Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

EU founding states pledge deeper integration

The six founding members of the EU have recommitted to building an “ever closer union”, but they have acknowledged differences with other states and for the first time they have backed a “two-speed” Europe.

At informal talks on Tuesday (9 February) in Rome, where the bloc’s founding treaty was signed in 1957, the foreign ministers of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands underscored that for them answers to the EU’s challenges lay in more integration, not less.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In a nod to Britain, they acknowledged that not every country should have to agree.

"We firmly believe that the European Union remains the best answer we have for today's challenges and allows for different paths of integration," their joint statement said.

"We remain resolved to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the people of Europe.”

Solidarity under threat

London has demanded that the treaty commitment to pursue an “ever closer union” not apply to the UK, as part of British PM David Cameron’s set of proposals to be agreed next week at an EU summit before holding a referendum on its membership of the bloc.

While the “two-speed” EU has already become a reality, with 19 members using the euro and not all members participating in the passport-free Schengen area, officially enshrining the different pace at which member states integrate has been a political taboo for European elites.

At the low-key event, the foreign ministers acknowledged that the EU was facing "very challenging times" due to the migration crisis and the threat posed by terrorism.

They argued that Europe was “successful when we overcome narrow self-interest in the spirit of solidarity”.

That spirit of solidarity has been eroded somewhat by the euro debt crisis, where eurozone countries were asked to bail out each other, and with the migration crisis in which member states that have taken in most of the asylum seekers have asked others, in vain, to share the burden.

The crises have shaken both the euro and the Schengen zone.

EU's 'hardest moment'

The UK’s demands also reinforced the notion that some member states want less from the EU, not more.

London’s request to drop the commitment to political union and boost safeguards for non-eurozone members while reinforcing the single market has found support from eastern member states including Hungary and Poland.

After the meeting, Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni said: “Without any doubt, Europe is going through one of its hardest moments since its foundation around 60 years ago.”

Tuesday's talks were called by Italy, whose centre-left government wants the core EU countries to go ahead with further integration.

The foreign ministers also pledged to fight terrorism and racism, and safeguard common values.

“More must be done to prevent radicalisation and develop a counter-narrative,” their statement said.

“This also means fighting the enemies of our fundamental values. We confirmed the need to further reinforce action against terrorist threats, in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.”

Analysis

Renzi plots EU collision course

Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has stepped up his fiery anti-EU rhetoric. This may boost his support at home, but it may eventually backfire.

EU states tentatively approve draft UK deal

EU capitals are still studying the small print of the Tusk-Cameron deal, but some, including in eastern Europe, gave cautious backing for the pact despite earlier concern on welfare rights of EU workers.

Juncker foresees two-speed Europe

EU commission president said that eventually there will have to be a two-speed Europe, in which core countries will work together more closely than with others.

Analysis

Germany reluctant to lead Europe in case of Brexit

The German political elite is holding its breath before the UK vote: Brexit could mean Berlin would be once again forced to take the lead in Europe, something it doesn't want.

Feature

Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

'Nightmare' 2024 sees Orbán struggle ahead of EU elections

Viktor Orbán admits that 2024 "could not have started any worse" for his government. The sex-abuse scandal that led to the resignation of the president provides an opportunity for Hungary's opposition — but their fragmentation could be a major obstacle.

Latest News

  1. Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work
  2. EU auditors: rule-of-law budget protections only partial success
  3. EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain
  4. Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR
  5. Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist
  6. Podcast: Navalny, Ian Bremmer and "more Europe"
  7. Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza
  8. Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us