Differentiation In The European Union Integration Process

2214 words - 9 pages

“From time to time it is worth reminding ourselves why twenty-seven European nation states have come together voluntarily to form the partnership that is the European Union.” 1
Europe has a history of war and conflict that predates living memory and the idea of a united Europe is something that appears repeatedly in that history. Hitler, Napoleon, and the many Roman Emperors all sought a united Europe. Their quests although in many ways motivated by a horrifying desire for power sparked the minds of philosophers and other political thinkers to imagine Europe united in harmony and peace despite national differences. Today we have the European Union which is quite unique. After the horrors, ...view middle of the document...

Differentiation is defined as member states engaging in policy areas and integration projects that every member state is not involved in. It is seen as contrasting with the idea of European Union becoming a uniform community. 3 Differentiation allows countries to implement policies at the rate that is best for them. Differentiation can also be described as flexibility or closer cooperation. In the early stages of the European Community and later the European Union it was only acceptable for countries to integrate at the same rate. However, with the increasing growth of the Union the rigidity of uniformity has changed and differentiation has become a key part of integration. Policy supporting differentiation can be seen in the opt-out protocol which is seen in the Treaty on the European Union and in enhanced cooperation policy which was introduced in the Amsterdam treaty and reformed in the Nice treaty.4
Differentiation in the process of European integration means more successful integration as it allows the nations who wish to integrate further to do so without being held back by nations who do not. It may also act as a catalyst for further integration. This is because it allows for different member states to integrate at different speeds. This means that some countries can integrate in a certain policy area quicker than others if they have the means to do so. In a way, this paves the way for other perhaps more reluctant countries to follow. This also creates a learning environment for hesitant countries where they are encouraged to follow the leading member states and to catch up in the integration process. A perfect example is the European Monetary Union. An agreement was established in the Maastricht Treaty that allowed different speeds amongst member states in the implementation of the European Monetary Union. Recently, many EU member states are attempting to adopt the euro as quickly as possible. This is thought by many a reaction to the economic crisis and member states’ desires for stability. However, it is also anticipated that in the Europe of different speeds the countries who have adopted the euro will be the greatest integrated and most advanced. Therefore, member states are making a great effort to be a part of this group so that they to will continue to move forward and not be left behind. In such cases differentiation allows for more efficient integration and acts as a motivation for further integration.5
This is also seen in enhanced cooperation. Enhanced cooperation makes it possible for a group of at least eight member states to integrate further than the treaties require of them so long as it remains open to the other member states, and aims to further the objectives of the Union. The group can use the Union’s institutions and mechanisms in order to do this. Recently, ten countries were attempting to develop a harmonized divorce law because the Union has been unable to agree on one. The problem with the divorce laws is...

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