On 1st March, the European Commission published a White Paper on the Future of Europe, which was presented the same day by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament. The White Paper is published ahead of the Meeting of European Heads of State, which will take place in Rome on 25th March to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.
The White Paper aims at launching an EU-wide process of reflection on the future of Europe, involving all different parts of society. Therefore, it outlines five possible ways ahead, presenting different scenarios with some concrete examples on how the situation could look like by 2025:
This would be business as usual. The EU would continue to focus on jobs, growth and investment, while reacting to problems as they arise and roll out legislation accordingly. It would keep its current capacity to deliver, without always matching the expectations in the population.
Nothing but the Single Market
In the single market scenario, Member States would concentrate on deepening certain aspects of the single market. All other issues would be dealt with on a national level or through bilateral agreements. As a consequence, differences among Member States would persist or increase in certain areas, including social policy. Free movement of workers would become more difficult.
Those who want more do more
In this scenario groups of Member States would deepen certain policy areas. The Commission considers it most likely that such groups would emerge around issues such as defence, internal security, taxation and social matters. Hence a group of countries could agree on higher social standards and thus ensure an equal level of protection. Consequently, citizen’s rights might vary between Member States.
Doing less more efficiently
The White Paper also foresees the possibility of Member States agreeing on certain priorities that need to be addressed at European level, while doing significantly less in the other fields. Those priorities could include for example innovation, trade, security, migration, border and defence management. It seems likely that EU action would be stopped or reduced in regional development, public health, as well as those parts of employment and social policy that are not directly related to the functioning of the single market.
Doing much more together
The last scenario supposes that Member States decide to cooperate further than ever before in all policy areas. The single market would be completed, there would be greater coordination in fiscal, social and taxation matters and more EU financial support would respond to emerging needs.
It seems that in three out of these five scenarios there is a high risk that protection levels of national social security systems will diverge and social inequality of EU-citizens will increase. Furthermore, it seems unlikely in the current political context that Member States would opt for “Doing much more together”. However, a combination of different options is not to be excluded and hence opens a wide range of imaginable future scenarios.
As said above, this White Paper aims at launching an EU-wide reflection on the Future of Europe. Its next step will be in Rome during the gathering of Heads of States, then it should be pursued at all different levels of society through “Future or Europe Debates” all around Europe. Additionally, the European Commission is planning to publish a series of reflection papers aiming at opening the debate on certain concrete policy areas. The first reflection paper will be on the “Social Dimension of Europe” and is to be published by the end of April, probably in connection with the finalised “Proposal on a European Pillar of Social Rights”. Papers on harnessing globalisation, deepening the European Monetary Union, the future of Europe’s defence and Europe’s finances will follow during May and June.
To know more about the reflection on the future of Europe, check out the White Paper (EN).