This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 3 March 2017.
What future for Europe does Jean Claude Juncker want?
On 1 March 2017, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a White Paper on the future of Europe, which is meant to be discussed by governments and to encourage reflection on the role of the European Union. Later this month the Treaty of Rome will turn 60, but timing and context already indicate that the Commission does not believe any decisions on next steps will be taken until that anniversary is long past. More likely, they will wait for the dust to settle after national elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and discuss the proposals towards the end of 2017.
The paper reads like a run-of-the-mill think-tank report from ten years ago, featuring a hefty dose of disillusionment with EU reform and failed referendums. In fact, the White Paper falls short of laying out any specific plan or recommendations for what to do next. Instead, it provides scenarios that seem to scare the reader about what could happen to the EU over the coming years, while failing to state what might actually trigger the alternative futures it sketches.
David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Prof Joachim Sauer at Schloss Meseberg, in Germany. Image by the Prime Ministers Office/Flickr.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder once said, “They have it wrong if they ask if Schroeder favors Britain over France or France over Britain. Schroeder favors Germany.” Watching David Cameron with family enjoying a German weekend break with Angela Merkel one could be forgiven for thinking all is well in the British-German relationship. And yet for all the well-publicized frictions it is equally clear that Cameron and Merkel get on. It is also clear that the two countries need and will need each other. Is this the beginning of a British-German axis?
There is after all much to unite Britain and Germany. According to the CIA World Factbook (it must be true then) Britain and Germany are the two biggest EU countries with the two largest economies by purchasing power parity. Germany is Europe’s economic leader whilst Britain remains (just) Europe’s military leader. The two countries also share a surprisingly close strategic relationship on a whole raft of issues not least the two most pressing: the lack of fiscal resources and the need for Europe to become competitive. » More