Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A multi-tier Europe

Finally, someone with some influence is calling for something I’ve reckoned is a (the?) way forward for the [tag]EU[/tag] for a while (and some other loosely pro-EU types agree): a complete re-think of the [tag]European Union[/tag], reformulating it along a multiple-tier basis.

The argument comes from former French Socialist Prime Minister [tag]Laurent Fabius[/tag], who helped lead the successful campaign against the [tag]EU Constitution[/tag] in France, in today’s Les Echos: Relancer et réorienter le projet européen.

I can’t say I agree with all the details of his proposals, but as a starting point for a wider debate on a radical reform of the EU, it’s one of the best we’ve had for a while.

A loosely translated summary / selection of highlights (mostly via the power of Google, but cleaned up a bit):

“Europe needs a strong revival. For that, it is necessary to use the renegotiation of the constitutional treaty, in order to carry out a true debate on what we want to do together… We need a new Constitution ratified by referendum.

“…detailed description of policy does not have any place in a Constitution, whose role is rather to define the general framework, making it possible for these policies to evolve/move in time… Some of its provisions could be discussed again in a separate treaty.

“…At the same time, we will have to progress quickly in several key fields. Concerning economic integration, the renegotiation of the EU budget in 2008 will have to be made profitable for the stronger economies, to reopen its finances and to really direct it towards the preparation of the future: research, education, infrastructure, etc

“…Mechanisms can be used to decrease the pressure on our industries and to enable them to be modernized without threatening the growth of the developing countries [I think he means both new member states and non-European developing nations]… implementation will not be simple and it will go against the current ideology. But, in the long term, these decisions will profit everyone, because it is not in the interest of developing countries to deepen the current social and political crisis in Europe.

“…We will also have to re-examine our monetary policy so that growth and employment appear clearly among its objectives. The operation of the Eurozone will have to be improved to guarantee a regular dialogue between it and the European Central Bank, and to enable it to make its voice heard in the international organisations (the World Bank, the IMF…). We will have to advance towards a true budgetary coordination between the States that have adopted the euro, if we want the Eurozone to remain viable.

“…To make these plans possible, the moment as come to redefine the internal organization of the Union. With twenty-seven Member States, uniformity means being based on the lowest common denominator, hence the current paralysis. I think the idea of differentiated Europe is preferable, a Europe of three tiers. In the center, States more pro-European, hopeful of building a closer Union, whose core will be probably Germany and France, in co-operation with Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain or others. A second tier could bring together the other members of the Union, of which some will join the first circle in the long term. Lastly, the third tier will include/take into account the countries which are closely associated with the EU while not yet being ready to become full members, at least for the foreseeable future: Turkey, Ukraine, the Maghreb…

“With a project and a framework fixed on these lines, the Union will finally be able to see where its borders really lie – which is a major need. Because how can you promote a political entity whose definition is not and cannot be stable?”

As I’ve argued before, when it comes to the EU, one size does not fit all. Can Fabius be the person to finally kick off this debate at a senior level? Does he still have enough influence?

Let’s hope so – because I for one can’t see many other sensible, plausible alternatives if the EU is going to survive in the long-term without starting to see some member states jump ship in frustration.