On February 22, I took part in a panel discussion entitled “Is Differentiated Integration Unavoidable for Europe?” at the CEPS IDEAS LAB 2018 “Europe — Back on Track”, an annual event of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels gathering Europe’s top decision makers and thinkers to discuss all the major issues confronting the EU. The EU might now move forward on a number of fronts as indicated in major speeches by President Macron and other European leaders: securing the external border, reforming the governance of the euro and creating a common capacity in the field of defense and external security.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker opened the debate, to which several of his colleagues contributed together with a number of prominent MEPs and national policy makers. The Foreign Minister of Belgium, Didier Reynders, gave the closing remarks, together with Lilyana Pavlova, the Bulgarian Minister for EU Presidency. Ivan Krastev delivered the final academic lecture.
My panel discussed differentiated integration as one method of striking a balance between unity and asymmetry that also has the merit of preventing political gridlock. At a time when Europe is being buffeted by various countervailing forces, should we expect more inclusivity or differentiated integration in the EU27? How can we accommodate more flexible ways of integration without creating a hard dichotomy and isolating certain member states? Do the EU institutions need to adapt their composition and procedures to accommodate various differentiated integration modes? How can political, legal and administrative unity be assured overall? I was joined by Frank Schimmelfennig, Professor of European Politics, ETH Zürich, and CEPS Researcher Sophia Russack, who moderated.