EU at 60: ‘Europe is our common future’

We’re still all not singing off the same hymnsheet yet

 

Neither Brexit nor Trump are mentioned explicitly. But the declaration from EU leaders at today’s EU 60th anniversary summit in Rome, and indeed the summit itself, is a direct reply and all about them.

Both a confident repudiation of their values and an affirmation that the project launched 60 years ago still has legs, and is still crucial to the acknowledged “unprecedented challenges” – internal and external, almost existential – that the union faces. At Berlin ten years ago challenges were just “major”...

“Europe is our common future,” the leaders of the 27 states committed to remain in the EU will say this evening. (Theresa May is staying away).

There’s no mention of anyone leaving, but, they warn more in sorrow than anger with the UK clearly in their sights, that “unity is both a necessity and our free choice.Taken individually we would be sidelined by global dynamics. Standing together is our best chance to influence them , and to defend our common interests and values.” It’s cold out there Captain Oates!

The vision for the future development and integration of the EU is of a multi-speed architecture – no question of treaty changes, the Irish will be pleased to confirm

An allusion to the dangers of protectionism is also swipe at both London and the US president. And the declaration recommits the EU to “a positive global climate policy” just days before Trump is expected to announce his intention to dismantle Obama’s important climate change efforts.

It also speaks pointedly of a Union “engaged in the United Nations and standing for a rules-based multilateral system” at a time when the US leadership appears to be intent on repudiating the whole idea of multilateralism.

The vision for the future development and integration of the EU is of a multi-speed architecture – no question of treaty changes, the Irish will be pleased to confirm – that allows the “willing” to move ahead in some policy areas – to “act together whenever possible, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction, as we have done in the past in line with the treaties and leaving the door open to those who want to join later ...”

The formula, from one of the final declaration drafts, but likely to achieve consensus, is a difficult one for some member states like the Poles who worry about the emergence of permanent inner and outer cores, first- and second-class membership.

“We cannot accept any announcements of a two-speed Europe,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of governing eurosceptic Law and Justice Party (PiS), said earlier this week.”This would mean either pushing us out of the European Union or downgrading us to an inferior category of members.” But the difference between a “two-speed” and a “multi-speed” EU is crucial.

The sub-text of other standard declaration language on EU commitments to the “rule of law” and “solidarity” may also cause some embarrassment in Warsaw – the former might be seen to allude to Brussels protests at the Poles’ erosion of democratic right, while “solidarity” is used to describe what is seen as the mutual obligation to share the burden of refugee migrants. Not for us, the Poles say.

At 60 we’re still all not singing off the same hymnsheet yet.

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