Eurochild’s summary of the White Paper on the Future of Europe

Quo vadis, EU27?

On March 1st, Jean Claude Juncker presented the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe to the European Parliament, ahead of the Summit which will be held on 25 March to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaties. 

Challenges and opportunities: Five scenarios for EU27

The White Paper provides a general overview of the main challenges the EU is facing, such as the rising of new economies potentially undermining Europe’s economic power; the development of new technologies and their impact on jobs and society as a whole; the economic and migrant crisis; terrorism; and a growing sense of mistrust towards the European project, which has fuelled the rise of populist and Eurosceptic movements across the EU. Such challenges, however, are presented as opportunities to be seized to reflect on how to move forward as EU27, and better deliver for Europe’s citizens.

The White Paper presents five scenarios for the future of Europe as EU27: the Commission, however, does not express any preference and presents all options as equally possible, not mutually exclusive nor exhaustive. They are intended to trigger a debate on which combination of features would represent the best option for the European project to continue and improve. 

1. Carrying On: In this scenario, the EU27 sticks to its course, implementing and upgrading its current agenda, in line with the 2016 Bratislava Declaration. The focus is on jobs, growth and investment by strengthening the single market/single currency; and on the fight against terrorism. The speed of decision-making relies on Member States’ capacity to overcome differences of views to achieve long-term priorities.

2. Nothing but the single market: The single market becomes the main “raison d’être” of the EU27, while withdrawing from other areas e.g. migration, security or defence (or social). In this scenario there is less regulation, but capacity to act collectively is reduced.

3. Those who want more do more: This scenario proposes the idea of a “2-speed Europe”, with enhanced cooperation between Member States who want to do more in specific areas, such as defence, security, or social matters, and with the possibility for other Members to join at a later stage. In this scenario, the rights of EU citizens vary depending on whether they live in a country that has chosen to do more or not.

4. Doing less more efficiently: To increase effectiveness, the focus is reduced to a limited number of areas to be agreed by the EU27, such as innovation, trade, migration, where the EU can have more added value. This scenario results in a clearer division of responsibilities, but increased difficulties in agreeing on prioritisation. 

5. Doing much more together: Member States commit to deepen the social and economic basis of the EU27 by sharing more power, resources and decision-making with greater coordination in fiscal, social and tax matters. Citizens have more rights derived from EU law, but there is an increased risk of scepticism towards the legitimacy of the EU vis a vis national authorities.

Regrettably, the White Paper does not include any explanation of how each of these scenarios would actually be implemented, nor does it provide any clarification in terms of the process to be followed. What seems to be clear is that the document drafted by the Commission is aimed at encouraging Member States and the European Council to take the lead in the debate.

Next steps

The White Paper will be a topic of discussion for EU leaders at the Rome Summit at the end of March. The Commission, however, together with the European Parliament and Member States, will also be holding a series of debates on the future of Europe across national parliaments, cities and regions. In the coming months, the Commission itself will contribute to the discussion by releasing a series of reflection papers on: the social dimension of Europe (in the form of the European Pillar of Social Rights); deepening the Economic and Monetary Union; harnessing globalisation; the future of defense; the future of EU finances. 

The Future of Europe will be addressed at the State of the Union speech in September and discussed at the European Council meeting in December. The aim is to decide on a course of action ahead of the European Parliament elections to be held in June 2019.

About social policies and children

As Eurochild, we are concerned with the alarming lack of priority given to the need to tackle poverty and social exclusion, particularly in relation to children and young people. The brief analysis accompanying each scenario and examining their potential impact fails to include a social perspective. The White Paper seems to deliver the message that any further commitment in the social field will require Member States to choose either scenario 3 (“Who wants to do more”) or 5 (“Doing much more together”). Children are not given sufficient importance besides being referred to as the future generation. Despite this, Eurochild will call for the EU-wide consultation process on the future of Europe to include consultations with children as well.

As Eurochild, we encourage our members to read the White Paper and share your first impressions on the proposed scenarios.