OFITSEROV-BELSKIY D.V. Differentiated Integration: Project Competition and Contradictions of the EU Integration Process

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2021.5.16

Dmitriy V. Ofitserov-Belskiy

Candidate of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Senior Researcher,

Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Profsoyuznaya St, 23, 117997 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. In 2017 the European Commission proposed five scenarios for the future of the EU, one of which was ‘those who want to do more do more’. However, it was not specific enough and ignored the variability of this way of integration.

Methods and materials. Ignoring the characteristics of various types of differentiated integration is a common problem in scientific research, which leads to uncertainty and incorrect conclusions. This is largely due to the fact that researchers miss the analysis of interests and the negotiation process, focusing more on finding a common institutional design for all participants of integration. The intergovernmentalism that sees differentiated integration as a special institutional design that helps overcome the impasse in negotiations caused by the growing heterogeneity of member states is lacking. This approach has the potential for research and planning of integration processes in other regions, especially in the Post-Soviet space.

Analysis. The article shows that differentiated integration has a long tradition in the EU, but that has little relation to the projects of the European future discussed in recent years (often with the same name). We have focused on the differences in the positions of European governments and groups of countries, trying to explain their motives and to answer the question of whether an intergovernmental approach is justified. The greatest attention is paid to French-German discussions, analysis of the UK’s role prior to EU secession, and the special stand of Scandinavian and Central-Eastern European countries.

Results. The author concludes that the discussions on differentiated integration are not so much a search for unity in diversity, but are aimed at achieving ambitions, redistributing resources and fight against dirigisme. However, EU reform challenges integration leaders to choose between unprecedented concessions and the need to ignore the positions of many countries. In addition to EU heterogeneity, it also helps to exclude alternatives to differentiation in the future. Since the change of leadership in 2019, the EU has entered a new stage in its development, but there is nothing to suggest that its members are able to find common approaches. For the first time it is not possible to formulate a common compromise out of a wide variety of future options, and an attempt to avoid reform could aggravate the crisis of the integration process.

Key words: integration process theory, differentiated integration, enhanced cooperation, EU, multi-speed Europe, two-speed integration, eurozone, Eurasian integration.

Citation. Ofitserov-Belskiy D.V. Differentiated Integration: Project Competition and Contradictions of the EU Integration Process. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2021, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 202-216. (in Russian). DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2021.5.16.

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Differentiated Integration: Project Competition and Contradictions of the EU Integration Process by Ofitserov-Belskiy D.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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