to invest. Reform the Union, economically and politically. On the table dance important dossiers such as the abolition of unanimous voting, the minimum wage, the challenge to the climate crisis, organic intervention on scarce energy sources that inflate bills, the regulation of Big Tech, the control of migrants, the new Schengen and, after all, the unfreezing of the Stability Pact with the consequent hoped-for (from Italy and beyond) revision in a flexible sense. It is now commonplace that the European Union needs a crisis to change its skin, twenty years after the physical introduction of the single currency. The crisis is there and it has had its effect. But the solutions to the problems that lie ahead require forward-looking leaders, and the picture here is unclear.
Let’s start over with the Macron variable. It leads the polls. From 1 January, he will also have the rotating presidency of the Union, a task to which he will entrust himself for the collective good, but also and perhaps above all for the personal good. It will want to demonstrate that Europe knows how to pay dividends – on the economy, on social issues, on border protection – and thus justify its twelve-star choice to the electorate. In the first four months of the year he will lead the Brussels waltz, leaning on the consolidated pact with the Germans and therefore on the new Chancellor Scholz, a Social Democrat in favor – albeit with prudence – of a more federal evolution of the Union, towards greater “strategic sovereignty ”Of which people dream a lot in the pro-European neighborhoods. Italy will help him, if there is continuity. With Draghi, Macron found himself well (six bilateral in 9 months!) To plumb the depths of community affairs. But if they will still be seen, aligned, it is a scene that requires faith in the ability to compose the Rubik’s cube.
Scenario one. The French president is confirmed and throws himself into reinvigorating the axis with the Germans, a consolidated instrument of continental peace to which the Union has always been anchored. Scholz is not Merkel and this could rebalance the weights after sixteen years. There will be compromises: on energy (with the French who judge nuclear power as “green” and Berlin who would like gas to be considered equally) as well as on social issues (with a greater and shared awareness of worker protection).
The Stability Pact will be a tougher nut. The pandemic froze the constraints of Maastricht and allowed everyone to spend with excellent freedom. From 2023 it should come back into force. Like before? Not really. Paris and Rome want to loosen the cage of parameters, Germany is not yet convinced or, at least, it is not fully discovered. “The rules we have contain their own flexibility, on their basis we can also work in the future”, said Scholz in Rome. Sibillino, of course, but seen where it comes from, it is an opening to be evaluated in a triangle with Italy. If our government remains in the Dragon dimension, we can make progress with a Pact that favors trends rather than numbers.
Scenario two. Valérie Pécresse wins. The Franco-German axis, at that point, would require considerable maintenance. A right-wing moderate arm in arm with a Social Democrat is the preamble to a duel. The memory of Chirac and Schroder, who sculpted a common dimension at the turn of the last century, comforts; the two leaders of 2022, however, should demonstrate that they have the same lineage, something that needs to be verified. Despite the Quirinal Treaty, Franco-Italian relations could be more complex. The political elections on the Peninsula, anticipated or in 2023, could however express a homogeneous premier for Palazzo Chigi with the “Schiacciasassi”, with the result of creating good communications between Rome and Paris, but certainly not making the pro-Europeans smile. Berlin’s role as mediator would become more complex. And a less convincing Italy in terms of debt and reforms would have the effect of feeding the perplexities of the hawks in the North. The new Stability Pact would be more difficult than we wish and it is certainly necessary.
A third hypothesis, that of Marine Le Pen or Éric Zemmour, is considered unlikely. Thus the domino is revealed among the combinations of intentions of Macron, Pécresse, Scholz, Draghi and the Italian premier who will be, sooner or later. Continuity can be imposed. Or a black swan or a white rhino may be waiting for us. The need is clear. 2022 is a pivotal year between the crisis and consolidated development. Macron president of the Union has all the usual problems, plus vaccines, Omicron and even the slander of his wife, accused of having been a man! Sign of the poisonous times that Mrs. Pécresse interprets well.
Much has changed since De Gaulle labeled the most optimistic Europeanists as “les volapük”, referring to an artificial language that they tried to launch at the end of the nineteenth century. Now the debate is generally about “which Europe”, not “about Europe”: the market or an entity closer to federal integration, a confrontation pursued not without confusion. The difficulties of the Union feed on the skeletons of yesterday’s skeptical ideas, obsolete outbreaks which also do not want to go out. “The EU must revive the spirit that guided its actions at the start of the pandemic in 2020”, is the joint hope of Draghi and Macron. The logical answer is to start again from the triangle Paris, Berlin and Rome, as long as the Germans want to and this is not necessarily the case. A good viaticum, but clearly it will not be enough.
Europe is a more complex project than it seems and will only work if it is truly inclusive and respectful of national identities. Thus the vote in Poland in 2023, one year before the return to the polls for the European Parliament, must make us think about another triangle, that of Weimar, made up of Paris, Berlin and Warsaw. The engine of ideals and of peace and progress that has driven integration cannot run well if it does not take care of everyone’s needs. It must oil relations between the Great Westerners, but not neglect the Central Eastern cousins. In Hungary, which vat the polls in 2022, the match is all the more difficult the less central. Dialogue with the Poles is not impossible, particularly as Russia rides hegemonic aspirations.
The solution is a matrix of geopolitical mathematics that takes the two triangles and expands them until they become a square, to make the coming year one of trust and integration, as an alternative to mistrust and disputes to the bitter end. It is a goal that requires a company, of course. But the fathers of Europe, those of 77 years of continental peace, taught that the best lives are modeled with the dough of which golden dreams and aspirations are made. –
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