The "White Paper"
Brussels hopes its "White Paper," presented by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, yesterday, will precipitate the debate over the EU's future. The "White Paper" presents five scenarios to the Union, which, as Juncker explains, "are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive." The paper is primarily seen as a contribution to preparations for the March 25 summit, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. However, it should also help guide decisions over the EU's future, which are expected around the end of the year, at the latest.
Nothing but the Single Market or a Comprehensive Union?
The spectrum of what the commission would like to have discussed ranges from a reduction of the EU to nothing but the single market all the way to a massive expansion of the EU's authority. The reduction to "Nothing but the Single Market" ("Scenario 2") would result in a very limited EU capacity for coordinating actions, according to the "White Paper," a common foreign and military policy would be hardly possible. In addition, the commission notes that a "Carrying On" scenario (Scenario 1) would continue the status quo of the past few years. In this case, one can expect tedious decision-making processes in most fields of politics, with only minor adjustments in the monetary union and an insignificant EU foreign and military policy. "Scenario 5" provides the opposite image. It describes the communitarization at every level of all fields of politics. In this case, the monetary union could be expanded; Brussels would have significantly more authority to intervene in domestic policies of the member countries. But above all, a very powerful foreign policy would be possible and, if needed, Brussels would be able to intervene with an EU Army anywhere in the world.
Scenario 5 is considered hardly applicable because of the consistent - and recently even intensified - resistance by various member countries to Brussels' interference. This is why the "White Paper" proposes - as a compromise solution - two scenarios, which would entail reinforced cooperation, either with fewer member countries or only in fewer political fields. "Scenario 3" stipulates that several "coalitions of the willing" will use the option provided by the Treaty of Lisbon allowing "permanent structured cooperation," for example in the domains of domestic repression or closer collaboration in foreign and military policy. On the basis of a significantly conflated arms industry, the EU could extend the tentacles of its power much further into the world as has been the case until now. "Scenario 4" treats the possibility of the EU limiting its focus to much fewer political fields, and, instead, unanimously and energetically tackling those remaining fields of action. Thus, Brussels could largely withdraw from regional aid, public health and social policy and instead significantly expand its capacities for warding off refugees, domestic repression and for foreign and military policies. With this scenario, Brussels would acquire a realistic option for massively extending its political power.
Already in early February, Chancellor Merkel had called for the EU's transformation along the lines of "Scenario 3." The development over the past few years has shown "that there will be a multi-speed EU, and not all members will participate in the same steps of integration," Merkel declared. Last week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took up this demand. "This is no longer a time when we can imagine everyone doing the same thing together," Juncker said, promoting a "more structured framework." "Should it not be that those who want to go forward more rapidly can do so without bothering the others?" One of the reasons for this option is the continued resistance to the establishment of EU military structures, insisted upon by Berlin. Several EU countries are reluctant to have a "Military Planning and Conduct Capabilities" unit established in Brussels, which would be responsible for EU training missions and could eventually be upgraded to become an EU headquarters. Increased application of "coalitions of the willing" would help break such resistance. "We need a European headquarters for civilian and military operations," declared Elmar Brok yesterday. Brok headed the European Parliament's Foreign Affaires Committee for 13 years and is still one of its members.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is vigorously insisting that at least elements of "Scenario 4" be implemented. He not only calls for measures against the EU's overregulation and a decrease in the size of the Commission, but also would like to reduce the EU's range of tasks. The EU should withdraw from public health policy and the "creation of a social union" should be immediately halted. The Austrian foreign minister declared this, in view of the fact that the Union's budget will suffer significant losses through the Brexit. The funds will have to be paid by other countries or be reduced. Austria is among the net contributors - as is Germany, which, according to EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, will probably have to shoulder additional costs of at least one billion euros. "Scenario 4" would provide the option of preventing this - at the expense of poorer member countries, which would have to forego a portion of the subsidies they receive from Brussels. At the same time, the scenario facilitates a more aggressive EU foreign and military policy. According to Kurz, the Union - parallel to the reduction of its range of activities - would have to increase some of its operations, including sealing off its external borders to thwart the entry of refugees and establishing multinational armed forces. Werner Amon, General Secretary of the ÖVP, of which Kurz is also a member, recently declared, "there can be no question" that "a political union needs close cooperation also in the field of foreign and military policy," including "a common defense policy and thus an EU army." With this demand, the ÖVP is in line with Berlin.