Quo vadis, Europe?

On 1 March, President Juncker presented the White Paper on the Future of Europe; © European Union, EC - Audiovisual Service

The public had mixed reception on the White Paper on the Future of Europe. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, presented five different scenarios. However, he did not commit himself to one of them. At the third “Econ Jour Fixe” on 7 March 2017, Brussels economists from BDI, BDA, DGB, other associations and European institutions discussed the possible implications on the European Monetary Union (EMU).

In the first scenario “Carrying On”, the EU focuses on business as usual. But the Monetary Union might only see incremental reform steps. The second scenario “Nothing but the Single Market” proposes to re-centre the EU on the Single Market. As a consequence, establishing a common economic governance might stay unfinished and the EMU would rest vulnerable to financial and economic crises. Scenario three “Those Who Want More Do More” implies a multi-speed Europe, allowing willing member states to cooperate more closely in specific areas. E.g. the euro area could drive the integration of the EMU forward.

In the fourth scenario “Doing Less More Efficiently”, the EU strives to deliver more in a reduced number of areas. Other policy fields remain under the responsibility of the member states. However, euro area member states could have difficulties to agree on areas to cooperate, besides to guarantee the financial stability of the EMU. Last but not least, the fifth scenario “Doing Much More Together” suggests a federal EU with far more powers and resources. The EMU might become a real economic, financial and fiscal union with an own euro area budget and treasury.

In contrast to the 2015’s Five Presidents’ Report, the White Paper on the Future of Europe does not provide a clear vision of the future shape of the EU. Instead, it presents a bunch of scenarios on how the EU could develop until 2025. The White Paper avoids phrases such as “ever closer union” or “more Europe”. With respect to the openness of the White Paper, politics, media and public were split in their opinion. Many expected a more explicit concept, others welcomed the open approach on the topic.

According to the Brussels economists of the Econ Jour Fixe, the White Paper offers some chances as it is kept neutral. The member states are now encouraged to express their preferences. This could create an open und positive debate. If and how one of the scenarios will be put into practice probably depends on the outcome of the French and German elections – and their willingness to follow a common EU agenda. It is crucial that this agenda focuses on structural reforms to strengthen competitiveness and to pave the way for a sustainable economy growth.