Saturday

16th Nov 2019

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

  • Merkel and Hollande, as well as Rajoy (l) and Gentiloni (r), want to move ahead with integration (Photo: Elysee/Facebook)

Leaders of the EU's four largest economies threw their weight behind a multi-speed Europe on Monday (6 March) as the European Union prepares for life after Brexit, with rising populism, and an uncertain US strategy over Europe.

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain met in the palace of Versailles to prepare for a 25 March EU summit in Rome, marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which gave way for European integration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

German chancellor Angela Merkel, head of the EU's economic powerhouse, said leaders need to find the courage to forge ahead with integration despite opposition from others. Otherwise they risk the fate of the EU.

"We need to have the courage for some countries to go ahead if not everyone wants to participate. A Europe of different speeds is necessary, otherwise we will probably get stuck," Merkel said at a joint press conference.

"If Europe gets stuck and doesn't develop further, then this work of peace may run into danger faster than one might think," she added.

French president Francois Hollande argued that "unity does not mean uniformity".

He called for new forms of cooperation to allow some member states to push ahead quickly in the area of defense and the eurozone, deepening of economic and monetary union, harmonising social policy and tax policy.

Other EU members could opt out of measures intended to deepen integration, Hollande added.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Italy's premier Paolo Gentiloni also supported the idea of a multi-speed Europe.

Last week EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proposed five scenarios the EU could take after the UK leaves the bloc. One of the playbooks would for the first time officially back a multi-speed Europe.

While different groups of member states already work together at various levels of integration – 19 in the eurozone, 23 EU members in the Schengen passport-free travel zone – it has never been an official policy to acknowledge and promote the different speeds of integration.

Juncker's proposals aim to have member states commit to one scenario and then sticking to it.

Reforming the block will be the topic at the 25 March Rome summit, as founding members such as the Netherlands, France and Germany all face crunch elections this year amid the rise of populist, anti-immigration, anti-EU, nationalistic parties.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg had supported the idea of a multi-speed Europe.

But some governments, especially in the bloc's eastern flank, fear this could entrench divisions to their disadvantage.

Last week Finland's premier Juha Sipila also said he opposed the idea, arguing that EU countries should move together.

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.

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.

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. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Podcast

Cultural Battlefield

Marta Keil knows firsthand the pressure on culture from Poland's ruling Law and Justice party. Her overview begins at the Polski theatre in the city of Wrocław, and describes an epic clash as the Polish museum sector is steadily hollowed-out.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us