Our last post discussed the white paper issued by the European Commission that drew five scenarios for the bloc until 2025. After two weeks since its publication, much has been said about scenario number 3. In short, Brussels would be okay if a handful of countries take the lead in particular spheres.
The subject was brought up during the summit that took place last Friday in the Belgian capital. While European leaders from the France and Germany are keen to the idea. Others are against it, once it could enshrine a multispeed Europe.
The concept of “enhanced cooperation” appeared for the first time in 1997, when Members States signed the treaty of Amsterdam. According to the main EU documents, a group of nine countries might join forces to advance a common agenda. However, before doing so, they need to notify the Parliament, the Council and the Commission.
As a recent example, last week 19 leaders decided to create the post of European Public Prosecutor. Regional authorities have been negotiating it for years now. The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will have the authority to conduct investigations and to prosecute fraud affecting the Union’s financial interests. It is estimated that the EU loses €50 billion a year.
President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed critics regarding the multispeed approach drafted in the white paper. According to Mr. Juncker:
must all Member States move at the same pace? If we cannot find an agreement within the circle of 27 – neither in terms of objectives nor in terms of the means of doing so – then it should be possible for those who wish to make progress in areas where it is necessary. At the same time, the others who cannot or do not want to be there at the start must have the opportunity to join the first-starters later.
French President François Hollande defended the view. For Hollande, such model has worked fine on matters of defense and taxation. In his opinion, the most important is to keep moving forward.
European leaders from Eastern countries are the ones who expressed concerns with such scheme. For them, the gap among the Member States might increase. Some diplomats even described that in the long-term such approach might lead to the disintegration of the bloc.
We would not go that far. In the history of international relations, organizations have worked better under a small number of members, e.g., the UN Security Council. However, nowadays the world multipolar which requires adjustments to decision-making. The EU is a clear example of that. The cost? Longer debates to reach consensus.
One thing is for sure, it is difficult to reach a common ground in a political entity comprised of 27 members (the UK excluded taking into account the Brexit vote). President Juncker stated that the EU doesn’t dictate the rules. That both the bloc and his administration are open for debate in order to identify a middle ground. That’s why the white paper has assessments of pros and cons for each scenario. So that Member States can propose solutions to the current challenges before the institution.