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Exception to a fair scheme of cooperation? A normative assessment of three different forms of Differentiated Integration in the European Union

European Union
Integration
Differentiation
S006

Thursday 14:00 - 15:00 GMT (23/06/2022)

Abstract

Is differentiated integration (DI) in the European Union fair? The paper builds on the recent normative literature on DI to develop a framework for the assessment of fair international cooperation, distinguishing between republican-statist and liberal-cosmopolitan perspectives. Subsequently, this framework is applied to three forms of DI which seemingly contradict fair cooperation: involuntary exclusions from EU policies, non-compliance with treaty obligations to join the common currency, and continued policy alignment despite formal opt-outs. For each form, the paper offers a conceptual clarification and provides an empirical overview before discussing its normative implications. The empirical mapping shows that the three forms of DI are not as exceptional as may have been expected. Each form affects multiple EU member states, often for extended periods of time. Normatively, each of the three forms poses significant challenges to fair cooperation in the EU. Involuntary exclusions are procedurally problematic if policy accession is vetoed by other member states for reasons different from the initially stipulated technical criteria for inclusion. Non-compliance with treaty obligations represents a challenge to the rule of law in the EU, which neither democratic nor functional arguments can justify. Post-differentiation alignment is especially problematic where legal non-participation is rooted in a democratically expressed popular preference.