Differentiated Integration as a Fair Scheme of Cooperation
23 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2019 Last revised: 11 Aug 2019
Date Written: April 1, 2019
In the past few years, there have been few discussions about the future of the European Union (EU) that did not involve the topic of differentiated integration (DI), the process whereby some member states integrate further, while others temporarily or permanently opt out of specific policies. Pragmatically, DI has allowed European integration to proceed by both widening and deepening. Normatively, it has allowed for diverging national capacities and preferences to be accommodated. However, the growing acceptance that the EU’s future may lie in more institutional diversity leaves unanswered the question of the conditions under which DI could be accepted as a fair scheme of cooperation. This is the question addressed by this paper.
Why is this an important question? First, if DI is perceived as unfair, it will not generate the support it needs to work and, to the contrary, might further nourish hard forms of Euroscepticism. Second, if the institutional design of DI is perceived to be unfair, it will fail in its purpose of reconciling member states who want to integrate to different degrees, and at different speeds. Third, it has often been suggested that DI allows member states to leave their fundamental disagreements about the nature and the finalité of the EU unresolved by recognising that they may proceed separately, with some moving forward whilst others hold back. However, DI can in fact contribute to creating new divisions and is itself an expression of divisions. Therefore, it is important to develop a more explicit understanding of the different notions of fairness that are involved in different designs of DI. Overall, fair design in DI matters because it ensures that DI contributes to greater acceptance of the EU rather than creating additional divisions. The paper explores two main approaches of international cooperation – statism and cosmopolitanism – and relates them to fairness in institutional design in DI.
Keywords: European Union, differentiated integration, integration theory, heterogeneity
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