Future of Europe: 5 scenarios

The five scenarios presented in the White Paper aims to steer a debate on the future of Europe. They offer a series of glimpses into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices we will jointly make. The starting point for each scenario is that the 27 Member States move forward together as a Union. The five scenarios are illustrative in nature to provoke thinking. They are not detailed blueprints or policy prescriptions. Likewise, they deliberately make no mention of legal or institutional processes – the form will follow the function.

Scenario 1: Carrying on

The European Union Focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda

Why and how?

In a scenario where the EU27 sticks to its course, it focuses on implementing and upgrading its current reform agenda. This is done in the spirit of the Commission’s New Start for Europe in 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016. Priorities are regularly updated, problems are tackled as they arise and new legislation is rolled out accordingly.

By 2025, this means:

The EU27 continues to focus on jobs, growth and investment by strengthening the single market and by stepping up investment in digital, transport and energy infrastructure.

Pros and cons:

The positive agenda of action continues to deliver concrete results, based on a shared sense of purpose. Citizens’ rights derived from EU law are upheld. The unity of the EU27 is preserved but may still be tested in the event of major disputes. Only a collective resolve to deliver jointly on the things that matter will help close the gap between promises on paper and citizens’ expectations.

Reactions from Civil Society:

Scenario 2: Nothing but the single market

The European Union is gradually re-centred on the single market.

Why and how?

In a scenario where the EU27 cannot agree to do more in many policy areas, it increasingly focuses on deepening certain key aspects of the single market. There is no shared resolve to work more together in areas such as migration, security or defence.

By 2025, this means:

The functioning of the single market becomes the main “raison d’être” of the EU27. Further progress depends on the capacity to agree related policies and standards. This proves easier for the free movement of capital and of goods, which continues tariff-free, than it does in other areas.

Pros and cons:

The EU’s re-centred priorities mean that differences of views between Member States on new emerging issues often need to be solved bilaterally, on a caseby-case basis. Citizens’ rights derived from EU law may become restricted over time. Decision-making may be simpler to understand but the capacity to act collectively is limited. This may widen the gap between expectations and delivery at all levels.

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Scenario 3: Those who want more do more

The European Union allows willing member states to do more together in specific areas.

Why and how?

In a scenario where the EU27 proceeds as today but where certain Member States want to do more in common, one or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge to work together in specific policy areas. These may cover policies such as defence, internal security, taxation or social matters.

By 2025, this means:

A group of Member States decides to cooperate much closer on defence matters, making use of the existing legal possibilities. This includes a strong common research and industrial base, joint procurement, more integrated capabilities and enhanced military readiness for joint missions abroad.

Pros and cons:

The unity of the EU at 27 is preserved while further cooperation is made possible for those who want. Citizens’ rights derived from EU law start to vary depending on whether or not they live in a country that has chosen to do more. Questions arise about the transparency and accountability of the different layers of decision-making. The gap between expectations and delivery starts to close in the countries that want and choose to do more.

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Scenario 4: Doing less more efficiently 

The European Union Focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less elsewhere.

Why and how?

In a scenario where there is a consensus on the need to better tackle certain priorities together, the EU27 decides to focus its attention and limited resources on a reduced number of areas. As a result, the EU27 is able to act much quicker and more decisively in its chosen priority areas.

By 2025, this means:

The EU27 steps up its work in fields such as innovation, trade, security, migration, the management of borders and defence. It develops new rules and enforcement tools to deepen the single market in key new areas. It focuses on excellence in R&D and invests in new EU-wide projects to support decarbonisation and digitisation.

Pros and cons:

Ultimately, a clearer division of responsibilities helps European citizens to better understand what is handled at EU27, national and regional level. This helps to close the gap between promise and delivery, even if expectations remain unmet in certain domains. Citizens’ rights derived from EU law are strengthened in areas where we choose to do more and reduced elsewhere. To start with, the EU27 has real difficulty in agreeing which areas it should prioritise or where it should do less.

Reactions from Civil Society:

Scenario 5: Doing much more together

The European Union decides to do much more together across all policy areas.

Why and how?

In a scenario where there is consensus that neither the EU27 as it is, nor European countries on their own, are well-equipped enough to face the challenges of the day, Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board.

By 2025, this means:

On the international scene, Europe speaks and acts as one in trade and is represented by one seat in most international fora. The European Parliament has the final say on international trade agreements. Defence and security are prioritised. In full complementarity with NATO, a European Defence Union is created. Cooperation in security matters is routine. The EU27 continues to lead the global fight against climate change and strengthens its role as the world’s largest humanitarian and development aid donor.

Pros and cons:

There is far greater and quicker decision-making at EU level. Citizens have more rights derived directly from EU law. However, there is the risk of alienating parts of society which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy or has taken too much power away from national authorities.

Reactions from Civil Society:

Read the White Paper on the Future of Europe.

 


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July 3, 2017, 4:20 pm
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