Bruegel just published a new Policy Brief, « One size does not fit all: European Integration by differentiation », also summarized by Jean Pisani-Ferry in a separate article, to suggest a new European architecture, around a common base and 4 clubs. The authors think that such a flexible structure would allow Europe to better address her external and internal challenges, and offer a compromise between the multi-speed and pure club approaches.
Any debate on Europe’s architecture is always welcome at a time where the European project is under a lot of pressure. And I definitely share the main idea suggested by Bruegel here (a Common Base complemented by few additional circles) but I would nevertheless bring the following points to the debate.
First, I would not give up so easily the principle of « ever closer union », even if not all members would continue to adhere to this principle.
Second, I seriously doubt that the founding principles (human rights, rule of law, Copenhagen criteria) could be included in the Common Base. I think on the contrary that the Common Base should not mention them in order to be the widest as possible. To be clear, do we exclude today the Hungary of Mr Orban from the Common Base? To reintegrate her in few years when the country re-joins the democratic club? It does not seem to be very serious for me. And the question is not only for Hungary, but for Poland, Austria, Italy, may be for France or Germany tomorrow. Europe has been so much discredited by its inconsistency and hypocrisy that we should be extremely serious and consequent on any new change we introduce. If we say something we should indeed do it. For me the Common Base should be the mechanical/logistical/infrastructure ground zero of the European project and not necessary be linked to our European democratic values. This Common Base is in my view the Common Market, the Customs Union and the Energy infrastructure. I would not put here the regional policy or any policy which would give access to big budget money because as a true democrat I would indeed not be happy to further finance for instance the lies and democratic breaches, if not open corruption, of Mr Orban and Co. The Copenhagen criteria belong to the closer cooperation which should be in the additional circles.
Second remark on the Common Base: since I fully agree on the fact that the European Institutions should also run this Common Base, we cannot miss the opportunity of any new organization adjustment and not finally fix the problem of the balance between the powers in Europe. We should then suppress the Council and the European Council in their current forms and finally turn them into a Members Chamber, where each Member State would be represented by max. 5 representatives, the head of state or government, the minister in charge of the specific topic to be decided upon, and 3 representatives of the national parliament designated by the said national parliament. The Members Chamber should be only the second European Chamber (the first one being the European Parliament) and nothing more. The European executive power being left to the Commission and to its President.
The Policy Brief is suggesting four clubs, one for the Economic and Monetary Union, one for Migration, Asylum and Schengen, one for Security and foreign policy, one for other policies.
I hate the word club. We do not need any gentle club to brightly discuss interesting European topics, we need circles of decision and action. We had in our post-communal history already a great gentle club experience, it was called the Strategy of Lisbon, and it was such a disaster that I hope that nobody would suggest to play again this game. Exit the clubs. We need circles with efficient and democratic governance in order to finally deliver the European leverage on the various serious topics they would work on. And with such a governance they would finally find the true legitimacy which Europe is today totally missing. The failure of our current Europe lies in her permanent failure to concretely deliver anything she promises to deliver, and this because of her poor governance. Then my dear Bruegel friends, if you say that « In the foreseeable future, the clubs would therefore de facto be based on different, more intergovernmental and sometimes complex governance structures » and that « Whenever resources from outside the EU budget are required, decision-making processes might still need to rely on unanimity voting in council formation » then please forget your idea, you are simply working on the further destruction of Europe. Please stop.
A circle approach should on the contrary be chosen because indeed some do not want to go further than the today’s inter-governmental approach, and they should remain out of the circle of those who are keen to be serious about European cooperation and go beyond a pure intergovernmental logic. After 18 years of existence the inter-governmental Europe could only convince us of her total inability to deliver the European leverage we so desperately need. The governance of the circles have to be naturally decided by the circle themselves, but if the first (EMU) and third (Security and foreign policy) ones would follow the intergovernmental approach I would then strongly advise France not to enter these circles. This would be too dangerous to pursue on the same route as today. Your idea is to exclude some members of some of our current common policies, and this might possibly be part of the solution, but you are not addressing the much more important reason of failure of these policies, and which regards governance only.
In order to give me a chance to better argue on this for me key topic I would recommend you to read the last chapter of my Book L’Europe c’est nous which I called, Monnet la démocratie en plus (e-book, fnac.com).
Last remark, yes I like the concept of a Common Base with the possibility to choose to do more through few more integrated circles, and this is why I like so much the concept of Enhanced Cooperation already present in the current Treaty on European Union. And the truth is that nothing prevents our Member States from acting already today through this hybrid approach that you suggest. Then we have unfortunately to note that obviously our Member States don’t like this idea so much. May be because some are too much obsessed by a consensual and egalitarian Union, or because other are too much scared by the prospect of being left aside if they would allow others to do more, quicker and better. Not a reason to suggest it? We agree on this.