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NEW EUROPE Big 4 to battle Brussels with plan to let NATIONS choose how committed they are

BRUSSELS is braced for an almighty power struggle between member states and eurocrats after the bloc’s big four last night agreed to pursue a new policy of allowing member states to pick and choose their level of commitment.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain will lobby for a new “two-speed” Europe in which core countries can integrate their systems at breakneck speed whilst those who are more eurosceptic are allowed to hang fire.The system is designed to allow the more developed Western nations to press ahead with wide-reaching reforms, particularly to the euro, without dragging along less reluctant members.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni GETTY

The EU’s big four have agreed to press for a two-speed Europe

But it will infuriate Eastern Europe, which fears being left behind economically, and also places the EU’s leading nations on a collision course with top eurocrats who favour a superstate model.The decision was made at a behind closed doors summit in the French palace of Versailles last night, with reports suggesting Brussels’ top figures were not involved in the process or consulted on the move.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni GETTY

Mariano Rajoy, Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Paolo Gentiloni met at Versailles

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni GETTY

Their vision for the bloc will put them at odds with eurocrats

It was called after Jean-Claude Juncker published an historic white paper consulting on the future direction of the project, which presented five “pathways” ranging from a simple trading bloc to a superstate.Yesterday it was claimed that the EU boss, who has previously floated the idea of a two-speed Europe, will come out in favour in the last and most extreme model of integration despite saying the bloc will “never be a state”.But speaking after the summit at the palace of Versailles the German leader Angela Merkel quickly scotched that idea, which would require a treaty change she is not prepared to sanction.She said: “We should have the courage to allow some countries to move ahead, to advance more quickly than others.“Cooperation can be kept open to those that have fallen behind. We need a stronger, more coherent Europe.” 

We should have the courage to allow some countries to move ahead, to advance more quickly than others

Angela Merkel

Her statement was at one with outgoing French leader Francois Hollande, who had warned before the meeting that Europe would “explode” unless it releases the political pressures building up by implementing a two-speed system.Speaking about plans for a 60th birthday celebration of the Treaty of Rome later this month, he added: “We cannot simply commemorate, together we have to reaffirm our commitment for the future.”Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, who is acting as an effective caretaker prime minister following the resignation of Matteo Renzi in December, also backed calls for integration at different paces.He said the continent needed “a more integrated European Union”, but added that this should be pursued carefully and must include “different levels of integration” for individual states.
Of the four it was the Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy who came closest to endorsing the superstate dream favoured by eurocrats, as he tentatively backed the fourth pathway set out in Mr Juncker’s white paper.That option involves further integration of the EU on big issues, like migration, the economy and defence, but the scaling back of the Brussels machine in other areas such as health and safety lawmaking.The Spanish PM, who has been an outspoken critic of Brexit which he says shows the need for greater European cooperation said that his “preferred option is to aim for deeper integration”.The four leaders, who represent Europe’s superpowers in the absence of Britain, will now discuss their conclusions with other heads of state at the EU Council summit this week and the Treaty of Rome celebration on March 25.
It will be welcomed in a number of quarters, including by countries which do not currently use the euro, but will provoke alarm in Eastern Europe which has warned a two-speed system will speed up the disintegration of the bloc.
http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/775939/European-Union-EU-big-four-plans-two-speed-Europe-Brexit

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