BRUSSELS, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The idea of establishing a group of "core" European Union countries has been raised by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, observers say.
Berlusconi made the comments last week to Italian media when he was asked what the future of the Lisbon Treaty would be should Irish voters reject it a second time, the EUobserver reported Monday. The publication quoted Berlusconi as telling Italian state broadcaster RAI News 24, "We need to completely revisit the current functioning of Europe to create a core of states that operate beyond unanimity."
Experts told the EUObserver that the idea of "core Europe" moving ahead with integration re-emerges every time a movement forward on a particular policy is blocked by a minority of member states. It is often envisioned as a possible new organization known as a European Federation, to be established alongside the existing European Union.
The publication said that even if Ireland accepts the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to integrate EU governance more closely on several levels, the push toward a "core Europe" will continue as the EU moves to expand beyond its 27 member states.