“The traditional one-size-fits-all approach to European integration is obsolete”

When you think of Europe ten years from now – what is the most striking change you are seeing?

What I see ten years from now is: 1) less union and more diversity; and 2) less emphasis on territory (i.e., on the states as the exclusive actors of European integration) and more on functional (public or private) associations. As a result, the EU would change from a would-be federation (or quasi-state) to a “club of clubs”, built around specific functions or tasks.

Let’s start with your first point, less union and more diversity. What makes you think so?

The severity of the monetary crisis should not make us forget that the integration project is facing another, potentially even more explosive, problem: the growing economic, social and political diversity of an EU whose membership is still supposed to expand. This is the mistake committed by those who propose a two-speed Europe, with the members of the euro zone forming the avant-garde (e.g., Bofinger, Habermas and Nida-Ruemelin, FAZ of 4 August 2012: “Einspruch gegen die Fassandendemokratie”). Not only is the present euro group already highly heterogeneous; in the future it is bound to become even more diverse, unless the principle of the acquis – which obliges every new member state eventually to join the euro zone – is given up.

What makes you so sure that diversity will grow? Do you think that all efforts to promote economic cohesion and legal harmonization in the EU are bound to be futile?

Diversity between, say, Germany and Greece is already quite large; that between Northern Europe and the future members from the Balkans will be even larger, and there is a definite possibility that also the Ukraine may join. Experts tell us that it will take decades to close the gap, even under the most favourable hypotheses ...

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