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Article

The Baltic States in the European Union  

Tanel Kerikmäe, Archil Chochia, and Max Atallah

Integration with the European Union has been far less distressing for the three Baltic States than for numerous other accessing countries owing to their strong societal impetus to (re)join Western political, economic, and legal culture after they regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the accession of these states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—had several distinctive features related to constitutional background and settings, which heavily influenced problem solving between government and the EU institutions. In general, the controversial issues regarding how to solve the problems with supranational power have never been dramatic with regard to the Baltic States, which leads to the assumption that often the governments have taken rather compliant positions. The latest cases, such as the European Stabilization Mechanism, indicate the change in paradigm: the three Baltic States are more aware of the margin of appreciation and actual borderlines between policy making- and decision making. Today, in setting up an EU-related agenda, more skills than previously are needed in finding allies and choosing partners. The road the Baltic States took in joining the EU was a difficult one, nor has their role in the EU been easy. Should a small state with a big initiative be allowed to mentor other member states regarding that initiative, meaning in particular Estonia and its digital development? Another peculiar aspect of the Baltic States is their (inter)relationship with Russia. Considering themselves a bridge between East and West, the Baltics have been active in Eastern Partnership and Development Aid initiatives and have also spoken out strongly against intervention in Georgia and Ukraine. This position sometimes complicates any EU attempt to achieve consensus on foreign policy.

Article

The European Commission  

Hussein Kassim

Novel in both design and function, the European Commission occupies a central position in the political system of the European Union (EU). Compared to other international administrations in other international organizations, its responsibilities are extensive. The Commission is the principal source of EU legislative initiatives. It manages EU policy and processes, monitors the implementation of EU law, and negotiates trade agreements on the EU’s behalf. Though often decried as an “unelected bureaucracy,” the Commission is in fact a hybrid body. Whereas the services of the Commission form a permanent administration, the College, headed by the Commission president, is political. Members of the College, including the president, are appointed by the governments of the member states and elected by the European Parliament every five years, following popular elections to the latter body. The internal functioning of the Commission has attracted considerable interest, particularly among scholars of public administration and comparative politics. With respect to the Commission’s functioning within the wider EU system, the main debates relate to the role of the institution in the EU’s development; the extent of its influence over policy; its executive responsibilities and interaction with agencies at EU and national levels; and, in the context of a wider discussion of the EU’s democratic credentials, the Commission’s accountability. Few dispute the Commission importance, but there is considerable disagreement on how the Commission’s role in integration should be theorized and how the Commission as a body should be conceptualized.

Article

Italy and the European Union  

Federiga Bindi

Italy is a founding member state of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and, subsequently, the European Economic Community (EEC). At the time, membership meant anchoring the newborn Italian democracy, regaining international respectability after the Fascist period renewed vest internationally , and securing much-needed economic support to boost development. While in the 1950s the left side of the political spectrum vehemently opposed ECSC/EEC membership, starting with the late 1980s, European integration became the most important pillar of Italian foreign policy, an issue of shared consensus among different partiesa. The golden period for Italy – that is the phase when Italy was at the peak of its influence in the Communities - was the decade ranging from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s,. At the time, Italian politicians such as Giulio Andreotti played fundamental roles in key moments of EEC/EU history: enlargement to the south, the single market, the Treaty of the European Union, and especially the creation of the euro are all key events in the history of the European Union which is safe to say would have never happened without the skillful contribution of Italy’s key government actors of the time. As European integration started again to be a contentious issue in domestic politics, so declined Italy’s influence. In more recent years: despite Italy’s formal status as a “big” member of the EU, Rome became less relevant than Madrid in EU decision making procedures. The parochial attitude of Italian elites, the incapacity of long-term programming, and relative government instability are all factors that have contributed to reducing the role of Italy in the EU.

Article

France and the European Union  

Christian Lequesne and Avtansh Behal

The European Union (EU) is a multilevel governance whose dynamics of change cannot be understood outside the perspective of each member state. France has contributed to the politics and policies of the EU, but the EU has also had an impact on French domestic politics and policies. As a founding member state of the European Communities (EC), France has played since the 1950s a major role in the development of European institutions, policies, and reforms leading to the EU. France has also, however, always had a paradoxical position regarding the institutional design of the EU. On one side, France has supported the principle of supranationality in the economic areas of EU integration (market and monetary policy). On the other side, it has preferred the intergovernmental method for foreign policy and defense. France’s influence in the EU was for a long time exercised in co-leadership with Germany. The return of Germany to full sovereignty after its reunification, the enlargements of the EU toward the East, and a growing asymmetry between French and German economies made the Franco-German partnership less central in the 1990s. France’s influence on Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has diminished to the benefit of Germany, while it has remained central for the definition of a EU foreign and security policy. Like most of the EU member states, France has also to cope domestically with a growing politicization of the EU issue in the domestic context since the middle of the 1990s. Opposition to the EU has arisen among French public opinion and has restrained the autonomy of the French executive (president of the republic and government) in the EU negotiations. The dominant narrative in France about EU membership has four main components: being a founding member state, being a big member state, co-leading the EU with Germany, and making sure that the EU maximizes the French national interest. The relationships of the main French institutional actors with the EU focus on the president of the Republic, the prime minister, and the National Parliament, as well as major national courts and interest groups. The political debates on the EU in the French public sphere involve the mainstream political parties, the rise of Euroskepticism, the referendum campaigns on EU issues, and general trends in the public opinion. France’s contributions to the main EU policies include membership in the EMU, the commitment to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the attitudes toward the enlargement processes, and the future of the EU institutional reforms.

Article

Cyprus and the European Union  

Stelios Stavridis and Charalambos Tsardanidis

The Republic of Cyprus (or Cyprus) joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004 and adopted the single currency (the euro) in 2008. This article consists of three parts: it begins with a historical contextualization, explaining the reasons for Cyprus’ application for an Association Agreement with the (then) European Economic Community (EEC), and also examining the latter´s reaction and policy towards the 1974 Turkish invasion following a failed coup d´état against the Makarios Presidency that has led to a divided island since then (Part 1). In brief, what is known as the “Cyprus Problem.” This part also looks at the evolution of the Association Agreement during the period since 1975 which ended with the conclusion of a customs union Agreement between Cyprus and the European Community in 1987. The article next turns to an analysis of the Republic of Cyprus´ EU accession negotiations process (Part 2). It also covers the impact (or lack thereof) of various reunification plans, and most notably what is seen as the culmination of such efforts in the so-called 2002–2004 Annan Plans. The following section presents an assessment of how Cyprus has fared as a member state since it joined the EU (Part 3). It covers several key questions regarding the EU–Cyprus relationship. Whereas this article is not about the Cyprus problem itself, but as will be made clear throughout this study, it remains the dominant issue for the island. Others issues encompass EU relations with the Turkish-Cypriot community, the question of Turkey´s EU accession, the impact of the economic crisis of 2013, as well as energy security considerations following the discovery of gas in the region. The study concludes that being in the EU offers better perspectives for the Republic of Cyprus than if it had been kept outside it. If only because as the Accession Treaty makes it clear: it is the whole island that has joined the EU albeit the acquis communautaire cannot apply to the north, occupied, part of the Island following the invasion by Turkey. But all Cypriots are EU citizens. Yet, to a large extent, the experience of Cyprus prior to and after EU membership also reflects the kind of specific problems that a “small state” is facing in its international relations.

Article

Austria and the European Union  

Paul Luif

At the end of World War II, Austria was occupied by the four Allies. The occupation ended in 1955 on the condition that Austria would declare permanent neutrality, which the Soviet Union had required. In the first half of the 1950s, relations with the newly founded European Coal and Steel Community were being discussed in Austria because the organization encompassed Austria’s two most important trading partners at that time, West Germany and Italy. But after the uprising in October–November 1956 in neighboring Hungary, Austria started to stress its neutrality and declined European Economic Community (EEC) membership. Instead, in 1960 Austria joined other European countries to create a less-integrated economic entity, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In the mid-1980s, the debate about membership in the now European Community (EC) started again. Economic problems and a narrower interpretation of neutrality led to Austria’s application for EC (later European Union) membership in July 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the applications of other EFTA countries, Austria finally acceded to the EU on January 1, 1995 (along with Finland and Sweden). The political system and its economy adjusted relatively smoothly to the challenges of EU membership; “social partnership,” the close cooperation of trade unions and business groups, while losing some of its power, could maintain its influence on Austrian politics, and Eastern enlargement of the EU brought further economic advantages for Austria. As one of the smaller EU countries and a non-NATO member, Austria has a somewhat unique position in the EU. Environmental policy and supporting EU membership of the Balkan countries are among Austria’s important activities. But the country has no close partners in the EU because it does not participate in the “Visegrad” group with the other Central European members. This difficulty was evident during the period of sanctions against the new Austrian government in 2000.

Article

The Western Balkans and the European Union  

Gentian Elezi

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.

Article

The Lisbon Strategy and Europe 2020  

Annette Bongardt and Francisco Torres

The Lisbon (2000–2010) and its successor, the Europe 2020 strategy (2011–2020), denote EU-wide exercises in economic policy coordination for economic and institutional modernization. They set an ample reform agenda with common targets to transform a host of common challenges facing the EU and its members (as varied as globalization, the paradigm shift to a knowledge economy, demographic aging, or climate change) into economic opportunities and quality growth. The economic and political economy arguments for EU-level coordination rested on positive spillovers from trade and peer pressure, respectively. The Europe 2020 strategy, a revised Lisbon rather than a new strategy, set a renewed vision of a European social market economy that also plays an important role in the global context (the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). Built on the Lisbon strategy’s governance framework, Europe 2020 inherited a problem-laden legacy with respect to governance and ownership of reforms and in addition faced the impact of large negative transnational spillovers, which put in sharp focus that there was an as-yet-unaccounted-for euro-area dimension to the reform agendas. The sovereign debt crisis (2010–2014) added urgency to dealing with the EU’s structural weaknesses and economic governance building. The European Semester was set up as the chief instrument to help overcome compliance and implementation problems, inserted within broadened economic policy coordination, of which structural reforms under the Europe 2020 strategy constitute one of three blocks. The OMC method affords member states the possibility of finding their own consensual path toward agreed economic reform targets within the strategy’s adequate, 10-year timeframe. The central idea continues to be the promotion of reforms tailored to member states’ heterogeneous situations and preferences and that so are also politically sustainable. Without being framed and perceived in terms of desirable reforms in line with socioeconomic objectives and preferences, reforms carry potential for a political backlash. The Europe 2020 strategy also captures the fundamental and long-term issues for economic development and competitiveness, notably institution building, and outlines a forward-looking model of society with social and environmental dimensions. The European Commission came to base its assessment of the implementation of structural reforms on the broader objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy and also included the respect for the European social pillar in the European Semester. Nonetheless, Europe 2020 results have been mixed. The OMC does not feature sanctions for non-compliance. The sovereign crisis context added compliance-enhancing mechanisms that were absent before (market and peer pressure, conditionality in countries subject to adjustment programs) although those came essentially to a halt when financial market pressure subsided, and ECB actions had the side effect of relieving pressure. Efforts undertaken to improve implementation include a structural reform support program to make country-specific recommendations more effective. Yet, close to the end of its term the Europe 2020 strategy continues to be held back by member states taking insufficient ownership of reforms and not prioritizing the relevant ones from an EU point of view, a lack of visibility and ultimately, governance (the unanimity requirement).

Article

Russia and the European Union  

Tom Casier

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia have gone through a dramatic journey from close partnership to confrontation. The narratives of the crisis that erupted over Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 are diametrically opposed. The root causes of the crisis are primarily related to colliding visions of the European order that have existed ever since the end of the Cold War. Yet, to understand why the escalation happened at that time, one also needs to understand the dynamics of a process of increasing tensions and dwindling trust. The Ukraine crisis was thus both the outcome of an escalation of tensions and a radical rupture. In the run-up to the Ukraine crisis (2003–2013), EU–Russia relations were characterized by a Strategic Partnership. The latter was launched in 2003, closing a decade of asymmetrical EU-centric cooperation and redressing the balance in a formally equal partnership, based on pragmatic cooperation and a recognition of mutual interests. Despite high aspirations, the Strategic Partnership gradually derailed into a logic of competition. Tensions eventually crystallized around colliding integration projects: the Eastern Partnership (aiming at Association Agreements) on the EU’s side and the Eurasian Economic Union on Russia’s side. The crisis erupted specifically as the result of the choice Ukraine had to make between the two options. This choice radicalized the negative geopolitical reading that Moscow and Brussels had gradually developed of each other’s behavior. Since the start of the Ukraine crisis (2014), EU–Russia relations have been characterized by a harsh confrontation in the field of high politics. The Strategic Partnership was suspended and the EU imposed sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine. Moscow retaliated and relations became highly acrimonious. Security-related issues dominate the agenda: Russia accuses the West of neo-containment, while Moscow is blamed for undermining the pan-European border regime and security order. The stalemate between Russia and the EU (and by extension the Euro-Atlantic Community) is ambivalent. On the one hand, it has taken the form of a systemic crisis, where both parties risk running from incident to incident in the absence of effective pan-European instruments that may constrain or reverse the conflict. On the other hand, in the field of low politics, in particular trade and energy, business often seems to continue as usual.

Article

Historical Institutionalism in the Study of European Integration  

Thomas Christiansen and Amy Verdun

Since the 1990s, historical institutionalism has established itself as a frequently used approach in the study of European integration. One basic tenet of those who use this approach is to take history seriously in the study of European integration—in particular how historical choices on institutionalizing particular procedures and policies explain subsequent patterns of agency. Looking at the manner in which time and institutional structures affect outcomes is central in this approach. In the context of the European Union (EU), the works that have adopted this approach have typically examined developments in policies and institutions over time. While sharing with other institutionalist approaches (such as rational choice and sociological institutionalism) the recognition that “institutions matter,” historical institutionalism introduced particular concepts such as “path dependence” and “critical juncture” into the study of the EU. The distinct contribution here is the capacity of historical institutionalism to explain the persistence of institutional structures and the continuity of policies as well as the reasons for change. In the study of European integration, this approach has been adopted in many areas of research, ranging from studies about the legal foundations of the EU, the workings within institutions of the EU, the process of enlargement, to analyses of various sectors of EU policy-making, and the study of the multiple crises confronting the integration project in the 2010s.

Article

Malta and the European Union  

Roderick Pace

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.

Article

Sociological Institutionalism and European Integration  

Sabine Saurugger

Sociological institutionalism is part of the larger group of new institutionalisms that share the basic understanding that institutions matter in social processes. Opposing a more descriptive, “old” institutionalism and a rational-choice version of institutionalism, which defends the idea that actors have the option to choose independently from a large number of attitudes, sociological institutionalists introduced the notion of logic of appropriateness, influenced by a specific strand of the sociology of organizations. This understanding, however, led to limits in the explicatory force of the approach: institutional change, as well as continued conflict and differentiated power relations among actors, could not be explained well. More recent approaches that took sociological institutionalist assumptions very seriously offered a series of possible solutions to those difficulties. While elements of rationality and power exist implicitly in different conceptualizations of sociological institutionalism, these authors explicitly brought together both actors’ rational behavior and their embeddedness in broad institutional frameworks through concentrating on the power relations that exist among agents.

Article

Germany and the European Union  

Simon Bulmer

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.

Article

Israel and the European Union  

Sharon Pardo

Israeli-European Union (EU) relations have consisted of a number of conflicting trends that have resulted in the emergence of a highly problematic and volatile relationship: one characterized by a strong and ever-increasing network of economic, cultural, and personal ties, yet marked, at the political level, by disappointment, bitterness, and anger. On the one hand, Israel has displayed a genuine desire to strengthen its ties with the EU and to be included as part of the European integration project. On the other hand, Israelis are deeply suspicious of the Union’s policies and are untrusting of the Union’s intentions toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to the Middle East as a whole. As a result, Israel has been determined to minimize the EU’s role in the Middle East peace process (MEPP), and to deny it any direct involvement in the negotiations with the Palestinians. The article summarizes some key developments in Israeli-European Community (EC)/EU relations since 1957: the Israeli (re)turn to Europe in the late 1950s; EC–Israeli economic and trade relations; the 1980 Venice Declaration and the EC/EU involvement in the MEPP; EU–Israeli relations in a regional/Mediterranean context; the question of Israeli settlements’ products entering free of duty to the European Common Market; EU–Israeli relations in the age of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP); the failed attempt to upgrade EU–Israeli relations between the years 2007 and 2014; and the Union’s prohibition on EU funding to Israeli entities beyond the 1967 borders. By discussing the history of this uneasy relationship, the article further offers insights into how the EU is actually judged as a global-normative actor by Israelis.

Article

Aid, Political Conditionality, and Other International Efforts to Support Democracy in Africa  

Christine Hackenesch

Support for democracy, human rights, and good governance reforms in Africa has become a prominent objective in engagement by European Union (EU) institutions, EU member states, and the United States with African countries since the early 1990s. Western actors have gradually increased democracy aid, used sanctions, and developed a range of other instruments to support political reforms on the continent. Academic research has analyzed the “substance” and “content” of political reforms that Western actors seek to promote, what instruments they use, and how effective these instruments are in different political contexts. This body of work comes to mixed conclusions as to whether and under what conditions external support has contributed to democratic reforms in African countries between 1990 and 2015. Yet, evidence suggests that external democracy support has made some positive contributions and has been more effective in Africa compared to other regions. However, after a period of 25 years during which democracy support gradually became an important element in the United States’ and European cooperation with African countries, this agenda is now under considerable pressure. Domestic challenges to democracy within Europe and the United States, domestic dynamics in African countries, and the rise of China as an alternative political model make it difficult for European and other external actors to contribute to political reforms on the continent. In this new era of uncertainty, there are three main areas to which policymakers as well as academic research should pay more attention. First, more debate is needed how the contestation of democratic norms in Europe and the United States affects not only the legitimacy but also the decision-making processes on democracy support. Second, more research is needed how urbanization, demographic change and digitalization and their combined effects influence political reforms in Africa and what implications emerge for democracy support. Finally, how China’s more proactive and assertive foreign policy will affect democracy support in Africa is an area that policy-makers and researchers should follow closely.

Article

Romania and the European Union  

Natalia Cuglesan

The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union (EU) is portrayed as one of the most challenging enlargement waves in the history of the EU Integration Process. A member of the EU since 2007, Romania had to overcome significant obstacles to qualify for EU membership. Not fully prepared for EU accession, Romania required post-accession monitoring through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism in order to stimulate compliance in the fields of corruption, the judiciary, and the rule of law. The problems of the unfinished transition have impacted on its positive post-accession evolution in the first 10 years of EU membership. It has accomplished limited results in the field of democratic consolidation, combating high-level political corruption and experiencing episodes of democratic backsliding. Also, in this period, it has failed to materialize strategic opportunities; it proved unsuccessful in its efforts to join Schengen or in adopting the currency. Playing a more substantial role in EU policymaking proved to be another shortcoming of the Romanian political elite, stressing the incremental pace of Europeanization. Still, despite this pessimistic account, in many respects, Romania has not fallen behind. It had a general compliant behavior with EU legislation, in line with other EU member states; support for the EU has remained high throughout the decade, an indication of the benefits it has brought to broad categories of people. It is not surprising, as more than 3 million people work in an EU member state. Economic growth was another positive side of the first 10 years—despite the adverse effects of the economic crisis—with a substantial GDP growth rate. And not to be dismissed , a great benefit was the consolidation of civil society.

Article

Belgium and the European Union  

Edith Drieskens

Belgium is one of the six founding members of European integration, but it is often seen as a special one. In both policy and research, the country is widely known as the “heart of Europe.” It even sells itself to the outside world in this way. This metaphor has a double meaning, a literal and a figurative one. First, Belgium’s capital, Brussels, qualifies as the unofficial capital of the European Union. This meaning is strongly supported by facts, with the city hosting the most numerous and the most important institutions. The second meaning requires more detailed consideration. Indeed, and second, Belgium is perceived to be the most European of all European countries, even prepared to exchange sovereignty for supranationalism at any time and any price. A closer look at data, decisions, and developments shows, however, that while support for European integration is widespread, it is not omnipresent either in time or in place. Particularly in Flanders, the northern part of the country, support has been less obvious than elsewhere. Indeed, to understand Belgium and/in the European Union, one also has to understand the functioning of Belgium as a federal state composed of communities and regions, thus as a system of multilevel governance. While it is not the only federation among European Union member states, it uniquely combines a wide variety of federal characteristics. Most importantly here, the gradual process of federalization that Belgium has experienced has given the federated entities a strong voice in European Union decision-making. Member states still need to speak with one voice, however, resulting in a complex system of coordination and representation. The possibilities and realities of this system have attracted quite a lot of scholarly interest. The same goes for the rather fundamental question of whether the European Union and federated entities should be seen as unintended partners in the hollowing out of the federal state or whether the opposite holds true and the European Union is coming to Belgium’s rescue. The jury is still out on this, though the answer seems to be growing more and more complex as time passes.

Article

The European Council: The Fascination and Frustration of Studying a Key Institution  

Wolfgang Wessels and Linda Dieke

The observer´s first impression of the European Council is one of tired European Union (EU) leaders who, after dramatic late-night sessions, try to explain ambiguous compromises on key issues of European policies to their media audiences. From a researcher’s perspective, however, there are still many blank areas—a matter resulting from the various obstacles of analyzing this EU institution. The relevance of the European Council’s decisions has driven research on its agenda formation, decision-making and internal dynamics, its legal status and democratic legitimacy. Yet research on the European Council can be cumbersome and methodologically demanding due to the lack of confirmed empirical evidence: meetings of the European Council are consultations behind closed doors and the dense network of mutual information difficult to access. The conclusions are only a concentrate of the discussions held within. It is furthermore a challenge to explain the causal links between the diplomatic language of the conclusions and the real impact these measures have on EU politics. Nevertheless, the European Council is a vivid object of investigation. Since its creation in 1974, the European Council has undergone structural and formal changes: from the increase to up to 28 heads of state or government, to the establishment of a permanent president and the formal inclusion in the institutional setup of the EU in the Lisbon Treaty. From the first “summits” onwards, the Lisbon Treaty had a crucial role in the development of the EU system and the formulation of the underlying treaties. In crisis, it was often the only constellation able to provide consensual and thus effective proposals. Meanwhile, the scope of its activities has been enlarged toward a state-like agenda. It now covers topics at the very heart of national sovereignty. To these issues dealing with core state powers belong economic governance, migration policy, justice and home affairs, and external action, including security policy. Academic controversies about this cornerstone of the Union derive from intergovernmental or quasi-federalist assessments of the institution or from the powers and limitations of “summits” in general and in relation to other EU institutions. Some argue that the European Council shifts the institutional balance toward intergovernmentalist structures. Others stress the European Council’s role in transferring competences to supranationalist institutions. Further debates focus on whether the European Council has (successfully) overtaken the role of a “crisis manager,” or how its embeddedness in the EU institutional architecture could be enhanced, especially vis-à-vis the Council and toward a constructive and balanced relationship with the EP, in future treaty revisions. Analyses of power and of the role of institutions—especially of a key institution as the European Council—are crucial issues of social sciences. Research projects on this highly interesting EU institution will have to assess which methods are adequate: from studying the treaty provisions, formalized agreements and conclusions, to observing its activities as well as tracing external contexts and the internal constellations of the European Council, to evaluating information considered as “anecdotal evidence” from interviews, biographies, and speeches from the few members of this institution.

Article

European Political Cooperation (EPC)  

Elfriede Regelsberger

European Political Cooperation (EPC) is the forerunner of today’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU. It covers the period 1970 to 1993, during which the member states of the (then called) European Communities (EC) developed a genuine system of cooperation in the field of foreign policy. Its main purpose was to secure and even increase the influence of European countries on the international scene in times of growing global political and economic interdependencies. At the same time, EPC was generally perceived as an area and approach to foster the political dimension of the European integration process. EPC was widely intergovernmental in nature. Its guiding principles and institutions were based on political commitments (the Luxembourg (1970), Copenhagen (1973), and London (1981) Reports). EPC received a first legal framework only in1986 with the Single European Act (SEA). EPC was the domain of the foreign ministers assisted by their national diplomatic staffs. Mainly for reasons of consistency, the European Commission was gradually admitted to the club and the European Parliament struggled hard to get access and be heard to a certain degree at least. EPC was consensus-based and widely declaratory in nature. Issues of security and even more of defense were highly controversial among the participants and therefore widely excluded from the agenda. In order to strengthen the European voice, that is, to become more active and more operational, EPC diplomacy had to take recourse to EC instruments like trade, sanctions, and development policy, and fine-tune its presence in the world. To sell its own model of integration to other parts of the world became a popular approach, most obvious in the numerous group-to-group dialogues established during the 1980s, while European responses to conflict situations remained below the level of EPC ambitions. The end of the East–West divide, the war in Iraq and in the former Yugoslavia, German unification, and EU internal dynamics, such as the successful completion of the internal market program, revealed the shortcomings of the EPC in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and paved the way for a qualitatively new system: the CFSP. Academic research on EPC was far less numerous and less diversified than it is today on CFSP. Its origins date back to a small group of scholars primarily working on the EC and/or interested in the foreign and EC policy of their respective countries. Their approach was less theoretical and more empirical and aimed to grasp the concept as such, which was not so easy during non-digital times and when EPC took place behind closed doors. EPC was seen as a relevant topic because of its new institutions and procedures and of the relevant forces driving the system further. Its evolution over more than two decades was described as constant movement though gradual process along various stages. Research was very much inward-looking, that is, the interplay of EPC at both the national and the EC level—today known as the governance question—was of great interest. Enlargement from the original six participating governments to 12 from 1986 onwards also became a case in point (raising the issue of adaptation processes (the Europeanization) of national bureaucracies and EPC decision-making (socialization, esprit de corps) and policy substance). To the extent EPC gained some international presence (e.g., in the United Nations) and profile (the acquis politique) on key international issues (such as the Middle East conflict, East–West relations), the question of EPC actorness attracted attention from wider academic circles. But how to measure the successes and failures of EPC and which yardsticks to apply here remained a challenge.

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Humanitarian Aid and the European Union  

Francesca Pusterla and Elia Pusterla

The European Union Humanitarian Aid Policy (EUHAP) operates through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (DG ECHO) in international humanitarian crises to help victims of man-made atrocities and natural catastrophes worldwide. EUHAP is a subject of vibrant debates given its sensitive scope of intervention and institutional uniqueness. This results, first, in discussions of the reason and legitimacy of humanitarian aid as well as the goals and impact on domestic politics of both donors and recipients. Second, EUHAP is institutionally provided with parallel competences that allow simultaneous and autonomous interventions of the European Union and Member States in humanitarian crises. This means that the EU and Member States can formally carry out independent humanitarian aid without obligation to coordinate. This makes EUHAP particularly relevant regarding the role of the EU as a humanitarian aid provider, the relations between the EU and Member States, the policy governance, and the policy implementation principles. First, coordination and cooperation between the EU and Member States are de facto essential, given the collective nature and global effects of humanitarian crises. Shared competence regulation through EUHAP may enhance the effectiveness of joint operations, overcome inefficient division of labor, and avoid divergence between intervention expected outcome and real performance. Second, parallel competences give to the EU the formal competence to carry out humanitarian actions and conduct a common policy, while Member States’ autonomous actions are not prevented. Indeed, despite the undeniable benefits of multilateral intervention, Member States may opt for bilateralism due to concerns for domestic autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Such collective action problems risk affecting policy coherence and effectiveness. Third, policy governance can make the difference in an effective and coherent EUHAP. This depends on the successful coordination of involved actors to avoid overlapping interventions, dispersion of resources, and particular political, economic, and bureaucratic interests to prevail. In so doing, Member States access the benefits of centralized coordination, monitoring, and division of labor and also avoid autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Fourth, the application of a costs/benefits rationale to common humanitarian interventions is not per se sufficient to ground and overcome the drawbacks of collective action and explain EUHAP. As per its Treaties, or in line with international humanitarian law, the EU adopts and pursues a humanitarian aid policy based on shared principles of solidarity, humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality.