Variation in the European Union

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) translated its study about the future of the European Union. Variation in the European Union focuses on the way in which the Member States can continue cooperating in a productive and constructive manner and the degree to which they should or should not strive to achieve uniformity in that cooperation.

Variation as structuring principle

By accepting variation, the Union can avoid wasting energy on attaining a level of uniformity that is not really necessary. Variation makes it possible to forge credible ties with the democracies of the Member States. It offers scope and flexibility to provide collectively for public safety and security, stability, prosperity and social protection. Accepting variation as a structuring principle reduces tensions and prevents major disparities lurking beneath a show of unity from undermining the credibility of the Union.

Union’s development

The book’s proposal for the Union’s development going forward emphasises variation more than has been the case thus far. Recognising and accepting variation means that differences in needs and in democratically supported convictions are taken seriously. Variation is not a sign of weakness; rather, it avoids wasting energy and political credit to attain a level of uniformity that is not really necessary. Variation can thus be a proactive means of revitalising the relationship between institutions and citizens, and between public tasks and needs. The Dutch government has officially responded to the WRR’s report. An important part of the response concerning the idea of variation found its way to the Dutch Government’s State of the Union 2019.

Note for editors

The WRR will present Variation in the European Union on 12 March at the Permanent Representation of The Netherlands, Avenue de Cortenbergh/ Kortenberglaan 4-10 in Brussels with Ernst Hirsch Ballin, Huub Dijstelbloem and Matheu Segers (WRR). Please contact us for a copy of the publication ( or download Variation in the European Union. For questions about the presentation please contact Peter Zwart (+32) (0)491 167223 of