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Tusk’s plan of a multi-speed Europe. All items to be addressed by May 2019 in the “Leaders’ agenda”

In a letter to heads of Government and State, the President of the European Council calls for a change of pace in order to “respond to citizens’ real problems” and to resolve the stalemate afflicting the “common home”, ahead of the Summit of October 19-20. A message bound to be met with opposing reactions

There is need for an approach that “does not prevent Member States moving forward more rapidly in specific areas, while keeping the door open for those who want to join later. Unity cannot become an excuse for stagnation, but at the same time ambition cannot lead to divisions.” The message sent by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk to the heads of government and State of EU Countries ahead of their meeting in Brussels of October 19-20 is encompassed in these few lines. The summit was supposed to focus on digital agenda, migrations, security and foreign policy, but – in the light of urgent global challenges – (migrations, terrorism, economy) and internal turmoil (Brexit, Catalonia, Visegrad, populisms…)  – Tusk highlighted the need to change pace.

To unblock the standstill. The Polish politician thus wrote a letter to EU leaders, with an annexed “Leaders’ Agenda.” “This Leaders’ Agenda is a living document that will be updated and amended as required”, he wrote in English. Namely, a working plan “in progress”, subject to “adjustments and modifications” as required, a roadmap leading up to the 2019 European Parliament election aimed at strengthening cohesion among EU countries while introducing two (or more) different “speeds.”

Tusk proposes a leap forward to the European Union, stuck in a stalemate for a long time.

Those who wish to can proceed with new, in-depth forms of political and economic cooperation; those who are hesitant can take their time, knowing that in the future they will find an “open door”, as Tusk pointed out. It’s a weighty decision: on the one side it could unblock the Union’s deadlock, on the other it risks shelving the dream of veritable European unity in federalist terms.

Ambitions and “new ideas.” The President of the European Council – mindful of the decisions taken by the 27EU leaders in Bratislava in September 2016 and past March after long consultations with Prime Ministers, Chancellors and national Presidents – in point of fact modifies the bearing of this week’s summit prompting EU State and Government leaders to convey their respective views on the Europe of tomorrow,

thereby “exposing” the intentions of those of want to curb ongoing political integration” by means of an unexpected hastened pace, intended to be beneficial but that could be lacerating

At the recent informal summit in Tallin “we agreed to develop a Leaders’ Agenda for the coming two years”, he said. Hence, on the basis of consultations carried out in the past two weeks Tusk identifies “a willingness to reinvigorate and enrich our work, including by drawing on new ideas.” He then listed and specified three principles.

Three “focal points.” First, “we should focus on practical solutions to EU citizens’ real problems.” Secondly, “we should proceed step by step” (namely, without ruptures). Some matters “are ripe for decisions now – he wrote – and should therefore be dealt with straightaway, with speed, ambition and determination, so as to ensure real progress. Other matters will need to be further prepared.” Thirdly, “we should preserve the unity that we have managed to develop over the past year.” A unity of intentions – but not of consequential actions, one may object – to solve the migration crisis, address the unfair aspects of globalization, face ISIS and terrorism, and “limit the damage caused by Brexit.”

Today’s uncertainties can be confronted only “if we act in unison, since individual countries are too small to cope with them on their own.”

Calendar and issues. There obviously remains the dilemma of “how to reconcile unity with dynamism.” Tusk thus made reference to the Rome Declaration with an approach that “does not prevent Member States moving forward more rapidly in specific areas, in accordance with the Treaties, while keeping the door open for those who want to join later.” Follows the calendar of formal and informal summits with the related list of the items on the agenda, paying attention not to step on Angela Merkel’s toes, as she is working on the formation of the government, and trying not to interrupt all relations with London (Brexit negotiations) and with the Visegrad Countries (the agenda on migrants’ reception and asylum is not urgent, while Italy and Greece are left alone to handle the inflow of migrants from Africa and the Middle East).

Leading up to the vote of May 2019. The next meeting on the agenda is the Social Summit in Goteborg of November 19, followed by the European Council on common defence in mid-December. The informal meeting to discuss the repartition of UK’s vacated parliamentary seats is scheduled for February 2018. In March 2018, the EU leaders will discuss in Brussels single market strategies in support of the economy and labour, in May they will gather in Sofia for a meeting on the European future of the Balkans. More meetings are tabled for June, September, October, December 2018 and the following March, each with a specific theme. The last farewell to the UK is scheduled for March 29 2019.

On May 9 (Europe Day), maxi-summit in Sibiu, Romania, to assess the Agenda’s developments,

Verify the progress made so far, plan the timeline of the next five-year period and reiterate the message of unity and hope to European citizens who will be summoned to the polls a few weeks later.

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