The Future Of Europe

Author:Ms Davina Garrod
Profession:Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
 
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In 1957, the six EU founding members-Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg—agreed to settle their conflicts around a table rather than on the battlefields. We are now days away from the 60th anniversary of the EC Treaty Rome. Like all anniversaries, the Rome Summit will be a natural time to reflect on the last 60 years at a time when BREXIT and the fear of a “domino effect” across Europe is driving change. The European Commission's “White Paper on the Future of Europe” (“Paper”) was written to help the European Council decide on a course of action by year-end, with a view to implementing a plan to be rolled out in time for the European Parliament elections in June 2019. Whilst BREXIT is only indirectly referred to, references to “EU27” abound, alongside references to the refugee crisis, terrorism, the global financial crisis and “new global powers”. The EU may still be home to the world's largest single market, however “Europe's place in the world is shrinking.” This comes at a time when newer powers such as China, Brazil, India and Mexico, rise, and when the United States becomes more inward-looking. Other notable challenges include unemployment and friction over borders.

Necessarily high-level at this early stage, the Paper presents the following five scenarios for the future of Europe:   

Keep calm and carry on! The European Commission would continue to focus on jobs, growth and investment by strengthening the single market and by increasing investment in digital, transport and energy infrastructure. EU27 would actively pursue trade agreements with partners from around the world, in the same way as it does today—although hopefully in a more efficient manner. Interestingly, the Paper hints at some countries maintaining their own “targeted internal [border] controls” in order to deal with migration-a nod to placating opposition to unrestricted freedom of movement. Nothing but the single market. This scenario is essentially what many western Europeans really want the EU to focus on. “Ever closer political union” is a lofty idea, but it is difficult to achieve in practice. Unfortunately, the Paper is rather pessimistic about this option, talking in terms of it leading to a “race to the bottom” for consumer, social and environmental standards, which is not necessarily the case.  Carry on EU plus. New groups of member states would be able to agree on specific further legal and budgetary arrangements...

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