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In the European Union (EU), enhanced co-operation is a procedure where a minimum of nine EU member states can integrate or co-operate in an area within EU structures but without the other members being involved.[1]



It is designed to overcome paralysis, where a proposal is blocked by the veto of an individual state or a small group who do not wish to be part of the initiative.[1] It was introduced in the Treaty of Amsterdam and although it can apply to all the three pillars of the European Union (except defence matters), it may not be applied when the area falls within the exclusive competence of the European Community. Furthermore, it may not extend the competencies of the EU.[2]

The mechanism needs a minimum of nine Member States (the minimum being one third of the total number of Member States), who file a request with the European Commission. If the Commission accepts it then it has to be approved by a qualified majority of all member states to proceed. As of 2008, this has never been used, but it is being planned (see Divorce law below).[1] This is due to it being seen as a last resort, when normal procedures have been attempted and it is evident it is not possible to proceed within a reasonable amount of time.[2]


The idea procedure is criticised by opponents of a two-speed Europe, a source in the French EU Presidency stated: "Enhanced co-operation is a very sensitive issue because it has never been implemented. It allows several member states to go forward faster than others, and it is not necessarily the image we want to give of the EU."[1]

Divorce law

Proposed common divorce rules in the EU may be the first area to see enhanced co-operation; the new rules would settle the issue of where trans-national couples can divorce in the EU, though Sweden has been blocking the new rules, fearing the loss of its liberal divorce law (divorce law differs strongly, with Nordic liberalism being in contrast to more conservative countries such as Malta which does not even allow it). In July 2008, nine countries put forward a proposal to use enhanced co-operation: France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Romania. Others, such as Germany, Belgium, Portugal and Lithuania are considering joining them. At a meeting of the justice ministers on 25 July 2008, the nine states decided to formally seek the measure of enhanced co-operation; eight states (the nine states above sans France) formally requested it from the European Commission on 28 July 2008.[3][4]

Lisbon treaty

Under the Lisbon treaty, one third of member states will be required (9 member states). Defense and security becomes available to enhanced co-operation.

See also




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