The European Parliament yesterday agreed on a resolution aiming to reduce EU fragmentation around Member States opting out of treaties.
MEPs assessed the varying levels of integration within the European Union between Member States, referred to as “Europe à la carte”, “variable geometry”, “multi-speed Europe” or “first- and second-class membership”; and made a number of recommendations geared towards minimising EU fragmentation caused by Member States opting out of EU-wide treaties and policies. While the resolution signed in Parliament acknowledged that differentiation between Member States is not only compatible with the greater principles of the European Union, but in some cases it is necessary for the progress of new projects and innovations, MEPs were clear that a differentiated approach to the EU would not be a “strategic priority”.
The resolution emphasised that differentiated integration – wherein Member States adopt EU measures on different schedules or opt out of EU agreements entirely – should be viewed as a “second-best option” for practical purposes; and should be a purely temporary measure until more effective and integrated policies can be agreed upon. In order to minimise EU fragmentation, differential policy adoption should be allowed only in a “limited number” of cases.
MEPs cautioned against the potential of EU fragmentation leading to “first-and second-class” systems of EU membership; as well as the increased complexity of the collective decision making process caused by excessive differentiation. They also warned of the possibility of political and institutional disjunction undermining the “process of creating an ever closer Union”.
Parliament acknowledged the possible need for a revision of EU treaties to streamline the current scope and forms of Member State differentiation. To lessen the risk of further EU fragmentation over opt-outs and transitional policy implementation, MEPs advocated the revision should result in an eventual end to permanent opt-outs for Member States; full adherence across the Union to primary EU law, fundamental values and rights; and “some form of partnership” with the EU to be made available to countries unwilling to adopt full EU law.