The EU Commission president Jean-Claude presented today in the EU Parliament his much expected White Paper on the future of the 27-member EU after Brexit.
His most controversial suggestion was to say that some states should to be able to deepen cooperation further and faster without the whole bloc having to follow suit. This idea has raised concerns, especially among poorer eastern countries, that their richer neighbors may use Brexit to cut EU subsidies to them.
By setting out his five practical “pathways to unity” or “alternative avenues for cooperation at 27”, EU officials say Juncker aims to give the 27 leaders of the post-Brexit Union some broad choices to start considering at a March 25 summit in Rome, where they will mark 60 years of the bloc (and where UK’s Theresa May will be absent).
Since the content of of the 5-point blueprint was largely known, after having leaked into the press, Juncker, speaking mostly in French, accompanied it with a flurry of personal remarks.
Juncker repeated that he would not seek a second term, and he ironically thanked the few MEPs who applauded.
“I had the intention of not disappointing the far right and I succeed”, among laughter. He insisted that he is neither tired, nor short of ideas.
He savaged the selfish politicians and demagogues who think “subsidiarity” should be an ersatz for solidarity.
“Subsidiarity” is, among other things, EU jargon for taking competences away from the EU and giving them back to the member states, where it is supposed that they could be performed better.
He acknowledged that Europe has to spend better for defence, but insisted that the world’s property shouldn’t base itself only on military security.
“There are some 40 conflicts in the world today”, he said “but not a single one on the soil of Europe proper”, Juncker insisted, apparently not considering Ukraine to be a part of Europe.
“We shouldn’t be patriots against the others. Patriotism today follows two tracks, the happy one, that looks for equality, and the somber one. Look at what happens in Turkey, where German journalists are jailed for having dared telling the truth.”
“There is nothing wrong in being nationalist”, he said, “but this shouldn’t be nationalism agains the others. Europe has to remain a positive force in today’s world.”
Scenario 1: Carrying on – Business as usual
In this scenario the EU27 “sticks to its course” but, Mr Juncker notes, the speed of EU decision-making “depends on overcoming differences of views in order to deliver on collective long-term priorities”.
Juncker says that by 2025 this strategy will deliver only “incremental progress” on jobs, economy and the Euro, while on defence, EU co-operation is “deepened in terms of research, industry and joint procurement” allowing member states to “pool some military capabilities and to enhance financial solidarity for EU missions abroad”.
Scenario 2: Nothing but the single market
The EU gives up on trying to resolve divisive issues such as “migration, security or defence” and co-operation on key issues becomes more bilateral than EU based. Radically, the EU also shrinks the regulatory burden by dropping two pieces of legislation for every one it passes.
By 2025 this will mean the functioning of the Single Market becomes the “raison d’etre” of the EU, strengthening the free movement of goods and capital, but making it tougher in other areas, like free movement of people.
Scenario 3: Those who want more do more – A two-speed EU
Create one or more “coalitions of the willing” to drive forward specific areas, such as the defence, internal security, taxation or social policy. Other member states, outside those coalitions, “retain the possibility” of doing more over time.
The idea of a Europe of “multiple speeds” has long made for heated debate. After Britain’s shock vote to leave the bloc, some governments want to deepen shared sovereignty in the hope of making the EU more effective while others say Brexit and the rise of nationalist parties shows Europeans dislike the idea.
Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently – A less-doing Europe
The EU could decide to narrow down its priority list, and do what it does more efficiently. As a result the EU would be able to “act much quicker and more decisively”. Juncker gives the example of the recent VW diesel emission standards and says this version of the EU would have the “powers and tools” to protect EU consumers in a “direct and visible” manner.
By 2025 this means deepening the single market and focusing on R&D and EU-wide projects to support “digitisation and decarbonisation” – ie green projects and digital integration. It would also step back from less core areas, such as employment and social policy and public health.
Scenario 5: Doing much more together – A more integrated Europe
Assuming that the current tired and damaged EU doesn’t work and that retreating to a more bilateral model will not meet the globalised challenges of the modern era, the EU 27 could “decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board”. In this scenario – unlikely given all the caveats above about the lack of unity in the current EU – decision-making deepens and speeds up and decision are agreed faster at EU level and are “rapidly enforced”.
By 2025 this means that internationally “Europe speaks and acts as one in trade and is represented by one seat in most international fora”, and a European defence union is created in co-operation with Nato, with the EU becoming a global leader on aid and trade. The Eurozone has much greater co-operation on “fiscal, social and taxation matters”.