Pioneers have always added to the safety and speed of the progress of those marching behind them.
“The speed of the convoy is determined by that of its slowest ship”. This basic rule of naval warfare ever since convoys of merchant ships escorted by warships appeared early in the 18th century, remained valid in both World Wars and may still be found relevent in terms of naval tactics in a future war involving major maritime powers – provided it could remain convectional for some time before doomsday. The same rule has also been metaphorically invoked to restrain high achievers and accommodate low performers among the participants of joint ventures in general, and most particularly, among the country-members of the EU.
It is debatable; however, whether the EU should ever be paralleled to a convoy of ships at war –our American allies would, then, find it irresistible to quip that most of the destroyers shepherding this European convoy are those of their own navy.
At any rate, the need to detach the willing and more performing, among EU partners from the rest, had been detected early enough. This is what the concept of “enhanced cooperation” was all about –already in the 1990’s.
Yet, no matter how the one-speed school of thought may have been rated until now, considering thee present state of the EU, in view of the departure of the UK and the great unknown in the space of trans-Atlantic relations under the new American presidency, speed is everything. Those who can break new ice must do it. Those who can move faster must not be delayed by the politically or economically dysfunctional. Those left behind will have a clearly defined trail to follow. Pioneers have always added to the safety and speed of the progress of those marching behind them. Solidarity will not disappear, but the margin for extortions aimed at securing eternal tolerance of dysfunction, political or economic, will dwindle. Not least, a multi-speed motion will be especially adapted to the fields of defence and foreign policy.
These are very early days, though. Many questions will have to be answered. Who are to form the fast stream –or the fast squadron if one is to remain attached to nautical imagery? Will giants such as France and Italy be able to? Their Prime Ministers were there, at Versailles, when the beginning of this new era of the European venture was evangelized, but their economies remain greatly unreformed, bogged down in a labyrinth of antiquated legislation. Can they reform in time to become flexible and competitive enough to speed together with real high performers such as Germany or the Netherlands? If they fail to, but still join the first group by virtue of their sheer size, then what will be the lesson to high performers of medium and small size – letting alone the dysfunctional, giants or dwarfs…
But, as we said, these are very early days and the principle is sound.