Confronted with Brexit, a rise in populism and disagreement between member states on the way ahead for the EU, the President of the European Commission published a White Paper (WP) presenting some alternative pathways. We have examined this paper closely and critically, resulting in a rather long and, perhaps, a little too dry critique, though we published it anyway, as Our Commentary. Here we present a structured review in three parts: a Summary of the WP drawn from the Commission’s official website; some Background which relates the WP to previous EU statements (notably the Five Presidents Report and the President’s State of the Union address to the European Parliament); and finally Why it Matters, clarifying why we are pursuing this critique of the EU.
The Commission website outlines the purpose and structure of the White Paper on the Future of Europe, published on 2nd March 2017.
[Note: for this Summary we ignore the conflation of the EU with Europe and other confusions, and just present a selection from the site, without comment. We examine the White Paper critically elsewhere.]
Speaking at the European Parliament today [1st March 2017], President Juncker presented a White Paper on the Future of Europe, setting out the main achievements of the European Union: a peace spanning seven decades and an enlarged Union of 500 million citizens living in freedom in one of the world’s most prosperous economies. The White Paper also addresses the challenges that Europe is facing and presents five scenarios for how the Union could evolve by 2025, depending on how it chooses to respond.
The White Paper is the Commission’s contribution to the Rome Summit of 25 March 2017, and seeks to outline different ways for building a united EU at 27 Member States. It is the start of the process, not the end, and a wide-ranging and honest debate will now take place between the Governments and peoples of Europe on where our common future lies and what degree of ambition we hold.
The scenarios in the White Paper cover a range of possibilities. They are not exhaustive neither are they mutually exclusive.
Scenario 1: Carrying On – The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Juncker Commission’s New Start for Europe from 2014 and the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in September 2016.
Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas.
Scenario 3: Those Who Want More, Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today, but in addition it allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge in different policy areas.
Scenario 4: Doing Less, More Efficiently – The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas.
Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced.
The European Commission will host a series of ‘Future of Europe Debates’ across Europe’s cities and regions in the coming months to harvest and harness opinions on the desired way forward and will further contribute to the process with a series of reflection papers on: developing the social dimension of Europe; deepening the Economic and Monetary Union; harnessing globalisation; the future of Europe’s defence; and, the future of EU finances.
President Juncker’s State of the Union speech in September 2017 will take these ideas forward before first conclusions could be drawn at the December 2017 European Council. This will help to decide on a course of action to be rolled out in time for the European Parliament elections in June 2019.
The press release announcing the White Paper has the same contents as above, with one addition:
The White Paper will serve to steer the debate among the 27 Heads of State or Government and help structure the discussion at the Rome Summit and well beyond. It will also be used by the Commission as the starting point for a wider public debate on the future of our continent.
The White Paper (WP) of March 2017 grew out of earlier documents, meetings and speeches from the European Commission. We have summarised the WP in the Commission’s own words, in the Summary above and explained why we are doing this in the Overview, below.
We pick out some background material that frames our critique and leads us to argue that what is proposed in the WP is not a reform agenda but another distraction from the true agenda. We highlight some of the evidence that supports our conclusion. Our full analysis and critique can be found in Our Commentary on the White Paper.
In earlier posts we offered detailed reviews of the Five Presidents Report, from June 2015, and Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union address, given in September 2016, which with other documents form the background to this White Paper.
Our conclusion, in the light of the WP, is that the European Commission has no intention to abandon their underlying motive for pursuing the EU project so assiduously, which is to lay the ground for a supra-national government to rule its members without the dissent that is so evident currently.
Here is Jean-Claude blaming everyone else for the current state of the union, in September 2016:
I stood here a year ago and I told you that the State of our Union was not good. I told you that there is not enough Europe in this Union. And that there is not enough Union in this Union.
I am not going to stand here today and tell you that everything is now fine. It is not. Let us all be very honest in our diagnosis.
Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.
Over the summer, I listened carefully to Members of this Parliament, to government representatives, to many national Parliamentarians and to the ordinary Europeans who shared their thoughts with me.
I have witnessed several decades of EU integration. There were many strong moments. Of course, there were many difficult times too, and times of crisis.
But never before have I seen such little common ground between our Member States. So few areas where they agree to work together.
Never before have I heard so many leaders speak only of their domestic problems, with Europe mentioned only in passing, if at all.
Never before have I seen representatives of the EU institutions setting very different priorities, sometimes in direct opposition to national governments and national Parliaments. It is as if there is almost no intersection between the EU and its national capitals anymore.
Never before have I seen national governments so weakened by the forces of populism and paralysed by the risk of defeat in the next elections.
Never before have I seen so much fragmentation, and so little commonality in our Union.
It is not clear what he means by, “there is not enough Europe in this Union.” We don’t think he means too few countries so perhaps he means too little attention to what he says are the “values” that Europe represents. However, “not enough Union in this Union” is clear; he feels that his member states are not pulling their weight in progressing towards full integration, to complete the Union as a federal government. From this and other evidence we conclude that he favours Scenario 5 (more and yet more union).
From the Five Presidents Report we have the following, which lists what he means by more Union:
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.
He, and his Commission and the European Council, among others, believe that it is not possible to “complete” economic, financial and fiscal unions without a foundation of political union, by which is meant a government that can rule how member states will behave.
From the same speech and in the same vein we have:
Europe can only work if we all work for unity and commonality … Only then will leaders of the EU institutions and national governments be able to regain the trust of Europe’s citizens in our common project … What our citizens need much more is that someone governs.
Europe needs to toughen up. Nowhere is this truer than in our defence policy. But without a permanent structure we cannot act effectively.
The Lisbon Treaty enables those Member States who wish, to pool their defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation. I think the time to make use of this possibility is now.
Because in our incomplete Union, there is no European leadership that can substitute national leadership.
Only together are we and will we remain a force to be reckoned with. …Soft power is not enough in our increasingly dangerous neighbourhood.
Note particularly that “only” the fulfilment of their federal agenda will restore trust in the Union. How can they believe this after all they have experienced? Apparently we need someone to govern us; a European leader who can “substitute national leadership”. The motive is clear.
The Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap is a rather vacuous document, which outlines a few fond hopes for future achievements of the EU, as much as could be agreed among the dissenting participants. The continuation of the political agenda is assumed and not referred to, no doubt because to do so would have stimulated still more dissent (see State of the Union-4 for our critique of that document). However, the Roadmap is part of the background to the White Paper and its lack of substance reinforces our claim that no fundamental reform will be forthcoming. And the inability of the Member States to agree on anything of substance also highlights the fragility of the project.
Why it Matters
What is the purpose of this White Paper?
Two purposes are clear. First, and foremost, though implicit, is the need for some distraction in this time of crisis for the project. Second, and subsidiary, though explicitly presented as the main purpose, is to open a tightly subscribed consultation on the future of the EU, affording sufficient distraction and delay in the hope that events will be quieter by the time decisions have to be made.
What is the purpose of the EU?
The central purpose of this EU is to create a supra-national government, secured at one remove from a critical electorate. Everything else is subservient to, or a distraction from, the main purpose.
Why are we so critical of the EU?
Because the true purpose of the EU is unsound and dishonestly disguised, and because it is carried towards its goal on the back of deceitful public relations. The promoters want us to believe their lies – and also to believe that they are competent to deliver what they promise. They have successfully deceived many good people so far; we are trying to undeceive them.
The project with such a purpose, and the accompanying deceit, cannot succeed and should not be continued in its present form. However, the White Paper indicates clearly that there is no intention to revise the purpose of the EU.
What is our evidence supporting our criticism?
We draw on documents presented by the European Commission in particular and on speeches and interviews given by senior EU representatives. Our interpretation depends on contrasting developments and events in the EU with the words that the Commission and others use to spin those developments and events positively; the contrast is both revealing and distasteful.
Is there an alternative to the EU for European collaboration?
Yes, there is. Ironically, the best presentation of an effective target for European collaboration comes from the European Commission President himself, Jean-Claude Juncker. His very detailed but fake agenda for distracting attention from the real agenda of the EU offers us a description of arrangements that could bring out the best from member states.
Of course a credible alternative would not have the command and control structure of the EU but would be a voluntary arrangement between more-or-less-democratic nations, which would meet under an umbrella organisation, with no treaty or legislative powers, to discuss how best the members could achieve more by voluntary collaboration than they could alone. After the inevitable compromises that would be needed in any area under consideration, member states would sign up to participate in that specific arrangement, or would not sign up. There would be no question of opting out from a treaty obligation, simply a voluntary opting in to an agreement to behave in accordance with an agreed procedure.
National governments would have to take care to avoid displeasing their electorates, which would restore the democratic foundation for collaboration currently missing from the EU; not everything will be possible, or desirable, for every nation.
In this, the previous and subsequent posts we will continue to review the White Paper, the discussions and any outcomes it leads to, and the EU Project more widely, through the lens of these questions, drawing on the evidence we find in the White Paper and elsewhere in published documents and commentaries. We will also look at some of the issues that could be considered for voluntary collaboration under an altogether different European community.