Scenario three presents a more positive outlook for the future of the European Union. Through this scenario, the EU continues operating much as it does today, however, the Union avails itself of ‘coalitions of the willing’, allowing some member states to do more in specific areas. These areas include but are not limited to, monetary policy, security and social policy. This idea is not particularly novel, nor is it without precedent, a similar process has allowed member states to produce the Euro and the Schengen agreement. This scenario is, by its nature, inclusive; while it encourages groups of members to step up their cooperation in certain areas, it also leaves the door open for those who did not join, to do so at a later date of their choosing.
By the year 2025, a group of states within the EU27, move ahead with cooperation on a common defence policy. This results in states that have chosen to step up their collaboration, do so by the joint procurement of new equipment or military hardware, joint research programmes and developing an increased readiness for joint missions abroad. Consequently, this group then begins to participate in the exchange of intelligence and information. In order to make this system more efficient, the nations agree to create a joint public prosecutor’s office, allowing these states to better tackle crimes such as, fraud, drug trafficking, weapons trade and money laundering. By developing this office, it has the added benefit of fostering the growth of a common area of justice, within Europe.
As mentioned, this scenario is not limited to security and defence. By 2025, it is also likely that some member states would agree to work more closely together on tax harmonisation. This would focus on the harmonisation of corporation tax, specifically. The white paper argues that these measures would increase confidence among the business community by adding stability and certainty to the market, encouraging greater levels of development and investment. By having more cooperation on economic issues, it is also possible that the Single Market will be strengthened in each of its four components.
By having some internal groups within the EU, there will naturally be some side effects. For example, under this scenario, the paper highlights that there would likely develop an imbalance between member states with regards to issues like citizen’s rights; whereby those who have chosen to do more enjoy greater rights than those that have not. Moreover, by having such a group, questions will arise about the accountability and transparency regarding the decision-making process in the EU. Finally, the gap between delivery and expectation begins to narrow among the members that have committed to do more.
As a result of pursuing scenario three, the EU continues to strengthen the Single Market, while at the same time striving for progressive trade deals with international partners. Incremental progress is earned across the EU27 on economic and monetary policy, but those doing more, will inevitably, see more progress. Improved cooperation moves the EU closer to a common asylum policy, while speaking with one voice on foreign policy becomes more realistic.
Provided in the snapshots of scenario three, are a faster and more coherent response to cyberattacks and airspace violations. The emergence of a “business law zone” allows for greater certainty among businesses and employees. Lastly, with the introduction of the joint public prosecutor’s office, joint and immediate sharing of intelligence between those states that have opted in, emerges. This results in a more robust reaction, across borders, to countering criminal activity. With the development of a common judicial area, criminal charges are recognized in each of the committed member states.
Senator Neale Richmond is the Fine Gael spokesman on EU Affairs in Seanad Éireann