Policy brief

Enlarging and deepening: giving substance to the European Political Community

The EPC would not be, and should not be, regarded as a substitute for EU accession, but should be designed to work as an accelerator.

Publishing date
22 September 2022
EU flags outside Berlaymont

Executive summary

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz have stressed the geopolitical emergency of re-designing the European Union’s relationship with its neighbourhood. Both acknowledge that EU enlargement is necessary, but also emphasise that profound EU institutional reform is required beforehand, though deepening and widening the EU are complex processes that veto players could block.

The geopolitical challenges mean it is in the critical interest of the EU to bring stability to its neighbourhood by ensuring geopolitical alignment with the EU, limiting the blackmailing power of external, authoritarian states, supporting more resilient democracies and strengthening the rule of law. Meanwhile, the EU’s neighbours are seeking a political space in which challenges to collective security and stability can be addressed and concrete policies decided. Given the urgency, it is not enough to rely on lengthy EU accession processes.

A ‘European Political Community’ (EPC), which will have its first summit on 6 October 2022, could act both as a bridge to an eventual larger EU and as a framework for continental-scale partnership. Leaders should use the summit to start the building of a platform that can combine political dialogue with policy delivery in a quick and flexible way, and will thus structure more impactfully the relationship between the EU and its neighbourhood.

The EPC could start as a soft law agreement between states and the EU. It would work with existing institutions as far as possible, while aiming at more effective decision-making than currently in the EU. For instance it could function without vetoes and could work in geopolitically relevant areas that are not yet EU competences. An ambitious EPC would provide financial resources for deeper cooperation on energy and climate, security and defence, and economic and social convergence.

The EPC would not be, and should not be, regarded as a substitute for EU accession, but should be designed in such a way that it can work as an accelerator. For countries not seeking to join the EU, it would provide an ongoing framework that sustains structured cooperation with the EU.

This is a joint publication with the German Council on Foreign Relations and Le Grand Continent.

The authors thank Goran Buldioski, Vladyslav Galushko, Manuel Lafont-Rapnouil, Remzi Lani, Claudia Major, Christian Mölling, André Sapir, Oleksandr Sushko, Guntram Wolff, Jeromin Zettelmeyer and all others who took the time to discuss with us and to give feedback on an earlier version of this text.

About the authors

  • Franz Mayer

    Franz C. Mayer holds the Chair in Public Law, European Law, Public International Law, Comparative Law and Law and Politics at the University of Bielefeld (Law Faculty), Germany. He studied Law, Political Science and History at the Universities of Bonn and Munich, at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences-Po) and at Yale Law School.

    Visiting researcher Harvard Law School 2000; annual Visiting lecturer University of Warsaw since 2000; Visiting professor at Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne) 2007 and at Paris 2 (Panthéon-Assas) 2010; General
    Course Academy of European Law, European University Institute, Florence,
    2011; Senior Emile Noël Fellow, NYU School of Law 2011; Visiting professor of Law at Columbia Law School Winter term 2012/2013.

    His teaching and research interests focus on European constitutional and administrative law, on comparative law (in particular comparative constitutional law, with a focus on German, French and US law), on the
    relationship between law and politics (in particular - but not only - in the EU context), on parliaments in times of globalization, on internet law, sports law (European soccer law) and more generally on international law and public law (in recent times with a focus on the
    law of Free Trade Agreements and of Investor-State Dispute Settlement). More recently, he has worked on constitutional law aspects of Rent regulation Law in Berlin and Munich.

    His practical activities mirror his research interests. Professor Mayer was Counsel to the German Parliament in the Treaty of Lisbon-trial in 2008-2009 and in the first Euro-crisis case 2010-2012 at the German Constitutional Court. He is currently Counsel to the German government in the CETA and in the EUSFTA cases at Germany's highest court (since 2016 and 2019, both cases still pending), in the case on the Unified
    European Patent Court (since 2017) and in the case on the European Patent Office (since 2019, pending).

    He has frequently testified as an expert witness in parliamentary hearings on constitutional law and EU law. He has been teaching EU law to future German diplomats at the German Foreign Service Academy
    (Akademie Auswärtiger Dienst) since 2010. Since 2016, he has been a member of the German Football Association’s Federal Court (DFB Bundesgericht), ethics chamber.

    He has dual French and German citizenship and lives in Berlin with his family.

  • Jean Pisani-Ferry

    Jean Pisani-Ferry holds the Tommaso Padoa Schioppa chair of the European University Institute. He is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, the European think tank, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute (Washington DC). He is also a professor of economics with Sciences Po (Paris).

    He sits on the supervisory board of the French Caisse des Dépôts and serves as non-executive chair of I4CE, the French institute for climate economics.

    Pisani-Ferry served from 2013 to 2016 as Commissioner-General of France Stratégie, the ideas lab of the French government. In 2017, he contributed to Emmanuel Macron’s presidential bid as the Director of programme and ideas of his campaign. He was from 2005 to 2013 the Founding Director of Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic think tank that he had contributed to create. Beforehand, he was Executive President of the French PM’s Council of Economic Analysis (2001-2002), Senior Economic Adviser to the French Minister of Finance (1997-2000), and Director of CEPII, the French institute for international economics (1992-1997).

    Pisani-Ferry has taught at University Paris-Dauphine, École Polytechnique, École Centrale and the Free University of Brussels. His publications include numerous books and articles on economic policy and European policy issues. He has also been an active contributor to public debates with regular columns in Le Monde and for Project Syndicate.

  • Daniela Schwarzer

    Prof. Dr. Daniela Schwarzer is executive director for Europe and Eurasia of the Open Society Foundations. Schwarzer is a renowned expert in European affairs and transatlantic and international relations. She is an honorary professor of political science at Freie Universität Berlin and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.

  • Shahin Vallée

    Shahin Vallée is head of DGAP’s Geo-Economics Program. Prior to that, he was a senior fellow in DGAP’s Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies.

    Until June 2018, Vallée was a senior economist for Soros Fund Management, where he worked on a wide range of political and economic issues. He also served as a personal advisor to George Soros. Prior to that, he was the economic advisor to Emmanuel Macron at the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance, where he focused on European economic affairs. Between 2012 and 2014, Vallée was the economic advisor to President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. This experience has put him at the heart of European economic policy discussions since 2012, in particular on issues related to the euro area and international policy coordination (IMF, G20). Having started his career working for social investment vehicles and entrepreneurship in Africa, he has also worked as a visiting fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based economic think tank, and as an economist for a global investment bank in London.

    Vallée is currently completing a PhD in political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York, a degree in public affairs from Sciences Po in Paris, and an undergraduate degree in econometrics from the Sorbonne.

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