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Saturday, 25 March 2017 14:12

Europe’s Perilous Journey Ahead: Juncker’s White Paper and The Rome Summit

Written by Nicoletta Enria
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Photo: Theophilos Papadopoulos (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Young Europeans are marching for Europe in demonstrations taking place across Europe’s capitals – but why today? Today, leaders of 27 European Union countries are meeting in Rome to celebrate 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed. The EU27, now officially excluding the UK, will sign a new declaration to honour the 1957 treaty, and pave the way for European Union in a post-Brexit era. On the 1st of March the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, released his White Paper on the Future of Europe – a document where he presents 5 scenarios in which Europe can face the challenges it has lying ahead. Juncker pointed out that this paper is to serve as the beginning, not end, of a debate on the future of Europe. The paper itself underlines that Europe is facing "unprecedented challenges" which "show no sign of abating". And Juncker is certainly not wrong there. With rising populism, violent extremism and a hateful, divisive, rhetoric of exclusive nationalism beginning to dominate public discourse – we need to have a serious conversation about how Europe is to overcome these challenges and return to its founding principles of peaceful cooperation, respect of human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality and solidarity among European nations and people. Having said this, what is the Treaty of Rome and what precedent does it set for Europe's celebrations today? And most importantly, what Europe does Juncker's White Paper set out, and how effectively will any of these scenarios help Europe face its perilous journey ahead?

What is the Treaty of Rome?

To begin with, what even is the Treaty of Rome and why is it important? The Treaty of Rome, also known as the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (TEEC), remains one of the most important treaties in modern-day Europe. The treaty, signed by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany in 1957, proposed the establishment of a customs union, single market for goods, labour, services and capital, alongside the creation of a Common Agriculture Policy, Common Transport Policy, European Social fund – and the establishment of the European Commission.  In addition to this, the treaty established the prohibition of monopolies and granted some commercial privileges to the colonial territories of member states. This treaty remains historic in its attempts to make the European Union "an ever closer union among the people of Europe". With this, we mainly refer to its triumph in its very realistic and gradualist approach to building the EU, by putting in motion a process in which progressive economic integration was paving the way for the long-term objective of a political union.  With a Union displaced by the financial crisis and the decision of the UK to leave, the Rome Summit aims to return to the promise the Union showed back in 1957- with all EU members working together and rising from the ashes of the Second World War.

The Debrief:  Juncker’s White Paper

Juncker’s White Paper on the Future of Europe was designed to be the jumping board for discussions on the future of Europe in today’s Rome Summit. What kind of future is Juncker laying out for us, and how will it impact young Europeans?  In a nutshell – not much, but here’s why.

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Photo: European Parliament (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Scenario 1: Carry On

This first scenario reinstates the status quo – for Europe to stay the same but with small changes. The Commission maintains that this option of "carrying on" will bring "incremental progress". The small changes would depend on national government’s agreement to deepen the EU’s single market, put together some military capabilities and speak with one voice on foreign affairs. This scenario also discusses one of Europe’s main challenges, especially targeted by European populist parties – border management, giving the autonomy mostly to national governments to regulate their own borders. Essentially, "carrying on" entails the EU continuing to wash its hands of the crisis at its borders. If anything, Brexit, and growing support in many other European countries for parties willing to leave the European Union reflect dissatisfaction with the Union as it stands today – the "carrying on" option certainly does not live up to the ambition of the founding principles and would fail to promote an inclusive Union that delivers for Europeans of all ages, races and social strata.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the single market

The option that the Commission has shown the least enthusiasm about, focusses on the achievement with the biggest support base: the single market. Here the Commission jots down its anxieties about this scenario by stating that "decision-making may be simpler to understand but the capacity to act collectively is limited" and "this may widen the gap between expectations and delivery at all levels". The Commission believes that by focussing on the single market, the EU would face a heightened risk to the euro and financial stability. This would also pose challenges to making trade deals and defence cooperation, due to many EU countries that would probably revert to pursuing bilateral trade and foreign policy.

Scenario 3: Those who want more do more

The scenario that seems to be the most likely to take place is scenario 3 – the 'multispeed Europe'. Juncker himself has stated that this scenario is "the way to go". This scenario entails a "coalition of the willing" in specific policy areas such as defence, internal security, taxation and social matters. Once again this scenario too assumes that all of the EU27 members still want to make progress on a deeper single market, but would allow some to pursue deeper integration in some areas. It is puzzling that a multispeed Europe would create a Union "a la carte", like that always demanded by the UK – a millennial polyamorous EU if you will, where you can pick and choose what you want without committing to anything. In its preamble there is a great focus on how Europe must move towards "unity" and "solidarity"; but where will the progress come from allowing members to be part of a union and reaping the benefits while continuing to pursue their nationalistic agendas? The construction would make more sense if only two tiers were envisaged – one for those who are committed irrevocably to the single currency and agree to accept the highest level of integration in a number of areas, and a looser tier for those that decide to participate only in the single market and selectively in other projects. 

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The March for Europe in Brussels - 25 March 2017
Photo Courtesy of Nicoletta Enria

Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently

Juncker confessed that he included the next two scenarios simply "for the sake of having them" – so the expectations are already lowered. The Commission reiterates that by "less" it means just doing more but in "a reduced number of areas" to "better tackle priorities together". This would entail a fully resourced European Border and Coast guard, a single voice on foreign policy and the establishment of the European Defence Union. The Commission also pointed out that other areas for deeper cooperation would include innovation, trade and security, with research focussing on digitization and decarbonisation of the economy. 

Scenario 5: Doing much more together

This scenario essentially paves the way for a federal EU, referring to the EU27 going "further than ever before in all domains". The Commission lays out that this would be carried out by getting more of its "own resources" (essentially, the ability to raise revenue through tax) and completing the Eurozone along the lines defined by the Five Presidents’ Report issued in 2015. Therefore, here the EU would speak with a single voice on trade and foreign policy, and thus perhaps assume global leadership on the fight against climate change and on humanitarian issues. The Commission itself acknowledges the faults in this scenario in that "there is the risk of alienating parts of society which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy". This scenario really risks to continue to perpetrate the notion of the European Union as Brussels’ political elite and the impenetrable Brussels bubble.

 

So today young Europeans are marching for Europe, to #StandforEurope. But one thing is for sure, the new Europe that the Commission under Juncker is proposing is not enough.  The biggest glaring mistake is the lack of addressing how the European Union is steering away from its founding principles. The Union needs to find a way to ensure that all its countries abide by the rule of law, human rights and democratic rights – both at home and abroad. During my time in Brussels, this is what has disappointed me the most, seeing a vast amount of European representatives unable to stand up for gross human rights violations and to prevent the return of nationalist attitudes, walls at the borders, and illiberal policies violating the rule of law, when the Union was set up to do just that. Despite this, I have always remained extremely committed to the European project, and urge you to do the same. The Union is not perfect, but is a tool for progress and it is only through solidarity and unity, in Europe and beyond, that we can achieve true progress. So, on this day, march and stand with Europe – but demand a better and reformed Europe, one that stands for us and represents us all. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicoletta Photo NEWNicoletta Enria is Italian, originally from La Spezia, but grew up in London, Rome and Frankfurt. She graduated from University College London studying Language and Culture, with a focus on German and Arabic.  She is currently working at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization in Brussels. Follow her on twitter at @NicolettaEnria

 

Last modified on Saturday, 25 March 2017 15:40

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