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Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has drawn up a White Paper setting out five options for the future of Europeafter Britain quits the EU in 2019.
The plan sets out five “pathways to unity” for the 27 member states who will remain in Europe after Britain leaves in 2019.
The proposals have already met opposition from recalcitrant eastern EU states, led by Poland and Hungary, who fear that they will be marginalised by a new drive to revitalise Europe's Franco-German federalist core.
Mr Juncker’s blueprint will be the basis for talks at a summit in Rome on March 25, to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc's founding treaty.
This will start a nine-month debate that will culminate at a December European Council meeting, after the French and German elections.
The five options are as follows:
In this scenario the EU27 "sticks to its course" but, Mr Juncker notes, the speed of EU decision-making "depends on overcoming differences of views in order to deliver on collective long-term priorities". In other words, the decision-making remains unwieldy, as at present.
The EU gives up on trying to resolve divisive issues such as "migration, security or defence" and co-operation on key issues becomes more bilateral than EU based. Radically, the EU also shrinks the regulatory burden by dropping two pieces of legislation for every one it passes.
Create one or more "coalitions of the willing" to drive forward specific areas, such as the defence, internal security, taxation or social policy. Other member states, outside those coalitions, "retain the possibility" of doing more over time.
The EU decides to narrow down its priority list, and do what it does more efficiently. As a result the EU is able to "act much quicker and more decisively". Mr Juncker gives the example of the recent VW diesel emission standards and says this version of the EU would have the "powers and tools" to protect EU consumers in a "direct and visible" manner.
Accepting that the current half-cocked EU doesn't work and that retreating to a more bilateral model will not meet the globalised challenges of the modern era, the EU 27 "decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board". In this scenario - unlikely given all the caveats above about the lack of unity in the current EU - decision-making deepens and speeds up and decision are agreed faster at EU level and are "rapidly enforced".