Juncker Harkens Back to False More-or-Less Europe Dichotomy

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 16, 2014
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 16, 2014 (European Parliament)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal for closer EU integration is a throwback to the false dichotomy of more or less Europe.

In his annual State of the Union address, the Luxembourger called for merging the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council, completing the eurozone and shifting from unanimity to majority voting on important decisions.

His plans contradict the vision of a “multispeed Europe” that was endorsed by the governments of France, Germany, Italy and Spain earlier this year. Read more

Poland’s Opposition to Multispeed Europe Is Ill-Considered

Polish Law and Justice party leaders Jarosław Kaczyński and Beata Szydło attend the opening of an LNG terminal in Świnoujściu, June 18, 2016
Polish Law and Justice party leaders Jarosław Kaczyński and Beata Szydło attend the opening of an LNG terminal in Świnoujściu, June 18, 2016 (PiS)

Poland’s ruling party has come out against a proposal for more flexible integration in Europe that is supported by the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“We cannot accept any announcements of a two-speed Europe,” Jarosław Kaczyński, the head of the conservative Law and Justice party, told the weekly W Sieci.

This would mean either pushing us out of the European Union or downgrading us to an inferior category of members.

This is hyperbole. Read more

Europe’s Big Four Endorse Integration at Different Speeds

French president François Hollande welcomes Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni in Versailles, March 6
French president François Hollande welcomes Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni in Versailles, March 6 (Palazzo Chigi)

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain met on Monday to endorse a proposal from the European Commission to allow countries in the EU to integrate at different speeds.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe must accept “that some countries go ahead and can make progress a little faster than others.”

Her Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, similarly argued that European Union could see “different levels of integration”. Read more

EU Sees Five Possible Futures. Which Is Best and Which Is Likely?

Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
Three young women listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

The European Commission published a white paper on Wednesday that sets out five possible futures for the European Union.

The scenarios range from muddling through to something resembling a federal Europe, with three options in between.

The fact that the EU executive recognizes that it would be misleading to boil the choice down to “more” or “less” Europe is itself a welcome change.

That doesn’t mean the five scenarios are all-encompassing. One could add an EU collapse on the one end and a United States of Europe on the other. But neither is likely to happen. Read more

From Two to Many Speeds: Striking the Right Balance in Europe

Polish prime minister Beata Szydło welcomes German chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw, February 7
Polish prime minister Beata Szydło welcomes German chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw, February 7 (Bundesregierung)

Brexit hasn’t killed off the idea of a two-speed Europe. Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian that the big three in Western Europe — France, Germany, Italy — are keen to push ahead with closer integration on finance, tax and security, which would leave a peripheral group to continue in a looser federation.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has allied herself to the cause, saying, “We certainly learned from the history of the last years that there will be as well a European Union with different speeds, that not all will participate every time in all steps of integration.”

That worries countries outside the EU core. Read more

Two-Speed Europe Isn’t the Answer to Britain’s Exit

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, July 20
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, July 20 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

Gideon Rachman argues in the Financial Times that European leaders should seize the opportunity of Britain’s exit from the bloc to formally augur in a two-speed Europe that meets the conflicting expectations of pro- and anti-federalist member states.

As I have reported here, the idea of integration at two speeds was an objective of Britain’s former prime minister, David Cameron, who wrongly betted that a looser relationship with the rest of the EU would convince his electorate to vote to stay in it.

The British weren’t impressed, however, and voted to leave the European Union in a referendum this summer.

As an idea, a two-speed Europe is nevertheless still very much alive. It has been embraced by Germany’s Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, as well as France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, its once and possibly future president. Read more

Foreign Ministers Propose More Flexibility for Europe

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bert Koenders, the foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands, speak with school children in Eindhoven, April 21
Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bert Koenders, the foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands, speak with school children in Eindhoven, April 21 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

Foreign ministers from the European Union’s six founding member nations agreed in Berlin on Saturday that the bloc must allow for more flexibility in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave.

“It is apparent that Europe needs to deliver solutions the people are asking for,” Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

His Belgian and French counterparts sounded less convinced, but the Netherlands’ Bert Koenders — whose government argued in 2013 already that “the time of an ever-closer union in every possible policy area is behind us” — agreed.

Theirs is the right instinct. There may be a temptation in the Mediterranean bloc, specifically in France, Italy and Spain, to see Britain’s exit as an opportunity to press forward with political union. But all that would do in the short term is aggravate Euroskepticism in countries like Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and indeed France itself. Read more