La Vigie Nr 200 (special): Power, Europe, speeches | N° 200: eight years of La Vigie | Strategic fasting | Lorgnette: New Kingdom

Letter from La Vigie, 14 September 2022

Power, Europe, speeches

Olaf Scholz in Prague and Emmanuel Macron in front of the ambassadors have both just given speeches that mention their visions of Europe. If there are real convergences, let us note that the perspectives seem different. Yet, despite the apparent persistence of divisions, the European Union has managed to move forward. Its ability to compromise is perhaps what makes it truly powerful.

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N° 200: eight years of La Vigie

With this issue 200 of La Vigie, we wanted to draw the guiding thread of the strategic transition that has affected all security issues for the past eight years, from 2014 to 2022. For France, three milestones are decisive: 2015, the year in which the country was warned about terrorism on its own territory; 2019, the year of the global health breakdown; and 2022, with the Russian invasion in the heart of Europe. To do this, we consulted our eight end-of-year reviews, which are highly instructive: yes, we have indeed changed our strategic framework and we will have to adapt to it.

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Strategic fasting

It is accepted, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, that frugality and fasting have virtues for the human body. Figuratively speaking, it is becoming urgent for our state social bodies to adopt a more frugal posture, at all levels, in order to safeguard their independence and thus their sovereignty.

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Lorgnette: New Kingdom

At the time of the Queen of England’s Golden Jubilee, we hailed her as the last living political witness to the Second World War (LV 194). Her death coincides with the arrival at 10 Downing Street of Liz Truss, a sort of B. Johnson in petticoats. The simultaneity of the two events marks the definitive end of an era, that of a British twentieth century that had managed to make the transition from the world’s leading power to a European power that had fallen into line. This phantasmagorical England, which tries to maintain its traditions in the face of a changing world, is the source of the ‘soft power’ narrative of popular television series (The Crown, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders). That England is no more.

We have entered a new world, the post-Brexit world, perhaps the world of a ‘Global Britain’ (LV 165). There is no guarantee that the new king, Charles III, will have the reassuring prestige that Elizabeth II had built up. That discreet charm of the monarchy has thus left us. But the small regret at the fading of “yesterday’s world”, as S. Zweig said, is in the end the nostalgic characteristic of all changes of era.

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La Vigie Nr 165 : Global Britain | What alliances for France ? | Lorgnette : Europe on a sofa

Lettre La Vigie, dated 14 APRIL 2021

Global Britain

Three months after the Brexit came into force, the British government published two documents in March to set out the direction and allocate the resources of a cross-departmental strategy integrating security, defence and development policies with the country’s foreign policy. This exercise enabled the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to clarify the meaning to be given to the Global Britain concept, which emerged in the aftermath of the referendum sealing the UK’s departure from the EU in 2016. The knowledge of these documents is essential to appreciate the future of a UK/EU relationship to be built and more particularly that to be developed between France and the United Kingdom, linked by common interests, a bilateral security treaty, an alliance within NATO and which, depending on the field, are allies, partners or rivals.

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What alliances for France?

The question of alliances is not so much about who to ally with or against, but about what to ally oneself with. It is true that the institutions inherited from the 20th century remain useful for France, whether it be the UN, the Francophonie, the Atlantic Alliance or the European Union. However, none of them responds to the integral strategy needed in the face of a current conflicts below the threshold. These instruments must therefore be supplemented by other alliances, more fleeting and less structured, but still flexible.

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Lorgnette: Europe on a sofa

The recent meeting between Turkey and European representatives turned into a farce. At the end of the meeting, the President of the Council, Charles Michel, went to sit in an armchair opposite Erdogan, while the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was left on a sofa.

Commentators were very critical of the Turkish leader, who was suspected of having engineered this bad manners. Then it was Mr Michel who was criticised, accused of machismo. In this case, the fault lies mainly with the EU. Erdogan is accustomed to putting only one chair at his side when he receives a head of state, and he could hardly have put two at the risk of appearing dominated. Moreover, he is currently trying to reconcile himself with the Europeans.

Hierarchically, the President of the Council is above the President of the Commission. One can certainly criticise the European protocol services for not having detected the incident or warned the European leaders. Above all, the Union was wrong to come with two people. It showed its weaknesses and its complicated organisation.

In this case, the Byzantine convolutedness was European, not Turkish.

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