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Policy Brief

One size does not fit all: European integration by differentiation

The need for reform of the EU is increasingly urgent. The authors of this policy brief suggest a new governance model, combining a bare-bones EU with a 'Europe of clubs'. Such reform would offer scope for broad membership without stalling the process of integration for those that wish to pursue it.

By: , , , and Date: September 19, 2018 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

THE ISSUE

Reforming the governance of the European Union has become urgent for three reasons: to better deal with politically-sensitive topics, to manage greater external challenges and because future EU enlargement will increase the diversity of the bloc’s membership. The answer to disagreement typically has been qualified majority voting, but on sensitive topics, the EU has increasingly moved to unanimity and heavy European Council involvement, which has often not delivered results. The alternative answer has been a Europe of multiple speeds of integration with one shared goal for all, increasing political tensions. A different approach is now needed to move Europe forward.

POLICY CHALLENGE

Two options would be a Europe of concentric circles and a Europe of ‘clubs’, but the former would cement tensions between the inner and the outer circles, while the latter would lead to unclear structures and an end to cohesion. However, a governance model could combine the two approaches. The model would be based on a strong ‘bare-bones EU’ formed by the single market, trade and accompanying policies, the European institutions, treaties, rule of law and a commitment to fundamental EU values. Three policy areas would be completely moved into ‘clubs’ while remaining based on the bare-bones legal and institutional structure: economic and monetary union; Schengen and asylum policy; and foreign and security policy and neighbourhood policy. Club membership would be optional but once in, countries would have to accept the rules and there would be high hurdles to leaving. Finally, a ring of friends would surround the bare-bones EU, based on very close economic relationships and some multilateral discussion elements, but no formal votes.

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Upcoming Event

Oct
23
12:30

Europe: Back to the future of a political project

This event will feature a discussion on different ideas for reforming European Governance.

Speakers: Ulrike Guerot, Adriaan Schout and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
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Blog Post

Improving the efficiency and legitimacy of the EU: A bottom-up approach

The 2019 European elections promise to be a watershed moment for the EU. A recent Bruegel paper made the case for restructuring the Union’s model of governance and integration. The authors of this post critically assess this proposed institutional engineering, and argue for the principle of “an ever closer union” to be safeguarded by a bottom-up approach to respond to the common needs of the citizens.

By: Silvia Merler, Simone Tagliapietra and Alessio Terzi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 9, 2018
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Director’s Cut: The Italian government budget proposal for 2019

Guntram Wolff welcomes Bruegel affiliate fellow Silvia Merler to evaluate the Italian government’s planned budget for 2019, in this Director’s Cut of ‘The Sound of Economics’

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 28, 2018
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The EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework and some implications for CESEE countries

Bruegel scholars Zsolt Darvas and Guntram Wolff contributed to the September 2018 edition of the OeNB's Focus on European Economic Integration.

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By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 11, 2018
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Is the time for refining recommendations and for a serious political debate on how best to overcome bottlenecks and improve the economic prospects of Italians.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 4, 2018
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By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 5, 2018
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Griechenland braucht einen Neuanfang

This was first published by Die Zeit. Acht Jahre nach Beginn des ersten Hilfsprogramms für Griechenland ist es soweit – Griechenland soll wieder auf eigenen Füßen stehen. Die Eurogruppe soll heute das Ende des dritten Hilfsprogramms beschließen und die Modalitäten für die Zeit danach definieren. Ziel sollte es jetzt sein, einen tragfähigen Ausstieg aus dieser für alle Seiten […]

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 3, 2018
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