By Alessandra Cardone :-
ROME, March 11 (Xinhua) — The White Paper on the future of Europe presented earlier this month by the European Commission met with interest and overall positive reactions in Italy.
A debate over European Union‘s (EU) future path is alive in the country, especially ahead of the celebrations planned here on March 25 for the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, from which the whole integration process stemmed.
The White Paper, unveiled by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on March 1, outlines five possible scenarios for the remaining 27 member states of the bloc (considering Brexit as done) by 2025.
“It is an effective initiative, since it allows the political debate to ignite at European Council level,” Carlo Altomonte, professor of Economics of European Integration with Bocconi University in Milan, told Xinhua.
“In terms of ability to stir a discussion, the document is well-balanced: the Commission did not take a specific stand, but put all member states before their responsibilities, outlining the risks and opportunities of each scenario,” he explained.
The White Paper covers a range of possible paths, the first of which would be for the EU27 to “Carrying On” as they have done so far, on the base of already agreed agendas.
The second scenario predicts a future EU with “nothing but the single market,” for the 27 member states would not be able to agree on common policies on other issues.
The third scenario, “Those Who Want More Do More,” envisages a 27-member EU would proceed into further integration but at different speeds, according to their own needs and goals.
The fourth scenario, titled “Doing Less More Efficiently,” would see the 27 focused “on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value.”
The fifth and final scenario, “Doing Much More Together,” would see all EU member states share more power, resources, and decision-making across the board, moving all together.
Although all paths are theoretically possible, one only would really be feasible, according to the analyst.
“The Commission’s paper is very precise and complete, but I do believe the more realistic and politically relevant among the five options is the third one, envisaging a multi-speed future integration,” Altomonte said.
Some key EU member states, such as France and Germany, would in fact need such a development path in order to safeguard the economic growth model and the social system they have been providing to their own citizens in the last decades, according to the scholar.
“This implies not only a single market and a single currency, but moving towards a further integration on other levels such as defence and internal security,” he noted.
Overall, Italy’s interest would prove the same as that of France or Germany. The Italian government backs the proposal of a multi-speed integration, which is “already a state of things,” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said earlier this week.
On Friday evening, at the end of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, Gentiloni declared he was “fairly optimistic” that the Rome meeting on March 25 will be an opportunity to revive the EU.
Yet, he warned the idea of a multi-speed integration does not means a Europe “a la carte, with each country choosing just what it likes, according to the occasion.”
“A (multi-level) strengthened cooperation is already a reality, and it is foreseen by the Treaties,” Gentiloni said.
The Italian PM also voiced his preference to the third path. “It is a necessary path, which allows some countries to make steps forward if they want, without obliging others to follow and, on the other hand, does not imply stopping such steps forward just because one country only is against.”
The EU executive’s White Paper was also recently applauded by Under-Secretary for European Affairs Sandro Gozi.
Italy appreciated President Juncker for unveiling the blueprint ahead of the celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the Rome Treaty, in order to make it a basis for discussion, the official told local media.
“This is very relevant, because we do not want the Anniversary to be a mere celebrative event,” Gozi explained.
Yet, the proposal seemed also to stir some “mixed feelings,” according to Italy’s leading business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
“The idea of a multi-speed integration is welcome, as a way to tackle the risk of disintegration of the European Union,” analyst Beda Romano wrote.
“Yet, it brings worries as well, because of the risk of loosing (more) sovereignty, and accepting to put our public debt under European influence,” Romano said.