The ‘Future of Europe’ discussion: Now is the Moment to Act!

The discussion about the future of the EU cooperation has started. We can refer to the Bratislava declaration of 16 September 2016 and the Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017.

As to the contents of the future of EU politics, the Juncker proposals are on the table since the beginning of March. The Commission’s ‘White Paper on the Future of Europe’ contains five scenarios, offering options for ‘more or less’ Europe and models of differentiated integration.

As regards the follow-up of the White Paper proposals, Juncker foresees discussions between and in the Member States in the course of this year, some first conclusions by the European Council in December, a continuing debate in 2018 and final conclusions –only– in mid-2019, more or less in parallel with the European Parliament elections of June that year.

However, one wonders whether it is not advisable to speed up this process. Indeed, it seems that now is the right moment to act!

After the recent French Presidential elections, the Élysée is inhabited by a Europe supporter, Emmanuel Macron. The parliamentary elections of June may reinforce his position.

Obviously, the outcome of the German elections in September is equally important. However, with regard to the degree of support for EU cooperation there will not be that much of a difference between CDU/CSU and SDP. Both parties are in favour.

On the other hand, we are confronted with an unpredictable Russian President Putin at our Eastern borders and an impulsive US President Trump in the White House. Furthermore, there is a lot of turmoil at our external borders (Russia/Ukraine, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Turkey and Northern Africa, with a special reference to Libya).

Moreover, at the Taormina G7 Summit of 26/27 May at least the European partners were in full agreement regarding the most crucial challenges of our time, such as climate change, migration, innovation, trade and foreign policy.

One should say, enough arguments to join forces on fundamental issues, at least for those who want to join in that exercise!

So, why not try to come to conclusions already in the European Council of 14-15 December this year or, at the latest, mid 2018? In fact, there are no compelling reasons to wait, as Juncker has proposed, until mid-2019.

The –surprising– outcome of the British elections of 8 June doesn’t change that scenario. On the contrary, an accelerated programming of the ‘Future of Europe’ discussion between the 27 can have a positive impact on Brexit. Once closer cooperation on crucial topics being agreed within the group of 27, you never know where such a development might lead to …

Jaap de Zwaan

TEPSA Secretary-General