Friday, 13 October 2017

Future of Europe to meet European Council

We are approaching the moment of truth. Let us wait for the “Leaders’ Agenda” president Donald Tusk is going to present to the European Council (EUCO), before we definitively state that the EU27 heads of state or government have become impetus takers, instead of impetus providers, as they imagined in Article 15(1) TEU. But the years since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force have revealed the limitations of an intergovernmental EU, while the world has become even more challenging.

The novelty is that there is an ongoing future of Europe debate. Clearer views about the need for capability and democracy have reached EU institutions, with reform winds in the European Parliament, the European Commission and even parts of the European Council.

European Parliament

In the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit referendum, the European Parliament adopted a 28 June 2016 resolution on the need for a better European Union, based on using the Lisbon Treaty to the full and completed by a revision of the Treaties. On 16 February 2017 the Parliament elaborated on the theme through three resolutions: one on utilising the flexibilities of the Lisbon Treaty, a second on treaty reform proper, and a third one about creating a budgetary capacity for the euro area (EPRS note).

The one plus three European Parliament resolutions are P8_TA(2016)0294, followed by P8_TA(2017)0049, P8_TA(2017)0048 and P8_TA(2017)0050.  

Juncker Commission

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker used his State of the Union 2017 (SOTEU) address SPEECH/17/3165 to outline proposals for the near future (draft Commission Work Programme for 2018), as well as more long-term initiatives  to make the EU more capable, by using the flexibilities of the EU treaties. (The State of the Union 2017 web page offers a convenient brochure and other references for those interested.)

Well before the SOTEU speech, starting 1 March 2017, the Juncker Commission launched a public debate on the future of Europe. First came the White Paper:

White Paper on the Future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final

The White Paper contained analysis and five imaginary scenarios based on conflicting ambitions for the future of the European project. The White Paper promised to deliver further food for thought and debate (page 18):

The European Commission will contribute to that discussion in the months ahead with a series of reflection papers on the following topics:
• developing the social dimension of Europe;
• deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015;
• harnessing globalisation;
• the future of Europe’s defence;
• the future of EU finances.

Known as Reflection papers and stimulating public discussion beyond the Rome Declaration from the EU27 leaders, the five documents are:

Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 206 final

Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation; Brussels, 10.5.2017 COM(2017) 240 final

Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union; Brussels, 31.5.2017 COM(2017) 291 final

Reflection paper on the future of European defence; Brussels, 7.6.2017 COM(2017) 315 final

Reflection paper on the future of EU finances; Brussels, 28.6.2017 COM(2017) 358 final  

Because I have used references to the austere but readable Eur-Lex versions, I owe a mention to those who prefer the pastel coloured “printed” versions of the Commission’s White Paper and Reflection papers (including the annexes) that they can be found through the web page White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward.  
Twitter reflects at least parts of the multilingual pan-European public debate under the hashtag #FutureOfEurope.

President Macron

On 26 September 2017 the Sorbonne speech of the president of France Emmanuel Macron was an eloquent call for European sovereignty in a challenging, even dangerous world. The president sprinkled his speech with examples of reforms to make the European Union more capable and resilient.

President Macron has told the public that France is going to recognise the symbols of the European Union at the EUCO meeting next week. This probably means a notification to join the declaration 52 by 16 EU member states annexed to the treaties. This would be an opportunity for ten remaining EU27 to follow suit. You find the declaration on page 355 of the consolidated EU Treaties (2016).

New interventions and discussion regardings Macron’s EU reform ideas may appear under the Twitter hashtag #InitiativeEurope.

European Economic and Social Committee

The consultative European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has taken initial steps in the discussion about the future of Europe, by adopting a preliminary resolution on 5 July 2017 and by publishing a compilation of national consultations of organized civil society on the White Paper on the Future of Europe (216 pages). The EESC is preparing an opinion.

Committee of the Regions

According to president Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the consultative European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is preparing an opinion on the future of Europe to be delivered next year (page 8).

Ralf Grahn

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