Will EU core states leave partners behind after Brexit?

Alex Barker, Paul McClean and Stefan Wagstyl, Financial Times, 07.03.2017

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It is an idea as old as Britain’s membership of the EU, yet one Berlin and Paris see as fit to give new vim to the bloc’s future post-Brexit: “multispeed Europe”.

In the Palace of Versailles on Monday night, François Hollande, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, with their Spanish and Italian counterparts, outlined their vision for a union à plusieurs vitesses. [...]

Some senior diplomats in Brussels also see Ms Merkel as also sending a veiled warning to eastern European countries such as Hungary and Poland, which have refused to support EU-wide schemes to share refugees. As the EU rethinks its role — and the hundreds of billions of euros of structural funds devoted to new member states — it will also look at what “reverse solidarity” is expected from those recipients. 

“Differentiation has always been a means to put pressure on other member states,” said Janis Emmanouilidis of the European Policy Center think-tank. “It has been used as an element to make others agree, or allow others to progress if you’re ready. It is not a coincidence that Merkel was talking about multispeed Europe and then a week later she was in Warsaw.”

At present little legally stands in the way of countries seeking to integrate further in areas such as defence or fiscal policy. The means exist in the EU’s treaties; the main impediment seems a lack of political will.

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