Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, who is never at a loss for big words, exulted after the special EU summit in Versailles three weeks ago that the meeting in the palace of the Sun King Louis XIV would “go down in the annals of the European project”.

The EU could now become "even more sovereign, even more independent and even more strategic" in response to Putin's war in Ukraine.

As hollow as this phrase is, it reflects a mood that spread after the Russian invasion of Brussels.

There is a double narrative behind it.

On the one hand, Putin's war has made the EU more united than ever: overnight, the member states agreed on drastic sanctions, on first steps towards a common defense policy - and last but not least on a resolute language that was hardly comparable to the previous EU rhetoric .

The French-inspired view of conflict

On the other hand, according to the EU Commission, the war finally helped the French-inspired view of things to achieve a breakthrough, which Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also taken up the cause of: that the EU should change its policy to “strategic ones” as quickly as possible autonomy" and "sovereignty".

In plain language, the vague terms mean less economic openness to the outside world, more government support for "key industries" and generally more government in all sectors of the economy that are considered "strategic" in one way or another.

In other words, they mean more French-style industrial policy.

Armor is now also considered strategic

The EU now classifies armaments as "strategic" much more than before.

The semiconductor industry, which is now to be subsidized by the state everywhere, has long been considered “strategic”, as has battery production and, more recently, energy supply.

The corona pandemic and the war in Ukraine have indeed provided the industrial politicians with new arguments: supply chains have become fragile, and the European economy's dependence on other continents has increased.

However, it is doubtful, to put it mildly, that industrial policy can cure these problems.

There is no denying that French President Emmanuel Macron and his Brussels governor, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, put the EU on the industrial policy track.

However, the EU embarked on this path long before the Ukraine war.

And the more general narrative that Vladimir Putin brought about a lasting solidarity of all member states and thus also a turning point in the EU is also incorrect.

At best, war will only weld the EU together in the short term

Even when it comes to sanctions policy, the states are far from as united as would be desirable.

And that the Ukraine war could develop as the initial spark for a European defense policy is certainly a myth.

A glance at the summit marathon that the heads of state and government of NATO, G7 and EU (in that order) completed last week in Brussels is sufficient as evidence.

It was NATO that decided on a firm, credible, and hopefully effective response to Putin's aggression: with more Alliance troops and weapons on the eastern flank and more American troops in Europe.

The EU had nothing to contribute.

Their heads of state and government then did what they still do best: they haggled over further sanctions, joint energy purchasing and possible energy price caps.

There are many perspectives in the EU

Such squabbling will remain perfectly normal in the EU, and that is only natural.

The war hasn't changed the fact that some of the member states have very different interests.

That applies in general, and it applies specifically to the economic consequences of the war.

Not all countries are as dependent on oil and gas from Russia as Germany is.

And not all countries are taking in as many Ukrainian refugees as Poland.

Such differences harbor conflicts that cannot simply be resolved.

Above all, there is the eternal argument about money.

Rome is constantly coming up with new ideas on how the EU could cushion the consequences of war and other economic calamities.

The Italian demand for a “Reconstruction Fund 2.0” has (still) no chance of being realised.

However, it is still up for debate to suspend the EU stability pact for a longer period of time, i.e. until the end of 2023 – or to actually abolish this set of rules entirely.

This discussion finally marks a turning point.

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