“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO“, French president Emmanuel Macron said in an interview which thereafter spread like wildfire. A provoking statement, though Monsieur le Président obviously aimed at nothing but triggering his fellow state leaders. Now, after this emergency call with which NATO – as a proxy of most international organizations in those days – was hospitalized, the international community was curios what would be next up. Would the brain-dead patient donate his organs?
Admittedly, the organs of a 70-year-old might be hard to sell. But to most observer’s surprise, none of the brothers in unpredictability, Erdoğan, Johnson, Trump, and the like, blew up or hacked up the anniversary summit in London. There have been some minor issues, with Trudeau, Rutte, Johnson, and Macron accidently mocking the real Donald on camera. Yet, one of the negotiators rightly puts it when stating that “we were expecting worse”.
Whether North Macedonia, as stated in the final declaration, is soon to be the newest ally has to be questioned to the same extent as the statement that NATO denotes “the strongest and most successful alliance in history”. Same holds for the claim that the alliance is “making good progress”.
But this is exactly where to draw on. In those days it is maybe not about making progress, setting new agendas, and speaking highly of multilateralism and one another. Perhaps it is a state leader like Boris Johnson realizing that indeed there is far more that unites the allies than what divides them. Perhaps it is to let Trump claim that no president would have ever achieved so much in so little time when at the same time he is willing to sign the final declaration and even mentions tremendous things being achieved. Perhaps it is seeing the state leaders mocking each other like at the play ground as long as they do not transfer the childish behavior to actual policy making.
If this is what Macron wanted to achieve, reinforcing awareness within the alliance of its importance, then he succeeded. If, on the contrary, he really aimed at questioning the organization or at least radically reforming it, then there is still a long way to go. And there is reason to doubt the success of this objective.
Yet, also taking into consideration the handover of the European Commission’s presidency Juncker to Ursula von der Leyen, it shows that the two most important international organizations for Europe, seemingly, are released from intensive care. vdL, as the new president is often referred to, proposed and outlined a very ambitious agenda for the upcoming five years.
She now has to meet the high hopes she awoke, of course. But, just as NATO, EU seems to be back on its feet. Trust in the long-lasting peace project is as high as it has not been in years. The first actions taken by vdL furthermore seem promising.
So, the two sick men of Europe, as one might still have labelled them a month ago, appear to recover now that it comes to the end of the year. It has to be proven in reality whether or not this is enough for a bright outlook. Notwithstanding the patient’s age, there remain to be plenty of prospects panting for the patient’s organs. Hence: Full recovery welcome.