EU fleshes out how 'flexibility' would work

Two confidential European Union reports show that Britain's partners have ambitions to integrate policies in areas as far-reaching as taxation, social security, policing and immigration.

A new "flexibility chapter" in the Amsterdam treaty, due to be finalised in June, should create powers for countries to integrate in these areas, without a British veto, France and Germany are arguing.

The reports produce for the first time concrete ideas about how the hitherto nebulous concept of "flexibility" would work in EU decision-making. In effect, it would allow groups of member states to share powers without the rest.

France and Germany believe "flexibility" is the key to finalising a new EU treaty at Amsterdam. They believe that flexibility is vital if progress towards integration is to continue without British opposition. They also believe it is vital if the EU is to work effectively once new member states from central and eastern Europe have joined.

Furthermore France and Germany want "flexible" decision making to apply to Economic and Monetary Union, according to one of the reports.

The states want to strengthen indirect tax rules, and start to harmonise other tax policies after the launch of the single currency. They also want powers to enable them to harmonise other areas of tax and social security policy once the single currency is up and running.

The European Commission is opposed to more power-sharing in areas of macro-economic policy. The Maastricht treaty makes clear that member states inside a single currency should be free to set their own policies on tax and social security, while aspiring to meet overall economic convergence criteria. The majority of countries are also keen to ensure that a "hard core" share immigration, justice and environment policies.

The second set of proposals, prepared by the commission and to be discussed in Brussels today, sets out what a "flexible", "multi-speed" Europe would look like. The commission report is more cautious about listing areas to which flexibility should be applied. It would be most use in areas where unanimity at present applies.

Defence, armaments policy, policing, immigration and asylum policy are the areas most frequently evoked and would clearly be "possible" candidates for flexibility, says the report.

These are largely policies which are discussed under the so-called second and third "pillars" of the EU - governed by loose inter-governmental cooperation rather than strict community law. It would therefore be easier to set up flexible power-sharing in these areas, than under the "first pillar", which governs such core policy areas as the single market and monetary union.

The commission is in principle against multi-speed power-sharing in the first pillar. However, its report accepts that member states will push for flexibility in these areas.

Senior officials say "down the road" they accept that member states will want "flexibility" to pool powers in areas of economic policy-making such as taxation and social security. "If flexibility is not done inside the treaty it will be done outside," says the commission report, in a tacit acknowledgement that France and Germany are determined to increase integration even if a deal cannot be done at Amsterdam.

Integration proposals

n No veto on decisions about which countries can go ahead.

n Powers to apply flexible power sharing to most areas of policy.

n Areas to be specifically excluded from the flexibility plan should be the common fisheries policy, commercial policy, transport, competition and cohesion policies.

n Countries which do not join in a power-sharing arrangement at first, should be allowed to do so later.

n A majority of member states should want to pool powers flexibly, before a decision is taken to go ahead.

n The European Commission, not member states, should have the sole right to propose new power sharing under the flexibilty system.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system