European Council President Donald Tusk considers the proposal made to deepen the EU project at various speeds a warning, as unity should be the utmost priority after Brexit.
Tusk believes that if a new baby is to be born in Rome, it should be “unity” instead of “multi-speed”, a senior EU official told reporters on 6 March, referring to the Rome Summit to be held later this month.
Last September, the bloc expected to renew its vision for the post-Brexit Europe.
Instead, the future of Europe debate would take longer as EU member states disagree on how to overcome the “existential crisis” the European project is facing.
Tusk will chair the discussion on the future of Europe on Friday (10 March) with all the EU leaders, except Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May.
On Thursday (9 March), the EU 28 heads of state and government will convene for the spring European Council in Brussels. The state of the European economy, the launching of the enhanced cooperation for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Western Balkans will be on the agenda.
The debate on the future of Europe gained momentum after the publication of the European Commission’s white paper on this issue. The Commission included five possible scenarios.
Following a meeting in Versailles (France) on Monday, the leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Italy backed the idea of a ‘multi-speed’ Europe.
According to this option, national governments that want to move faster would do so without affecting the others, by building a more structured set-up, open to everyone.
But the details and implications of the ‘two-speed’ Europe remain vague.
In his letter to the EU leaders before the Valletta summit in January, Tusk said that EU leaders should renew “the declaration of faith” in the “deeper purpose of integration”
But a senior EU official insisted on Tuesday (7 March) that the European Council President believes that the “key message” should be “unity”.
The former Polish prime minister supports using the possibilities of the enhanced cooperation instrument within the existing treaties.
Bu the same official noted that he is against the “spirit” of the current debate, in which the “multi-speed” Europe implied excluding some member states of the integration process.
This option would be a “warning” he added.
Tusk’s thinking is in line with the Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia).
These countries, the most reluctant to deepen the EU integration, emphasised after the publication of the white paper that “EU’s unity is of vital importance and should always be the starting point of our approach”.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker is also aware of the Central and Eastern partners’ concerns about becoming second-class citizens.
Even though Juncker initially supported a multi-speed Europe, senior EU sources commented that he would argue in favour of “more Europe” in his state of the EU address in September.
In the months to come, all eyes will be on Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the Versailles meeting that a multi-speed Europe was “necessary”.
“We should have the courage to allow some countries to move ahead, to advance more quickly than others. Cooperation can be kept open to those that have fallen behind,” Merkel said.
But German officials told euractiv.com that unity must be part of the formula. Otherwise, the EU would fall apart.
The general elections to be held in Germany in September could affect Merkel’s willingness to speak up about her vision for Europe, as the economic and monetary union integration remains a controversial issue in her country.