An occasional guide to Irish (And EU) politics: Enhanced Cooperation

Oh say can you see, the committee voting by QMV?Despite knowing what both words mean, when one puts them together, they’re so bland that they could mean anything. Enhanced Cooperation? It could, for example, be a dubious Viagra-enhanced encounter in a darkened gay sauna.

And maybe it is. But in an EU context, it is the equivalent of a gang of kids forming their own tree-house club, and then being forced to let Gavin with the funny shaped head play by their mum. Of course, it is slightly different from children in that any kid who suggested “Hey, let’s form our own currency union!” would almost certainly be beaten up by other kids. That is, assuming he didn’t have the comedic nous to at least name the currency in a child friendly manner, such as calling it, say, the Farto, and with 100 Poos to the Farto. Enhanced cooperation is actually the device that was invented to stop the British blocking everything by storming off to the corner with a jutting lower lip and a folded arm sulk. Or indeed the post Lisbon Irish, for that matter.

The idea is this: If a third of the member states want to do something that a) not everyone wants to do (Say, funding a series of statutes of David Hasselhoff with real glistening chest hair. His chest hair, actually shaved off by him and donated. And don’t say he wouldn’t do it. He’s the Hoff.), and b) isn’t illegal under EU law, they can, as long as any other country that wants to join and meets the criteria can also join. Current examples are the Eurozone and the passport free Schengen Agreement, which differing groups of countries believe to be alternatively cool and smelly, depending on which gang one was in.   

Its opponents say that it is pretty much a gateway to a two speed Europe, and there is an element of truth to that. But the reality is that it is an incredibly European solution to a European problem, letting countries share what they wish without being held up by the crankiest (The British, Irish and the Poles) or by those who actually hate their bloody country and want a United States of Europe quicker than you can say “Oi! Schumann! What’s that coal and steel palaver you’re always goin’ on about anyway?” (The Belgians.)  And you can bet your bottom Farto on that.

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