BRUSSELS European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker will present a white paper to the European Parliament on Wednesday on options for shoring up unity once Britain launches its withdrawal process, a spokesman said.
The European Commission president wants some states to be able to deepen cooperation further and faster without the whole bloc having to follow suit. This idea has raised concerns, especially among poorer eastern countries, that their richer neighbours may use Brexit to cut EU subsidies to them.
Juncker will go to the European Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a briefing on Tuesday, to present the white paper.
By setting out four or five practical "pathways to unity" or "alternative avenues for cooperation at 27", EU officials say Juncker aims to give the 27 leaders of the post-Brexit Union some broad choices to start considering at a March 25 summit in Rome, where they will mark 60 years of the bloc.
"After Rome we want to launch a public debate on these options ... this has to be about the people and we very much hope that the leaders will launch such a process," Schinas said.
A diplomat in Brussels, who was briefed on the document, said the options would range from largely leaving things as they are, to more ambitious proposals to pull EU states closer together on economic and political matters and, in the most ambitious option, to create something akin to a federalist EU.
Talk of a so-called "two-speed" Europe is anathema to the likes of Poland, which will become the biggest EU member outside the euro zone after Britain leaves.
The eurosceptic government in Warsaw wants changes in the EU to take away powers from Brussels and return them to national states. It fears, however, that some EU members could move closer together and make decisions that would have an impact on the whole of EU but without giving Warsaw a say in the process.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Andrew Roche)