Ukraine war puts EU 'at crossroads' ahead of Europe Day anniversary

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As nations marked Victory in Europe Day on Sunday, the EU is set to celebrate its anniversary this Monday, with the bloc transforming into a more muscular global actor - a shift that has been accelerated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking before the weekend, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen declared the war in Ukraine is "fundamentally challenging" Europe's peace architecture, and that can be seen in the EU's evolution.

What began seven decades ago as a trade bloc binding former warring nations together, is today a political heavyweight funnelling weapons to Kyiv and imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russia.

The EU is also challenging an assertive China, and it learned bitter lessons from Brexit and four years of Donald Trump in the United States.

EU 'crosses the rubicon' over Ukraine

However analysts say the bloc still has a long way to go to become the strategically autonomous goliath championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who currently holds the EU presidency.

According to Luuk van Middelaar, a Dutch political theorist who served in the cabinet of former European Council president Herman Van Rompuy: "Fundamentally, for Europe to morph into a geopolitical actor, this requires more than some policy fix or institutional fixes."

The EU indeed "crossed a Rubicon" by deciding to finance €1.5 billion of arms deliveries to Ukraine, says van Middelaar - a "striking" turnaround from its pacifist history.

Yet it has a poorly defined common strategy towards its near neighbours, whether they be Russia or the "grey zone of countries" aspiring to join, including Ukraine.

'Pragmatic federalism'

Newly re-elected Macron is expected to pursue his agenda more vigorously, backed by some other leaders this week and a bloc-wide citizens' consultation for ground-up changes to the EU's underpinning treaties.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi argued to MEPs last week that the EU needs "pragmatic federalism" which would see member states lose their ability to veto decisions agreed by a super majority.

If there is any treaty revision, it should be embraced "with courage and confidence", he said.

He added that current EU institutions and processes were "inadequate" to address the fall-out from the Ukraine war.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February everything changed.

Not only was EU foreign and security policy affected, but also its agriculture, migration, energy and industrial policies.

Ditching vetoes?

The European Parliament has endorsed a rewrite of EU treaties, brandishing over 300 recommended changes formulated by the Conference on the Future of Europe citizen consultation, drawn up into 49 proposals.

One idea is qualified majority voting advanced by Macron and Draghi to streamline decision-making.

Another is more powers for the European Commission over areas jealously guarded by national governments, such as defence.

EU officials said the list of proposals - due to be formally handed to Macron on Monday - would be assessed, but it is too early to say whether any of those retained would require a treaty reform.

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