Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Multi-speed Europe is a warning, EU official says

  • EU 27 leaders will gather in this room on Friday to prepare the declaration on the future of Europe (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The possibility of a multi-speed Europe should not be an objective, but a warning to all of Europe, a senior EU official said on Tuesday (7 March) as EU leaders gather in Brussels to discuss which way the bloc should be headed after the UK leaves.

Twenty-seven EU leaders will gather on the second day of the EU summit on Friday (10 March) to prepare the message for the Rome summit later this month, aimed at commemorating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaty which gave birth to European integration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Germany, France, Italy and Spain have endorsed the idea of multi-speed Europe, in which some countries could forge ahead with deeper integration, even if others do not want to follow suit. A similar Benelux paper has been circulated at the Malta summit in early February.

But some Nordic and eastern European countries are wary of making multi-speed Europe an official policy of the EU after Brexit, fearing it could lead to disintegration of the bloc or disadvantages for them.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker came out last week with a white paper, which spelled out 5 possible scenarios for the EU's future, one of them being a multi-speed Europe.

While member states have already had the opportunity to move closer together on various areas where others don't want to, under the so-called enhanced cooperation scheme, further economic and political integration has always been the core driving narrative of the EU.

However, a senior EU official said the Rome summit should not be about that, but rather a display of unity among the 27 member states.

"After Brexit, Rome should be not a message of disunity, but the unity of 27," he told journalists.

The official acknowledged that the final decision rests with leaders but argued "if in Rome a new baby is to be born of the 27, the name of it should be Unity, not Multi-speed"

"Multi-speed should not be seen as an objective, but it is a warning ... It is a warning to all of us," he added, referring to possible disintegration.

But this view is bound to clash with the EU's founding members' efforts to integrate more deeply, and have a reference to that in the Rome declaration.

With elections coming up this year in three of them, the Netherlands, France and Germany, they feel time is running out amidst rising populism and nationalism.

"This is the moment to say we want to go ahead with a different method of integration," an EU diplomat told EUobserver.

A typical EU-type solution could be to have a reference to the possibility of member states integrating further, while providing safeguards to other countries so that it won't be detrimental to them.

The Rome meeting is being prepared by EU commission president Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk, Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni, and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

No document on the future of Europe is expected to emerge from the meeting of 27 EU leaders on Friday.

The Rome declaration itself is also expected to be short, much like the Berlin Declaration that marked the 50th anniversary of the the Treaty of Rome in 2007.

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.

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us