Neo-Functionalism as a Theory of Disintegration
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In this article, we exploit neo-functionalism as a conceptual and theoretical instrument that helps understand the current crisis and its future consequences. We formulate a series of suppositions and hypotheses, which we evaluate using existing data sources and related research. Our empirical analysis produces a mixed picture: though reality seems to conform with some neo-functionalist expectations, it contradicts some others. The latter disproven results, however, also suggest that there might be some corresponding increase in the likelihood that the EU could disintegrate.
KeywordsEuropean integration Disintegration Neo-functionalism Crisis
1 Neo-functionalism and Disintegration1
The European Union (EU)’s future has been put into question in practice as well as in theory (Lefkofridi and Schmitter 2015; Schmitter 2012; Vollard 2008). In a purely probabilistic sense, the fact that the EU shows signs of disintegration is hardly surprising since most of the many efforts at trans-national regional integration since the Second World War have exhibited similar symptoms. Either they failed to fulfil their initial commitments, withdrew from tasks already assigned to them or simply collapsed altogether. That so many observers of the EU regarded it as exceptional and, hence, immune to disintegration perhaps explains the apparent surprise among observers. Of course, so far all that has been observed are “morbidity symptoms”, not some definitive diminution or demise.
Nevertheless, the events and processes triggered by the dual crises of the Euro and the EU do require some re-thinking about the theories (and their presumptions) that have been used to explain the heretofore relative success of regional integration in Europe (for a critical discussion, see Vollard 2008). Prominent among these has been the neo-functionalist approach. The temptation, therefore, would seem to be to call into question its basic assumption, namely, the predominant role played by a diversity of self-interested actors competing with each other for the functional distribution of public goods provided by regional institutions. This could then be replaced by another approach, probably, some version of inter-governmentalism in which the only relevant actors are states promoting their self-regarding national interests and protecting their citizens from foreign intromission into their affairs and values.2 In this article, it is our purpose not to reject but to exploit neo-functionalism as a conceptual and theoretical instrument that helps understand the current crisis and its future consequences. It does not deny that the formal institutions and informal practices of the EU are threatened or that previously unobserved tendencies have emerged—but seeks to interpret them in ways that are consistent with the theory’s basic assumptions.
As an approach to understanding trans-national regional integration, neo-functionalism has been frequently criticized for its alleged bias in favor such a process—despite explicit protestations to the contrary by one of its practitioners (Schmitter 2004). The confusion seems due to the fact that the conditions present in Western Europe were unusually favorable to the generation/cultivation of spill-overs from one functional arena to another and from lower to higher levels of common authority. When the approach was applied elsewhere to efforts at regional integration in less favorable settings, it (correctly) predicted failure even to meet the objectives proclaimed in their founding treaties (Schmitter 1970; Haas and Schmitter 1964).
The normal expectation with regard to the performance of such regional or global efforts at functional cooperation/integration is that they should “self-encapsulate”, i.e., at best, they should perform the initial tasks bestowed upon them by member states by international agreement and then persist as stable institutionalized components of the interstate order. Only in exceptional circumstances or conditions should actors within such arrangements be expected to agree to a redefinition of their functional tasks or an upgrading of their authoritative status.
Given the current and concurrent crises of the EU and the Euro, it would seem appropriate to explore the hypotheses and presumptions that neo-functionalism might employ to predict “spill-backs” rather than “spill-overs”. A spill-back is when member states no longer wish to deal with a policy at the supranational level, e.g., the collapse of the Euro or Member States (MSs)’ exits from the Eurozone or even the EU—be they coerced (e.g., Grexit) or voluntary (e.g., Brexit). Such “spill-backs” are fervently advocated by parties on the radical left and right (albeit for different reasons) in both debtor and creditor states (e.g., Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FrenchFront National, Communist Party of Greece). In this piece, we apply neo-functionalist theory in an effort to understand the causal logic of disintegration, and its likely point of departure.
When and why should one expect that a given set of institutions of regional integration would agree (or be forced) to withdraw their competence to make policy in an arena previously subject to its trans-national “governance”? Or, more dramatically, under what condition might it collapse altogether? The EU is not likely to break as long as it successfully fulfills key functions for the Union’s economy and society as a whole; but it can and will break if it does not. Against this background, we first articulate explicit (and implicit) neo-functionalist suppositions and hypotheses. Next, we try to identify whether and to what extent disintegration is indeed a possibility in the empirical world. To this aim, we examine different pieces of empirical evidence in favor or against neo-functionalist expectations; we employ official databases (e.g., Eurostat, Eurobarometer), rely on existing analyses but also discuss the most recent developments, namely Grexit and the accommodation of war refugees, when politicization and conflict reached their zenith.
2 Neo-functionalist Suppositions and Hypotheses
Explicit (and sometimes exclusive) Suppositions and Hypotheses
Economic Integration and Interdependence
Benefits and Public Perceptions
Role of Experts
Respect for EU Decisions
Incremental Positive and Negative Integration
Conflict and Politicization
Implicit (and not unique) Suppositions and Hypotheses
Consequences of Enlargement
Finally, the entire process of regional integration should be perceived by a substantial proportion of its beneficiaries/victims as “fair”. Some of this will be ensured by the Suppositions discussed in I.2. with regard to the evenly shared distribution of benefits and actor perception of this, but fairness is a more elusive property in political relations, especially among states and populations that have had previous histories of unfair treatment by each other. The criteria for judging fairness (or justice) are highly subjective, but it is a definite advantage for any given TRO if these criteria are relatively similar—or at least commensurate—across MSs.
If any one of these Suppositions and Hypotheses is proven wrong when applied to the EU, then there are grounds for questioning the validity of that aspect of NF—unless, of course, this unexpected variation can be “explained away” by mitigating factors. These disproven results also suggest that there might be some corresponding increase in the likelihood that the EU could disintegrate. If substantial chunks of them are not confirmed, that likelihood should increase exponentially. Needless to say, if all of them are falsified, neo-functionalism should be abandoned in favor of some other theory of regional integration (or the effort at theorizing should be abandoned altogether on the grounds that the EU experience is so sui generis that no theory can be based on it).
3 Empirical Evidence: Towards Disintegration?
Explicit Suppositions and Hypotheses—Indicators and Data Sources
1. Interdependence of MSs.
Intra-EU Trade and Extra-EU Trade in the EU28 in 2013; Trends in individual MSs’ imports and exports (2000-2010).
2. Benefits for the Economy as a whole and for the Society at large.
Public attitudes to disintegration of the Union (i.e. how would you feel what if the EU had been scrapped?) (1973-2004); Personal Meanings of the EU (1997 and 2001);
Perceived benefits of own country’s EU Membership (2007 and 2011); Okun’s Misery Index; Unemployment rates.
Eurobarometer; Lechmann (2009); Eurostat/Knoema
3. Security and Sense of Belonging (Identity)
Public Opinion regarding appropriate level of government for Security and Defence in 2000 and in 2010; Evolution of prospective perception of (Exclusively National) Identity (1989-1995).
4. Role of Experts
Composition of expert groups that consult the European Commission; role of epistemic communities in the crisis and their conflicts
5. Respect for EU Decisions
Total number of cases before the ECJ (1970-2010); New actions for failure of a MS to fulfil its obligations (1952-2010).
Court of Justice (2010).
6. Economic Convergence
Balcerowicz et al. (2013)
7. Incremental Positive and Negative Integration
Amount of EU legislation; Activity of the Court
8. Conflict and Politicization
Anti-EU party success, social movements
Interdependence and Hegemony? The Case of Trade
To explore Supposition I.1 we begin by looking at trends in trade, which was the primary initial objective of economic integration and can help us assess the degree of interdependence among EU MSs. To recall, NF assumes an increase in interdependence for all Union members equally, and for all members of the Union compared to third countries. The situations where extra-EU trade is more important than intra-EU trade, or when one or a few members become “hegemons” contradict our Hypotheses and may also be signaling a higher likelihood of disintegration.
In a recent paper, O’Neill and Terzi (2014) analyze changes in world GDP and trade and extrapolate what the world trade situation will look like by 2020 if the current trend continues. According to their study, by 2020 the three key EU economies Germany, France and Italy will be focusing their trade relationships with countries outside the Euro area (China; developing/emerging markets) more than within it. Their analysis also suggests that the Euro may not have the expected beneficial effects on trade (O’Neill and Terzi 2014).
At the same time, recent research that focuses specifically on the effect of the common currency on trade shows that it has benefited intra-EU trade (Sadeh 2014). Sadeh (2014)’s analysis of the Euro’s impact by type of MS in the period 1999–2006 also produces the interesting finding that trade increased more among peripheral states of the Eurozone (Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) than among its core member states (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands). During the same period, an increase in trade was observed between the periphery and the core of the Eurozone, albeit lesser than that observed among the peripheral states. This study thus concludes that at the micro-economic level the Euro works despite its macro-economic difficulties, and also suggests that, in the long run, the Euro is especially helpful to peripheral countries.
Benefits for the Economy and Society
Public Perceptions of European Integration
How do general public perceive integration? How much one appreciates something is reflected to how much s/he would care about losing it. Fortunately, the Eurobarometer used to contain a question that allows us to measure attitudes of EU citizens to disintegration of the Union. More specifically, EU citizens were asked: “If you were told tomorrow that the European Community (Common Market)—European Union—had been scrapped, would you be very sorry about it, indifferent or very relieved?”. Unfortunately, we cannot see the impact of the crisis on such attitudes—which has without doubt affected how much citizens appreciate the EU—because the data stop in 2004. Although this question was not asked after this point, it is nonetheless useful to see how Europeans felt about the possibility of disintegration prior to the crisis—when “things were going well” at the EU level. Indeed, the data we examine here cover the period from the 1970s until 2004, when important steps towards further economic integration were made, such as the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties (in 1992 and 1997, respectively) and the circulation of Euro coins (in 2002). Indeed, if citizens perceived integration as beneficial, there should be a sizable amount of them that would indeed feel sorry for the collapse of the Union.
Figure 5 demonstrates a clear decline in the proportion of citizens with a positive perception of EU membership. With the exception of Finland (one the most Eurosceptic MSs) where we observe a slight increase in the percentage of Finns that view EU membership positively, all other MSs experienced decline during the crisis’ years. Again, we do not know how this trend evolved after 2011 because we lack more recent data, so we can only speculate that the trend continues downward, given the developments in the Union and its incapacity to solve the crisis until this moment. Recent analyses of trust in the EU (Armingeon and Ceka 2014), which is a different indicator of the EU’s relationship with the citizens it is supposed to serve, also portray a worrisome picture.
When we compare the data from 1997 to that of 2001, we do not see stark differences. Nonetheless, the percentage of those Europeans for whom the EU signified a better future for youths, the creation of jobs and economic improvement as well as the warranty of lasting peace declined. At the same time, the percentages of those who identified the EU with easy travel, a European government and the protection of citizens’ rights increased slightly. Those for whom the EU had a negative meaning decreased slightly.
As we lack more recent data, we cannot present an accurate picture of the EU’s current reputation. Yet, we suspect that the picture sketched by Fig. 6 has changed radically. First, Eurosceptic parties that oppose the EU out of fear of cultural but also economic losses (e.g., Lefkofridi and Michel 2016) are on the rise. Second, the economic crisis generated massive unemployment and hindered growth, which, in turn, hurt the image of the EU as an economic solution, or the creator of jobs and of a better future for the young. Third, the refugee crisis in the summer of 2015 led to the partial and erratic suspension of the Schengen agreement and the reestablishment of border controls between EU MSs, the absence of which had facilitated travel.
Economic prosperity has been one of integration’s key goals. One way of assessing the distribution of benefits within the Union as well as trends of economic convergence (Suppositions I.2 and I.6) is to look at the index of economic discomfort, unofficially known as “Okun’s Misery Index”. This indicator specifies the level of economic malaise as the unweighted sum of the annual inflation and unemployment rate. Lechmans’ (2009) calculations of this index in EU MSs (2001–2007) prior to the current crisis revealed mixed variation over time and across states. According to Lechman (2009) discomfort has been lowest in Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands, and highest in Eastern European countries, who were the last to join the Union; that said, since these countries joined, their economic discomfort decreased. Interestingly, Germany is the only strong economy whose index approaches the indices of much weaker economies, such as Greece or Portugal. We suspect that this is because Germany has for a long time engaged in wage dumping in order to acquire a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other MSs. Around 30 % of workers in Germany work for hourly remuneration that is below the poverty level (BBC 2013).
Since we lack data to demonstrate the evolution of misery indices during the crisis, next we consider trends of a key component of this index: unemployment. Figure 9 visualizes unemployment rates within the Union and the Eurozone over time compared to that of US and Japan as well as current rates across EU MSs. Firstly, the top graph shows unemployment trends in the EU and the Eurozone (top lines) during 2000–2015, compared to those of the US and Japan (bottom lines). In detail, we see that, contrary to Japan’s stability of low unemployment over time, the US and the EU as well as the Eurozone experienced a rise in unemployment rates at the beginning of the crisis in 2009. However, the parallel evolution of the US, the EU and the Eurozone unemployment rates was very short-lived; since 2010 the US trend is downward, the EU is upward. This very stark divergence is interesting because Europeans and Americans chose very different methods to deal with the economic crisis (see also below, where we discuss the role played by experts in this regard).
Last but not least, and in relation to proposition I.6 we should note since the onset of the crisis the EU has been performing very poorly in terms of growth, especially when compared to the US and Japan (Balcerowicz et al. 2013). It should be noted, however, that some counties who had experienced decline in growth earlier (Sweden in mid-1990s, Germany in 2000s) have witnessed an increase ever since—a trend that continued through the crisis. On the contrary, Italy has had a steady decline in growth since the mid-1990s. Greece, on the other hand, experienced a downward trend until the 2000s, but then boomed until the crisis hit, and growth sharply declined ever since (ibid.). Since the beginning of the crisis, the group of “growth leaders” in the EU consists of Germany, Sweden and many countries that joined the EU very recently (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia).
The Role and Conflicts of Epistemic Communities
Yet, if the Union is performing as badly in terms of growth, unemployment, and convergence, the question is raised: what has been the role played by experts? To explore Supposition I.4, we review evidence of the behavior of the epistemic community in which the neo-functionalist framework put so much faith.
The role played by experts in EU policy-making is well established in the literature (Radaelli 1999), from environmental (Zito 2001) to security issues (Davis Cross 2007), the creation of the EMU (Verdun 1999) and the convergence of competition policy Waarden and Drahos (2002). At the same time, a recent empirical study by Gornitzka and Sverdrup (2011) shows that, while the Commission relies on a large expert group system for developing, monitoring and implementing EU Policy, the principal actors in this expert group system are officials of national governments. National administrators and national authorities competent on the policy issue of concern constitute 69.8 % and 34.1 % respectively of experts participating in Commission expert groups, while regional and local administration officials amount to 8.1 %. At the same time, scientists and business/industry constitute 33.3 and 28.5 %, respectively. This study observes a much smaller participation in the Commission’s expert group system of NGOs (16.7 %), practitioners (12.7 %), social partners/unions (11.8 %), consumers (8 %) and international organizations (2.2 %).
Expertise has been contrasted with politicization (Radaelli 1999) and it seems that, at least for most of the integration process, conflicts were internalized and resolved without reaching the outside, political world.7 It is very important to note here that prior to the crisis, a coherent and dedicated group of neoliberal economists came to dominate both regional and global international financial institutions. This global epistemic community has resulted in policy choices becoming increasingly determined by their assumptions, models and policies (Chwieroth 2007). As Rosenhek (2013: 23) explains the “interpretative plots of the crisis were not offered by outsiders, but rather by established and powerful actors, such as the Fed and the ECB, with recognized expertise and high epistemic authority”. Notwithstanding key differences regarding their positioning the political economy, their institutional legacy and their definition of the main task of central banks, the diagnoses, notions and themes offered by the Fed and the ECB were very similar (ibid.)
During the crisis, the neoliberal epistemic community in Europe by and large internalized its conflicts and has thus had a very consistent approach in favor of austerity. Experts advocated fiscal balance and budgetary austerity with the assumption that this would result in monetary stability and a shift of available investment from public institutions to private firms, which in turn was supposed to have triggered a general expansion of employment, production and prosperity. So much epistemic authority did these experts have, that they were even appointed to govern troubled countries (vide Monti in Italy and Papademos in Greece). Indeed, the solution of the crisis was thought of as a technocratic issue, as a matter of fiscal consolidation, which could only occur under the “objective” rule of technocrats, who were not constrained by electoral clienteles. Parties, on the other hand, avoided as much as possible to get their hands dirty with cutting their clienteles’ salaries, pensions, or even their jobs in order to bring the common household in order. In the case of Greece, for example the austerity measures lasted for 6 years although they resulted in GDP shrinking by 25 % over 4 years, unemployment rising to 25 % (and youth unemployment to 50 %); yet, the epistemic community was insisting that the same kind of medicine be continued.
Incremental Integration and Pacta Sunt Servanda
Suppositions I.5 and I.7 concern the respect for EU decisions and incremental integration, respectively. Here we will put special emphasis on legislation and the activity of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which relates to both neo-functionalist hypotheses, namely the incremental pace of integration and the respect for the legislation that is produced. Taken together, they help us capture integration in terms of both quantity and quality.
To begin with, the incremental trend is reflected in the fact that the EU’s policy competences have been ever expanding: not just more EU policies, but also in more and more policy areas. Throughout time, the EU acquis communautaire—which any country wishing to join the EU must incorporate into its national system of governance—has increased in a number of important policy areas, involving both deregulation (e.g., competition policy) and regulation (e.g., environment). When the number of EU laws peaked in the 1980s (over 14,000 instruments), Commission president Delors even predicted that within 10 years “80 % of economic legislation, and perhaps also fiscal and social legislation, would be of EC/EU origin” (Miller 2010). Estimating this number is notoriously difficult,10 and the more integration advances, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle EU-induced from nationally induced law. This is also due to sectoral interdependence; integration in one policy sector has led to ‘technical’ pressures pushing for integration in other sectors (Haas 1958; Schmitter 1969).
Thirdly, often the same violations are treated differently, which could impact the perception of fairness of integration (thus, connecting with Supposition II.6). At the beginning of the crisis there was much talk about lack of some MSs’ respect towards the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). However, such violations had occurred previously and had been tolerated politically: when Germany and Portugal (2002) and then soon again later (2003) Germany and France were the first to violate the SGP rule11 the Council of ministers did not resort to punitive measures, despite recommendations by the Commission. Violations of the Pact were neither admonished, nor were violating members coerced to conform to the rule. Based on an understanding of unfavorable economic conditions, states violating the Pact were given flexibility and time to correct their deficits. As a result, the EU’s capacity for legal coercion was substantially weakened.
Conflict and Politicization
Throughout the decades, the problem regarding the politicization of Europe was that it was nationally bounded, and controlled by national political parties. In terms of the functions parties are supposed to play in representative democracies they have—consistently—played a very irresponsible role, either by depoliticizing Europe or by demonizing Brussels (Lefkofridi and Schmitter 2015). Prior to the crisis, only parties at the extreme poles have mobilized around the issue of European integration, albeit for very different reasons. These parties do not politicize integration in order to defend it but to criticize it, and there are nuances and varied degrees of Euroscepticism within the radical right and left camps. Some Eurosceptic parties reject the EU altogether; whereas, others want to keep it but change either its policies, or its polity. Among the mainstream, pro-European parties, there has been little or no effort to encourage public debates–neither about the benefits of European integration nor about how to address the EU’s problems and deficits. Prior to the crisis, the pro-EU mainstream had thus swept EU affairs under the carpet; when the crisis began, this very elite felt threatened by the populist Eurosceptics and indulged in a kind of rhetoric that had strong nationalist undertones. Five years into the crisis, when European elections were held in 2014, nationalist-Eurosceptic parties thrived. Although their potential for impact on EU-level legislation may be overestimated (Brack 2015), they do affect European developments by influencing the behavior of mainstream, typically pro-EU parties behavior.
This is true for most EU MSs, but even for the Germany, who stands out as the country that has benefited the most from economic (and monetary) integration as well as from the Greek crisis (Heinisch 2015; Dany et al. 2015). Instead of revealing these facts to the German public, however, the traditionally pro-European CDU/CSU opted for a nationalistic moralizing narrative against the South, when, actually, it is Germany’s beggar-thy-neighbor policies that endanger the Eurozone and make it impossible to rebalance its balance-of-payments (Spiecker 2015). Moreover, while German historians reminded their Chancellor that their country has benefited from debt relief many times in its history, the Eurozone declared itself ready for a Grexit in July 2015. More specifically, Germany even proposed a “time out” from the Eurozone, an exit for an undefined period—an unprecedented spill-back designed exclusively for the case of Greece, but which could prove contagious. This was a highly risky strategy, not least because the UK is preparing for a referendum on Brexit.
At first sight then, developments seem to contradict some of the expectations outlined in I.8. During the crisis, however, the emergence of greater conflict with regard to European integration, its policies and its increased autonomy did result in ever more politicization, i.e., the mobilization of more and more EU citizens paying attention to the integration process and expressing a greater diversity of opinions about it. We saw an unprecedented mobilization of civil society: the citizens took to the streets to join demonstrations against austerity and the solutions pursued at the EU and national levels that increase inequality and hurt the middle and lower classes (Accornero and Pinto 2015; Beichelt et al. 2014; Della Porta 2012). Only the amount of protest events is enough evidence that many European citizens are concerned with European integration and also that they are not happy with the policies pursued. Europe became even more politicized since the election of the Greek radical left party SYRIZA in January 2015, whose first half year in power produced turbulent relations between EU partners and Greece.
Perhaps the most positive of these, admittedly dramatic, developments is that Europeans got thirsty for EU news, about what EU officials and political leaders in other EU countries say or do (Poschardt 2015). Europeans are not as indifferent or ignorant about EU issues as (national) politicians in their (national) parties might have wished for. The days before the Greek referendum even saw thousands of Europeans taking to the streets to express their solidarity with the Greek people, encouraging them to vote ‘no’ in the hope that this would force EU leaders to change policy direction (Reuters 2015b), while prominent academics from all around the world wrote Op-eds framing the Greek problem in European terms. They warned that in case of Grexit the future of the Eurozone would be at stake, not because Greece matters much in the EU economy but because it would set a precedent that would make the EU more vulnerable to the global market forces in the future. This could also affect the performance of the strongest economies of the Eurozone, given the importance of the currency for trade. However, because national parties feared it could jeopardize their vote optimization strategies, they carefully avoided the discussion about the sustainability of public debt. European solidarity was under test during the economic crisis.
Unity and solidarity among MSs was tested again during the accommodation of refugees.12 Germany would this time seek cooperation with all other MSs in dealing with the Syrian war refugees, who arrived en masse at the Greek island of Lesbos in the hope of finding shelter in the EU. The issue caused bitter divisions between as well as within the MSs, but also within parties. Notwithstanding national-chauvinism being very prominent in political elites’ discourse, large parts of European publics were—at least initially—welcoming of the refugees and of the pursuit of European policy solutions.
In this article, we have used neo-functionalism as an analytical framework to explore conditions that would favor or hinder disintegration. We outlined a series of Suppositions and Hypotheses, which we then assessed on the basis of a variety of available data sources and related scholarly research. As this is an exploration of many different expectations simultaneously, we could not go in detail into each and every hypothesis. The empirical picture has been painted with a broad brush, which focused on national and EU averages. Future research should examine these hypotheses by differentiating more between but also within MSs; for instance, what is the exact picture of benefits if we disaggregate European publics into different socioeconomic groups?
Despite its limitations, this study provides a pioneering analysis of (in-)fertile conditions for disintegration in Europe. In accordance with NF we observe that: integration has been by and large incremental and that interdependence among MSs did indeed increase. Significant parts of the publics in all MSs recognized the benefits of integration. Experts did play a key (even if not always positive) role. With the crisis integration did get intensely politicized. However, contrary to neo-functionalist hypotheses, the distribution of benefits was skewed; in particular the German economy stands out as the key beneficiary in trade—although the German worker may not really “feel” this success due to decades of low wages. Furthermore, compliance has varied across time and countries—and so have the consequences for violations of the rules. In general, policy outputs at the time of writing (e.g., rising unemployment, lack of convergence) contradict the expectations of both NF and the EU citizens in terms of economic improvement or a better future for the young. In Southern Europe highly qualified young people are facing massive unemployment. Such results not only go against NF, but they also suggest that there might be some corresponding increase in the likelihood that the EU could disintegrate. Indeed, the EU is not in a good shape. Even worse, nationalism, chauvinism and racism—all maladies that European integration was supposed to cure—have re-emerged on the European continent. Of course, the EU is a moving target—all the more so in the midst of its most severe crises to date. Whatever one might conclude on the basis of its response so far might well be annulled by future developments.
A previous version of this paper was presented at the panel “European Disintegration—A Blind Spot of Integration Theory?”, 22nd Council of European Studies (CES) Conference, Paris July 8–10, 2015. We are grateful to Lena Ramstetter for research assistance.
For an extreme version based on the argument that this has always and only been the purpose of regional integration in Europe, see Milward (1992).
Both of these became formal obligations for membership in the EU, but were not at the time NF was developed as a theory. It was simply presumed as a constant in the case of Europe, but it was a variable in such cases as South American and Central American integration in the 1970s and 1980s.
Though the empirics we discuss here do give hints regarding some of the implicit hypotheses, we hope that future research will engage in evaluating these hypotheses in detail.
More detailed information is to be found in Eurostat’s online publication, URL:http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Intra-EU_trade_in_goods_recent_trends. Accessed 30 June 2015.
This figure excludes those citizens who did not know how to answer this question (DK), who amounted to 5 % in 1997 and to 8 % in 2001 as well as those for whom the EU meant something else (other), who amounted to 1 % in both years when the question was asked.
A notable exception to this rule was the Bolkenstein directive on the liberalization of services, which was criticized by left-wing organizations as a route towards competition among workers, social dumping and income decline.
An IMF report issued in Summer 2013 discussed the sustainability of the Greek debt and admitted that the IMF made mistakes in the Greek case (The Wall Street Journal 2013); it did not, however, recommend a change in policy direction.
The Greek Radical Left-led Government (SYRIZA-ANEL) was elected in January 2015 with debt relief as its key goal. Although this government, like all others before, conceded (ideological) defeat by accepting all creditors’ terms about austerity measures in exchange of financial assistance, the creditors also kept on refusing to put the debt issue on the negotiating table. The Greek government thus announced a referendum to be held on July 5, 2015: Greeks, 6 years under the austerity treatment already, were to accept or reject the creditors’ proposal for further austerity measures. The referendum was decisive for Greece but also Europe (see below: politicization and conflict).
While there is no “totally accurate, rational or useful way” of calculating the percentage of national laws that are based or influenced by the EU, related estimates of the proportion vary across members and range from 6.3 to 84 % (Miller 2010).
Though national political leaderships in general have not lived up to the expectations of the kind of integration they themselves pursued with their decisions, among the hardliners against the Greek government and the sharing the “refugee burden” are the newest and poorest among the Eurozone members. The latter wished to join the EU and the Eurozone, but did so at its most turbulent times.
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