Something changed when Russian tanks rolled across the Ukrainian border. The outpouring of support and solidarity between EU Member States, and the determination from Europeans to stand with Ukraine against Putin’s aggression, was unexpected and unprecedented. Europe’s lightning-fast response introduced crippling financial sanctions against the Russian economy and sent military aid to Ukraine. This represents, for the first time, the EU acting as a true geopolitical power.
What does this mean for Europe’s future? How do European citizens feel about so many sacred political cows being sacrificed in such a short time? What will be the detailed implications of grand strategic decisions taken during the early days of the invasion, and what sort of policy implications will they have over the coming decade?
We cannot lose sight of existing challenges. We are still dealing with the impact of the pandemic. Climate change is the biggest issue facing humanity, and it will increase the sort of economic and political pressures that lead to conflict and instability in Europe’s neighbourhood. How, then, can the European Green Deal help us achieve strategic autonomy and break our reliance on imported oil and gas? How can the Green Deal support a new social contract for EU citizens, so that we can navigate the green digital transition in solidarity?
This will require a new kind of leadership. It will need citizens to be the ones in control. Only through greater deliberative and participatory democracy (with real agenda-setting and decision-making power) can we guarantee European unity and solidarity. We need to regenerate our democracy for the 21st century, meaning EU citizens need – following the example of the Conference on the Future of Europe – much bigger input into big strategic and policy decisions that will affect their lives for generations.
What do you think of Europe’s response to the Russian invasion? What will it mean for the future of the European Union? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!