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Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise

22 février 2017 : Relancer l'Europe : Retrouver l'esprit de Rome - version anglaise ( rapport d'information )


This approach has proved successful throughout the history of the building of Europe. It is a pragmatic approach which should boost the relaunching of the European project.

1. An approach which has proved successful

Introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, enhanced cooperation should lead to certain Member States to advance more rapidly in certain areas, without relying on the will of their most reluctant partners. It means that Member States no longer move forward at the same pace and nor do they share the same policies. There are two strong arguments in favour of this option:

- it makes it possible to overcome the rule of unanimity voting which can impede progress, in particular in the legal domain;

- enhanced cooperation can also have a real knock-on benefits when successful, Member States experience an action which can then be extended to the whole of the European Union.

- enhanced cooperation can be envisaged as a response to the political slowdown relating to enlargement and to the concomitant difficulties involved in reaching a consensus. It takes into account the differences in approach and pace surrounding the strengthening of the European Union. It has hardly surprising that its use was clarified by the Treaties of Nice (2000) and later Lisbon (2009) given that the European Union is gradually integrating 13 new Member States.

Articles 43 to 45 of the Treaty on the European Union and Articles 326 to 334 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, revised at the time of the Treaty of Lisbon, detailing the implementation arrangements for enhanced cooperation. The authors of the Treaty of Lisbon wanted to facilitate the use of this measure, which can be applied to all the domains of European action, provided that at least nine Member States participate. Permission to proceed with enhanced cooperation is granted by the Council of Ministers, which shall take a decision by qualified majority on the proposal of the Commission and after obtaining approval by the European Parliament. In the area of foreign and security policy, permission is granted by the Council of Ministers acting unanimously. The Commission and the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation are encouraging as many Member States as possible to become part of this cooperation, however only participating Member States can adopt acts.

Three forms of enhanced cooperation have been implemented since the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon:

- 14 Member States, including France, agreed in July 2010 on common rules concerning the applicable law on divorce for couples of different nationalities;

- 26 Member States - not involving Spain or Italy - implemented an enhanced cooperation in March 2011 on a European Union patent, 25 Member States were present;

- 11 Member States including France, also launched, in January 2013, an enhanced cooperation on the introduction of a tax on financial transactions, the measure has still not been adopted.

The introduction of enhanced cooperation in the European legal framework is not a brand new idea. The logic of differentiation has been in place since the implementation of the European Monetary System (1979) and later the Schengen area (1985), neither of which include the full complement of Member States. Even then, the supporters of these entities focused at first on the spin-off effect they might have19(*). It is also worth remembering the exemptions obtained by certain Member States in several domains: the United Kingdom in social matters, Denmark in regard to foreign and security policy, citizenship and justice and home affairs. Neither of the two countries joined the euro zone20(*). Poland, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom, also benefit from an exemption regarding the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon. Recently, the signing of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG - 2013) did not include all Member States, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic rejected the strengthening of budgetary surveillance of Member States.

2. A pragmatic approach for relaunching the European project

The use of forms of enhanced cooperation relates to the question of the Europe of circles or multi-speed Europe, as part of the reflection on the deepening of the building of Europe over almost twenty years. The success of this measure may appear modest in regard to the number of cooperation measures implemented.

There is no doubt that the Franco-German partnership is a core element able to test out new approaches so that Member States are then able to respond to challenges which they cannot face alone, but it cannot provide the vision for the relaunch and strengthening of the European Union alone. What is needed is to combine all the available «good will» and guarantee a genuine knock-on effect. Under these conditions, enhanced cooperation can act as a framework which can demonstrate the reaction capability of Member States, united in the face of crises of all kinds - financial, economic, military, migratory - and highlight, to the general public, the added value of common action in this area.

The euro zone could be a close circle which implements enhanced cooperation. The convergence of tax systems and social convergence could also be part of such an approach. Further development of the internal market is also a suitable area for enhanced cooperation, in the areas of energy and digital technology. Education - the Bologna Process has proved the effectiveness of an initiative started between States - is still an area with scope for application, in particular in terms of apprenticeships (see below). The question of defence, essentially via the question of resources, could also benefit from such harmonisation.

Whatever the area of action, enhanced cooperation appears in any event to be destined for success, as long as it reflects the interests of European action and ultimately appeals to those initially reluctant Member States. They carry with them the relaunch of the European project and also its fulfilment throughout the European Union as a whole.

* 19 In monetary terms, the Treaty on the European Union has stipulated since 1992 that «The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro» (Article 3) making joining the Economic and Monetary Union compulsory, unless an exemption is made.

* 20 Sweden, who voted against the adoption of the euro in a referendum in September 2003, did not join the Second European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), and therefore does not meet one of the convergence criteria.