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Dealing with the Neighbours: The case for an affiliate membership of the European Union and a new Security Council

Andrew Duff

Date: 21/12/2021
Brexit is proving to be even more troublesome than expected, giving rise to a gradual softening of British public opinion towards the EU. Any future UK government is likely to want to renegotiate parts of the separation deal that Boris Johnson struck with the EU. Reconciliation between Britain and Europe will take time and need careful calibration, however. The EU should prepare for this constructively and use the opportunity of a British renegotiation to review all its other association agreements - none of which are without defect.

The question of governance lies at the heart of the problems which impair the EU’s relations with its neighbours. The EEA and Swiss arrangements are in any case due for overhaul and upgrading. The EU’s traditional enlargement policy to the east and south has foundered, and it would be better if this were admitted openly. Not only are candidate countries unable to meet the demands of membership, but the EU itself is too weak to take on the burden of new members. Instead, a new category of affiliate membership should be written into the EU treaties. Affiliation should allow the EU to develop close economic and cultural partnerships with its neighbours in a democratic fashion. Affiliate states would enjoy greater access to the EU institutions than is permitted under any of the current association agreements. Affiliate membership would also be available as an option for any current EU member state which, like the UK, chose not to adhere to the goal of an ever closer union.

Such differentiated integration of the wider Europe will require the EU to build stronger federal government at the centre. The new structure should also be underpinned by the establishment of a European Security Council combining EU member and affiliate states with NATO — including Canada and the US — in regular strategic and operational decisions to protect Western security. The French presidency in the first half of 2022 should take the necessary first steps. The Conference on the Future of Europe might consider these proposals.

Read the full paper here.
Photo credits:
Leon Neal / POOL / AFP

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