Third Annual Conference CERiM
CERiM's Third Annual Conference on "Beyond Membership: The Transformation of the European Union"
Membership to the European Union (EU) is clearly defined in the Treaties (art. 1 TEU). However, in practice it is less clear-cut since some member states have opted out of certain policy areas such as border controls or the single currency, while various non-member states participate frequently in selected EU policies, and EU norms are diffused in various ways outside of the EU. Membership thus appears to be a somewhat fuzzy concept, despite the image of a clear distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ it projects. Against this background, and also with a view to the greater complexity that the EU will have to confront in the context of Brexit and possible future enlargements, there is a strong case for moving conceptually beyond membership, and for re-thinking the status of states on the basis of their participation in different policy areas rather than on the basis of their formal membership to the EU.
This is not only a pressing academic agenda, but – in the context of current debates about the future shape of the European Union – it is also an important practical consideration. On the one hand, Commission President Juncker clearly expressed his preference that the EU should remain united (State of the Union speech 2017), thereby rejecting the perspective of a multi-speed or differentiated EU called for by others such as French President Macron. On the other hand, in a Union facing the prospect of further diversity with the arrival of new Member States as well as the centrifugal tendencies among the existing members – most prominently expressed in the withdrawal of the United Kingdom –, the question arises whether the idea of a single united membership as currently foreseen in the Treaty is still fit for purpose. In other words, perhaps the concept of one single type of membership under which all Member States are expected to submit to the same rights and obligations is not appropriate in order to facilitate effective governance and accommodate growing diversity.
The 2018 Annual CERiM Conference addresses these issues by asking what membership means in the current practice of the EU and invites to reflect on what is required for the future EU. It is organized around three aspects of the tensions faced by the concept of a unitary and formal EU membership: first, an examination of key policy areas in which we have already witnessed various forms of differentiated integration; second, important examples of non-member states in which EU law is applied (with and without their participation in the EU’s decision-making process); and third, the situation of states under accession or secession procedures which obliges them to accept EU norms and policies even prior to/after formal membership.