15 Feb 2018

The Strategic Potential of the Emerging Wider European Economic Area

Michael Emerson

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Critical, independent evaluations of the current European Neighbourhood Policy have not been dissipated by a recent review of the policy. At the same time, however a new reality has emerged, which the author of this paper suggests might be called the Wider European Economic Area (WEEA). This area covers the EU, EEA/EFTA states, the Balkans, and the East European states that now have Association Agreements (and DCFTAs) with the EU. This comprehensive map of all of Europe, with the exception of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, already has a growing and impressive array of common economic instruments at its disposal. A few South Mediterranean states also participate in certain areas.

This CEPS Policy Insights paper argues that this seemingly endogenous process deserves to be advanced more explicitly by the EU in a WEEA initiative, which could be launched by a ‘green paper’ from the EU institutions and supported by soft institutionalisation with a policy forum. Further possible extensions of the process are also discussed, notably the conditions under which there might be cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union, and linkages to the Chinese-sponsored new Silk Road. A WEEA initiative could well complement current thinking about giving renewed impetus to the EU’s own integration, including ideas under the broad heading of a multi-speed Europe.

Michael Emerson is Associate Senior Research Fellow at the CEPS.

No. of pages: 23