sábado, 11 de março de 2017
A sobrevivência da União Europeia / Multispeed Europe: the EU’s ‘Loch Ness monster’ / European East-West Divide Widens Ahead of Brexit / New Europe, same battles
Multispeed Europe: the EU’s ‘Loch Ness monster’
Much talked about but often described differently, the old idea is back in vogue.
By MAÏA DE LA BAUME 3/10/17, 6:41 PM CET Updated 3/10/17, 6:58 PM CET
Just about every leader in the EU seems to have a different name for it. But it’s the talk of Brussels once again.
French President François Hollande calls it “differentiated cooperation,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked about “a Europe of different speeds,” while Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni speaks of “different levels of integration.” But the decades-old idea most often rendered in English as “multispeed Europe” recently got a new spin from Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as one of five scenarios for the EU ‘s future with the title: “Those who want to do more.”
When EU leaders — minus the soon-to-depart Theresa May — met in Brussels on Friday to map out how the bloc should develop ahead of a grand 60th anniversary summit in Rome later this month, the concept was on everybody’s lips once more.
As Juncker’s handy slogan suggests, the general idea is simple: Individual members of the EU can group together for specific projects, even if others do not want to join in. But pinning down how that should work in practise is much trickier. For many, “multispeed Europe” is one of these ubiquitous catchall terms with blurry contours.
A senior European diplomat compared the idea to the Loch Ness monster: “It appears every once in a while but we have never seen it.”
The eurozone, which uses the single currency, and the passport-free Schengen area, are two prominent examplesof a multispeed Europe.
Some see it as a useless lifebuoy grabbed by a drowning Europe, others see it as a recycled concept originally invented to please Euroskeptics, while others say it has never existed concretely.
In reality, the EU has already set up multiple ways, both within its defining treaties and outside them, to encourage the emergence of a multispeed Europe. The eurozone, which uses the single currency, and the passport-free Schengen area, are two prominent examples.
The concept of “enhanced cooperation” features in key EU documents, including the Treaty of Amsterdam, signed in 1997, and the Treaty of Nice, signed in 2001. Under current treaty rules, if at least nine member countries wish to establish enhanced cooperation in an area covered by the treaties “they shall notify the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission accordingly.” The Council adopts a decision to allow enhanced cooperation “as a last resort … when it has established that the objectives of such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole, and provided that at least nine Member States participate in it.”
The most recent example of “enhanced cooperation” came on Thursday evening when 19 leaders agreed to establish a European Public Prosecutor after almost four years of difficult negotiations, and despite a lack of support from countries including Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Malta and the Netherlands.
“This is a good evolution for member states who want to go further,” Hollande declared.
The prosecutor would have powers to investigate and prosecute corruption and tax fraud, which costs EU governments at least €50 billion a year.
The decision on the prosecutor was at least the third time EU countries have used the procedure. In 2010, 14 member countries pushed forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country’s law would apply to their divorce. In 2011, all EU states participated in the creation of a unified patent regime that would apply in every member country apart from Spain and Italy. In 2013, the European Council adopted a decision authorizing 11 member countries to proceed with the introduction of a financial transaction tax (FTT) through “enhanced cooperation.”
But the idea of a multispeed Europe becoming central to the EU’s identity brought a multi-faceted response from national leaders on Friday.
Juncker acknowledged the notion had sparked fears among some leaders that it could lead to “a new kind of Iron Curtain between east and west” — with two classes of membership, one for rich Western EU members and another for poorer eastern members.
“That’s not the intention of this,” he said. “We are not trying to change the treaties.”
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Hollande urged the EU to “move faster and stronger with only several countries, without losing overall solidarity and cohesion among the 27 countries.” He said such a model had worked well on defense, the eurozone and the transaction tax.
He added : “It’s not about having several speeds, it’s not about excluding anyone … But we can’t allow one country, whoever it may be, to prevent others from moving faster.”
“What is essential is for Europe to move on” — François Hollande
The previous day, he suggested enhanced cooperation to harmonize fiscal and social policies and also to transition to low-carbon energy, where he said “we know that some countries don’t want to go much further” and suggested Poland was in this category.
“What is essential is for Europe to move on,” Hollande said.
Germany’s Merkel acknowledged that some countries feared a “multispeed Europe” meant there would be different classes of EU membership. She sought to ease these fears by comparing the EU to a family, in which all members were free to join any of the family’s projects but some might choose not to do so.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told reporters a multi-speed Europe was already a reality, “but we should not make it an objective.”
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydłow said bluntly that her country didn’t want a multispeed Europe. “The only future for it [the EU] is to be a singular organization, one organization that will respect its members, paying attention to fundamental questions,” she said.
One European diplomat said much depended on how the idea was applied.
“It works if it’s Option B, like now, when there’s no consensus among member states then there’s the chance of enhanced cooperation,” the diplomat said. “If it becomes option A — a group starts with enhanced cooperation and then checks if the others want to join — then it can become the disintegration of the EU.”
Jacopo Barigazzi and David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.
European East-West Divide Widens Ahead of Brexit
EU leaders are debating how to proceed with deeper political and economic integration
By VALENTINA POP
March 10, 2017 1:30 p.m. ET
BRUSSELS—The divide between the European Union’s more affluent western nations and its less well-off members to the east deepened on Friday, as their leaders wrangled over the future of the bloc after the U.K. exits.
The last day of the summit of EU leaders in Brussels was intended primarily to focus on preparations for celebrations later this month marking the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding Treaty of Rome.
Instead, it became embroiled in debate over whether the world’s biggest trading bloc should continue on its path of deep political and economic integration across the Continent or moderate its ambitions.
Specifically in dispute are proposals to allow some of the 27 remaining EU countries to decide how much and how fast they wish to integrate into the bloc.
The so-called multispeed Europe recommendations call for a bloc hewing less to the across-the-board political and economic standards than the union’s champions originally envisioned.
Officials representing the more economically strapped nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic said such proposals would leave them behind, especially after the U.K. leaves the bloc and EU coffers shrink.
Abandoning the idea that poorer and newer member states of the bloc should have the same level of European integration and prosperity would have profound consequences, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told reporters after the closed-door debate.
It would increase fears among the people of Western Europe that their jobs would disappear, replaced by competition from the east. Meanwhile, he said, worries about being left behind would grow among the people of Eastern Europe.
“Both are likely to lead to more divisions among states instead of deeper cooperation,” Mr. Iohannis warned.
In a separate news conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that allowing for different degrees of economic and political integration wouldn’t create “first- and second-class citizens” in Europe. Diversity in the bloc is already set forth in treaties and is a fact of life, she said.
Proponents of multispeed Europe such as Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg, say it is partly aimed at reducing the power of a small number of member nations to veto measures favored by a majority as the bloc tries to navigate its future.
“I prefer two speeds than no speed at all. For the moment we have a Europe where we are stuck,” Mr. Bettel said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was surprised at some leaders who see multispeed Europe “as introducing a dividing line, a new kind of Iron Curtain between east and west.”
“That is not the intention of this. The so-called multispeed Europe [means that] those who want more, can do more,” he said.
Poland has vigorously opposed multispeed Europe, but Donald Tusk, a former Polish premier who is now European Council president, sought to strike a conciliatory tone.
“Some expect systemic changes that loosen EU ties. Others look at the opposite, at deepening integration. I will be urging everyone to strive toward political unity,” he said.
Some leaders attending this week’s two-day summit acknowledged that the timing of Friday’s debate might not be auspicious, with the U.K. about to start divorce talks with the bloc and populist and nationalist forces in Europe and abroad are questioning the very rationale of the EU.
“It is true that it might have been better to do this two years ago or five years ago perhaps. But the reality is what it is,” said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
—Laurence Norman, Emre Peker and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
Write to Valentina Pop at email@example.com
New Europe, same battles
Social policy and enlargement, classic sources of disagreement, pose challenge for leaders drafting Rome declaration.
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN 3/10/17, 8:26 PM CET Updated 3/10/17, 8:49 PM CET
No matter how hard Europe’s leaders look to the future, they can’t seem to shake off fights of the past.
EU leaders Friday dove into a debate over the bloc’s future, aiming to use a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome later this month as the pivot to a more dynamic, multispeed alliance.
But leaders were also on a collision course over two age-old policy fights that must be resolved before the festivities in Rome: the timeless quarrel between right and left over social policy, and a classic dispute over how to calibrate the EU’s current position on new members.
Statements about the EU’s so-called social pillar and about enlargement of the bloc are to be included in the formal declaration commemorating the Treaty of Rome and charting the course ahead, but at the moment there is still no consensus on those points.
Italy, the host of the Rome celebration, and other countries with deep socialist political traditions are pushing for a more robust statement on the EU’s traditional and future role in social welfare policy, while conservative-leaning countries are more reticent. And Croatia, in particular, would like a restatement of the EU’s plan to welcome new members — an issue of great importance to its Western Balkan neighbors — while Western European countries see a risk of giving new ammunition to populists.
“The real threat for consensus when it comes to the Rome declaration is not the multispeed issue,” said a senior EU official. “I am relatively sure we will manage this problem.”
“This is about delivering more effectively,” a senior EU official said. But delivering what? That question has yet to be answered.
“The real problem is the social Europe because here the division is clear, very traditional and a little bit ideological,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This will be for me the real challenge to find the common language on the social dimension. And on enlargement: As you know some countries want to at least to mention that Europe is still interested in enlargement and some of them are very, very skeptical to this idea.”
Wrangling over the language in the Rome declaration underscores the extent to which leaders have plunged headlong into a discussion about the how members of the bloc will work with each other going forward, but have yet to forge agreement on an overall policy vision for the EU in the 21st Century.
“This is about delivering more effectively,” another senior EU official said, noting that average citizens are not interested in wonkish policy debates. But delivering what? That question has yet to be answered.
It was clear on Friday that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his senior aides had succeeded in having an impact on the discussion among EU leaders by pushing out a white paper outlining five scenarios for the bloc’s future several weeks ahead of schedule.
In a moment of feigned modesty, Juncker, at a news conference Friday, said he had not expected the white paper to be a part of the leaders’ conversation but since it had come up it was important to note that neither he nor the Commission had endorsed any particular path forward.
“I didn’t expect us to discuss the white paper, nevertheless some of our colleagues made a reference,” he said. “The five scenarios the Commission has proposed in its white paper are not the preferred scenarios by the Commission but are the ideas which are floating around and which are debated and discussed in all our member states, in our civil society, in the press rooms.”
Some officials said that the discussion the leaders had now undertaken in earnest would ultimately serve as the framework for EU elections in 2019, including the contest to replace Juncker, who has said he will step down then, at the end of his first five-year term. By this thinking, candidates to lead the EU’s executive body going forward would be compelled to stake out a preferred scenario or combination of paths.
At the same time, the accelerating discussion about a multispeed EU has already shifted the strategic thinking of some leaders.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, which together form a sort of middle-weight clique called the Benelux countries, said Friday they would join forces with the Visegrád Group — Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — and the tiny Baltics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — in an effort to counterbalance the influence of larger powers, such as the “Formidable 4” of Germany, France, Italy and Spain whose leaders gathered last week in Versailles to endorse the multispeed concept.
To highlight their solidarity, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel arrived together at the meeting Friday.
At a briefing later, Michel said that leaders should strive to issue a declaration in Rome in plain language, without any footnotes or EU jargon, that presents a clear message to the citizens they serve.
“This was an optimistic conversation about our common future” — Donald Tusk
“This message should be lucid and positive about the future,” Michel said.
The task of drafting the Rome declaration ultimately falls to Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, as the host, and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Officials said that leaders, including Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło had expressed a desire for leaders to jointly sign the Rome declaration — though some might wonder if Szydło was preparing an ambush given her refusal to support the joint conclusions of the European Council summit meeting on Thursday.
At his news conference with Juncker Friday, Tusk said that his goal was to stress unity over the variable speed model, particularly with formal Brexit negotiations expected to begin within a few weeks.
“Our last meeting in Malta, subsequent opinions voiced by some member states as well as the European Commission’s White Paper leave us in no doubt that the idea of a multispeed Europe will be one of the discussions ahead of the Rome anniversary,” Tusk said.
But, with regard to Brexit, he said: “It is clear from the debate that the unity of the 27 will be our most precious asset.”
Colleagues described Tusk as exhausted by the run-up to the formal triggering of Article 50 by the U.K. Still, Tusk said he remains upbeat. “After today’s debate, I can openly say that all 27 leaders agree with this objective,” he said. “This was an optimistic conversation about our common future.”
Jacopo Barigazzi and Quentin Ariès contributed reporting.