March 02, 2017
Juncker's scenarios for Europe
The history of the EU has shown that white papers matter - not because of the detailed prescriptions or proposals they contain, but because they steer the direction of debate. Not all white papers were helpful. Jacques Delors’ famous 1993 white paper on growth, competitiveness and employment laid the foundation for the policy approach of the newly created monetary union with a strong emphasis on competitiveness. That approach ultimately did a lot of damage because it detracted from the steps that are necessary for a monetary union to be sustainable. The exaggerated focus on competitiveness in particular was one of the main causes of the subsequent imbalances.
Yesterday’s white paper by Jean-Claude Juncker, written ahead of the informal summit to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, offers a similarly long-term perspective but is less prescriptive. Its focus is to generate and accelerate a debate on the future of Europe. With this White Paper Juncker puts himself into the position of a moderator, rather than that of a keynote speaker.
It sets out five ways the EU could develop:
- muddle through: stick to the reform programme and the Bratislava declaration;
- reduce EU to single market: border control will be repatriated, citizens rights in other countries will be weakened (pretty much the UK position pre-Brexit);
- focus on enhanced co-operation through coalitions of the willing: those who want to do more shall do more - 15 member states could set up joint police or magistrates corps;
- focus on fewer policy areas, but deepen them: example are a joint telecoms authority with central powers, or an EU counter-terrorism agency;
- the full-Monty: do more, and deepen at the same time - the Federalist vision.
We agree that these five scenarios constitute a complete and mutually exclusive list of options. It is hard to think of a sixth scenario that does not overlap, except of course the total abandonment of the EU, which Juncker rightly does not list as a scenario.
The white paper is the European’s Commission contribution to the Rome Summit, which will discuss the future of the EU. On top of the White Paper, the Commission will issue a number of low-profile reflection papers on
- European social policy;
- the future of the eurozone, based on the Five President’s report;
- Europe and globalisation;
- defence; and
- the future of EU finances.
Politico notes that Angela Merkel backs option 3 above - further integration on the basis of enhanced co-operation. This is a rare point on which we agree with her. It is the only legal basis we have, and thus the most effective way forward. The article says that Merkel wants to relaunch the idea of a multispeed Europe. For this, she has secured the backing of France and the Benelux countries.
Werner Mussler makes the point in a comment in FAZ that the strength of Juncker’s White Paper consists of its lack of passion. By imagining the unthinkable - scenarios such as the reduction of the EU to a few core competences - he is opening up the debate.