two-speed-europe

AGAINST a two-speed Europe

FOR a two-speed Europe

1. PERPETUATING DIVISIONS

Dividing nations into first- or second-class members runs counter to the founding ideals of the European Union. Large or small, rich or poor member states should be equal under the treaty. Two-speed Europe would create rival blocs and perpetuate divisions that harm “ins” and “outs” alike. Kick southern Europe out of the euro-zone and competitive devaluations will hit northern exports. Introduce a euro-zone financial transaction tax and watch capital fly to the City of London.

1. CORE VALUES

The speed of the convoy, we are told, is dictated by the slowest ship. This cliché has held back progress in Europe for far too long. Without British opposition France and Germany could have created a stronger union years ago. Let those that want true political and economic integration forge ahead unfettered by the skeptics on the sidelines. Outsiders can always stay linked though the single market, but without the power to prevent greater unity in the core.

2. UNDERMINING SOLIDARITY

Two-speed Europe would mean France and Germany set the rules while the rest play catch-up. Countries outside the core will feel marginalized and mistrustful of decisions made over their heads – witness Poland’s anxiety to a seat in euro-zone summits. The core will fear outliers undercut them by dodging tax, environment or social commitments. Tuning Europe into a patchwork of coalitions of the willing will ultimately destroy the Union.

2. RECOGNISING REALITY

Multispeed Europe already works in the EU’s most important policies. Ten EU nations are outside the euro-zone. Britain and Ireland are happy beyond Schengen’s borders. Denmark shuns Europe’s Common Security and Defence policy. The Poles joined the Brits in opting out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights while the Czechs keep them company outside the new Fiscal Compact. Institutionalizing a multispeed Europe would merely recognise a reality that works.

3. TOO COMPLEX

The EU’s decision-making architecture is complicated enough. Adapting its structures to accommodate blocs within the bloc will create institutional gridlock. Look at the confusion among the overlapping and interlocking bodies dealing with the euro. British insistence on keeping the fiscal compact out of the formal EU framework has raised a slew of legal headaches that would be multiplied if the multispeed Europe concept is expanded.

3. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

You can’t squeeze all EU nations into the same policy framework. The German and Greek economies do not move at the same speed, so nor should their economic policies. A multispeed Europe would be adaptable to members’ specific problems. If Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy were not locked into a German-designed straight-jacket of euro rules they could have devaluated their way out of the crisis long ago.

4. BUILDING IN WEAKNESSES

Creating new divisions in the Union will build in weaknesses and rigidities. Once member states are placed in one or another mini-group, new barriers and rules will make it hard to get out. So who goes into which group? Celtic Tiger Ireland would have been a shoo-in for any EU economic first division but by 2010 that would have looked like a big mistake. Last autumn, Berlusconi’s Italy was a candidate for relegation from the euro-zone premier league. Now everybody wants to have Mario Monti on their side. As José Manuel Barroso would say: the EU “swims together or it sinks together.”

4. FAST, FLEXIBLE AND MORE EFFICIENT

Getting all 27 members to agree on policies quickly is near impossible. By allowing like-minded nations to push ahead waiting for everybody to climb on board, a two-speed Europe would give the EU the flexibility it needs to deal swiftly and decisive with economic and political crises. Think how much time and energy could have been saved if small nations that reject EU treaties could be quietly parked in the Union’s second-class waiting room.