Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) is the contemporary “baseline” social scientific and historiographic theory of regional integration—especially as regards the European Union. It rests on three basic assumptions, which in turn support a three-stage theoretical model of integration and the elaboration of numerous distinctive causal mechanisms. Considerable historical and social scientific evidence supports the LI view, but room also remains for scholars to extend and elaborate its framework in promising ways. Three prominent criticisms of LI exist. Some scholars of “administrative politics” charge that it applies only to treaty-amending decisions and other rare circumstances. “Historical institutionalists” charge that it overlooks endogenous feedback from previous decisions. “Post-functionalists” and “constructivists” revive discredited claims from the 1960s that functional theories neglect the central role of identity claims and ideology in explaining national interests. While each criticism contains some truth, LI possesses rich theoretical resources with which to address them fruitfully and musters compelling evidence to support its empirical claims. This confirms LI’s preeminent role in scholarly debates and suggests a soberly optimistic future for European and regional integration.
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.
Citizenship is usually conceptualized as a unitary and exclusive relationship between an individual and a sovereign state; yet the European Union (EU) has developed the most advanced form of contemporary supranational citizenship. Citizenship of the European Union guarantees EU citizens and most members of their families the right to move, live, and work across the territory of the EU. It also guarantees the right to vote in local and European elections in the member state of residence, the right to consular protection outside the EU when the member state of nationality is not represented, the right to access documents or petition Parliament or the Ombudsman in any of the official languages, and the right to be treated free from nationality-based discrimination. Though on the political agenda since the postwar origins of European integration, EU citizenship was not formalized into EU law until the Maastricht Treaty. Since then, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has declared that “EU Citizenship is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States” and there are ongoing discussions about the relationship between EU and member state citizenship. In terms of identity, increasing numbers of Europeans see themselves as citizens of the EU, and questions of citizenship are at the heart of debates about the nature of European integration.
Florian Trauner and Ariadna Ripoll Servent
Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the most salient policy fields at European Union (EU) level. It deals with issues closely related to the sovereignty of member states including immigration, borders, and internal security. This article takes stock of the policy’s development and current academic debates. It argues that EU justice and home affairs is at a crossroads. Most EU actors underline the value added of European cooperation to tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime as well as the challenge of international migration. Indeed, the EU has increased its operational cooperation, data-sharing and legislative activities. The EU home affairs agencies, notably the European Police Office (Europol) and European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), have been substantially empowered. Yet JHA has also become a playing field for those attempting to politicize the European integration process. Therefore, recent years have seen major conflicts emerge that risk fragmenting the EU. These include controversies over the distribution of asylum seekers within the EU and the upholding of rule of law standards in some Eastern European states. Scholars have followed these developments with interest, contributing to a multifaceted and rich literature on aspects such as the dynamics of EU decision-making and the policy’s impact on the member states’ respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties. Promising avenues of further research include the implications of the politicization of the field and the consequences of ever more interconnected internal security databases and technologies.