A new architecture for Europe?

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker plans to present his ideas for the future of Europe today in preparation for the EU summit at the end of March. Last week he endorsed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal for a multi-speed Europe. Commentators take a critical view of the idea.

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Lost in EUrope (BE) /

Merkel is chipping away at the EU

Brussels-based journalist Eric Bonse explains in his Lost in EUrope blog why a multi-speed Europe is just what Angela Merkel wants:

“Merkel's plan boils down to a German Europe à la carte in which she can select her partners at will. Even decisions from Brussels only count if they suit Berlin. The signs of this have been accumulating for some time - whether it was in the euro crisis (Merkel called on the IMF for support in order to weaken Brussels), the refugee crisis (Merkel's unilateral approach) or the (lack of) response to Brexit. … And why does this now mean the end of the EU as we know it? It's quite simple: there is nothing left. First the sense of community disappeared. Then the goal of 'ever deeper union' was given up. And now the institutional core in Brussels is collapsing. If Merkel gets her way it will be replaced by agreements between Berlin and other, variable partners.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Romania needs a vision

From Romania's perspective a restructured Europe would be catastrophic, Adevărul fears: For Romania a multi-speed Europe is a real nightmare.

“We're not in the Schengen Area, we're not in the Eurozone, our place will always be on the periphery, the outer circle. In ten years of EU membership we had been preoccupied with our own internal disputes and missed out on those two projects. Now we are on the wayside and consumed with self-pity. … But if a highly interconnected Europe is so crucial for Romania, why don't we prepare for the debate that will follow? There are four million Romanians working abroad either permanently or on a seasonal basis. The Romanian economy is enormously dependent on the European market. … Not to have a vision at this crucial time is unacceptable.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Status quo no longer viable

Former president of the EU Parliament Josep Borrell, on the other hand, makes the case for a multi-speed Europe:

“To avoid being pushed aside by nationalists Europe must restructure itself into concentric circles. In the innermost circle would be those EU member states that are willing to give up sovereignty in favour of genuine fiscal, social and political union. In the second circle would be those countries that don't yet feel ready for such a degree of political unity. And the third circle would contain the countries that are only interested in a free trade agreement. The UK would be the first, but not the only candidate here. All very complicated? Undoubtedly. But the status quo is no longer viable.”

Wpolityce.pl (PL) /

Eastern Europe already second-class

The two-speed Europe is already reality and has been for some time now when you look at the products on the shelves of Europe's supermarkets, wPolityce comments in irritation:

“Western companies sell products from the same brand but of markedly inferior quality in Eastern European countries. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia have already announced that they will put Brussels under pressure to ban these practices. And a Polish MEP has even sent a request to the EU Commission on this matter. … German companies usually claim they adjust the products to local customers' tastes, implying that we simply like such products. That we have different preferences to the Germans and want to drink less aromatic coffee. … Such statements are an insult to the intelligence of Polish consumers.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Two speeds will only lead to chaos

A new architecture for Europe is hardly the right solution for Europe with Brexit looming, Il Sole 24 Ore criticises:

“Who will do the selecting, and according to what criteria? Will countries have to apply for membership or will there be a selection process that includes or excludes individual states? ... Right now only one thing is for sure: without the British Europe will be poorer, because only on the surface will it be advantageous for the EU not to face constant opposition from the Anglo-Saxon world. In the end this will only strengthen Germany's dominance. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Brexit could create a precedent that will be followed others who opposed the EU. That is not such a big problem in itself, some might say, given that the goal is to create a Europe that is more flexible, more efficient, more unified, more harmonious, smaller and less labyrinthine.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Poland must settle disputes with EU

Merkel's proposal for a "two-speed" Europe entails certain risks for Poland unless it picks up its pace, Gazeta Wyborcza fears:

“The debate about the details of the reform probably won't begin for another six months. This should give Poland enough time to solve its biggest problems with the EU. This would strengthen Warsaw's position in the talks about the future of the EU. ... The Benelux states spoke out in favour of this kind of Europe in the joint proposals they presented in Malta. And France and Italy have wanted this for a long time. ... The concrete work for the reform is, however, hardly likely to take place before the German election in September. ... That gives us another half year.”