Analysis: Complex, divided EU gets philosophical about its future

Mon Apr 2, 2012 6:41am EDT
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By Robin Emmott

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - It is a club that is open to all of Europe, but not all members are equal.

As the euro zone debt crisis forces the currency area to integrate more closely to survive, those outside the bloc but in the European Union are worried that they will be left as junior partners without a say.

The euro zone's response to its public debt crisis has created layers of new agreements and mechanisms that affect the EU's 10 non-euro countries, who are shut out when deals are done and only learn later of the decisions of the 17.

Strategies to bring all EU countries together on overarching economic issues have had unintended consequences by creating divisions because not everyone can agree, threatening efforts to implement policies to revive the region's depressed economies.

"We need to make sure that the EU of 27 is actually working," said Margrethe Vestager, the economy minister for non-euro member Denmark, who broached the tensions when she chaired an EU finance ministers meeting in Copenhagen on Friday.

"There is a risk ... that the cooperation quietly drifts apart," said Vestager, whose bright red dress in a room of ministers in grey suits signaled a desire not to be overlooked.

Danish diplomats described Friday's debate - the first time such a discussion has formally been on the agenda - as a "philosophical" discussion on the future of the European Union.

Many EU officials concede that things are getting unwieldy, even for experts who struggle to decipher the structures intended to unify the EU's 500 million citizens.   Continued...