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France and Germany support a four-speed Europe – POLITICO


BRUSSELS — Franco-German experts have unveiled a proposal for sweeping structural reforms to the European Union as pressure mounts to welcome new member countries by the end of the decade.

The report, commissioned by the EU’s two largest countries, aims to revise the rules and prepare for governing in a union of 30 or more countries.

The authors envisage a model of the EU in four concentric circles.

“1. The inner circle; 2. The EU; 3. Associate members; 4. The European Political Community (an informal association of European leaders who meet twice a year to discuss),” they write.

EU ministers will discuss the document on Wednesday, setting the stage for an upcoming summit of national leaders in October, where enlargement is expected to be at the top of the agenda.

“It is clear that EU enlargement and EU reform go hand in hand. And we have to start with that now,” German Europe Minister Anna Lührmann told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday morning.

The report by a group of 12 experts proposes radical reforms to streamline the EU structure, including reducing the number of commissioners and members of the European Parliament and removing national vetoes.

The study also examines several options on how to manage a bigger EU, including a bigger budget; tie EU payments more strictly to rule of law conditions; and move towards majority rather than unanimous voting in the European Council.

In a move that could prove controversial for France and Germany, experts also propose redistributing more Council votes to smaller EU countries to balance the loss of national vetoes.

Eight countries are currently candidates for EU membership, including Ukraine, Moldova and six Balkan countries. The President of the European Parliament in June supported serious negotiations towards Ukraine’s accession to the EU which should begin by December this year.

Lührmann has expressed his preference for avoiding changing EU treaties, a process that could take years and is unpopular among many European leaders.

“I would like to use this flexibility… (the bridging clause) allows us to make changes in certain areas without changing the Treaty, such as qualified majority decisions. »

Academic Olivier Costa, director of policy studies at the College of Europe and one of the paper’s two co-rapporteurs, told POLITICO that “the last 30 years of history show that those who are skeptical about the prospects of major EU reforms are still wrong. .”

Eddy Wax contributed reporting.