We are de facto living in a highly differentiated European Union (EU). Despite this reality, differentiated integration remains subject to political controversy. In recent weeks and months, speculations on a potential „Grexit“ or „Brexit“ have fuelled this controversy. While some advocate a two-speed Europe built on a core of Eurozone members, others are wary of being left out or behind and reject the notion of multiple speeds. Views on the meaning and practical implications of differentiated integration differ. This policy paper aims to clarify the conceptual and empirical boundaries of differentiated integration.
FIFTY SHADES OF DIFFERENTIATION
The paper starts by providing an overview of different models and modes of differentiated integration. The existence of over 30 different models mirrors the complex reality of differentiated integration, but also contributes to the conceptual confusion surrounding the term.
THE EVOLVING POLITICAL DEBATE
A review of the evolution of the political debate since the 1970s shows that differentiated integration has gradually entered the political mainstream. An increasing number of pragmatic pro-Europeans and moderate Eurosceptics now endorse some form of differentiation, even if their underlying arguments differ.
CORE DILEMMAS OF DIFFERENTIATION
Differentiated integration raises important political, legal and institutional dilemmas. The first is the trade-off is between flexible ways out of deadlock and the EU’s political unity. The second dilemma is between flexible (intergovernmental) legal arrangements and the homogeneity of EU law. The third is between the creation of tailor-made institutions or institutional sub-entities and the unity of the EU’s institutional framework and governance.
DIFFERENTIATION IN CORE AREAS OF INTEGRATION
The prevalent modes and models of differentiated integration vary depending on the policy area. This is illustrated through a brief overview of the state of the art in four core areas of European integration: the Single Market; the Economic and Monetary Union; the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice; and the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This policy paper sets the stage for a series of policy papers that will analyse recent developments and future scenarios in core areas of European integration. It thus closes by identifying a number of forward-looking questions. We expect the answers to differ depending on the policy area. However, the overarching question will be how different forms and models of differentiation can be reconciled under the umbrella of a legitimate, functional, and effective European federation of nation states.