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Refugee and Eurozone Crises Lead to Calls for Two-Speed Europe

Major divisions over the refugee crisis as well as the dysfunctionality of the euro currency have led to accusations that the European Union is "not fit for purpose and is in need of fundamental reform."

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has warned of the collapse of the European Union as a result of the reintroduction of border controls between EU Member States amid the growing refugee crisis. Speaking to news agency DPA, he said:

"The European Union could break apart."

Asselborn said the sheer volume of asylum-seekers flooding through Europe had led to some countries — including Hungary, Germany and Austria — imposing border controls, which go contrary to the Schengen agreement on the freedom of movement of people — a central pillar of the EU.

"The risk is there very clearly. If we do not get European solution for this migration crisis, when more and more countries believe that they can go about this thing only nationally, then Schengen is dead."

It would also bring about the fall of "the greatest achievement of the European Union" with serious consequences for the daily lives of EU citizens.

'Chaotic Multi-Speed, Hotchpotch EU'

It follows similar comments by Guy Verhofstadt, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, who now heads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament. He told The Independent newspaper in London:

"Many in continental Europe strongly agree with [UK Prime Minister] David Cameron that the European Union of today is not fit for purpose and is in need of fundamental reform."

"Most accept that the direction of travel has shifted towards some form of 'two-speed Europe', broadly based around eurozone 'ins' and 'outs'. And clarifying these two types of membership would surely be progress, compared with the chaotic multi-speed, hotchpotch EU of today," he said.

Cameron will this week outline his demands for a renegotiation of Britain's membership of the EU, ahead of an In/Out referendum which many believe he will call in June or July 2016.

Verhofstadt said: "There is growing acknowledgement that eurozone countries must integrate further, if the European economy is to recover and fulfill its potential. This is in the interests of Britain, too. Britain wants no part in further European integration, or certainly not for now.

"If 'ever closer union' is not right for the British people any longer, so be it, but the British Government must also appreciate that this means they can no longer block those EU members who wish to integrate further. There are many questions about how the notion of a two-speed Europe can be delivered in practice, but we do know that it will require a revision of the existing treaties."

His comments come just days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a more flexible European Union where countries can opt out of integration schemes. "The Europe of today is no longer a Europe of one speed," she told a business conference in Berlin last week.

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