by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, March 20 (Xinhua) -- The future of the European Union (EU) might unfold on a path of "differentiated integration", according to top scholars gathering at a conference here on Monday.
The event "EU60: Re-Founding Europe, the responsibility to propose" was held at Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, few days ahead of the major celebrations scheduled on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome of 1957.
The panels included experts from Paris-based Jacques Delors Institute, Italian Center for Studies on Federalism, Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies and European Policy Center, as well as Rome-based Institute for International Affairs (IAI), among others.
The meeting provided analysts and officials with a chance to discuss ideas on the future of the block, and its keynote was indeed the proposal of a differentiated integration, which was submitted by IAI scholars.
"Some member states can move forward in selected policy areas, possibly involving the remaining countries at a later stage," the authors wrote in the opening of their paper.
Although corresponding to the notion of "multi-speed integration" in concept, the IAI's paper offered detailed and pragmatic suggestions on how such model could be put into practice.
"In our view, differentiated integration can become a new method of integration within the EU," IAI researcher Nicoletta Pirozzi told Xinhua.
"We are convinced the initiative and the political input are going to come from some member states, as it has always been in the past," she added.
The IAI analysts suggested such deeper political integration could be firstly applied to three macro-areas -- economic governance; freedom of movement, security, and justice; and defense.
Each area would have a specific roadmap, relying on three corresponding existing EU realities -- namely, the Eurozone, the Schengen Area, and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo) for defense.
At the same time, the scholars strongly recommended the role of EU institutions should be made larger and stronger in order to carry out various projects of deeper integration to remain as much as inclusive as possible.
"In this model, EU institutions should play a crucial coordination role both within the different projects of differentiated integration, and at the level of EU general governance," Pirozzi explained.
For Italy's State Secretary to European Affairs Sandro Gozi, "the time is right now to open this kind of debate."
Yet, Gozi stressed whatever model of further integration the EU will choose, a keen attention must be paid to social cohesion within the bloc.
"A social Union must be developed as well, and I do hope this will to be one of the commitments our leaders are going to undertake next Saturday (at the anniversary ceremony) with the Rome Declaration," Gozi told the conference.
Besides promoting Monday's event, Italy has taken several other initiatives to stir a debate as wide as possible on Europe's future, especially considering the difficult phase the EU is going through in terms of internal and external threats, and political challenges.
Italian officials at the conference confirmed some 200 events overall would be organized in 80 countries across the world to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Rome Treaty.
On March 25, the celebrations will draw all heads of state and government from the EU-27 member states (Britain will not be present) to Rome, and a final declaration from the leaders is expected.