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Military forces and migration are no longer in disarray: the new Europe advances as one

Sandro Gozi

A former Secretary of State to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers with responsibility for European policies in the Renzi and Gentiloni governments, Sandro Gozi is a Renew MEP elected in France and secretary general of the European Democratic Party.

Sandro Gozi, do you share President Mattarella's views on the need for Europe to promote a common defence policy?

I agree with the Head of State, who also expressed his views on these issues at the European Federalists' event in Ventotene, which I attended. President Mattarella has introduced an essential theme, in a phase that I define as Darwinian in the history of the European Union.

What does this mean?

We are facing more challenges and we need a high capacity to adapt. Europe must demonstrate its ability to adapt and must quickly equip itself with a common security policy that goes hand in hand with economic responses.

What does the Afghan crisis bring to European politics?

It once again confronts us with issues that have been open for years. I am referring to the new flows of migrants, which must be managed and not endured. In this respect, Europe must act as a political player and regulate them with common choices. If we go back to following the theses of the extreme right, we will not get far. We have to distinguish ourselves from those who are scandalised by the departure of American soldiers from Kabul and then refuse to accept Afghan refugees. They express vetoes that are unacceptable to the European institutions.

What should the European institutions do about this?

I believe that Europe should have a common plan on migration now, without waiting for the Dublin agreements to be amended.

Do you think this is possible at this political stage?

Yes, on the Rome-Paris axis, with President Draghi now leading the G20. It is precisely Macron and Draghi who must take on the leadership role, in a phase of political transition in Germany struggling with the post-Merkel era.

Also on the need to initiate a unified security and defence policy, as President Mattarella hopes?

Definitely. I am convinced, as is the Head of State, that this is a vital issue for the future of Europe as an autonomous political entity capable of managing its own interests. We are at a fundamental historical turning point, and Europe is being called upon to become a power, including a military power, with instruments that it already possesses.

There are those who maintain that NATO already exists for military interventions even in peace missions. What do you think?

NATO, too, has to adapt to changes, which no longer allow us to be totally dependent on the United States. Faced with common threats, Europe must set out on the road to unitary defence policies. This is a geopolitical challenge that can no longer be postponed.

With which tools?

There are EU military battalions. A force of five thousand men should always be ready to intervene in crisis areas, to overcome sudden emergencies, such as the evacuation of refugees from Kabul. Starting with the Sahel, for example, where France has strong interests, this military force should always be ready to intervene. For Europe, it is a matter of moving from adolescence to maturity.

Does a common security policy mean European decisions on peace missions?

I believe we must overcome the hypocrisy of calling as peace missions that turn out to be war missions. More broadly speaking, it is a question of guaranteeing common interests, including on cybersecurity, or the defence of strategic industrial centres. This is a policy that can enable us to become protagonists and no longer mere spectators in the new global competition now under way between China, Russia and the United States.

A politically and militarily stronger Europe?

A Europe that plays a leading international role, adapting to new political scenarios. In the immediate future, it is necessary to decide on aid for Afghanistan's neighbouring states, which are experiencing massive migration flows, but also to be very clear and very demanding with the Taliban government. Then we must be ready for any rapid emergency intervention.

Do you think this is realistically possible?

If the France-Italy axis goes ahead, I think so. The opportunities are there, linked to Italy's leadership of the G20, France's rotating presidency of the EU and Macron's likely re-election in 2022.