Building common European sovereignty thirty years after the Charter of Paris


In signing the Charter of Paris on 21 November 1990, thirty-four Heads of State and government enacted the end of division in Europe and opened up an unprecedented era of stability and prosperity. Freed from the “blocs”, European countries could now map out their own destiny and strengthen their collective security. Thirty years later, our independences are once again being threatened at Europe’s borders. To tackle these new challenges, Jean-Yves Le Drian recalls, on the occasion of the Paris Peace Forum, the need to assert our common European sovereignty, in the fields of security, technology and the protection of common goods.

Rebuilding Europe after the "blocs”

Following the events in Europe in 1989 and 1990 (the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the emancipation of European countries from the Soviet orbit), the Charter of Paris marked the German reunification (3 October 1990) and the end of the division of Europe into two blocs, East and West. Concluded within the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the Charter is founded on the principles stated in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Under these principles, each of the Member States undertakes to:

  • respect the inviolability of frontiers,
  • refrain from intervention in internal affairs of other States,
  • respect human rights (fundamental rights, free movement of persons, goods and ideas).

The United States’ participation in the CSCE made it possible to address through dialogue all political and security issues raised by this new context, in particular the prior signing on 19 November 1990 of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE).

The foundation of an unprecedented era of stability and prosperity

In Paris, France’s commitment was decisive in building a new European order. These founding efforts were supported by the momentum of European integration (the European Economic Community, which became the European Union in 1993) which was strongly attached to German reunification. By determining equal dignity of all European Member States, the CSCE and the Charter of Paris made it possible to reunite Europe, with its history and geography, as Jean-Yves Le Drian recalled in his Prague speech on 5 December 2019. Freed from the blocs, Europe experienced several decades of unprecedented stability and prosperity, especially supported by the political emergence of the European Union.

Preserving a European third way

In recent years, in Europe and in the rest of the world, the “Helsinki spirit” that illustrates this openness to dialogue and the organization of peaceful relationships between States in multilateral institutions has been brutally challenged. Power struggles have appeared at Europe’s frontiers, threatening the prosperity and sovereignty of European countries. On 8 October 2020 in Bratislava, Jean-Yves Le Drian responded to the gradual dismantling of the architecture of European security founded by the Charter of Paris, and called for the construction of common European sovereignty. This European sovereignty must be asserted in the fields of industry, trade policy, defence, and digital technology in order to continue to develop in Europe and in the world a European “third way” that is humanist, and careful to monitor the development of technologies, and to protect common goods and the planet.

Updated: November 2020