Monday

25th Jan 2021

Germany and France endorse multi-speed Europe

  • 27 EU leader will meet in Rome to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the European Communities' founding treaty (Photo: Giampaolo Macorig)

Germany and France will push for a multi-speed EU, in which some countries integrate more deeply than others, at a summit in Rome later this month.

"We must find means to better take into account member states' different levels of ambitions so that Europe can better address the expectations of all European citizens," the countries' foreign affairs ministers said in a joint statement on Wednesday (1 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi (l), with outgoing French president Francois Hollande, and German chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo: Palazzo Chigi)

Sigmar Gabriel and Jean-Marc Ayrault said that should be done "without calling into question all that we achieved."

The statement could be seen as a reassurance to countries with a lower "level of ambitions" that they will not lose the EU's benefits, as well as a warning to countries who would like to take back powers from EU institutions.

The EU "is founded on common values, solidarity and the rule of law," they added, in a reference to the most divisive issues between a core of member states and some countries such as those in the Visegrad group - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

Visegrad countries have refused to take asylum seekers and migrants despite EU demands for solidarity.

Hungary's leader Viktor Orban wants to build an "illiberal democracy" and the new government in Poland is under EU monitoring over constitutional violations.

At the end of the month, EU leaders - except British prime minister Theresa May - will meet in Rome to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the European Communities' founding treaty.

They will also publish a declaration outlining their vision for a post-Brexit EU.

The two ministers' call for a multi-speed Europe follows similar statements by their leaders, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, and indicates that the Rome declaration will set out that direction.

On Monday, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, also said that the EU needed to "go ahead with multi-speed Europe".

'Quo vadis Europa?'

Germany and France "are deeply attached to the success of this process," Gabriel and Ayrault said.

They were reacting to a White Paper on the future of Europe presented on Wednesday by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, ahead of the summit.


Juncker laid out five scenarios for the bloc after Britain's departure in 2019, from "carrying on" to "doing much more together", with "nothing but the single market", "those who want to do more fo more" and "doing less more efficiently" as intermediare scenarios.

“It is time we sought answers to a question as old as our union is young: ‘quo vadis Europa?'," Juncker told MEPs, using the latin version of "where are you going, Europe?".

“We need to move forward, we need to continue,", he said, adding that it was not up to him to decide which scenario to adopt.

Juncker's paper was "an important and valuable contribution to the larger discussion on the future of Europe, its project and its functioning," Gabriel and Ayrault said, in a referrence to the member states' desire to control the process.

'Much more than a single market'

They noted that "our best protection and our best asset for the future is a stronger European Union".

They said that the EU should focus on "reinforcing" Europe's role on the world stage; developing a European defence policy; "putting into place a stable and cooperative framework to address the migration issue"; "promoting the convergence" of European economies; "reinforcing" Europe's social market economy; and "progressing towards the completion" of monetary union.

With Brexit talks to be triggered this month, the EU wants to demonstrate that the process will not be its main task and that Britain's influence on the European project is already a thing of the past.

"However painful and regrettable Brexit may be, it will not stop the EU as it moves to the future," Juncker said on Wednesday.

"Europe is much more than a single market," the German and French ministers said in their statement, referring to a vision of Europe defended by the UK before it voted to leave the EU.

Maltese PM hails pope, calls for multispeed EU

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said that Pope Francis has "the skills and vision" to inspire the EU and that some EU countries should integrate more to be able to act.

Hollande: EU will be multi-speed or will 'explode'

The French president, who is hosting a meeting with the German, Italian and Spanish leaders, says that EU countries must be able to integrate further on economy, defence or research and calls for a eurozone budget.

EU's big four back 'multi-speed' Europe

Leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Spain support forging ahead with European integration in a post-Brexit world, even if it means deepening cracks among EU member states.

EPP pushes for multi-speed Europe

The centre-right European party has presented its strategy to preserve the EU's security and values and presents a multi-speed union as a "necessity", given the circumstances.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia to get first woman prime minister
  2. Turkey and Greece to hold Mediterranean security talks
  3. Dutch police detain 240 in anti-lockdown protests
  4. Renewables overtake fossil fuels in EU electricity mix
  5. France's top scientist warns of corona 'emergency'
  6. Growing appetite for Northern Ireland independence
  7. Surge in support for Portuguese far-right party
  8. German far-right party sues to avoid stigma

Feature

EU Parliament: Strasbourg, or the climate?

A report of the European Parliament's environmental management unit proposes a treaty change to move the European Parliament's headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels - in order for the institution to become climate-neutral by 2030.

Opinion

German presidency's broken promises on 'fair tax'

At the start of the German presidency of the EU Council it committed itself to a "fair taxation" agenda. But as we enter the final leg of its six-month term, time is running out to make good on this promise.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Navalny protests sharpen EU sanctions talks
  2. Why Russia politics threaten European security
  3. MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'
  4. Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge
  5. Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity
  6. Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK
  7. Will EU ever take action to stop Israeli settlements?
  8. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us