Differentiated integration in the European Union

At a Glance 18-02-2016

As the number of European Union Member States has increased and the competences of the Union have widened, some Member States have on occasion been exempted from joining their partners in new fields of integration. Whilst the single market and its ‘four freedoms’ remain at the heart of the Union, it has found ways to allow the majority to move forward, notably in the fields of Economic and Monetary Union and Justice and Home Affairs, without all Member States taking part. The graphics below illustrate the differing arrangements for Member States’ participation in EMU and JHA. This is variously known as differentiated integration, variable geometry, multi-speed or à la carte Europe. Even if some see the current situation of the United Kingdom as further entrenching the practice, the Union has always maintained the possibility for non-participating Member States to re-join their partners. Furthermore, new Member States do not immediately participate fully in certain policy areas, such as the euro area.