The Council has approved the first enhanced cooperation between Member States. The enhanced cooperation procedure allows a group of at least nine nations to implement measures if all 27 Member States fail to reach agreement. The first enhanced cooperation is in the area of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation, and includes 14 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. Other Member States may join at a later time.
This is a significant moment in European Union law’s history. There has been a lot of talk on enhanced cooperation since the Treaty of Amsterdam (see for example here and here). Now, for the first time, it is being used in practice. From my perspective this is a useful development, since it can allow Member States to bring more flexibility into the integration process; but it is quite obvious that its use will remain quite limited.