Monday 16 June 2008

None-speed Europe

In a few days the Irish rejection has turned the dull Treaty of Lisbon into explosive stuff. The treaty, as it stands, can not enter into force without 27 ratifications.

On the other hand, an end to treaty reform is a fundamental change of circumstances, since it contravenes the founding principles on which the European Union is built.

France and Germany have declared that the Lisbon Treaty is necessary to make the European Union more democratic and effective. They expect the remaining states to proceed with ratification.

In practice this means that the Lisbon Treaty would have to be suitably amended to serve initially and a new European Union would have to be established, at least if the unwilling want to make things difficult on the inside rather than to seek alternative arrangements.

If Great Britain decides to pull the plug on ratification, the group of non-ratifiers grows to at least two. This is a clear strategic shift from obstructionism to petrification. If we believe foreign minister David Miliband, Great Britain will throw its weight but also its fate into the ring.

In that case the Franco-German will have a stark choice: to accept the UK’s age old quest for a none-speed Europe or be ready to embark on the 21st century road towards an evolving European Union with less participants.

While fudge and immobility have been the traditional answers to difficult questions, France and Germany just might be resolved enough to do what it takes.

Ralf Grahn


  1. as I've just said in a comment to a previous post, perhaps a Union with a core and a periphery with different integration speeds will be the only solution to the stalemate.

  2. Giacomo,

    I agree with you in that most European countries want to have some sort of relations with the EU, but some of them are reticent about joining forces in ways that are effective, democratic or solidary.

  3. Hi Ralf,
    I was wondering how many thing contained in the Lisbon Treaty could be brought into force by using the possibility of "enhanced cooperation" contained in the Nice Treaty.

    Shouldn't it be possible to introduce a Foreign policy service and representative by some of the countries. Could similar things be done in other areas? One could wind down the budget of the EU via veto, and create and alternative budget process etc.

  4. RZ,

    Your quuestion is pertinent. I am sure that a core group of countries is going to explore all avenues to break the stalemate of none-speed Europe.

    Off the cuff: There are both general and special provisions to enable enhanced cooperation or permanent structured cooperation. But it shows the absurdity of pervasive unanimity rules and the powerlessness it leads to, if a considerable majority would have to achieve progress through these alternative means on a large scale.

    If you want a good presentation of the whole question, as presented in the Lisbon Treaty, you could read the chapter in the joint publication of three think-tanks on the institutional innovations in the amending treaty (CEPS, Egmont... - Sorry, I don't have it at hand right now), published about six months ago.

    Unwieldy, if a vast majority would have to create a parallel universe to accommodate a few stragglers.

    I am sure that you follow the discussion on Global Power Europe on the worrying consequences of Europe's self-emasculation.

    One major problem, though, is that the countries willing to move ahead would have to make do with the current treaty provisions, much more restrictive; so much so that there are no current examples of its use.

  5. Interesting reflection, although I am not particularly a fan of any core union or enhanced cooperation agreements - these would only result into those outside nations to pick and choose policies which are of no cost but much benefit. The deepening of the Union should remain a "single undertaking".

  6. Frederik,

    A single undertaking is fine, if it is able to decide and to act.

    But each round of treaty reform since Nice has led to new dents, because some member states are mainly intergovernmental in their attitude.


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