Van Rompuy says door open for 'two-speed Europe'

Herman Van Rompuy [President of the European Council/Flickr]
Herman Van Rompuy [President of the European Council/Flickr]

Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, spoke out on the EU's future after Britain's failed attempt to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next President of the European Commission.

“For decades, Europe was known to be about opening. Now, it is perceived as an unwelcome intruder,” the president of the European Council said in a speech on Tuesday.

“We need to get the balance right.”

Opening up to the concerns of member states, Van Rompuy stressed the need to address issues like immigration and social inequality. “Not only business must benefit from the EU, but also employees,” he said. “Not only movers, but also stayers.”

Turning to the euro zone, the Belgian stressed the need for further integration in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis.

But “this doesn’t and shouldn’t upset the original agreement at the heart of the EU, in particular for those member states which have not and will not join the currency union”, he stressed in reference to Britain, opening the door for a ‘two-speed Europe’.

In the conclusions of the European Council, last week (26-27 June), EU leaders adopted soothing words for Britain, saying “the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries”.

“It is the first time we are saying this and we hope it will reassure in particular those in the UK,” Van Rompuy said, referring to the growing split between Britain and the rest of the European Union over the bloc's future direction.

Spitzenkandidaten: ‘pan-European constituency imaginable’

Van Rompuy spoke at a conference organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC) on Tuesday morning (1 July). He also joined a panel with the Hungarian-American business magnate and investor George Soros in Brussels, on Monday (30 June).

In recent weeks, Van Rompuy worked as an intermediary between governments and the EU Parliament on the nomination of the next European Commission president, in the wake of the EU elections. After getting confirmation from EU member states at the European Council meeting last week, the European Parliament now has to validate the choice of the heads of states, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker acted as Spitzenkandidat for Van Rompuy’s own centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) during the election campaign. The Belgian diplomat spoke out against the parties’ initiative several times, however, and EU leaders agreed to review the process once the new Commission is in place.

"It is strange that you don’t have a European constituency,” Van Rompuy said, referring to a pan-European constituency in which ‘presidential candidates’ would run for the EU's top jobs. “One can imagine that for some seats, you’d work with a single European constituency.”

EU elections: message of citizens ‘is clear’

While the pan-European campaign for the past elections evolved around these Spitzenkandidaten, the national elections showed a strong gain for eurosceptic parties in several European member states.

EU pundits have pondered the issue of legitimacy: how to solve the low levels of trust for the EU institutions.

“It seems people today see Europe as a reason they feel powerless and without a say – while our Union was precisely built to make them stronger,” Van Rompuy argued. While the EU was about “opening, liberating, unlocking”, it is now seen as “meddling, judging, dictating”, he added.

"From this perspective, the citizen’s message to the Union is clear: the Union must be stronger outside and more caring [towards its citizens] inside,” he said. “If you can’t deliver in terms of jobs and in terms of living standards, then this minority of euro-negative voices will become much, much bigger.”

The president of the European Council is in his last months on the job. Van Rompuy was elected as first European Council president in November 2009 and his mandate ends in November this year.

European leaders have planned an extraordinary EU summit on 16 July to discuss who will succeed him, as well as who will take on other lead positions.

  • 16 July: European Council meeting to discuss the other lead positions of the European Commission and other European institutions
  • 1 November: Target date for new Commission to take office
  • 1 November: End of mandate of Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.
External links: 

European Council

Think tanks



AR's picture

I am Alberto Rodrigues an economical and digital science researcher in this document i will present one of the bigest mistake Europe Union have been commiting

For the beguning i have to tell you that different companies use more than 10% of their incomes for advertising purpose Europe Union use just 1% of PIB for propaganda and this is done using funds Because of this funds are not used to solve EU priorities problems but for propaganda scopes

Because of this EU use to spread useless funds in different areas which do not bring incomes and profit in very short time and create enough jobs but it help in propaganda issues

Europe Union must stop this and invest with priority all the 1% funds in the economic engine For example if EU will invest with priority in know how transfer which can be combined with special tourists products , money invested monday will create jobs in tourism ,transport ,agriculture , construction ,real estate, commerce ,service ,artesanat ,food industries ,art and entertainment ,ecological industries ,advertising ,new media ,digital economy and dozens of some other domains linked with them

Apart of this those economic activities will help EU to reduce pollution make a better demografic distribuition of the population because like this a big parte of people who are leaving in so crowed cities can move back to the countrysite

Up to know EU had been using founds just for propaganda They spread very litle found everywhere they beleave it will help them to achieve propaganda scopes

The situation is similar with a train which must run in competition with some others but instead to put all the fuel gas in the engines they spread useless it in different parts of the train just to provoke a smell for propaganda issues and because of this the train run slowly just 10 km and then it stop in middle of the road

During this time Eu competitors as they use to put all the fuel gas in the economic engine they arrive fast in the destination and they leave EU so much behind

Eu must use the 1% founds just in economic areas where money invested monday can bring high profit friday ,without consuming resourses producing pollutions ,create a large number of well paid jobs and give possibilities for employes to work from home and like this they can take care of their kids ,give them good education etc

Eurochild's picture

Way to go, Euractiv, completely distorting Van Rompuy's speech, which is actually a very good one that most people in the EU (except Britain) could agree with.

Having actually read it, unlike your headline writer, the small criticism about the “meddling, judging, dictating” is nothing to do with British pseudo "concerns", as is implied in this article, but is clearly more about those in eurozone bailout countries that have had to implement bailout programmes or other heavily indebted countries, such as Italy and France.

Having said that, as a resident of one bailout country and citizen of another, I personally think that it's a very good thing that these countries have been forced to face up to their deep-rooted problems and reform.

This is how Van Rompuy concludes: "From this perspective, the citizen's message to the Union is clear. As the European Council summed it up last week in the conclusions: "The Union must be stronger outside, be more caring inside"."

How does that fit in with the British response to Jean-Claude Juncker's appointment?

I don't think the term "two-speed Europe" is mentioned anywhere in Van Rompuy's speech or the Council conclusions. Moreover, as regards British "concerns", Van Rompuy refers to "those in the United Kingdom who fear an inexorable integration logic (I am not saying it is, but I know the fears are there)."

As he points out, the "fears" don't necessarily reflect a reality.

The problem with Britain is that it doesn't want a "two-speed Europe". It wants to remain on the outside of everything, yet still hectoring and dictating to the rest.

the Englishman's picture

Its not the speed thats the problem its the destination. I do not wish to live in the United states of Europe where all power is held in Brussels which will be dictated to by Germany, Do we really want the British Parliment to be nothing more than a regional council, only capable of passing minor Bye Laws.

an european's picture

As an European i like the United States of Europe which is a way better than selfish interests ! Go for it !

El Pluribus Unum

Emanuele's picture

The Englishman, seriously speaking I don't understand anymore the british nationalism.
You live in a United Kingdom where all power is held in London and dictated by an half-unelected Parliament of Lords (oh dear... in 2014!), accountable only to the City of London and answering to... a Queen (in 2014!!!).
What the hell are you talking about?
The strong impression is that most british people are being deliberatley manipulated so that they express all their furor against the EU, while their problems are just and only self-inflicted, precisely by a British parliament that is all but on the average citizen side.
Facts, not opinions.

Charles_m's picture

Did you get a chance to vote for anyone on the EC? Did you vote for Juncker? As you mention "half-unelected" Parliament maybe you should consider "completely unelected" EC, in particular Juncker, who has the most powerful position in the EU.

Starbuck's picture

Yes I did vote here in Dublin. And for the EPP candidate ... but in my district, Sinn Fein received more votes :)
Jean Claude Juncker was elected. First by our representatives (MEP), then by the head of states and governments, and finally will be by the European Parliament too

a triple legitimacy.
not even that MP from Whitney could pretend more (not elected by his party as leader, and anointed by a monarch !!)

could you please confirm if you elect your Whitehall bureaucrats ? what about your city firemen ? or police officers (not commisioners) ?
did you elect your judges ?

no ? what an authoritarian, illiberal and undemocratic little country you must be living in ... (kidding)

if you must bark, do it at the right tree

Emanuele's picture

Well said. Using exactly the same words of Cameron (and reversing the subject, obviously) "Britons live in a bubble"

non serviam's picture

It is good to know that the EU "Parliament" is as anti-democratic as it gets. Care to tell us something about the next decree of the club, I mean, comission? Oh yeah, DRONES.

Emanuele's picture

Are you serious? Of course I voted for the EP, which indirectly (since the EP must approve the candidate) contribute in co-decision (Lisbon Treaty, signed also by the UK - albeit from the Labour, I concede that) to the nomination of the EC president.
On the contrary, I never had a chance (in good company of all britons) to vote for Mr. Cameron, that apparently arrogates the right to impose (part of) the british view on the entire continent.
Ahh... democratic legitimacy invoked only when it supports a partial point of view, I love it :)

the Englishman's picture

Emanuele. I only have one question for you . What country are you from? I have the courage to state where I'm from and what I'm about. Which is more than can be said about all the Europhiles on this site. Run your flag up the post, if not your not worth speaking to.

Emanuele's picture

You still don't get the point: it is fundamentally wrong to hide behind a flag. This is exactly what I am contesting you. Nationalism is the last refuge of small minds, and it was ALWAYS exploited by smart politicians to push their personal agenda. There is nothing to be proud, there.
But since you ask, I give you an hint: there is only one country where my name is spelled exactly like that. Just Google it...

Charles_m's picture

Euro Federalists only want to replace the current nation states with "European" nationalism, hiding as you put it behind the 12 star flag. All the federalists on this site talk about a super european state, which can stand up against the USA, China, BRICS, etc etc.
If that's not nationalism by a different name I don't know what is.

A Londoner's picture

"The EU was built peacefully by democratic countries so it is morally superior to the nation states which pre-existed. Whilst waving the EU flag may look the same as old-fashioned nationalism it is different."

It is the only way to explain their peculiar views.

an european's picture

Yes and No ! That's s not nationalism but a Unit and Yes a Unit can be considered as a strong Nation again!
Same applies to the U.S.A or U.K. even Canada !

El Pluribus Unum

an european's picture

Yes and No ! That's s not nationalism but a Unit and Yes a Unit can be considered as a strong Nation again!
Same applies to the U.S.A or U.K. even Canada !

El Pluribus Unum

an european's picture

of course we need a 2speed Europe ! The one of the Core-Zone and the other of the wuthout the Eurozone !
the Core zone with the single Currency like Sterling punt should be financially more than pan-european!
Concerning the thrust from british ultra-nationalists ukippers i would advice one real United Europe President directly elected despite England in or out (later) which of course Scotland plays (now im september) a greater rules again on England's funny colonial behavior .

AR's picture

I am Alberto Rodrigues an economical and digital science researcher In this comment i will present you another big mistake EU had been commiting Since 2009 instead to do what must be done in order to get billions euro from digital economy ,know how transfer events which can be combined with special tourists products ,present investors business opportunities which bring more than 25% in less than 75 days ,we have a so stupid situation similar with that when Cristiano Ronaldo have a pain in his leg and the doctor instead to treat him well he will ordened to cut him his leg and then send him to play against Messi This is what EU had been doing since 2009 instead to give a recommendation to all 28 countries to do what must be done to dinamisize at least 5 external sources of income ,digital economy , they had been ordered to cut salaries ,dismiss people ,and mutilate the economy etc

an european's picture

@ virtual science researcher !

I am an european from europe living in the E.U. !

Perhaps for you Europe is doing mistakes only ??!!
Aren't you one from ECR or Kips or ?

Finally IF Lehman Bro's didn't fail as well the U.S. Bubble gum then the European Union didn't get big mistakes at all !
Obviously you're the one knowing to forget this since all shit happens in 2008 !

GeorgeMc's picture

You may disagree with ar but at least the posts are in English. 90% of your posts are incomprehensible. You are also confused as you are French. No such thing as a European, a totally meaningless term.

an european's picture

if you understand me that in this context i agree with AR then it's me as long as wide what you're reproaching me about my non-BRitish special language....

an european's picture

@Mr. GeorgeMC
About your "No such thing as a European, a totally meaningless term"
Well - what about a totally meaningless Brits ?
British is a totally meaningless nonsense term too since the British Union consists of 4 countries and identities !
Don't forget to remember that Scotland and the others have still their own national Flag !
Obviously this must be incomprehensible for you again !
Don't be confused ! Say simply honestly : You don't like my posts because I'm an European citizens !
Honestly if you think i'm french ..but not !
However i could but I'm not judging nor blaming you !

GeorgeMc's picture

I suggest you read up on some British history before spouting rubbish. The union with England came about with the agreement of the then Scottish parliament. You quickly forget how close you were to speaking another language

Gerry's picture

Funny how terms and definitions change. First a two speed Europe was about the economies of the northern and southern countries, now all the sudden it's about the UK. I suppose when only one country wants to stay out it's not as bad as having a fracture running right through the middle. But all this hushing and soothing talk, all this sharing out of sweets to the party with the bruised face and black eye, it won't convince them, the only road prepared in the UK is the way out. And they will keep on calling names and abusive language all the way to the end. The division between north and south is miraculously closing though, and the best approaches and ideas are presently coming from precisely those countries. Things are looking good, and getting better.

A Londoner's picture

@George Mc
My impression is that there is a group of young educated people on the continent who view themselves as "European" and I think the spread of the use of English is helping that feeling. It is an elite but since India is held together by an elite I can see the theoretical possibility of a US of Europe emerging. If India can be a political unit so can Europe. So let them dream.

My criticisms would be firstly that they are centuries away from that. The EU Parliament may give itself airs and graces and has gained some more power but despite that, the money and real power lies with the Nations. Secondly given that referenda on the Constitution were lost in France and the Netherlands I see little appetite for more euro-federalism.

Euro-federalism is something to frighten the children with but as long we are outside the euro it is nothing to lose sleep over. By all means have contingency plans for exit in case they should be needed but there is no hurry. Ignore their flags and anthem and keep focusing on the money !

I think the real problem lies elsewhere and is the deep mistrust by many ordinary Brits of their political elite. It is partly related to immigration but it is also related to the absence of referenda over the Maastrict and Lisbon Treaties. We need a UK national debate on the EU but how we should vote is another matter.

an european's picture

@Dear A Londoner

Due to the importance how the strenghtening powerfull Countries to Unit an U.S.A example to do it - then i am reffereing to Alexander Hamilton how undemocratic he was ! Not ?
See the U.S.A today !
Today we don't blame !
You say: "Ignore their flags and anthem and keep focusing on the money"
OH please if you think the british Union is not behaving at that same matter !
I still could say that the song "God save the King" as the Union Jack Flag isn't legitimate whilst Scots were stabbed and highly repressed under english influence during revolts !
No ! I think Our 12 Stars Flag and it's Anthem "Ode To Joy " IS legitimate for that long period of peace we didn't fight each other as it was during WW2 !
Remembering the WW2 remembers me at the same time the holy Roman Empire where Citizens didn't fight each other during three centuries !!
This suggest me an advice for an European Republic again!
Thankyou !

El Pluribus Unum

GeorgeMc's picture

I am sympathetic with a lot of what you say. I however don't really buy your explanation on the definition of a European. Good try though.

an european's picture

Clearly said that long ago i didn't bought any explanation from anti-europeans !
Maybe soon ( which I hope tremendiously ) you won't have nothing more to post here about my apparently "english-killer" language....

Content Partners