The Politics of EU Differentiated Integration: Between Crises and Dilemmas
The debate about differentiated integration (DI) from the beginning of the European Union (EU) integration process to the 2017 White Paper on the Future of Europe can be divided into three different periods, according to the main dilemmas that policy-makers tried to address respectively: (i) a political dilemma about the final ‘destination’ of the EU integration project between the 1950s and the 1980s; (ii) a legal dilemma about the mechanism to adopt to promote DI in the 1980s and the 1990s; and (iii) an institutional dilemma about the growing complexity of EU institutions, begun in the 2000s and encapsulated in the Lisbon Treaty. Each period of debate coincided with a specific type of crisis – respectively, a crisis of design, a crisis of (foreseen) enlargement and a crisis of economic adaptation. Based on past and recent history, one can conclude that the debates about DI will become a permanent feature of EU politics.
Keywords: differentiated integration; EU crises; EU political debates; EU enlargements