“Europe is our common future,” the European Union’s 27 leaders plan to declare in Rome next week, in defiance of its worst blowback ever: Brexit.
A one-and-a-half page draft, seen by Reuters in advance of the meeting to mark 60 years of the bloc and entitled ‘The Rome Declaration’, is an effort by the 27 to chart a course for their future after Britain leaves in 2019.
“We are determined to make the EU stronger and more resilient, through even greater unity and solidarity amongst us. Unity is both a necessity and our free choice,” it reads.
“Taken individually, we would be sidelined by global dynamics. Standing together is our best chance to influence them, and to defend our common interests and values … Our Union is undivided and indivisible.”
The draft, dated March 16 and prepared by the chairman of EU leaders’ summits Donald Tusk, will be debated among the capitals next week and may yet change before it is finally adopted in Rome next Saturday.
“In the 10 years to come we want a Union that is safe and secure, prosperous and sustainable, with an enhanced social dimension, and with the will and capacity of playing a key role in the global world,” it says.
It pledges more security cooperation between EU states and their defence industries, effective management of immigration and tight external borders.
It vows to promote global trade despite the new US President Donald Trump’s criticism of international agreements, to develop the bloc’s single market and promote jobs and innovation.
“Europe is our common future,” the last sentence of the declaration reads, an exact repeat of the final line of the EU text signed in Berlin in 2007 to mark 50 years of the bloc.
The Tusk draft is very soft on the idea of a multi-speed EU, or allowing willing countries to foster closer ties in areas they can agree on, while leaving reluctant ones behind.
Tusk has warned against such a scenario, but it has been increasingly backed by Germany and the bloc’s executive in Brussels.
They see it is as the only way for the EU to stave off a wave of euroscepticism, nationalism and populism engulfing the bloc.
“We will act together whenever possible, at different paces and intensity where necessary … leaving the door open to those who want to join later,” reads the only reference to multi-speed Europe in the text.
Another delicate issue is further enlargement, which is anathema to some member states.
Others say the doors must not be shut, as EU entry criteria promote democracy and stability in neighbouring countries.
“We want a Union which remains open to those European Countries that fully share our values,” the text reads.
Other tricky areas include the concept of fostering more “social Europe”, where the idea is to fight discrimination and ensure equal opportunities in education and jobs.
The draft calls for “A social Europe: a Union which promotes economic and social progress as well as cohesion and convergence, taking into account the variety of social models and the key role of social partners…”
Eastern states fear their cheap workers may lose out if the wealthier West uses that goal to demand equal treatment for local and migrant labourers in their markets.