Without falling into a caricatured opposition, it is obvious that the model and the values advocated by Western democracies are more and more threatened by dictatorships and democracies. Faced with this reality, it is fundamental for the EU to change its paradigm and to evolve on several fronts. First of all, we must stop being naive in our diplomatic and commercial relations, especially with Russia. While Moscow has never been a great haven for democrats, many in Europe believed that trading with the country would facilitate change. The warnings from Eastern Europe were ignored. Today, we welcome refugees from Ukraine fleeing the bombs yet we continue to receive Russian tourists. If we want to protect our freedoms, we must be more consistent and firm in our actions. This is why we must stop giving tourist visas to Russian citizens who come to Europe. The Russian situation should also open our eyes to what could happen with other countries, including China.
On the other hand, it would be necessary to develop our cooperation with many democratic countries and regions that share many of our values. I am thinking, for example, of India, South Africa or the Mercosur countries, with whom it is high time to move towards the signing of a Free Trade Agreement.
To protect its model, it is also urgent for our Union to work on affirming its power. Whether in food or industry, for example, our priority must be to restore the rules of globalisation, to stop leaving the door open to foreign competitors with lower social, environmental or regulatory standards. Our power will also come from the development of a real autonomy in terms of defence, while deepening the European dimension of NATO.
In this respect, the accession of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a sign of a change of era. While the cautious Scandinavians, due to a long and conflictive history, have always preferred to adopt an open diplomatic approach towards Russia, they now see NATO as an important guarantor of their freedom and peace against the Russian threat. The fact that in France, the extreme right and left abstained or voted against their membership is also a sign: it shows that even within Europe, our values and our way of life, for which we owe much to the land of enlightenment, are not uncontested…
While war rages in Ukraine, talking about the defence of our European values and the imperative need to assert the principles of democracy is not abstract. What is at stake, particularly over there, is the future of our model. We mustn’t forget this.