The European Commission has identified opponents to its flagship initiatives in an internal document assessing the feasibility of bringing forward its proposals to “reunite Europe” in the aftermath of Brexit.
During his State of the Union address, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament plenary session that the next twelve months “are the crucial time to deliver a better Europe”.
But the path towards a post-Brexit Europe may not be so obscure, at least for the European Commission.
The EU executive has indeed prepared a “secret” bubble chart to assess the level of support for some of its flagship projects to deepen European integration.
Although the Commission always avoids naming countries in favour or against its proposals, the document represents a detailed picture of member states backing for all the major EU reforms on the table.
The graphic, seen by EURACTIV.com, includes proposals already on the table such as the European Border and Coast Guard meant to police Europe’s external borders and the European Deposit Insurance Scheme, a cornerstone of the Banking Union.
But it also includes other ideas to come in the next few months, including a fiscal capacity for the economic and monetary union, or alternatives seen as too federalist, like an EU-wide constituency for the European Parliament elections, only supported by Italy and Belgium, according to the executive.
As part of his offensive to deepen EU integration, Juncker unveiled proposals to bolster the existing investment plan, reform the telecom sector, and relaunch the Capital Markets Union.
But the Commission is very much aware of the difficulties to progress on far-reaching proposals seen as key to protect Europe against future crises, such as a new fund to support countries during a severe recession or a truly European Defense system.
“Never before have I seen such little common ground between our member states,” Juncker told the Parliament’s plenary session.
The reasons are the rise of populist forces across Europe, or the slowdown in the Franco-German engine, which is partly due to the general elections to be held next year.
Who cares about Britain?
Though the new impulse to reunite Europe is a direct response to Brexit, the Commission has not considered including Britain in its document to sound out what London’s views are on some of the upcoming reforms the bloc will implement.
Senior EU officials however expect Britain to remain in the EU at least until the end of this Commission in 2019, saying the exit talks will be a “long, cumbersome process”.
In favor of more integration
Among initiatives to deepen so-called shared competences between the EU and its member states, the executive also listed plans which require a lighter regulatory approach, such as the European Border and Coast Guard (supported by France, Austria, Romania, The Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Italy, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Hungary) and the fight against terrorism (France, Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Romania, Malta, The Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Cyprus).
However, the European Commission finds it more difficult to drum up support for more complex proposals to bolster EU competences. Only the proposal to reform labour mobility rules and the Common European Asylum System get the support of at least one-third of member states, according to the internal memo.
But these two pieces of legislation are also questioned by a large group of countries.
The Common European Asylum System is strongly opposed by half a dozen Eastern and Baltic states, despite the need for common asylum rules illustrated by the unfolding refugee crisis.
A larger group of Eastern and Baltic countries also contest the reform of labour mobility rules, aimed at ending social dumping between EU countries, as Juncker told MEPs during his speech.
Meanwhile, the Commission also identified a robust group formed by Germany, the Netherlands and Finland against a European Deposit Insurance Scheme. At the same time, this same group supports more European coordination of economic reforms implemented at national level and shifting the EU’s long-term budget towards new priorities.
In its chart, the executive identified Hungary and Poland as the two countries leading the fight to renationalise competences transferred to Brussels or to give a bigger say to national parliaments or the European Council, the EU institution representing the 28 EU member states.
The EU leaders summit on Friday (16 September) in Bratislava will serve as a test for the balance of power between countries in favour of more integration and those nations dragging their feet to deepen the EU.
Slovakia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic (the so-called Visegrad Group) are expected to put forward a common position calling for a renationalisation of EU policies.
- 16 September: European summit in Bratislava on the future of the EU