Commission postpones new vision for Europe until December

Juncker wants to find a "new identity" for the EU by the end of this year. [360b/Shutterstock]

EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission will put forward five proposals this semester to forge a “new identity” in time for the December European Council summit, EURACTIV has learned.

On Wednesday (22 February), the College of Commissioners held its first discussion on the future of Europe.

Its contribution to the debate will come in the form of a White Paper to be published “in time for the Rome Summit” on 25 March, EU officials explained. EU leaders will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding Treaty of Rome in the Italian capital.

EU sources added that most likely it would be after the European Council on 9-10 March.

Visions of unity clash in ‘future of EU’ debate

Lawmakers clashed today (14 February) as they sought to brush out a vision for the 27-country bloc after Brexit, opening a breach between those wanting to maintain a united and integrated club and those who prefer moving towards a two or multi-speed Europe.

The Commission’s orientation debate followed the European Parliament’s adoption of three reports on the future of the EU, the deepening of the economic and monetary union and a budget for the eurozone.

A few days after the Bratislava summit, in his state of the EU address on 14 September, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the Commission will set out such a vision for the future in a White Paper in March 2017, in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome”.

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But the document used as the basis for the college discussion yesterday said that the Commission’s White Paper “will make clear that the Rome Summit is not the end of a process but rather the start of a broad reflection on the future of the EU at 27”.

The executive instead believes that the European Council summit scheduled for December will be the culmination of the process

In order to come up with the “first conclusions” on the future of the EU by then, the executive will publish five ‘reflection papers’ this semester.

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The first paper will focus on the social dimension of Europe, together with the proposal for the European Pillar of Social Rights, expected for 26 April.

The second paper will be on how to harness globalisation, foreseen for mid-May, ahead of the G7 (26-27 May) and G20 summits (7-8 July).

The third contribution will follow up on the Five Presidents’ Report on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union, expected for the end of May.

The fourth proposal will reflect on the future of European defence in early June.

By the end of that month, the executive will also release its final contribution on the future of EU finance.

Europe looks beyond March summit to forge vision

The 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty next month is unlikely to be celebrated with a landmark roadmap for future EU integration, as diverging views continue to undermine efforts to forge a common vision.

As EURACTIV reported, the executive does not intend to come up with a solid vision in his White Paper in March. The institution does not want to alienate member states opposing further integration.

Instead, it intends to outline the different scenarios ahead for the future of the European project. The leaders’ Rome Declaration and the five reflection papers would help to forge the “new vision” for the next decade in December.

Juncker’s priority is to “find a new identity” for the EU with 27 members, EU sources explained.

The officials added that his priority is to keep all the 27 member states together.

EU puts ‘ever closer union’ on hold

As the EU prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary, the “ever closer union” principle that underpinned the European project is being put on hold as the bloc struggles to survive its annus horribilis.

The debate on Wednesday was based on three questions about the three main achievements of the EU, the three main challenges and the future of the European project in ten years time.

“If one of the fathers of the European project were beamed from the prison camp on the island of Ventotene to today, which three achievements and strengths of the European Union would he see as the biggest and most unexpected?”, one of the questions said.

Timeline

  • 25 March: Rome summit.