European vision of its future and place of Ukraine: Five scenarios

Author : Ivan Nahorniak

Source :

Under pressure from a number of challenges EU is facing today, even European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged the need to discuss further integration model of the European countries
21:36, 10 April 2017

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On March 25 the EU member states attended the jubilee summit which celebrated 60 years since the Treaty of Rome, which is considered fundamental to the process of integration in Europe.

Under pressure from a number of challenges EU is facing today, even European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged the need to discuss further integration model of the countries on the continent. That is why even on March 1 the Commission presented a White Paper on the future of Europe by 2025.

But instead of the expected single model of future EU paper offers five scenarios of the integration processes. In fact, the European Commission as an institution did not provide its own vision of the optimal changes in integration format between countries to overcome the current crisis.

White Paper and scenarios

Introduction of the document caused controversial reactions in a number of research centers in Europe. According to experts of Carnegie Europe, White Paper revealed two major weaknesses of the European Commission.

"First, the Commission has lost any power and ambition to create its own vision of the future of the EU. It has lost a real sense of confidence that at one time was the driving force behind the integration, chaired by Jacques Delors in the period from 1985 to 1994... Second, five scenarios show a complete lack of strategy in the EU. But Europe does not need a shopping list to order food from the menu. "

The first scenario, called “Carrying on”, concerns the implementation of current reform program, which was presented by the European Commission back in 2014 (New Start) and Bratislava Declaration, which was agreed by 27 Member States in September last year.

Thus Juncker himself agreed that this scenario could exacerbate current conflict between member states, making decisions on important issues such as migration or common foreign and security policy can remain complicated procedure, and their performance – will not meet the expectations.

This scenario would mean a further stay of Ukraine under the "umbrella" of the European Neighborhood Policy which does not include the full integration of such countries with the EU.

At the same time, EU will keep the existing sanctions against Russia, and financial and grant support of Ukraine in the implementation of its Association Agreement.

The second scenario “Nothing but the single market" implies curtailing some parts of the political integration between the member states, but retaining the single European market for goods and services. As noted in the document, this means that differences in positions between the member states will be resolved bilaterally.

Anв surely this decision-making process could become easier to understand, but the ability of states to act collectively could become more limited.

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However, this scenario also brings a number of bigger threats. In particular, its implementation would mean that euro skeptics still managed to impose their own order in the process of integration in Europe, which will certainly give them support on the continent and violate the basic principle of the Treaty of Rome solidarity.

This scenario is most undesirable for Ukraine, as the lack of political cohesion in the EU will lead to the fact that member states will increasingly cooperate with Russia on a bilateral basis and subsequently reduce sanctions. This is likely the first "crack" will appear in the energy sector. Namely, in the construction of pipelines bypassing East European countries such as North or South Stream, which eliminates the idea of the Energy Union.

The third scenario "Those who want more, do more" represents already known idea of "Europe of different speeds", which provides enhanced integration in some areas only between those Member States who want it, while other members are free to join them .

This idea has recently gaining popularity among European politicians. In particular, Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Spain Mariano Rajoy at meeting in Versailles on March 6 supported this idea and confirmed their intention to increase the pace of integration in areas of common interest.

Instead, the leaders of the Visegrad Four (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic), opposed this idea and warn that it will create new dividing lines in Europe and the "exclusive club of states" that in the future will complicate the decision-making process in the EU.

The idea of "Europe of different speeds" is not new, even the current EU structures has elements of this approach. The Lisbon Treaty also contributed to the expansion of cooperation in specific fields between the countries concerned.

This concept conceals a number of threats and opportunities for our country. Firstly, the disputes between "blocks" within the EU could provide additional opportunities for Russia in its efforts to undermine European solidarity.

Ukraine's neighbors, members of the European Union likely will not be in the forefront of integration and, consequently, their role in the EU will decrease, which will certainly affect the difference in the level of financial and political support from the EU of its southern and eastern neighbors - not in favor of the latter.

"Doing less but better" scenario focus the limited EU resources on faster and efficient actions in specific sectors, with less attention paid to areas where common policies will have little added value.

The document stipulates that it is likely to cover areas such as regional development, public health and part of joint labor and social policies that are not directly related to the functioning of the single market.

However, for those areas regulated at EU level, full implementation of the decisions will be ensured. This is particularly common policy in trade, security, migration, defense and border management.

The last scenario "Do more together" includes closer integration between member states in all possible areas, while states continue the process of transferring their powers to the EU level, thus creating a kind of federation.

This scenario certainly would lead to a significant strengthening of EU institutions and expanded the powers of the Commission to regulate the domestic market, foreign and defense policy and migration.

However, recent trends in the political landscape of Europe show that many citizens are increasingly providing their support for populist forces that are skeptical about further integration between countries in its present form. If the present European elite do not listen to them, and choose the latter scenario without making corresponding conclusions, it risks losing support and legitimacy in the eyes of Europeans.

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This scenario would seem to be best for Ukraine in the current situation because it preserves and even increases the possibility of expanding sanctions against Russia and will mean a great level of solidarity and support to Ukraine.

However, the continued threat of various "exits" in the implementation of this scenario carries existential risks for the entire European Union, and therefore to Ukraine.

Is there a time for uncertainty?

The European Council of Foreign Affairs noted that Juncker would change the appearance of the document rhetoric of politicians at the national level, which often accused the EU internal problems.

Moreover, whatever of these scenarios member states would use, any changes in the structure of the integration will go through a long process of negotiation in many European institutions, which will certainly reduce the impact of decisions. If any changes are possible, they would be introduced according to the Schengen model, i.e. regardless of the EU Treaties.

Then, in 1985, the three Benelux countries, along with France and Germany signed a separate agreement, which became a new stage of integration between the countries of Europe, an important element of the single market and an integral part of the "four freedoms".

It should be noted that these five scenarios, in the words of Juncker were created only to begin a discussion about the future of Europe and the Commission in the coming months plans to publish a list of its actions on each of the fields and make a final proposal at the end of this year.

Ukraine today, more than ever is interested in maintaining solidarity in Europe and the united policy of the West against Russian aggression. After Minsk and Normandy format talks included the leaders of France and Germany, and the results of elections in these countries will certainly affect the course of our conflict with Russia.

However, we must recall that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that EU common foreign policy towards Russia, compared with the policy towards China, is on a much better level.

So we should not blame the weakness of the EU position on Russia, because it is unlikely that in the near future it will become stronger, but at least try to avoid the creation of additional problems inside the country.

Much more sober and advantageous action for Ukraine will be using of the process of European integration to modernize the country and strengthen our own institutions instead of mantra to be a part of the EU, the future of which as we can see, is also not so clear.

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