Summary: Member States are permanently excluded. However, there remains a risk that France and Germany will use the idea of a core Europe to cajole others into accepting their demands. Such a strategy would be deeply divisive for the Union. Franco-German cooperation is welcome if u0096 and only if u0096 it leads the way forward to the benefit of the whole EU and its citizens. The supporters of core Europe must prove that this concept is useful for the Union. So far, their case is far from proven u0096 whether the core is driven by France and Germany or led by a trilateral grouping including the UK. The future of core Europe depends on Germany. The idea of a core Europe still has enormous appeal in Germany, given its long intellectual tradition and its distinguished backers from a range of political parties. But the current conception of the core pursued by the chancellery and the French presidentu0092s office makes many Germans uneasy. It is fundamentally based on inter-governmental cooperation, not the political union that German federalists wanted to see at EU level. And its policy content is mostly bilateral initiatives, not projects to galvanise European integration for the whole Union. The idea will not go away, because the current leaders in Berlin and Paris are drawing on a long tradition of joint Franco-German leadership of the EU. For both countries, this idea is very attractive in a period of great uncertainty, when enlargement and economic problems seem to threaten traditional ideas of European unity. But the context of an EU of 25 countries is utterly different from a community of six members. It was easy in the 1950s for France and Germany to dominate a small group of wealthy countries; but an extremely diverse Union of 25 will be much harder to lead. The establishment of a core Europe is not a way out of the current impasse in the constitutional debate. The Big Three should concentrate on finding a constitutional compromise that is acceptable to all Member States, rather than trying to create a core group
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