The Portuguese Presidency wants to kickstart the Conference on the Future of Europe promised after the tug-of-war between the European Parliament and the European Council over appointing the President of the European Commission. The underlying issue is whether the EU is an ‘intergovernmental’ or a ‘federal’ construct. Dutch philosopher of law Jaap Hoeksma (2020) looks at this from the angle of European citizenship. Is it – as commonly thought – grafted upon citizenships of the member states or – his preferred option – the citizenship of the EU directly. If so, then EU citizenship – my interpretation – is like membership in a club that is an actor in its own right.
So much for a rough summary. But consider now that member states have not created only one club but rather several: Some member states have opted out from Schengen and/or from the Euro and also from others like the services of an EU public prosecutor. New members have been given leeway also to prepare for assuming all the powers – and deriving all the benefits – of their being part of the club. So the EU is a conglomerate of overlapping arrangements, and as such is also in flux. In (Faludi 2020 [2018] 132ff) I have invoked a metaphor for thinking about it as it were an archipelago, with member states islands in a sea of functional relations. Citizens of each are the subjects and objects of policies of their own, but they also interact with those of other islands. Some such relations may be bi-lateral and others multi-lateral. Consider the citizens of islands dependent on fishing, on servicing offshore industries and those deriving their livelihood on tourism. Other arrangements concern all citizens of the archipelago, like the establishment and management of a baseline under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to mark its outer limits like the EU‘s external borders.
Complicated? Not more so than reality in the EU. Not all member states have the euro, but non-members, like mini-states including the Holy See and also non-member Montenegro have it. Not all EU members are in Schengen while members of the European Free Trade Association and Switzerland are. A bizarre case, the latter country is in Schengen much as in the Single Market but not in the Custums Union! Long-time candidate member Turkey is member, at least of a watered-down version of the latter but its citizens require visa to travel to the EU, and vice versa.
So surely, there are regimes beyond the two Hoeksma refers to: that of the member states and that of the EU as such. One-time Legal Council at the European Council Jean-Claude Piris (2012) recalls the existence also of a multitude of arrangements. Sometimes, this goes under ‘multi-speed’ EU, as if the end game were a truly united one. But the EU is -and will remain – a tangle: ’neo-medieval’ as in the subtitle of my book.

References:

Faludi, A. (2020 [2018]) The Poverty of Territorialism: A Neo-medieval View of Europe and European Planning (Elgar Studies in Planning Theory, Policy and Practice), Edgar Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA.

Hoeksma, J. (2020) The Case Bundesvefassungsgericht versus EU Court of Justice: Can the EU function as a democracy without forming a State? Available at: https://www.wolfpublishers.eu/_downloads/51433248. (Last accessed 26 January 2021.

Piris, J.-C. (2012) The Future of Europe: Towards a Two-Speed EU? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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