This week, Commission President Juncker presented the White Paper on the Future of Europe. Its possible contents had already been subject of many discussions and speculations in Brussels prior to its publication. He chose the European Parliament to present the five different scenarios for how the EU could evolve in the future to the public for the first time. However, Juncker did not want to be tied down as to which of these scenarios he himself would prefer.
The five scenarios are now open to discussion. They contain almost every possible direction, in which Europe might move until 2025: carrying on as before; restricting the EU to nothing more than the Common Single Market; a Europe of different speeds of integration with a coalition of the willing and a “rest”; focussing on fewer policy fields, but with stronger and more efficient integration and finally, much more integration without lowering one's sights, which might result in the creation of the United States of Europe in the end.
What the Commission thinks of the individual scenarios remains open. Juncker only clearly said that he is not in favour of the second vision: A European Union that only consists of a Common Single Market falls short of its potential. To Juncker Europe is more than just the Euro and a free trade area. In his opinion, Europe also has to have a social dimension. It would now be time for the Commission to listen – to listen to the ideas and expectations of the European Parliament and the national parliaments, the local and the regional municipalities and the civil society. Any dictate from Brussels would only fuel the misguided “Brussels bashing” and the distance of the citizens to European institutions, as Juncker emphasised.
As a next step, the Commission now wants to publish reflection papers on five concrete issues, among those Europe’s social dimension, the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (Report of the five Presidents) and financing the EU. All these are subjects matters, which are attentively followed by the AK and which have already been discussed in the European Parliament. Juncker will present his own ideas in a speech on the State of the Union in September this year.
The European Parliament received Juncker’s proposals with mixed reactions. It remains to be seen whether Juncker’s wish to reach European citizens with the discussion on Europe’s future can be fulfilled. After all it strongly depends on the preferences of the heads of governments of the Member States which scenario will be chosen. They will voice their opinion on 25 March on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Roman Treaties at the latest. France and Germany have already signalled a preference for scenario 3 – a Europe of different speeds. Against the backdrop of the imminent Brexit, one must now also consider and imagine the possible future of the new “Europe of 27”.