EU IDEA — Integration and Differentiation for Effectiveness and Accountability

Differ­en­ti­ation has become the new normal in the European Union (EU) and one of the most crucial matters in defining its future. A certain degree of differ­en­ti­ation has always been part of the European integration project since its early days. The Eurozone and the Schengen area have further consol­i­dated this trend into long-term projects of differ­en­tiated integration among EU Member States.

A number of unprece­dented internal and external challenges to the EU, however, including the financial and economic crisis, the migration phenomenon, renewed geopo­litical tensions and Brexit, have reinforced today the belief that more flexi­bility is needed within the complex EU machinery. A Permanent Struc­tured Cooper­ation, for example, has been launched in the field of defence, enabling groups of willing and able Member States to join forces through new, flexible arrange­ments. Differ­en­ti­ation could offer a way forward also in many other key policy fields within the Union, where uniformity is undesirable or unattainable, as well as in the design of EU external action within an increas­ingly unstable global environment, offering manifold models of cooper­ation between the EU and candidate countries, potential accession countries and associated third countries.

EU IDEA’s key goal is to address whether, how much and what form of differ­en­ti­ation is not only compatible with, but is also conducive to a more effective, cohesive and democ­ratic EU. The basic claim of the project is that differ­en­ti­ation is not only necessary to address current challenges more effec­tively, by making the Union more resilient and responsive to citizens. Differ­en­ti­ation is also desirable as long as such flexi­bility is compatible with the core principles of the EU’s consti­tu­tion­alism and identity, sustainable in terms of gover­nance, and acceptable to EU citizens, Member States and affected third partners.

The project puts together 15 EU and extra-EU partners in a joint research and dissem­i­nation effort coordi­nated by the Inter­na­tional Affairs Institute, starting from January 2019 and lasting for three years. It examines the historical and philo­sophical founda­tions of differ­en­ti­ation, within and outside the EU; it addresses differ­en­ti­ation in relation to gover­nance and account­ability, consti­tu­tion­al­i­sation and European identity issues; it analyses the EU’s practice of differ­en­ti­ation in key policy areas such as the Economic and Monetary Union and the single market, the foreign, security and defense policy, and the area of freedom, security and justice, including migration policy, keeping a special focus on the impli­ca­tions of Brexit; and it inves­ti­gates the different national visions as regards differ­en­ti­ation, both at the level of political elites and citizens.

The results of the research will be used to define the criteria – insti­tu­tional, political and social – to analyse future scenarios of differ­en­tiated integration (or disin­te­gration) and to draw up recom­men­da­tions to European and national institutions.


Research activities

EU IDEA will:


Project structure

IEP is looking forward to leading the work packages on “Narra­tives on European consti­tu­tion­alism and identity” and “National prefer­ences on EU”.

Project leader at IEP is Dr. Funda Tekin (E‑Mail).


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Partner institutions

1. Inter­na­tional Affairs Institute (IAI) Italy (Coordi­nator)
2. Centre for European Reform (CER), United Kingdom
3. Centre for Inter­na­tional Infor­mation and Documen­tation in Barcelona (CIDOB), Spain
4. Egmont – Royal Institute for Inter­na­tional Relations (Egmont), Belgium
5. European Policy Centre (EPC), Belgium
6. European News Service (Eunews), Italy
7. Finnish Institute of Inter­na­tional Affairs (FIIA), Finland
8. Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” – Skopje (IDSCS), former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
9. Institute of Inter­na­tional Relations (IIR), Czech Republic
10. Jacques Delors Institute (JDI), France
11. Norwegian Institute of Inter­na­tional Affairs (NUPI), Norway
12. Sabancı University (SU), Turkey
13. Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP), Germany
14. University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland
15. University of Groningen (RUG), The Netherlands


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 822622.