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 of the 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.