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Can any theory fully explain the process of European Integration? If not, why not? January 19, Over the next few posts I will be revisiting work completed as part of my undergraduate degree. Today I start with European integration, this essay explores whether or not any theory can fully explain the process of integration.
I toyed with the idea of updating the writing style of these essays Eu integration theories neofunctionalism in the end decided to retain them in their original form. The process of European integration is a puzzling one for integration theorists. This is due to its complexity and because integration of this nature had never occurred before.
The result of this is that several theories have sought to explain the integration of Europe. Initially theories of European integration grew out of the International Relations school of thought, however as integration progressed new theories have developed to try and explain the governance of the EU.
The main difference however is between those who view the EU as supranational in nature versus those who view it as more intergovernmental.
In this assessment I will focus on three main schools of thought on integration theory: Neofunctionalism lies in the supranationalist camp in the intergovernmentalist versus supranational debate.
Spill-over occurs when integration in one area is a co-requisite of integration in an interrelated policy area. On this basis European integration can be seen as a backward process of integration with co-requisites requiring pre-requisites and these pre-requisites further becoming co-requisites for something else.
Spill-over comes in three main forms, functional, political and cultivated. Such an example can be found in the publication by the Commission in of its White Paper Completing the Internal Market which called for a removal of all non-tariff barriers in the Unionas a result by the end of that year the Single European Act was agreed and signed the following year.
Neofunctionalism does not however completely explain the process of European integration. However recent evidence has shown that Neofunctionalist theory can still be used to explain the integration process.
Much of the criticism of Neofunctionalism comes from, not surprisingly, the other side of the theoretical spectrum, under the intergovernmentalist school of thought. Intergovernmentalism originated from international relations theory specifically the realist view, which asserts that states are the most important actors in international affairs.
The theory has its foundations in the academic Hoffman, however it has since been reformulated by his former student Moravcsik under the heading Liberal Intergovernmentalism LI. Likeness can be drawn here to the Neofunctionalist view of political spill-over.
The role these supranational institutions play is negligible in relation to the whole process, with European policy making having the Council of Ministers as its focal point. Perhaps the strongest argument for a LI view of European integration is the fact that member states can secede from the Union whenever they like, thus halting the process of integration in their own country.
The issues to be discussed being very vague and the specifics often unknown until the conference begins. LI appears in this instance to be able to answer only economic issues with regards to government policy formation, and is unable to answer questions of a political nature, which formed a considerable part of the Maastricht negotiations.
Using the example of airline travel the Commission backed by the European Court of Justice ECJ enforced the competition rules of the Community against the wishes of the national governments who at the outset rejected it.
Both of which have emerged from international relations thought. New institutionalism NI is one such theory. NI differs to Neofunctionalism in that it does not need to differentiate between high and low politics, the rules of interaction affect the conduct of social actors at all levels.
There are three schools of thought under the NI umbrella: The result of these institutional arrangements gives rise to the member states losing their hegemony of the integration process.
States when faced with these institutions change their conduct towards them and use them to reach their end objectivesthus acting rationally.
How then does HI explain the process of European integration? These so called gaps emerge for four reasons. Firstly the institutions at European level given their new nature as political actors will seek to develop their own interests, these interests may differ from those of the member states who created the institutions.
This is because of the supremacy of EU law over national law. For example in in the case Barber vs.
The third gap to cause member states to lose control of the integration process is tied in with the Neofunctionalist logic of spill-over mentioned earlier, that of unanticipated outcomes. Furthermore issue density results in spill-over, as mentioned before spill-over occurs when it becomes difficult to confine integration to just one policy sector due to the close knit nature of modern economies which further causes unforeseen outcomes.
The final gap concerns that of policy preferences, over time with subsequent enlargements policy coalitions at European level will changeafter all with each subsequent enlargement the numbers in the Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament and ECJ change to reflect the new size of the Union, with most of these institutions having one member from each member state.
Does HI fully explain the process of European Integration? Much like the other two theories discussed it does not.The two main competing theories of EU integration are Neo-functionalism and Intergovernmentalism. Although these theories have been heavily criticised, amended or even abandoned, they do contain two strong theoretical integration arguments.
Neofunctionalism is a theory of regional integration which downplays globalisation and reintroduces territory into its governance. Theories of European integration have developed implicit or explicit alternative perspectives on the causes, processes and outcomes of integration crises Neofunctionalism regards incremental European integration as both prone to crisis and capable of progressing through crisis.
Yet neofunctionalism is conditionally optimistic. Neo-Functionalism as a Theory of Disintegration Philippe C. Schmitter The European Union (EU)’s future has been put into question in practice as well as in theory (Lefkofridi and Schmitter ; Schmitter ; Vollard of regional integration in Europe (for a critical discussion, see Vollard ).
theories of European integration and this has deprived them of most of their capacity for self-reflexivity – except to the extent that inter-temporal comparisons of the same case allows for some questioning of the endogenous and exogenous status of explanatory.
Neofunctionalism is one of the most prominent theories of European integration and a core part of the wider debate between supranational and intergovernmental perspectives on integration in Europe.