The EUobserver website (euobserver.com), a sometimes critical but otherwise reliable supporter of the EU project has some interesting reports recently from which we draw more evidence that the EU is heading towards dissolution.
They report that Joseph Muscat, currently heading Malta’s presidency of the EU, wishes to see a ‘multi-speed’ Europe, by which we assume he means differential EU integration, rather than plate tectonics.
EUobserver reports that, at the same event in Valletta, Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying “that there will be an EU with different speeds [and] that not everyone will take part in the same levels of integration“.
In a separate article they report that in a radio debate the Netherlands’ Christian-Democrat MP, Sybrand van Haersma Buma “said that other countries will follow the United Kingdom out of the EU” unless the EU is “drastically” reformed. “If Europe continues on the same track, Brexit will not be the end of it,” he said. The EUobserver explained that “Buma appears to be wooing Dutch voters who are disillusioned with European integration…”
The Christian-Democrats, a centre-right party, is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), currently the largest group in the European Parliament “and traditionally very pro-EU”.
Buma, who hopes to become the next Dutch PM, has also said that he will withdraw the ratification bill of the EU-Ukraine agreement, which was passed by the Netherlands Parliament after being rejected by Dutch voters in a referendum.
Now a multi-speed Europe is a flat contradiction of EU treaties and of the federal union ambition to complete the project, which is clearly stated in the Five Presidents Report from June 2015:
“Progress must happen on four fronts: first, towards a genuine Economic Union that ensures each economy has the structural features to prosper within the Monetary Union. Second, towards a Financial Union that guarantees the integrity of our currency across the Monetary Union … Third, towards a Fiscal Union that delivers both fiscal sustainability and fiscal stabilisation. And finally, towards a Political Union that provides the foundation for all of the above … all euro area Member States must participate in all Unions.”
After the EU summit in February2016, David Cameron claimed that, “Britain will be permanently out of ever-closer union, never part of a European superstate … Britain will never join the euro and we’ve secured vital protections for our economy.” Despite that ‘successful’ negotiation for a multi-speed Europe, a majority of British voters chose Brexit as the better option. And moves towards treaty reform faded from view, until now.
There has never been agreement on what a multi-speed EU (or ‘variable geometry’, as it is sometimes called) would entail, apart from necessary treaty changes. A more likely outcome, short of complete dissolution, would be a smaller EU committed to completing the full union defined by the five presidents, and a collection of newly-independent European states complementing others that remain outside the EU.
As this post was being written, the European Commission published a White Paper outlining possible futures for the EU, one of which is the multi-speed option. This paper will be the subject of another post, or two.