The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? – Enhanced co-operation in the Constitutional

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This paper by Brendan Donnelly  and
Anthony Dawes  evaluates the changes made in
the field of ‘enhanced co-operation’ by the Constitutional Treaty
and considers whether and to what extent the political will exists
in Europe to take advantage of the new possibilities created by the
Treaty. 

Introduction (taken word for word from the
paper)

At the heart of any discussion on ‘enhanced co-operation’ lies a
political divide over how differentiated integration can best be
achieved within the EU. In a sometimes confused and imprecise
debate, three main approaches can be discerned, a multi-speed
Europe, an ‘à la carte Europe’ and a Europe based on ‘variable
geometry’. The first two approaches can be regarded as opposite
extremes of the argument, with the more ambiguous ‘variable
geometry’ as a middle ground between. Unsurprisingly, the
Constitutional Treaty contains elements of all three
approaches. 

The multi-speed approach generally contends that European
integration should be driven forward by a ‘core’ group of member
states, allowing those who are unable or unwilling to participate
to remain outside the development of an existing or the adoption of
a new policy area for the time being. The hope and indeed
expectation is that they will join at a later date. This approach
would seek at least in theory to preserve the unity of the European
project: differentiated integration is allowed to exist
temporarily, with the long-term aim that all member states will
eventually participate in all European policy areas. By contrast,
the model of ‘variable geometry’ explicitly recognises that there
may be substantial differences between the levels of integration
desired by individual member states. This in its turn may lead to
long- term or potentially permanent separation between the ‘core
group’ and other member states. Finally, the ‘à la carte’ approach
would allow each member state considerable latitude to pick and
choose the policy areas in which it wants to participate. All
member states would be part of a core common trading zone and then
be allowed to choose the subject areas (such as social policy,
monetary policy or defence policy) in which they wished to be
represented.

Ironically, there are in all three camps (particularly
‘multi-speed’ and ‘variable geometry’) both eurosceptics and those
favouring deeper European integration. There are, for instance,
integrationists who are in favour of a multi-speed Europe and want
to use enhanced co- operation to accelerate the process of
unification, bypassing states that are unwilling or unable to go
forward. For them the phrase ‘two-speed Europe’ implies a common
destination which all states will achieve, with some leading the
way and others following later. By contrast, other supporters of a
multi-speed Europe see it as an opportunity to slow or halt the
‘federal’ momentum. They are willing to allow other states to move
ahead, so long as they do not have to participate in the relevant
policy area, at least in the short and probably in the long-term.
‘Variable geometry’ evokes similarly contradictory reactions. Some
integrationists fear that it will become a justification for
creating a ‘hard core’ inner circle, from which non- participants
will be permanently excluded. Others regard ‘variable geometry’ as
an inevitability which now needs to be accepted. Finally there are
at least some eurosceptics who regard any form of differentiated
integration as only a temporary pause in the dangerous process of
creating a European superstate. 

It is against the background of these varying assessments that
this Briefing will evaluate the changes made in the field of
‘enhanced co-operation’ by the Constitutional Treaty. The Briefing
will conclude by considering whether and to what extent the
political will exists in Europe to take advantage of the new
possibilities created by the Treaty. 

Click here  to read this European Policy Brief,
co-authored by Brendan Donnelly
and Anthony Dawes of the Federal Trust, in
full.

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