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.
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.”
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.
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 “Foreign Ministers Propose More Flexibility for Europe”
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is hoping to return to power in an election next year, has endorsed the concept of a two-speed Europe in an interview with Le Figaro, saying new treaties “must take into account the existence of two Europes: the Europe of the euro and the Europe of the 28.”
The former ought to share an economic policy and monetary fund, the conservative leader suggested. The outer-tier Europe, including Britain — which Sarkozy wants to keep in the EU — would focus on agriculture, competition, energy and research.