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1.5.5.  Three concentric circles of European nations

    If and when some Member States of the actual European Union decided to proceed to enhanced cooperation in the field of common foreign and security policy or adopted a specific treaty to this end, Europe would be divided into three concentric circles. The first circle would comprise the countries having decided to proceed to their political integration by enhanced cooperation or on the basis of a Treaty on European Political Union. The second circle would encompass all the countries of the first circle and the other countries of the actual European Union, which would like to continue their economic integration in the framework of the EU Treaty, but would not want to proceed to their political integration. The third circle would include both the countries of the first two circles and the European countries which would like to remain apart from the political as well as the economic integration process and have only an intergovernmental cooperation with the EU countries.

    For the countries which would choose to leave the process of integration altogether, a case envisaged by the Treaty of Lisbon, there exists an all set solution concerning the organisation of their relations with the countries of the European Political Union (first circle) and those of the European Union (second circle). It is offered by the European Economic Area (EEA), whose Treaty signed in 1992 currently binds Norway, Iceland and the Liechtenstein with the twenty-seven States of the EU [see section 25.1]. This Treaty aims to establish a large market based on common rules and equal conditions of competition concerning the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital and a reinforcement of the relations between the two groups of countries in fields having an impact on the activity of the companies, like consumer protection, the environment, research and technological development, education and tourism. The Treaty on the EEA could thus become the charter of the third circle of the European countries.

    EEA membership could serve the objectives of the countries which prefer a free trade area governed by an intergovernmental cooperation rather than the process of European integration, which entails important transfers of national sovereignty. Indeed, certain countries wished, after the Second World War and even after their accession to the EC/EU, to participate in a simple free trade area open to the two coasts of the Atlantic. They reluctantly reached the stage of the European single market, while regretting the transfers of sovereignty and the constraints necessitated by it [see section 1.2]. Their eurosceptic press abounds with misrepresentations of the "meddling and malevolent" bureaucracy of Brussels, which manages this market and which, according to this press, assaults their sacrosanct national sovereignty just for the pleasure of overwhelming it. On the other hand, the majority of the other countries of EC/EU wanted and succeeded to reach the stage of the economic and monetary union and, by adopting the Treaty on European Political Union, they would demonstrate their will to advance towards their political union. The membership of all in the European Economic Area could satisfy the wishes of the ones and the others. The members of the EEA would have excellent trade relations with countries of the first two circles, but they would not be held by the rigours of the process of integration that the latter would wish to perfect. The relations of the countries participating in this third European concentric circle would indeed be governed by intergovernmental cooperation [see section 1.1.2].

    The circle of the EEA, thus reinforced by the countries which would like to leave the process of integration, could be widened one day to include all other countries, which would belong to the large family of nations established many centuries ago on the European continent and which would have efficient market economies and political and societal institutions and cultural values similar to those of the current members of the EEA. All these countries would develop an effective intergovernmental cooperation from the economic and commercial points of view, a cooperation which would not link to the European construction the nations that would not like it. However, the door of the EU would remain open for the European countries of the third circle which would like to sign and ratify its Treaty. By their membership in the European Economic Area these countries could, indeed, obtain a good preparation of their economies before plunging into the deep water of the integration process.

    The separation in three groups of States having more or less close relations between them would mean a European integration at several speeds, a situation that has been shunned until now with the result of obliging the whole group of the former European Community and now the European Union countries to march to the step of the slowest of its members. A "multi-speed Europe" would solve the problem of the conduct of the integration process in a democratic way, since each country would have the possibility of choosing the rhythm of integration which would suit better its traditions, its interests and its goals. The European States which want to advance in their union could finally do it without being slowed down by the laggards. The latter would voluntarily remain behind the leading group, but could later, if they changed opinion, run to catch up with it. They have done it in the past. They could do it again in the future.

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

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