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Article

Frank Schimmelfennig

Regional integration theory seeks to explain the establishment and development of regional international organizations. Key questions are why and under which conditions states decide to transfer political authority to regional organizations; how regional organizations expand their tasks, competencies, and members; and what impact they have on states and societies in their regions. Whereas regional integration theory started with a broad comparative regional and organizational scope in the 1950s and 1960s, it has since focused on European integration and the European Union. The main (families of) theories explaining the development of European integration—rather than decision making and policy making in the EU—are intergovernmentalism, neofunctionalism, and postfunctionalism. The key debates in regional integration theory have taken place between variants of intergovernmentalist and neofunctionalist integration theory. Intergovernmentalism assumes national governments to be the key actors in regional integration. Governments use regional integration to maximize their national security and economic interests in the context of regional interdependence. Integration outcomes result from intergovernmental bargaining and reflect the regional preference and power constellations. Governments delegate authority to regional organizations to secure their bargaining outcomes but remain in control of regional organizations and the integration process. By contrast, neofunctionalism disputes that governments are able to control the integration process. Transnational corporations and interest groups as well as supranational actors are empowered by the integration process and shape it in their own interest. In addition, integration creates a variety of “spillovers” and path-dependencies that push integration beyond the intergovernmental bargain. More recently, postfunctionalism has enriched and challenged the theoretical debate on regional integration. In contrast to neofunctionalism, postfunctionalism assumes a backlash mechanism of integration. As regional integration progresses and undermines national sovereignty and community, it creates economic and cultural losers who are mobilized by integration-skeptic parties. Identity-based and populist mass politicization constrains regional integration and may even cause disintegration. Regional integration theories have closely followed and adapted themselves to the development of European integration. They cover the establishment and progress of supranational policies and institutions but also the recent crisis of the EU. An exemplary review of their explanations of major development in European integration shows that they are more complementary than competing.

Article

Arne Niemann

Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, neofunctionalism underwent several ups and downs, often closely related to the stops and starts of the European integration process. During this time, neofunctionalism has repeatedly become subject to revision, a development that has continued in the new millennium. The theory has been widely criticized, and some of the criticisms have aptly revealed considerable shortcomings, but neofunctionalism retains a central place in conceptualizing European integration. This is due to (a) neofunctionalism possessing a unique toolkit for analyzing important issues of European integration, mainly concerning the dynamics of the integration process; (b) the theory inspiring subsequent (micro-level) theorizing, and later approaches having frequently drawn on neofunctionalist tenets and concepts; (c) neofunctionalism having proven to be capable of reformation. Instead of pinning the theory solely down to certain time-sensitive formulations dating from up to six decades ago, neofunctionalism should be understood as an evolving theory, whose research agenda is by no means exhausted.

Article

Differentiated integration has become a core feature of the European Union. Whereas in uniform integration, all member states (and only member states) equally participate in all integrated policies, in differentiated integration, member and non-member states participate in EU policies selectively. At its core, differentiated integration is formally codified in EU treaties and legislation. The study of differentiated integration has long remained limited to policy-oriented conceptual debate. “Multi-speed integration,” “core Europe,” and “Europe à la carte” are prominent labels that have resulted from this debate. Theoretical and systematic empirical analysis of differentiated integration is a more recent phenomenon. Demand for differentiated integration is theorized to be rooted in international diversity of country size, wealth, and national identity, which result in heterogeneity of integration preferences, interdependence, and state capacities. In addition, agreement on differentiated integration depends on the size and bargaining power of the insider and outsider groups, the externalities that differentiation produces, and the institutional context in which negotiations take place. Finally, differentiated integration is subject to centrifugal and centripetal dynamics of path dependence and institutional practice. Evaluations of differentiated integration vary between negative assessments based on the principles of legal unity, European democracy, and solidarity and positive assessments based on demoi-cratic standards and the facilitation of integration. More research is needed on the relationship of differentiated integration with other forms of flexibility in the EU, citizen attitudes, and party positions on differentiated integration and the effects of differentiation.

Article

European integration theories help us understand the actors and mechanisms that drive European integration. Traditionally, European integration scholars used grand theories of integration to explain why integration progresses or stands still. Born out of assumptions that are prevalent in realist international relations theories, intergovernmentalism was first developed as a theory in opposition to neofunctionalism. In a nutshell, intergovernmentalism argues that states (i.e., national governments or state leaders), based on national interests, determine the outcome of integration. Intergovernmentalism was seen as a plausible explanatory perspective during the 1970s and 1980s, when the integration process seemed to have stalled. Despite the fact that it could not explain many of the gradual incremental changes or informal politics, intergovernmentalism—as did various other approaches—gained renewed popularity in the 1990s, following the launch of liberal intergovernmentalism. During that decade, the study of European integration was burgeoning, triggered in part by the aim to complete the single market and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty that launched the European Union (EU). Intergovernmentalism also often received considerable pushback from researchers who were unconvinced by its core predictions. Attempts to relaunch intergovernmentalism were made in the 2010s, in response to the observation that EU member states played a prominent role in dealing with the various crises that the EU was confronted with at that time, such as the financial crisis and the migration crisis. Although intergovernmentalism is unable —and is not suited—to explain all aspects of European integration, scholars revert to intergovernmentalism as a theoretical approach in particular when examining the role of member states in European politics. Outside the EU, in the international arena (such as the United Nations), intergovernmentalism is also observed when studying various forums in which member states come together to bargain over particular collective outcomes in an intergovernmental setting.

Article

In a multilevel governance system such as the European Union (EU) policy processes at one level may create challenges and dilemmas at lower levels. Multilevel governance involves a multiplicity of regulatory regimes and succeeding governance ambiguities for national actors. These regulatory challenges and ensuring governance dilemmas increasingly affect contemporary European public administration. These challenges and dilemmas are captured by the term turbulence. The inherent state prerogative to formulate and implement public policy is subject to an emergent and turbulent EU administration. Organized turbulence is captured by the supply of independent and integrated bureaucratic capacities at a “European level.” Throughout history (1952 onwards) the EU system has faced shifting hostile and uncertain environments, and responded by erecting turbulent organizational solutions of various kinds. Studying turbulence opens an opportunity to rethink governance in turbulent administrative systems such as the public administration of the EU.

Article

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the Treaty on Stability, Coordination, and Governance, often referred to as the Fiscal Compact, constitute two of the main European Union (EU) instruments for dealing with the eurozone crisis. Both had to be established as intergovernmental agreements outside of, but parallel to, the EU’s legal framework. However, the instruments were closely linked to the European Community framework and made extensive use of Community institutions. The ESM was originally set up as a loan facility to Eurozone countries facing problems financing their debt, but it became much bigger in size and scope than originally envisioned by the member states. The Fiscal Compact, on the other hand, can be considered as the fiscal counterpart to the ESM. It received a lot of attention in the press and academia, but it was first and foremost required as a political signal that would allow further enhancements of the ESM. The two instruments are often employed in the literature as part of a continuing juxtaposition of intergovernmentalist and supranationalist methods or approaches. However, from a theoretical perspective, the ESM and Fiscal Compact reflect an acknowledgment of new realities in European integration, in which intergovernmental actors and action channels play a more prominent role in decision making, but this does not necessarily come at the expense of the supranational actors. The instruments exemplify the rise of the European Council’s centered governance for dealing with major reforms. The processes of setting up the ESM and Fiscal Compact were undoubtedly political and top-down, but they were less driven and controlled by the big member states than the label ‘intergovernmental’ implies.

Article

Anna Herranz-Surrallés

Energy policy has been considered as a “special case of Europeanization,” due to its tardy and patchy development as a domain of EU activity as well as its important but highly contested external dimension. Divergent energy pathways across Member States and the sensitivity of this policy domain have militated against a unified European Energy Policy. And yet, since the mid-2000s cooperation in this policy area has picked up speed, leading to the adoption of the Energy Union, presented by the European Commission as the most ambitious energy initiative since the European Coal and Steel Community. This dynamism has attracted growing scholarly attention, seeking to determine whether, why and how European Energy Policy has consolidated against all odds during a particularly critical moment for European integration. The underlying question that emerges in this context is whether the Energy Union represents a step forward towards a more homogenous and joined-up energy policy or, rather a strategy to manage heterogeneity through greater flexibility and differentiated integration. Given the multilevel and multisectoral characteristics of energy policy, answering these questions requires a three-fold analysis of (1) the degree of centralization of European Energy Policy (vertical integration), (2) the coherence between energy sub-sectors (cross-sectoral integration), and (3) the territorial extension of the energy acquis beyond the EU Member States (horizontal integration). Taken together, the Energy Union has catalyzed integration on the three dimensions. First, EU institutions are formally involved in almost every aspect of energy policy, including sensitive areas such as ensuring energy supplies. Second, the Energy Union, with its new governance regulation, brings under one policy framework energy sub-sectors that had developed in silos. And finally, energy policy is the only sector that has generated a multilateral process dedicated to the integration of non-members into the EU energy market. However, this integrationist dynamic has also been accompanied by an increase in internal and external differentiation. Although structural forms of differentiation based on sectoral opt-outs and enhanced cooperation have been averted, European Energy Policy is an example of so-called “micro-differentiation,” characterized by flexible implementation, soft governance and tailor-made exemptions and derogations.

Article

Jaime Antonio Preciado Coronado

If Latin American and Caribbean integration arose from the interests of nation-state institutions, linked to an international context where commerce and the global market was the mainframe of the economic development theory, some state and academic actors sought to expand the autonomy of nation-states in negotiating trade agreements and treaties under the paradigm of an autonomous governance of regionalism and economic integration. The autonomous integration initiatives arose between the 1960s and 1980s, before neoliberalism emerged as the sole model of development. However, since the 1990s, neoliberal policies have left little room for autonomous integration. A new period of autonomous integration emerged between the late 1990s and 2015, supported by progressive Latin American governments, along with a novel projection of social autonomy, complementary to autonomous integration, held by new social movements that oppose, resist, and create alternatives to neoliberal integration. Inspired by the critical theory, the research linkages between the state and social autonomy question the neoliberal integration process, its perverted effects on exclusion and social inequality, and the conflicts related to the regional integration of democratic governance. The debates on autonomous regional integration cover three fields: economic interdependence, the realist perspective in international politics, and the theses of the field of International Political Economy. Arguments question their critique of the colonial outcomes of the modern world system, even more so than had been posited by dependency theory. Finally, there is the question of the emergence of an original Latin American and Caribbean theory of autonomous integration initiatives.

Article

Andrew Moravcsik

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.