FROM THE “WHITE PAPER” ON THE FUTURE OF EUROPE TO THE EUROPEAN MINI-SUMMIT IN VERSAILLES
President Hollande did not mince his words. “Europe will explode,” he warned, if the idea of a two-speed Europe is not accepted.
He was referring to what is diplomatically called “multi-speed Europe” where core countries go forward with European integration in areas they agree on, leaving dissenters behind – not a particularly new idea, after all, that was how the Eurozone and the Schengen area (dispensing with border controls) were born in the 1990s.
There has been, over the years, considerable debate and pushback against the idea of a multi-speed Europe, seen as going counter to the “core values of the Union”. But, increasingly, it is viewed as the only realistic way to move forward, abandoning the unattainable ideal (for now) of a United States of Europe and moving instead to a practical “Europe à la carte”, where each EU member gets what he wants at his own pace.
What is different this time is Hollande’s insistence that core countries should not be prevented from moving forward by other EU members. He further elaborated this at the “mini-summit” he hosted in the lavish Versailles palace on March 6, with his three guests, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Italy Paolo Gentiloni, and Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy.
In the Photo: In the Main entrance to the Chateau de Versailles, Grille d’honneur – Photo Credit: Ronaldieya
While the immediate pretext for the Versailles mini-summit was to prepare the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Union to be held in Rome on March 25 with all 27 EU members (with the UK already excluded), there were two other things far more notable about this event:
- the inclusion of two more countries, Italy and Spain, a suggestion that the famous German-French duo that has historically guided the EU was about to expand, and
- the message that a “multi-speed” Europe had a backing of all four countries that together form the economic lead of the Union.
Expect this last fact to be reflected in the “Rome Declaration” to be adopted by the 27 EU leaders in Rome on 25 March.
So what did Hollande and his three guests say at the Versailles press conference?
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