Friday, June 20, 2008

Two speed Europe

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm slow. Or at least, I'm missing something really, really important with regards to the EU.

Why is a "two-speed" EU (or Europe, as I hear it more often) such a bad thing? From what I understand a "two-speed" Europe is one where some countries plow on with various reforms, etc. while other countries opt out of those reforms (or whatever).

"Nobody wants to see that" is the refrain whenever the possibility of a "two-speed" Europe is brought up. Well, why not?

First of all we already have a multi-speed Europe, dont' we?

The euro is used in only 15 of the EU's 27 countries. Many of the countries not currently using the euro are the new members from E. Europe, most of whom plan to adopt the euro by 2012. However, Britain, Sweden and Denmark are outside the Euro and don't want to join. More than one speed there, no?

Britain and Ireland are outside the Schengen zone. Another change of gears.

So, what exactly is a "two-speed" Europe and why is it so fearful a development for Ireland. Often this fear is expressed in some form of "loss of influence" terms. Well, just how much "influence" does Ireland have exactly? Because, let's face it, our power and strength are hardly likely to sway the Germans, Italians, French, etc. anyway. How much worse off would we be if we were outside the EU's decision-making center, but in a position to negotiate our relationship with the EU? Would we really be that much worse off?

The other day I heard someone gasp at this thought and follow up with (something like) we'd end up like Norway? Norway?
Norway is not a Member State of the EU, and the relationship with the Union is therefore based on other forms and means of close contact and co-operation. This co-operation enables Norway to maintain a very high level of economic integration, and political co-operation, with the EU and its Member States.
Is being outside the EU really costing Norway that much? And, besides, they're not in the EU. Ireland would remain in the EU, but in the slow lane, so to speak, if we had a "two-speed" Europe. Although I'll admit that maybe I'm missing something really, really big here, I wouldn't mind being in the slow lane although I'm sure Irish Eurocrats and politicians would blanche at the very idea.

I'm not even sure where the high speed Europe is heading, but if the fast lane is the highway to hell I'm just as happy to proceed at a leisurely pace.