On Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker's European Commission released a "White Paper On the Future Of Europe" which comes at a time of extensive tensions with the departing UK, and which lays out what Juncker believe are the "main challenges and opportunities for Europe in the coming decade." It presents five scenarios for how the Union could evolve by 2025 depending on how it chooses to respond. The paper comes as Europe prepares to celebreate the 60th anniversary of the EU a period which the commission calls a period of "peace spanning seven decades and on an enlarged Union of 500 million citizens living in freedom in one of the world's most prosperous economies", although one look at the unemployment chart of Europe's Under-25 may prompt some to wonder just how prosperous said economy truly is.
Some more details from the paper which has been prepared in advance of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome on March 25, 2017, and which will "serve to steer the debate among the 27 Heads of State or Government and help structure the discussion at the Rome Summit and well beyond" and will also be used by the Commission as the starting point for a wider public debate on the future of Europe.
The White Paper looks at how Europe will change in the next decade, from the impact of new technologies on society and jobs, to doubts about globalisation, security concerns and the rise of populism. It spells out the choice we face: being swept along by those trends, or embracing them and seizing the new opportunities they bring. Europe's population and economic weight is falling as other parts of the world grow. By 2060, none of our Member States will account for even 1% of the world's population – a compelling reason for sticking together to achieve more. A positive global force, Europe's prosperity will continue to depend on its openness and strong links with its partners.
The White Paper sets out five scenarios, each offering a glimpse into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices Europe will make (see Annex). The scenarios cover a range of possibilities and are illustrative in nature. They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive.
Scenario 1: Carrying On - The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Commission's New Start for Europe from 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016. By 2025 this could mean:
- Europeans can drive automated and connected cars but can encounter problems when crossing borders as some legal and technical obstacles persist.
- Europeans mostly travel across borders without having to stop for checks. Reinforced security controls mean having to arrive at airports and train stations well in advance of departure.
Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas. By 2025 this could mean:
- Crossing borders for business or tourism becomes difficult due to regular checks. Finding a job abroad is harder and the transfer of pension rights to another country not guaranteed. Those falling ill abroad face expensive medical bills.
- Europeans are reluctant to use connected cars due to the absence of EU-wide rules and technical standards.
Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several "coalitions of the willing" emerge. By 2025 this could mean that:
- 15 Member States set up a police and magistrates corps to tackle cross-border criminal activities. Security information is immediately exchanged as national databases are fully interconnected.
- Connected cars are used widely in 12 Member States which have agreed to harmonise their liability rules and technical standards.
Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently - The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas. By 2025 this could mean
- A European Telecoms Authority will have the power to free up frequencies for cross-border communication services, such as the ones used by connected cars. It will also protect the rights of mobile and Internet users wherever they are in the EU.
- A new European Counter-terrorism Agency helps to deter and prevent serious attacks through a systematic tracking and flagging of suspects.
Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced. By 2025 this could mean:
- Europeans who want to complain about a proposed EU-funded wind turbine project in their local area cannot reach the responsible authority as they are told to contact the competent European authorities.
- Connected cars drive seamlessly across Europe as clear EU-wide rules exist. Drivers can rely on an EU agency to enforce the rules.
Of course, one particular scenario is missing, the one which according to most will be in play should Lagarde or any other anti-establishment party come to power in Europe. That said, we are confident that the reason why "Scenario 6" is not being considered. however the world it envisions is hardly the utopia envisioned by Juncker.