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Differentiated integration as a conscious political decision

Source: EU IDEA

Should differ­en­tiated integration be more than a collateral damage of blocked negoti­a­tions on EU integration? Two EU-IDEA Policy Papers present an in-depth analysis and recom­men­da­tions on differ­en­ti­ation as a conscious policy choice.

Differ­en­tiated integration (DI) can corre­spond to a delib­erate policy choice if it reflects the optimal solution to a given problem in a specific policy area given different national or local prefer­ences. Two EU-IDEA policy papers inves­tigate whether and to what extent this reflects European integration reality by examining the prefer­ences of EU citizens and national policy makers in the EU, but also in non-EU member states. Based on two compre­hensive data sets, three main conclu­sions emerged.

First, there is a lack of shared under­standing of what differ­en­ti­ation actually is. This makes it difficult to commu­nicate its benefits to the public in terms of the broader EU integration process. This can become partic­u­larly problematic when Eurosceptic political actors instru­men­talise differ­en­ti­ation to protect their own national interests, while questioning the European project as a whole.

Second, DI is seen by political actors as a pragmatic and effective alter­native for more European integration in some policy areas, but only if it offers each state the possi­bility to join at a later stage. DI is seen as a delib­erate policy choice, especially in the areas of security, defence, and foreign policy.

Third, the datasets have shown that a tailored approach to each differ­en­tiated form of cooper­ation is inevitable in the relations between the EU and third countries.

Both policy papers are part of the EU IDEA Work Package “National Prefer­ences on EU”, which is coordi­nated by the Institut für Europäische Politik. The EU-IDEA project is supported by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 funding program.

Policy Papers