Differentiate or bust: Europe’s future is multi-speed and multi-tier

IS EUROPE READY to embrace a new model built around not sameness but difference? Although the recent commission white paper and several national leaders have come out for a multi-speed Europe, they really have in mind a way for small groups of countries to go forward in such areas as defence or taxation, without having to wait for all, using the treaty’s tools that allow enhanced co-operation. A true multi-speed, multi-tier Europe would be far more ambitious. Yet the troubles of the EU may seem to many quite enough to worry about without having to rethink the structure of their project.

That is certainly the message coming from national capitals and Brussels. Asked about how euro and non-euro countries will co-exist in future, one senior official in Paris notes that, after Brexit, nearly 90% of the union’s GDP will be generated by the euro zone. Others say all non-members except Denmark will join the euro within five years. The rows over asylum-seekers between east and west will similarly end, says a Eurocrat in Brussels, because central Europe gains so much from the EU. Brexit will hurt Britain more than its partners. And ideas for more variable geometry, such as the “continental partnerships” touted by Bruegel, are “suitable for think-tanks”, as another senior official (this time in Berlin) puts it, not to be taken seriously.


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