The crisis has solidified the European Union's diminished status on the world stage.

There’s nothing funny about war, but if you wanted a good chuckle, then tuning into the press conference of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was good value for money in February when the Ukraine crisis reached fever pitch as President Emmanuel Macron of France made himself look ridiculous while meeting Putin.

But Josep Borrell, showed the world what the European Union was all about on the podium: starting wars that it can’t engage in itself. The EU itself can be held responsible for goading Ukraine and its president towards NATO membership but can only send cash and words of encouragement before the bloodbath which it enticed, begins. 

His conference showed just how ineffective the EU is at big geopolitical stuff like confrontations with real super powers.

In many ways a war between the West and Russia has already been won. The 27 member states which make up the EU are divided and confused over how to play the Ukraine game and so prefer to sit back and let the EU’s own chief diplomat do his party trick of pretending that the EU has a coherent foreign policy, respected by its own member states and ready to be implemented. 

In reality, the EU doesn’t even have that on paper, let alone in the real world where Putin lives. The Ukraine crisis shows this to the EU’s own voters each day while it makes Biden look weaker. And weaker. And weaker.  

What Borrell was doing in his press conference was nothing new though. It’s an old trick that the EU has been doing since 2006 where it shamefully told the world that its own peacekeeping policy was being implemented on the ground by EU troops on a mission to restore peace in Lebanon. The big lie of course was that no such policy existed as EU member states didn’t have the confidence in Brussels to intervene so Italy sent soldiers there which the EU took the credit for. 

The same thing is happening now with the Ukraine. If any, a handful of EU member states will send soldiers to the Ukraine and will create the basis for the EU’s top diplomat to take credit. In reality, the EU is nothing more than a spectator at best to the big picture which will be led by the US and others like the UK.

So how did we get here? 

In the same week, a minor news event was almost brushed over which gives us a clue as to how this foreign policy farce came about. The Maastricht Treaty, signed by 12 EU member states thirty years ago to the day, was presented by Jacques Delors, the French European Commission president, as a silver bullet to all of the EU’s woes and insecurities. It was supposed to build political unity and pave the way for the single currency.

In many ways, Maastricht was a mid-life crisis which the EU today cannot even live up to and is responsible for the mess that the bloc is in. The EU in the early nineties was ineffective, had no clout on the international stage, was indecisive and lacked ambition. It had no mojo, in other words.  

The Maastricht Treaty, which Britain very nearly didn’t sign, was cosmetic, and Brussels is still as insecure, paranoid and dithering as it ever was.

The worry, back in Delor’s time, officials confided in me when I was in Brussels, was that the EU was like an old man on a bicycle who, if he were to fall off, would never get back on and continue his journey.

‘Stronger political unity’ was euro-jargon for taking away power from member states. ‘Economic progression’ translated to ‘prepare for a single currency eight years later’. ‘Expansion’ (which happened in 2004) meant take into the fold all the eastern European countries which were former Soviet bloc states and might fall into the hands of Russia at some point. The United States of Europe. I’m not making this up.

In so many ways, Maastricht paved the way for the EU to at least think bigger. And this is really at the heart of how it viewed Ukraine and its role in being a big brother to its transition into some sort of EU member state. Ukraine, on paper, has a special status with the EU. No non-EU member state has the privileges that Kiev has and this tryst has also allowed its own political elite to think big. But at what cost?

The EU now today has never been weaker and more indecisive despite all of these tools it has grasped, like Maastricht, to help it along. 

Maastricht now really is an embarrassment as it delivered on nothing, except to force the EU establishment to go back to the drawing board to fix the problem of not having enough power. 

The EU’s elite always have the same solution: take more power, hence in 2007 the Lisbon Treaty which created the office and job which Josep Borrell enjoys today. But still the EU is an underdog which has no unity or support when it comes to so-called ‘foreign policy’. If you’re waiting for the press hand out pictures of Josep Borrell meeting Putin in Moscow, then you probably also believe in toothpaste which makes your teeth whiter or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

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