Unity, Enlargement, Strategic Autonomy – The State of the Union’s Mantra

A shift in tone meant pragmatism began winning over values among the European elites

9 June 2023

Jan Farfał

Marcin Król Fellow

For two days, European elites gathered to discuss leading trajectories for our continent. The State of the Union was held in one of the most impressive venues in Europe – Salone dei Cinquecento – covered by Renaissance masterpieces, including works by Michelangelo. Yet, the mood of the day was dominated by Machiavelli – power politics and realism. Borrell claimed that Europeans must learn to use the “language of power”. If evoking Machiavelli is becoming our new temper – let’s hope Fortuna will be on our side.

Held between 4-5 May 2023 and counting over 700 in-person participants; ironically, this major liberal summit was opened by a representative of the most right-wing government in post-war Italian history. And yet, much to everyone’s surprise, there was much more in common between deputy prime minister Antonio Tajani and the liberal-minded participants than they would like to admit.

Power narratives

Apart from referring to our Judeo-Christian roots, which some may find as advocacy for illiberal Europe, Tajani endorsed policies that the liberal-minded establishment would ascribe to as well: More progress in common EU defence policy, reformed enlargement mechanisms to facilitate Ukraine’s and the Western Balkans’ accession and faster decision-making on EU foreign policy. Despite obvious ideological differences, both sides came to similar conclusions while discussing the State of the Union theme – “Building Europe in times of uncertainty”. The reason for this – geopolitical interests became a common denominator.

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Jan Farfał

Marcin Król Fellow

Marcin Król Fellow 2022/2023 at Visegrad Insight and a Doctoral candidate in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe) at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. His project examines the ways in which émigré journals addressed their home societies behind the Iron Curtain. He is a Researcher in the project ‘Europe in a Changing World’, led by Professor Timothy Garton Ash and Professor Paul Betts, at the European Studies Center at the University of Oxford.

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