Scenario Four: Doing Less, More Efficiently: Overview.

Scenario Four presents a radical new modus operandi for the European Union. From this avenue, we would see the EU focus its time and resources on delivering more (and faster) in targeted policy areas, while doing less in areas which have traditionally proved to be difficult in forming consensus. In this scenario, the EU27 recognize that in order to achieve successful results on its priorities, the EU27 must work together. Therefore, the EU is able to act decisively and with greater unity, but only in a few key areas (for example, how to EU currently enforces its competition laws today). Elsewhere, the EU27 stop acting all together, or reduces their presence significantly. The underlying premise of this scenario is that the EU would be better equipped to match the promises it makes, the delivery of those promises and the expectations of the general public.

If the EU chooses to go down this route, by 2025, the Union will have increased its efforts in several areas, namely, security, migration, trade and innovation. Alongside these efforts, the Union develops “new rules and enforcement tools” to deepen the Single Market (however, the paper does not specify what these measures will be).

One of the first things the EU agrees on, is the need for enhanced cooperation on security and defence policy. Thus, the member states agree to create a new European Counter Terrorism Agency, that will foster the interconnectedness of national police forces and the sharing of intelligence. This ultimately leads to a common defence policy among members. Likewise, the European border and coast guards take full control of the external borders of the EU, by doing so, the Union accepts that collective action is needed on migration. Following this admission, the EU sets up a single asylum policy, with a relevant agency to oversee it. It is therefore implied in the paper (without being explicitly stated), that this would negate any need for nations to enforce their internal borders, preserving the Schengen region.

Scenario four also allows the EU27 to speak with one voice when discussing trade deals. This means the entire process of negotiating trade deals is expedited, as many of the current barriers to forming consensus on aspects of trade deals are removed. The EU would also take a bigger interest in innovation. The Union would strive to be a global leader in research and development, leading to the emergence of innovation ‘hubs’, focusing on technology, energy and the space industry.

While the EU will takes a larger role in the above areas, it will reduce its capacity in other areas where benefits of the EU’s presence is more ambiguous. For example, some issues regarding public health or employment rights where the relationship with the Single Market is more discrete. As a result of the EU devolving some of its powers to individual states, regulations regarding consumer protection, environmental protection, health and safety rules would be rerouted away from harmonisation and replaced with a strict minimum. New enforcement rules would ensure these minimums are adhered to, while states have some more flexibility on policy decisions.

By focusing on the key areas of agreement, there is a division of responsibilities between the EU and individual states, hence, there is a clear understanding of what the EU oversees. This understanding closes the gap between the delivery and expectation of policy. Citizen’s rights are strengthened where the EU takes a greater role, but they are weakened where the EU pulls back.

This scenario has a number of impacts on policy, trade will be dealt with solely by the EU, while the EU will also speak with one voice on foreign policy. The budget is significantly redesigned to facilitate the newly agreed priorities. As mentioned, asylum and terror policy is systemic.

The main stumbling block for this scenario is the initial phase of the redirection. Forming agreement about what should be included in the priorities and what would be left out, could prove difficult, threatening the scenario’s success. The snapshots describe scenes where a European counter-terror agency stops an impending attack, employee wages continue to vary in different member states and misled consumers can rely on the EU to sanction companies on their behalf (as was the case in the recent emissions scandal).

Senator Neale Richmond is the Fine Gael spokesman on EU Affairs in Seanad Éireann