The Commission has issued a White Paper ahead of the summit in Rome on 25 March celebrating the 60th anniversary of the EU. It presents five scenarios for how the EU could evolve by 2025 depending on how it chooses to respond to the current challenges and opportunities.
"60 years ago, Europe's founding fathers chose to unite the continent with the force of the law rather than with armed forces. We can be proud of what we have achieved since then. Our darkest day in 2017 will still be far brighter than any spent by our forefathers on the battlefield,” the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on 1 March.
“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future. We have Europe's future in our own hands."
The White Paper looks at how Europe will change in the next decade, from the impact of new technologies on society and jobs, to doubts about globalisation, security concerns and the rise of populism. It spells out the choice Europe faces: being swept along by those trends, or embracing them and seizing the new opportunities they bring.
Europe's population and economic weight is falling as other parts of the world grow. By 2060, none of the Member States will account for even 1% of the world's population – a compelling reason for sticking together to achieve more, the Commission says.
At lot is at stake. Despite social gaps and the threat of terrorist attacks, Europe is still home to the most equal and peaceful societies in the world. The latest opinion polls show that a majority sees EU as place of stability and supports the EU “four freedoms” (free movement of workers, services, goods and capital).
A positive global force, Europe's prosperity will continue to depend on its openness and strong links with its partners, according to the Commission.
The five scenarios cover a range of possibilities and are illustrative in nature to “provoke thinking”. They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive. “Too often, the discussion on Europe’s future has been boiled down to a binary choice between more or less Europe. That approach is misleading and simplistic.”
What seems to be missing is a discussion about changes in EU’s decision making process to increase its legitimacy and citizens’ trust in EU. The scenarios “deliberately make no mention of legal or institutional processes – the form will follow the function.”
Scenario 1: Carrying On - The EU27 (after Brexit and assuming that there won’t be more exits) focuses on delivering a positive reform agenda as outlined in previous documents and decisions.
Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas.
Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters.
Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently - The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value.
Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced.
The White Paper marks the beginning of a process for the EU27 to decide on the future of the EU. To encourage the debate, the European Commission, together with the European Parliament and interested Member States, will host a series of 'Future of Europe Debates' across Europe's cities and regions.
In doing so, the White Paper states that the Commission starts a debate that should help focus minds and find new answers to an old question: “What future do we want for ourselves, for our children and for our Union?”
Among others the Commission will in the coming months publish a number of reflection papers on EU’s social policy, defence and finances. This will help to decide on a course of action to be rolled out in time for the European Parliament elections in June 2019.
The Brussels Times (Source: European Commission)