EU opinion & policy debates - across languages |

UPDATE: More debate to be expected after this major news on 25 November: Pan-European EEC idea endorsed by Russia’s Putin

(This article was published in French by Le Monde, in Turkish by Dunya,  by Kyiv Post, in German by Die Presse, and also in Moscow by RIAS Novosti and in the USA by Startfor.)

Comments in English are welcome, here below. Commentaires bienvenus, là en français). This debate already triggered a number of reactions, following my speaking:
in June 2010, at an Istanbul conference,
– updated in septembre 2010, at a Ukraine workshop, during the Krinica Economic Forum.

Turkey, Ukraine, then Russia: Towards a new EEC?
750 million Europeans gathered on the initiative of a group ‘Europe 10’

The leaders of large European countries must re-launch a vision for a greater Europe, beyond debates on the enlargement of the European Union. Helped by the G20 over which he will soon be presiding, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has the opportunity to launch important geopolitical initiatives, moving on from controversies over the Roma and Turkey.

Sarkozy’s meeting with Angela Merkel and Dmitry Medvedev in Deauville on 19 October acts as a reminder of the usefulness of Euro-Russian cooperation going beyond security issues.

Around 250 million people live in Turkey and the ex-soviet states that are members of the Council of Europe. Added to the 500 million EU citizens, this creates a space of 750 million citizens united by geography, history and democratic aspirations, as well as Asian competition and terrorist threats. Their economies, which are growing strongly, feed Europe’s exports and Europe’s prosperity. A clear perspective of European integration would facilitate confidence and investment, and thus help with exiting the crisis.

Still, due to Western neglect, Turkey and Ukraine are at risk of aiming eastwards: the ex-Ottoman Empire for the former, Moscow for the latter. As for Russia, in relative decline and under Chinese pressure, it is rediscovering its pan-European vocation, either attempting a neo-Soviet customs union or a pan-European strategy, like before 1917.

Of course, the two Slavic countries could also get closer to the EU. In 2011, under the Polish Presidency, the EU will certainly associate itself with Ukraine, hopefully indicating a ‘European perspective’. In 2012, the elected Russian president will probably quit post-imperial nationalism in favour of a kind of Euro-realism. Already, Russia wishes to cooperate on its security and modernisation without abandoning its sovereignty. On the Western side, without enlarging NATO and the EU, let’s reciprocate this outstretched hand by offering Russia a ‘European horizon’.

Regarding the institutional side of EU enlargement, this momentum will come to an end in a few years. The current approach will finish with some Nordic and Balkan states. There are too many ministers around the table, too many laws to negotiate and too many upheavals if heavily populated countries like Turkey are to join the EU. As a consequence, Turkish negotiations are dragging on. They should continue in any case, leaving the eventual membership outcome open.

The ‘privileged partnership’ proposed by Paris as an alternative to enlargement is empty. The Turks also distrust the Union for the Mediterranean, which they perceive as a dead end. Rather than long-term engagements, proud Turkey would prefer to either break up or set a wedding date.

To make the best of a situation of narrow-minded enlargement, a pan-European vision must be brought to the table. Only a ‘Europe with multiple speeds’ could possibly meet the aspirations of these people while reducing identity anxieties in the West. This Europe would have three concentric circles. The most integrated one, the euro zone, today has 16 members. The political group is the European Union at 27 members, soon to be more. The third circle remains to be defined.

According to Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the EU’s founding fathers, integration proceeds in small steps, beginning with the economy. For Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, this requires establishing a pan-European market of 750 million citizens. Not only a customs union – which is already in place with Turkey – but also labour market freedom. To sum up, ‘all except the euro, foreign policy and defence’.  Let’s call this big market the new European Economic Community. The promise made by the former EEC (European Economic Community) to Turkey in 1963 would finally be fulfilled…In order to focus minds on implementation, in parallel with Brussels’ agenda ‘Europe 2020’, let me even speak of ‘EEC 2020’.

The still thorny political issue remains: Visions ‘from Lisbon to Vladivostok’ already exist (some of them are summarised on Do they lack readability? This is where ‘soft governance’ comes in: politics without a legal basis.

Despite its global scale, the G20 could show the way, since Turkey and Russia are part of it. A similar summit could fulfill this ‘impulsion’ role before G20 meetings, by gathering the group’s European members.

This ‘Europe 10’ summit would be informal but visible, rich in symbols in the strong sense of the word.  Upstream of other bodies, leaders would debate the pan-European market in a global context. The European Council and the European Parliament would remain the legislative bodies, and the Brussels Commission would be the effective guardian of the pan-European market.

Who would be the members of ‘E 10’?  First of all, legitimised by constituting 70% of the EU’s population, the ‘big six’: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. Then, the European Union itself, listening to the voices of its 21 other member states. The next two would be Ukraine and Turkey, and, finally, Russia, as soon as it feels ready.

The French president of the G20 is expected in Ankara by the end of the year, and cannot come empty-handed. Under the French Presidency of the EU, in the midst of the financial crisis, he already broke with habit by gathering a summit of the euro zone. Nothing prevents him today from inviting his ‘E-10’ counterparts. The EEC was launched by a small number of ‘founding fathers’. The European Council started much later with ‘nine people by the fireside’ before guiding a tripling of member states.

The moment has come today to re-launch the Greater Europe. It is for our leaders to seize this opportunity.

Christophe Leclercq is founder and publisher of

Author :
EurActiv Network