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.
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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.