Ireland joined the European Communities—as they were known then—in 1973, alongside the United Kingdom and Denmark. In many ways, that membership was defined by the bilateral British-Irish relationship. Ireland was, to all intents and purposes, an underdeveloped appendage of the British economy, and membership alongside the United Kingdom was deemed by most of the Irish political and economic establishment as virtually axiomatic. Irish policy makers, however, took full advantage of the opportunities offered by membership; in particular the Common Agricultural Policy, the direct transfers that derived from cohesion, regional and structural funding, and the opportunity to present the country as a successful location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with access to the entire European market. Irish policy makers also positioned themselves rhetorically close to the heart of European construction, which had the added value of creating an Irish antithesis to Britain’s ongoing European discontents. There are perhaps four key themes to be analyzed with respect to Ireland and its membership of the European Union. The first is the question of a small state and its sovereignty. As a former colony, with a bitter experience of imperialism and a strong sense of independence, Ireland’s pooling of sovereignty with its European partners has most often been presented as a desirable trade-off between legal, formal sovereignty and effective sovereignty. Having a seat at the main table—alongside the former imperial hegemon—was deemed to be a major advance, one that allowed the state more effectively to pursue its interests—including the resolution of conflict on the island of Ireland. The 2008 financial collapse, and Ireland’s experience of the EU-led troika briefly challenged that narrative. Subsequently, the support given by the EU26 to a resolution of post-Brexit border relations on the island substantially reinforced Ireland’s European commitment. A second theme of inquiry is that of Irish economic development within the European Union. In contrast to other similarly under-developed states and regions in the EU, Ireland is seen by many as something of a poster child for making a success of EU membership. In the run-up to the 2004 enlargement and shortly thereafter, Dublin was a magnet for central European and Mediterranean states looking to replicate the success of the so-called “Celtic Tiger.” Debate persists, however, on the precise balance of costs and benefits deriving from the model of economic development pursued by the Irish state, the role of Irish government policy therein, and consistency between Irish and EU policy priorities, especially in the field of corporate taxation and the regulation of large multinationals. A third theme of inquiry is the intersection of local, national, and European democracy. Once membership was secured, the European Union became a central and largely uncontested fact of Irish political life. Early constitutional referenda authorizing ratification of EC and then EU treaty changes, while vigorously contested, were overwhelmingly won by coalitions of the mainstream political parties and sectoral interest groups. With both the Nice (2001) and Lisbon (2007) treaties, however, ambivalence, antagonism, and complacency combined initially to thwart ratification. The gap between popular opinion on EU treaty change, which ultimately divided roughly 60/40 in favor, and the near unanimity among political elites and sectoral interests, opened a conversation on the relationship between local, national, and European democracy, which is as yet unresolved, but which many see as having further centralized policy making and distanced it from effective democratic control. A fourth theme is that of Ireland and Europe in the world. Ireland joined the European Communities with no expressed reservations on its further political integration, but as the only non-member of NATO. During those initial debates, economic arguments overwhelmingly predominated, but the political issues were aired and the implications for Ireland’s traditional military neutrality were robustly discussed. The subsequent membership of other non-aligned states ought, on the face of things, to have made Ireland’s position all the more secure. Thus, with a long and popular history of UN peacekeeping and active international engagement, the development of European foreign, security, and defense policies should not have proven to be problematic. In fact, neutrality, security, and defense remain neuralgic issues for Ireland within the European Union and have contributed in a very modest way to the challenges faced by the Union in its attempts to craft a coherent and credible common security and defense policy. This speaks to debates surrounding Ireland’s proper place in the world, the lessons of its own history and the perceived capacity for smaller states to shape the international community. These four themes underpin much research and analysis on Ireland as a member of the European Union. In an unstable contemporary climate, with many well-established expectations under threat, they also serve to identify the pathways available to navigate beyond political and economic instability both for Ireland and the wider European project.
Birol A. Yeşilada
The partnership between the European Union (EU) and Turkey has been unlike any other accession process. Turkey has had a close relationship with Western Europe since it joined the National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952 and became an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963. During the Cold War, there was hardly any serious doubt about this country eventually becoming a member of the Western European Economic Community. However, developments since the end of the Cold War have raised considerable misgivings over Turkey’s membership in the EU, first among several political leaders of member states and their respective citizens, and lately among Turkish leaders and the general Turkish public. Debates over Turkey’s membership fall into two distinct categories. First, those who oppose Turkey’s membership in the EU point at this country’s economic problems, deterioration of democracy, and the Islamic culture of its society. These states either outright object to Turkey’s membership or favor changing the negotiation process to end with nothing more than a preferential partnership between the EU and Turkey. Second, supporters of Turkey’s membership emphasize this country’s economic and strategic importance for the EU, as well as the Union’s treaty obligations to complete the accession negotiation. Moreover, Turkey’s supporters argue that the EU cannot afford to cut off its ties to this country at a time when President Erdogan is looking for excuses to realign his country with anti-NATO countries. When one looks at the potential for Turkey’s membership in the EU, accession seems further away, if not impossible. The challenges for Turkey include a roller-coaster performance along democratic (political) acquis, the economic cost of enlargement, the Europeanness of Turkey, and the acquis communautaire. Once a promising potential member, Turkey has become a policy nightmare for the EU. Although the Copenhagen criteria represent the primary framework for accession, regional, and systemic developments further complicate such decision-making. For the political acquis, Turkish democracy has deteriorated to such an extent that it no longer meets the minimum requirements for membership. On the economic front, Turkey remains one of the EU’s most important trade and investment partners. However, the Turkish economy is showing severe signs of overheating coupled with the falling value of the Turkish lira. Furthermore, the Turkish public is increasingly moving away from the Europeans in terms of social values that dominate the general population. Instead of the convergence of societal benefits, there is a growing gap between Turks and other Europeans. Furthermore, there is a growing sentiment among Turks that the EU leaders are not interested in having Turkey join the Union. Finally, Turkey and the EU need to find a permanent solution to such problems as the refugee crisis, EU–NATO partnership, Cyprus, and bilateral disputes between Greece and Turkey.
John Erik Fossum
Norway has applied for membership of the European Union (EU) four times but is not a member. The two first applications were aborted because of de Gaulle’s veto against the U.K.’s application. The two latter were turned down by Norwegian citizens in popular referenda (1972 and 1994). Why did a majority of Norwegian citizens reject EU membership? A survey of the literature identifies a range of historical, cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors. In addition, it cannot be discounted that there were specific features about the referendums and the referendum campaigns that help account for the decisions to reject EU membership, given that all Nordic states except Iceland have held EU membership referendums. Nevertheless, despite the fact that Norway is not an EU member, it has opted for as close an EU association as is possible for a nonmember. In order to understand Norway’s EU relationship, the following paradox must be addressed: whereas the question of EU membership has long been a highly controversial and divisive issue, Norway’s comprehensive incorporation in the EU through the EEA Agreement and a whole host of other arrangements has profound constitutional democratic implications and yet has sparked surprisingly little controversy. What then are the distinctive features of the “Norway model,” in other words, Norway’s EU affiliation? In order to clarify this, it is necessary to compare and contrast Norway’s affiliation with other relevant types of affiliation that nonmembers have to the EU. Thereafter, the distinctive features of Norway’s EU affiliation can be outlined: the internal market through the EEA Agreement; justice and home affairs through the Schengen and Dublin conventions; as well as defense cooperation and the institutional apparatus regulating Norway’s relationship with the EU. A distinctive feature of the Norway model is its comprehensiveness: Norway’s various EU affiliations amount to it incorporating roughly 75% of all EU laws and regulations. What are the domestic mechanisms and arrangements that enable Norway to adapt so closely to the EU when the EU membership issue continues to be so controversial? There is public support for the present arrangement, but how robust and resilient that is can be questioned. The arrangement depends on specific mechanisms that ensure that Norway’s EU affiliation remains depoliticized. In explicating these mechanisms, a clearer conception emerges of how Norway balances the challenges associated with global economic integration, national sovereignty, and democracy.
The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was a founder member of the European integration process, namely the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) created in 1952. However, the circumstances were very different from the 2010s. Germany was a divided and defeated state until 1990. Integration provided important political and economic support to West Germany. From the 1970s, it strengthened the FRG’s foreign policy reach, for the new state was constrained by Cold War politics as well as other legacies, notably the Holocaust. European integration provided a framework for building trust with western neighbors, particularly France. The collapse of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989 and its absorption into the FRG through unification in 1990 brought about significant change to Germany’s relationship to European integration. The unified Germany became the largest member state. Initial concerns about German power in Europe were allayed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl pursuing deeper integration to bind the unified Germany further to integration: through creating the European Union (EU) itself and setting a course toward monetary union. Specific concerns about German power only really emerged in the 2010s, as the EU was bedeviled by several crises. In seeking to offer a comprehensive understanding of Germany’s relationship with the EU, coverage is organized around four broad themes: the historical dimension of the relationship; the substance of Germany’s European policy; the sources of Germany’s European policy; and Germany’s role and power in the EU. The historical dimension of Germany’s relationship with European integration is important as a first theme. It is no exaggeration to suggest that European integration helped emancipate the FRG from the historical legacy of turbulent relations with France, Nazi tyranny, and the opprobrium of the Holocaust. European integration afforded a complementary framework for Germany’s political and economic order. The importance of embedding German unification in a context of European integration should not be underestimated. Germany’s European policy has displayed considerable consistency up to the contemporary era. Support for further integration, for enlargement, the market order, and the development of an EU “civilian power” have been key components. These policies are important contributors to understanding Germany’s role in the EU: the second theme. The political and economic system of the FRG forms an important backdrop to understanding Germany’s policy and role in the EU: the third theme. From the 1960s until the 2010s, EU membership was subject to cross-party consensus and permissive public support. These circumstances allowed the federal government autonomy in pursuing its European policy. However, the political climate of European policy has become much more contested in the 2010s. Germany’s role was placed in the spotlight by the succession of crises that have emerged within the EU and in its neighborhood in the 2010s, particularly the eurozone and migration crises. The fourth theme explores how the question of German power re-emerged. These four themes are important to understanding Germany’s role in the EU, especially given Berlin’s centrality to its development.
Fifteen years ago Malta joined the European Union (EU) and four years later in 2008 it joined the Economic and Monetary Union. Throughout this period its economy performed exceptionally well, to the extent that it managed to escape the worse ravages of the Great Recession. In general, the majority of the Maltese people support EU membership. Rapid economic growth has produced a general “feel good” sentiment, which is not, however, shared by everyone. The Maltese political system has been dominated for many years by two parties, the Partit Nazzjonalista and the Labour Party, the only ones to elect candidates to the national parliament since 1966. In 2003, the Labour Party, which had opposed EU membership for many years, changed its policy. This brought the curtain down on parliamentary Euroscepticism in the country. In the meantime, economic success has meant that populist small parties have not been able to gain much traction with the electorate, and the established political parties were not dethroned by populist upsurge as happened in most of the rest of southern Europe. Growth has not led only to benefits, however. The construction sector is putting pressure to bear on scarce land resources, and the influx of foreign labor and a growing demand for housing have inflated rents and housing prices, often beyond the reach of lower income households. Unemployment stands at a low 3.8%, but more people are close to the poverty line. Malta is failing on some of the national targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. These challenges will have to be watched more closely in the years to come should this rate of growth be maintained.
Slovakia’s most recent crisis of identity involving the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, and the subsequent anti-government protests (the largest since 1989), indicate that the push of European-wide democratic values and the pull of the old ways of Slovakian politics continue to define the nation’s political and economic landscape. Despite a decade and a half of European Union (EU) membership, Slovakia remains caught between the two competing pressures: one of corruption and the other of the rule of law. On the one hand, the rule of law heavily shaped by the intense Europeanization of Slovakia’s accession to the EU and its strong desire to be seen as a committed, highly integrated European partner, indeed part of the core of EU nations. On the other hand, the state remains relatively weak and captured by a dominant one-party political regime, resistant to fundamental change and punctuated by corruption. Indeed, for many analysts, Slovakia has fallen in line with other Central and Eastern European (CEE) states, high on absorbing EU funds and economic benefits, but less than committed to European political values and espousing nationalist and populist agendas. With pressure increasing from the European Union for accountability, the rule of law, and human rights, in which direction will Slovakia turn? This is not just a question for Slovakia; it is a fundamental question for Europe and the European Union. The direction in which nation-states such as Slovakia develop could determine the fate of the Union. In order to determine which direction Slovakia is headed, analysis of particular case studies of Europeanization suggest intentional, deep, and lasting impacts on Slovakia. Specifically, by examining justice and home affairs policy issues and inclusion into the European monetary system and eventual participation in the eurozone, Slovakia’s EU approach can be explained by its relative power and influence within the European Union. The first phase of Slovakian Europeanization can be characterized by its relative weakness, defined by rapid acceptance of EU directives, near total commitment to implementing those directives, and little Slovakian leverage over the process. By the time Slovakia joined the eurozone in January 2009, the EU’s ability to shape and impact Slovakia’s political and economic direction was demonstrable. However, following the severe economic downturn beginning in 2008 and the onset of the sovereign debt crisis of 2010, a second phase began to emerge. By the time of the migrant crisis in Europe in 2015, Slovakia surfaced as a key player in the EU’s ongoing struggles with the sovereign debt crisis and defending the external borders of Europe. Shifting relative Slovakian influence within the EU, broken down into two historical time frames, thus provides an overlapping explanation of the dual nature of Slovakia’s relationship with and to the European Union. These dual tracks help us further understand how truly Europeanized Slovakia is, despite its more recent resistance to further integrationist efforts. Slovakia, like the EU, is walking a very delicate tightrope, striking its own distinct and influential path among its CEE and Visegrad partners.
Finland joined the European Union together with Austria and Sweden at the beginning of 1995. At first glance, Finnish membership appeared as a rapid change of political orientation, given the inflexible policy of neutrality the country had maintained until the early 1990s. In spite of the brevity of national adaptation and consideration, the decision to follow Sweden and submit an application for EU membership was based on an overwhelming political consensus. All the major political elites, including party and interest organizations, key actors in the private sector, and the media were in favor of Finnish membership. In the referendum for EU membership in October 1994, membership was supported by 57% of the people. A stable popular support characterized the Finnish EU policy for the first 15 years of its EU membership and distinguished Finland from its Nordic neighbours in the EU. The popular approach was anchored in a perception of EU membership representing a comprehensive change from the country’s difficult position in the Cold War era to full-fledged membership in the Western community. Finland thus joined the EU’s currency union as the only Nordic member state and adopted a constructive approach toward more integration in most policy fields. It was only in the context of the economic and financial crisis of 2008–2009 that Finnish public opinion became—at least temporarily—heavily polarized by the EU question. This resembled the situation in many other EU member states. During the two decades of Finland’s EU membership, the country has experienced a Europeanization of its political system and legislation. EU membership has contributed to a further parliamentarization of Finland’s semi-presidential political system with EU affairs being designated to the powers of the government and coordination of policies taking place at the prime minister’s office. Due mainly to EU membership, the Finnish Parliament has also become an influential actor in foreign and European policies. Finland has smoothly adjusted to the EU’s policies and has become a persistent proponent of the EU’s unity in external relations. Since the first years of its EU membership, the country has been in favor of majority decisions and a stronger role played by the commission and the EP in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). It has also gone through a major change in its legislation on crisis management and the tasks of defense forces to be able to better fulfill membership commitments to the EU’s security and defense policies. After the polarization of EU opinion taking place in the framework of the general elections of 2011, and leading to the emergence of an anti-EU “Finns Party” as the third-largest party in Finland, a more consensual atmosphere has recently returned with increasing levels of public support to EU membership. The Finns Party first made its way to the governmental coalition together with the two largest center-right parties in 2015, which significantly softened its EU criticism and moved its focus to an anti-immigration agenda. Finally, in 2017 the Finns Party was split into two parts with the more moderate part practically failing to establish itself in parliamentary or European elections of the spring 2019.
The European integration process of the Western Balkans has been experiencing considerable stagnation since 2010, although the regional states have been formally following the accession stages. In spite of the remarkable achievements in the 2000s in terms of stability and engagement in reforms, the European Union (EU) conditionality policy is experiencing shortcomings in terms of tangible impact. Due also to its internal problems, the EU appears to have lost its shine in influencing domestic political agendas of the Western Balkan countries as in the case of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and has gradually lost the support of citizens in the region. This has had several consequences in terms of rising authoritarian practices, slowing down EU-related reforms and compliance with the acquis, some return to nationalistic rhetoric, and openness to influences of other global actors from the East, which do not necessarily maintain good relations with the EU. The enlargement fatigue that has affected the EU since the 2008 global crisis has had repercussions inside the EU institutions and domestic politics of member states. These changes have been reflected in the Union’s approach towards accession countries, undermining the credibility of the integration process and its commitment to the Western Balkans. The weakening of credibility and predictability on this path, together with the poor state capacities that characterize the Western Balkans, have produced some regress of the democracy indicators. The EU, with its conditionality, is still a determining factor in the trajectory of the countries of the region. However, there is a need to renew the commitments undertaken on both sides in order to make sure that the European perspective, stability, and democratization in the Western Balkans are irreversible and properly supported. The European Union is still considered the only game in town, but it has to face up to the enlargement fatigue and return to its leading role as an aspirational model for the Western Balkans.
Ana Bojinović Fenko and Marjan Svetličič
Despite having fought for their bare survival against hostile foreigners, after finally reaching their independence and international recognition in 1991/92, paradoxically, even before fully assuming statehood Slovenians were eager to engage in yet another international integration—the European Union. This historical and societal wager, rather than merely political elites’ driven perspective, dominates as the prevailing reason for pursuing EU membership; thus security assurance to a small geopolitically transit state, economic benefits of a larger common market in conditions of economic globalization, and cultural proximity of Slovenian to European society explain Slovenian general identity-related elements favoring membership in the EU. There is also a more immediate time-space related explanatory factor for this, namely, the collapsing of the socialist Yugoslavia starting by the end 1980s and a view of assuring the democratic political life and market-lead economy via integration with Western European countries rather than South Slavic nations or following other alternative scenarios like full liberalization with all partners’ strategy. Authors critically evaluate where and why during the effort of becoming an EU member state and performing excellently as one during the first four years, the state fell short of capability-building and/or seizing the opportunities of EU membership. As the latter has been most brutally exposed via the effects of the 2008–2014 economic and financial crisis, of key importance for Slovenians currently stands a self-reflection of its development strategy, enhancing competitiveness, and the state’s role within the European family of nations. The main challenge is how to overcome the small state hindrances and more effectively formulate and project national interest to the EU level; with that in mind, the central questions for Slovenians remain assurance of social security to citizens, upgrading economic union to face more effectively global challenges and inter-state solidarity, refreshing enlargement policy for the remaining Western Balkans non-member states and ensuring Slovenian participation in the group of core states leading the European integration.