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Saturday, 29 September 2012 10:11

Differentiated integration – why not?

"Differentiation is already a fact, the question is what kind of differentiation." That's how you could briefly sum up the fascinating final panel discussion of the Allianz Alumni Academy that took place on Saturday close to the Brandenburg Gate in shyly sunny Berlin. Allianz Alumni Academy is an annual meeting attended by young European leaders who participated in summer schools organised by the Allianz Cultural Foundation. Coming back to the witty phrase in the beginning of the paragraph (belonging to Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Centre) we must admit that this is sad, but true. The EU is not as consolidated as it supposedly was in the pre-crisis past, nor can we still stick to the simplifying narratives of a two-speed Europe, because there are actually far more "integration speeds." The crisis has only catalysed this phenomenon. While we can still warm ourselves with Jean Monnet's ideas about crises that foster integration, we can't avoid acknowledging that Europe's future is not clear at all.

The necessity of flexibility

The crisis provides us with a unique chance to reform Europe. It has revealed some of the diseases that remained (or were kept) secret before. Hence we should use it and try to find appropriate conclusions. It seems almost obvious that reaching a compromise and finding a solution to our mess will be easier and quicker, the fewer states are involved. However, as far as I remember, the statistics of voting in the Council (before and after the Lisbon reform) do not confirm this assumption: the member states are in unanimous agreement just as often now as they were before, even though a larger number of members are now involved in decision making.

Nevertheless most of the discussion participants I've talked to thought it would make more sense to give the eurozone what belongs to eurozone - it would allow them to deal with the problems more effectively without the whimsical assistance of 10 other states.

It is also important to keep in mind, as the European Parliament President's diplomatic adviser Arnoldas Pranckevicius points out, that it is not only the currency that's at stake. We're facing "the greatest existential crisis ever in the history of the EU." This demands something more than dealing with finances, debts and ratings.

Open Core

Incidentally, the EU luminaries made the same observation and put it down in a report by the four EU presidents [Council, Commission, Euro Group and ECB], "Towards a genuine economic and monetary Union" in June, 2012. As one participant noticed - somewhat symptomatically, the president of the European Parliament did not participate in the report.

On the basis of this document Janis Emmanouilidis proposed his 4-phase vision of the EU's future at the Allianz Alumni Academy. According to his plan, after the banking union and the securing of EU financial stability we'll discuss the ratification process of a new EU treaty in 2016/17. This will decide whether we are going to live in a functionally differentiated Europe or a defragmented continent administered by individual institutions and ad-hoc coalitions.

Published in E&M Reports
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