/ /


Political Aspects of European Integration


Has the EU reached the limits of integration?

By:         Yaroslav Sinitsov, EUBL

Instructor:      Desmond Dinan,
Visiting Professor, University of Amsterdam

Before answering this question, let us face some obvious facts. So far, the
European Union has been the most advanced and successful alliances of the
independent countries in the modern history. One cannot deny that it is
only the EU which established  at least in the first pillar  a new legal
order for its Member States, by which they voluntarily shared their
sovereignty based on the rule of law in order to achieve the common task,
as set forth by Article 2 of the Treaty Establishing the European
Community: ...to promote throughout the Community a harmonious and
balanced development of economic activities, sustainable and non-
inflationary growth respecting the environment, a high degree of
convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and of
social protection, the raising of a standard of living and quality of life,
and economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member States.[i]
But as with any other international treaty, there is always room for
diversity in interpretation. If the right to interpret the Treaty
provisions and other Community legislation had been vested in Member
States, the EU would have been nothing different but just another
international treaty nicely falling within the general system of public
international law, where no contracting party can be bound against its
will. The EU is unique to have the European Court of Justice which, unlike
any other international tribunals, has a compulsory jurisdiction and an
exclusive authority to interpret the Community legislation  at least, with
respect to the first pillar of the EU. By widely interpreting the EC
legislation and relying not just on the text, but also on the spirit of
the Treaty, the European Court of Justice has actually developed its own
doctrine which is now seen as one of the important sources of the Community
law. This doctrine has played a crucial role in implementing EU policies,
since the text of the Treaty and other Community legislation cannot cover
in detail all aspects of integration. Despite the instability of its
development, the EU remains by far more efficient that any other possible
alternatives. The EU is a major achievement and is still on the move. IGCs
being clearly inter-state negotiations bear little resemblance to classical
diplomatic conferences reviewing international treaties. European Treaty
reform is perhaps better looked at as the constitutional process  with an
integral role being played by the representatives of the people, both at
national and European level.[ii]
Why Integrate?
But why integrate? What made European governments act against their
cautious political interests? The answer was given by Jean Monnet, one of
the founding fathers of the European Communities and a lover of aphorisms:
People only accept changes when faced with necessity, and only recognise
necessity when the crisis is upon them[iii]. I couldnt agree more with
the first part of Monnets saying, but I would like to replace the word
only with the word better in its second part. A deep crisis is probably
the most powerful impetus to bring peoples and countries together, although
not the only one. This is exactly what happened immediately after the World
War II. The need for fundamental political and economic change in Europe
was extremely strong. As the Cold War commenced and the Iron Curtain
abruptly divided the continent, integration became a means by which the
Western Europe could defend itself, in close co-operation with the United
States, against the external Soviet threat and the internal communist
threat. The need for a stronger and united Europe outweighed an initial
desire of the Allies to pasteurise Germany. A stronger Europe must have a
strong Western Germany. At that time the Europe was on the move to
integrate. And it has been on the move to integrate since then. However,
the dialectics of the integration has dramatically changed with the change
of the world affairs in the years 1989-1992. The old dialectics was that of
the Cold War, with the familiar and multiple interactions between the two
Europes, the two alliances and the two great powers. The new dialectics is
of a pan-European solidarity and all-European integration, and it has never
been tried before.
Multi-Speed Integration
Naturally, in some areas governments tend to reach agreements more easily.
The least disputed goal of European Construction is the large market
without borders; even those Member States with reservations over other
objectives do not dispute this one.[iv] This explains why the first pillar
of the EU  economic integration  has virtually reached supranational
level. Community member states are willing to share their sovereignty in
this field because it is clearly in their interest to do so. The European
Single Market has become the worlds largest domestic market. It has
contributed significantly to the economic growth, though its full potential
has not yet been realised. But ...the political will is evident. This
needs to be translated into targeted action.[v]
By contrast, quite little has been achieved since Maastricht in the two
other pillars of the EU  Common and Foreign Security Policy (CFSP) and
Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) which still remain intergovernmental. This
has become a reality in the integration process: the integration speeds in
the first pillar as compared to the other two pillars vary dramatically.
Economic integration and security co-operation have always been a couple
dancing apart from each other on the same dance floor. Despite its
recurrent crises and setbacks, the process of economic integration has
tended to follow the neo-functionalist logic of the expansiveness and
sectoral integration... European security co-operation has always lagged
behind in this respect.[vi]
By common agreement, CFSP was one of the major disappointments of
Maastricht. After all, Maastricht proposed not only a common foreign and
security policy, but declared the eventual aim to be a common defence. This
has inevitably lead to the relationship between the EU and the defence
alliance, the Western European Union (WEU), being put at stake. This has
become even more challenging since the founding treaty of the WEU expires
in 1998. However, the EU does not seem to be willing to take control in
this area, as it is felt that the EU is being backed up by its major
defence partner  the United States. The US has always been able to act
(and this is what happened when the war in former Yugoslavia broke out) as
a saviour of Europe in defence and peace-keeping matters.
Similarly, JHA pillar which includes issues of combating international
crime and fraud, and issues related to a common approach to immigration
policy is a hard nut to crack for the EU because of the national
sensitivity to these. However, there has been some progress in this respect
in Maastricht and further in Amsterdam  at least the workable mechanism
was set out. Besides, it is a very fertile area of co-operation between the
EU and the US.
On the whole, the EU since Maastricht has failed to live up to the peoples
expectations. The existing structures are further challenged by the
prospects of further integration eastwards: a number of countries in
Central and Eastern Europe, plus some of the successor states of the Soviet
Union are striving to modernise economically and politically, and the EU is
an important magnet for them, whether as a market, a political system
seeking to uphold democratic norms and values, or a putative defence
system. The queue for membership has lengthened. But the Union is not as
attractive from the inside as it may look from the outside. It seemed that
the Monnet-method, i.e. a closer interaction of national elites as a
means for European integration has reached its limits. Indeed, the EU has
experienced serious internal problems in the aftermath of Maastricht. One
of the most obvious was the ratification crisis. In the narrow sense it
meant a petit oui vote in French referendum for the ratification of the
Maastricht Treaty and the initial no vote in Danish referendum. In a
wider sense it meant a lack of political support of the EU, widening of the
gap between the governments and the governed, and the lack of leadership in
the EU. As the involvement of the EU and its institutions has expanded, but
without any complementary shift in the sense of involvement and
identification of the electorate, the questions rose about its very
Limits of European Integration?
Legitimacy and Democracy
The EU as a scapegoat is hardly a new concept; the problem lies in the
fact that the EU has moved into an ever-wider range of policy areas,
including, with Maastricht, areas previously very closely identified with
the prerogative of the nation state[vii]. The traditional concept of
legitimacy cannot be fully applied to the institutions of the EU simply
because a single European nation, or European demos in its traditional
sense does not exist as such and is not likely to appear within foreseeable
future. The integration is not about creating a European nation or people,
but about the ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe[viii]. A
parliament is a traditionally democratic institution not because it
provides a mechanism for representation and majority voting, but because it
represents ... the nation, the demos from which it derives its authority
and legitimacy of its decisions[ix]. If we follow the logic of this no-
demos clause, the European Parliament cannot be legitimate and democratic
by definition, and, therefore, the increase of powers of the EP at the
expense of the Council (the voice of the Member States) is a step in the
wrong direction. I cannot agree to this. The demos is traditionally seen
though the ethno-cultural prism. Cant we imagine a polity whose demos is
defined, accepted and understood in civic, non-ethno-cultural terms, and
would have legitimate rule-making democratic authority an that basis[x]?
Cant we separate nationality from citizenship? Cant people unite on the
basis of shared values, a shared understanding of rights and duties, and
shared rational, intellectual culture which transcends ethno-national
differences? This appears to be the concept of introducing EU citizenship.
According to this viewpoint (which is I personally share, too), the
directly elected European Parliament is a democratic and legitimate
institution for EU citizens, and therefore its powers must be increased.
But the problem lies in misunderstanding. During the Danish referendum for
the ratification of Maastricht, some Danes feared that when acquiring EU
citizenship they were losing their national citizenship. Indeed, ...there
was a failure to put across the idea that citizenship of the Union is not
intended to replace the national citizenship but actually to complement
it[xi]. In some cases the perception was the opposite. Thus, the European
Union should be brought closer to its citizens which will allow the
disputes on legitimacy to be resolved in future. To do this, the following
issues must be addressed.
Transparency of the legislative process
Over twenty separate complex systems are now used to adopt legislation in
the EU, and there is a lack of logic in the choice of the various
procedures. Although willing to share sovereignty, governments retain as
much political control as possible.[xii] Hence the complexity of
institutional structure and number of decision-making procedures which
sometimes render the Unions modus operandi extremely obscure[xiii].
Simplification is, therefore, considered necessary and the pressure is
growing to reduce these procedures to three. The tendency is to move from
unanimity to qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, and to
extending co-decision powers of the European Parliament which, in turn,
will increase the legitimacy of the latter. Maintaining unanimity
requirement could, indeed, paralyse a larger Union and prevent future
Treaty reform.
Should Member States willing to do so be specifically allowed to integrate
their policies further and faster than their more reluctant EU partners?
Yes, otherwise the Union should be forever bound to advance at the speed of
its slowest members. To some extent, flexibility already exists. Social
policy, a single currency arrangement and the Schengen acquis all involve
fewer than all fifteen Member States. Moreover, unbalanced economic
integration of the EU has been beneficial to its Member States. As long as
there is agreement on the goal, we can have flexibility. If there is no
common goal we get variable geometry which is widely seen as more
dangerous. Flexibility supposes that more slower members will catch up
while variable geometry doesnt.
Given its enormous significance, the EU is expected to act efficiently.
However, relatively small issues may suddenly become big issues in
practice. This is illustrated, for example, by the tendency to keep the
diversity of the official and working languages of the EU. The EU Council
of Ministers of 12 June 1995 has not only reaffirmed its firm attachment to
Linguistic Diversity, it has also decided to set up a commission to check
that all the Institutions respect this... The Commission has been invited
to make yearly reports on the application of these decisions ...[xiv] The
current number of working languages of the EU is eleven. Since EU
legislation is directly applicable in the national law, all languages with
the official status in one or more of the Member States should be official
EU languages as well. This means that there are now eleven official EU
languages. With some Eastern Bloc countries joining the number will
increase to sixteen or more which, in my opinion, will be virtually
unworkable. This will only contribute to the lack of efficiency of the EU.
I think it is wise to limit the number of working languages to a minimum of
five, although in view of the fact that Council members have never been
able to agree on a limit the number of working languages within the
institutions, one may expect a continuing debate on this matter.
As we see, the EU is far from being perfect. And it never will, like any
other man-made enterprise. But the Union cannot afford to be politically
disappointing to its Member States, and especially to the countries which
would like to join it. One could always argue that the EU will not benefit
from the fifth enlargement neither politically, nor economically, nor
even administratively (since their ability to participate in the management
of the EU is doubtful), and that a wider Union means a weaker Union. It is
true, but, however, only in the short-run. The EU must upgrade its capacity
to respond favourably to the other counties in Europe, otherwise we may
find ourselves once again in a divided Europe. Therefore, my suggestion is
that the limits of integration of the EU are politically unaffordable, in
other words, the locomotive of European Integration has passed the point
of no return and there is no way back. There may be conflicting economic
views about the wisdom of European Integration, or a continuing debate over
the preservation by certain states of an ideal of national sovereignty, a
tension between market Europe and social Europe, but yet despite of all
this ... there appears to be an overall commitment to the process of
integration in Europe for a variety of reasons, backed up perhaps by the
shadow of war factor which served as the original stimulus, so that
whatever the tensions and differences which exist, the journey to an
unknown destination continues.[xv]
[i] Nigel Foster. EC Legislation (Blackstone, 1997), 2
[ii] Geoffrey Edwards, Alfred Pijpers. The Politics of the European Treaty
Reform. The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and Beyond (Pinter, 1997), 8
[iii] Desmond Dinan. Ever Closer Union? An Introduction to the European
Community (Macmillan, 1994), 14
[iv] The new 1999 Objective for the large market without borders
submitted by the European Commission to the Amsterdam Summit (Bulletin
Quotidien Europe No 2039/2040, 12 June 1997), 1
[v] ibid., 1
[vi] Geoffrey Edwards, Alfred Pijpers.  The Politics of the European
Treaty Reform. The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and Beyond (Pinter,
1997), 344
[vii] ibid, 342
[viii] Geoffrey Edwards, Alfred Pijpers.  The Politics of the European
Treaty Reform. The 1996 Intergovernmental Conference and Beyond (Pinter,
1997),  257
[ix] ibid.
[x]  Ibid, 261
[xi]  Reflection Group 1995; 17 (Ibid, 62)
[xii] Desmond Dinan. Ever Closer Union? An Introduction to the European
Community (Macmillan, 1994), 3
[xiii] European Commission 1995:18. Quoted in Geoffrey Edwards, Alfred
Pijpers. The Politics of the European Treaty Reform. The 1996
Intergovernmental Conference and Beyond (Pinter, 1997),  63
[xiv] EU. Frequently Asked Questions Edited by Ronald Siebelink & Bart
[xv] Paul Craig, Grainne de Burca. EC Law. Texts, Cases & Materials
(Clarendon Press - Oxford, 1997), 37