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About this book


The new edition of this lively and student-friendly text provides an engaging introduction to all aspects of politics and policy in the European Union, giving readers a sense of the colour of EU politics and its impact on people's lives.
The text examines the history, institutions, processes and policies of the European Union as well as the theories developed to explain its character and evolution. The second edition has been thoroughly updated to cover the 2014 European Parliament elections and new appointments to all the major EU institutions, along with the ongoing fallout from the euro zone crisis. A new boxed feature on 'understanding integration' shows how theories and concepts developed in political science illuminate different aspects of European Union politics.

Noted for its clarity and vivid style, each chapter of European Union Politics is enhanced by:

Photos and descriptions of events, thinkers and political actors
Breakdowns of key debates
The companion website is available at www.palgrave.com/politics/mccormick and provides:

Self-test questions and answers
Update materials
Searchable glossary and chronology
Web-links and further reading
Additional lecturer resources

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
At a glittering ceremony in Oslo in December 2012, leaders of the European Union accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the EU, which it had won in recognition of more than 60 years of contributions ‘to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe’. The award seemed to confirm the dream of the founders of the EU, that the countries of Europe needed to work harder and more closely together to avoid the kinds of conflicts and wars that had blighted the region for centuries. There have been no interstate wars in Europe since 1945, and the EU has grown into the one major actor on the global stage that relies on opportunity rather than threats to advance its cause. Thus, it seemed to be a worthy Nobel laureate.
John McCormick

History and Ideas

Frontmatter

1. Understanding Integration

Abstract
The roots of today’s European Union can be traced to the creation in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). With this event began a complex process by which national interests came to be overlaid with collective European interests, leading to today’s EU. How and why this happened has been the subject of much debate. Multiple theories and approaches have been proposed, ranging from federalism to neofunctionalism and constructivism, but while they offer valuable insights, they have all been criticized in their own way, and no grand theory of European integration has yet won approval.
John McCormick

2. What is the European Union?

Abstract
The beginning of wisdom, runs a Chinese proverb, is to call things by their right names. But this is no easy task with the EU, which fits few of our conventional ideas about the way in which politics and government function. In our attempts to understand how large-scale political communities are organized, we have only two mainstream points of reference: states and international organizations. But while the EU has some of the qualities of both, it is not entirely either.
John McCormick

3. Who are the Europeans?

Abstract
Understanding the European Union demands more than a review of its legal and political character. We must also understand its people: who they are, how they think of themselves in relation to others, and how they perceive the EU. Most Europeans still regard themselves mainly as citizens of the states in which they live, or as members of a national group, and only a few have taken to the idea that they are also Europeans.
John McCormick

4. Organizing Postwar Europe

Abstract
The roots of today’s European Union date back centuries. War and conflict were long part of the fabric of Europe, inspiring philosophers to develop numerous plans for bringing peace to the region, but finding their suggestions falling mainly on deaf ears. The tensions among Europeans deepened during the nineteenth century as nationalism burgeoned and great power competition paved the way for two world wars. Those powers maintained empires that circled the globe, their corporations dominated global trade, and their banks, financial institutions, armies and navies faced few serious challenges. But the two world wars delivered a shattering blow to their power and influence, changing the way they saw themselves and the way they defined their security.
John McCormick

5. The European Economic Community

Abstract
The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was a critical first step along the path to European integration, but its possibilities were always bound to be limited. So, after failing with ambitious attempts to launch defence and political communities, the six ECSC members switched their focus to the building of a single market. The 1957 Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) with the goal of creating a western European market within which there would be free movement of people, money, goods and services. But the EEC would see only mixed progress during the 1960s as its member states failed to exploit its possibilities.
John McCormick

6. From Single Market to European Union

Abstract
Although the single market topped the agenda of European integration in the 1960s, progress had been slow. Prompted by worries about rising international competition and inflexible European labour markets, there was a renewed effort in the 1980s to complete the single market, resulting in agreement on the first major new treaty since Rome, the 1986 Single European Act (SEA). This gave the European Economic Community — now more often known as the European Community, or simply ‘the Community’ — a new sense of mission and identity.
John McCormick

7. To the Euro Crisis and Beyond

Abstract
With Maastricht having made the European Community part of the new European Union, the focus of integration shifted to the single currency; it was named the euro in 1995, exchange rates in participating states were locked in place in 1999, and euro banknotes and coins began circulating in 2002.
John McCormick

8. The Treaties

Abstract
Almost all democratic bodies, whether states, international organizations, corporations, or institutions with members and a governing structure, are based on constitutions. These outline the purposes and rules of the body, list its governing principles, and provide it with legal authority. The EU has no formal constitution as such, having instead agreed a series of treaties among its members that have played almost the same role: they include declarations about the purposes and powers of the EU, and rules on the functioning of its institutions and the obligations of its members.
John McCormick

9. The Member States

Abstract
Debates about the nature of the relationship between the EU institutions and the member states have heated up as the reach and the membership of the EU have expanded, and as more Europeans have come to feel its influence. Within their home states, they know approximately what to expect from their home governments, that is, if they follow public affairs. But there is much less understanding about the political status of the member states within the EU. As we saw in Chapter 2, the EU has some qualities that are federal, others that are confederal, and yet others that fit none of the mainstream explanations of how power is shared, divided, or expressed. And even if we could agree on how to characterize the EU, it is, like all systems of government or governance, in a constant state of evolution.
John McCormick

Politics and Governance

Frontmatter

10. The European Commission

Abstract
The European Commission is the most prominent of the major EU institutions: it is the one most often in the news and most often blamed by critics for the excesses of ‘Brussels’. Yet, despite its visibility, the Commission is both less and more than it seems. It is often portrayed as powerful, secretive, expensive and undemocratic, but in fact it has few independent decision-making powers, is one of the most open of all large bureaucracies found anywhere in the world, and has an institutional budget smaller than that of an average mid-sized European city. As for charges that it is undemocratic, it is not much different from national bureaucracies, few of whose staff members are held directly accountable to voters.
John McCormick

11. The Councils

Abstract
The Council of the European Union and the European Council are often confused with each other, but are quite different. The Council of the EU (more often known as the Council of Ministers) consists of national government ministers and shares responsibility with the European Parliament for making EU law and approving the EU budget. The European Council, meanwhile, is the meeting place for the heads of government of the member states, in which they make broad strategic decisions and key appointments to other EU institutions.
John McCormick

12. The European Parliament

Abstract
The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly elected European institution, and has won new powers for itself that have made it an increasingly important actor in European affairs. Logically, then, the EP should be the one EU institution that has developed the closest political and psychological ties to Europeans, particularly those who worry about the EU’s democratic deficit. And yet most European voters remain disengaged from its work, turning out in low numbers at EP elections, and taking less interest in its work than in the work of national legislatures.
John McCormick

13. The European Court of Justice

Abstract
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) does not often make the news, and yet its role in European governance is critical: its task of ensuring that the terms of the treaties are respected, understood and applied as accurately as possible has made it essential to the process of integration. As the judicial arm of the EU, it has made decisions that have expanded and clarified the reach and meaning of integration, established key principles (such as direct effect and the supremacy of EU law), and helped transform the treaties into something like a constitution for Europe. It is one of the most clearly supranational of EU institutions.
John McCormick

14. Specialized Agencies

Abstract
European states have long cooperated on issues as varied as scientific research, patents, telecommunications, sports, higher education, postal services, and standardization, and have set up relevant international organizations. To these have been added more recently a network of specialized EU agencies: financial bodies such as the European Central Bank, decentralized agencies such as Europol and the European Food Safety Authority, executive agencies that manage specific EU programmes, and advisory bodies such as the Committee of the Regions.
John McCormick

15. Parties and Interest Groups

Abstract
The EEC was designed and long run by bureaucrats and politicians, who referred little — if at all — to public opinion. But as the reach of integration expanded, so more Europeans became interested in expressing their views. For some, this was a positive interest, driven by a belief that European institutions deserved, even demanded, their attention. For others, it was a negative interest, driven by concerns that these institutions were undemocratic, too powerful and a threat to national sovereignty. For all political parties and interest groups have become key channels of engagement.
John McCormick

16. Elections and Referendums

Abstract
European integration has long been criticized for its weak democratic qualities. The treaties have too often been negotiated behind closed doors, argue the critics, and member states have had to surrender sovereignty with too little reference to the views of European voters. This has undermined enthusiasm for the European project, which has often seemed elitist and too far distant from the needs and interests of ordinary Europeans. Yet there are two key channels through which they can directly influence EU policy.
John McCormick

17. Public Opinion

Abstract
In an ideal democratic world, the values, views and concerns of citizens would be routinely on the minds of elected leaders, who are, after all, the representatives of those citizens. But there are at least two flaws with this proposition. First, it is difficult always to know what citizens want, either because they may not know themselves or because of the pitfalls in measuring public opinion. Second, opinion is divided on almost every public issue, leaving elected officials to decide whether to side with the majority, be concerned only with those who elected them, or do what they think is best.
John McCormick

Policies

Frontmatter

18. Public Policy in the EU

Abstract
So far in this book we have looked at the history, principles and political character, institutions and processes of the EU, and how it relates to those who live under its jurisdiction. In Part 3 we examine what the EU has meant in terms of the policies it has pursued. We will see where the EU has been most active, what influences bear on the policy process and key policy-makers, and what practical difference integration has made to the lives of Europeans and the place of Europe in the world.
John McCormick

19. Economic Policy

Abstract
European integration has long focused on economic matters. The core goal of the Treaty of Rome was the construction of a single market, while the Single European Act and the Maastricht treaty were (respectively) attempts to complete the single market and prepare for a single currency. Many of the deepest European political struggles have been about subsidies to agriculture, building common trade and competition policies, dealing with unemployment and labour immobility, and (more recently) responding to the global financial crisis and the troubles of the euro zone.
John McCormick

20. Inside the Euro Zone

Abstract
Although the single market has long been at the top of the agenda of European integration, that market could never be complete and open so long as the member states retained their national currencies: exchange rates fluctuated, costs and profits could never be firmly predicted, and currency conversion meant additional layers of bureaucracy and planning. The creation of a single currency promised to remove all these problems, and would also make European integration felt not just in the pockets and bank accounts of Europeans, but also in global financial markets.
John McCormick

21. Cohesion Policy

Abstract
Social and economic inequalities are a fact of life, if for no other reason than because humans have different aspirations and abilities, and economies vary by time and place in the opportunities they provide. Differences in wealth, income and aptitude skew the dynamics of open markets, benefiting some at the cost of others and reducing the free flow of people, money, goods and services. As a result, efforts to remove those differences have long been high on the agenda of European integration.
John McCormick

22. Managing Resources

Abstract
Agriculture was long a headline issue in EU politics. It was one of the few policies listed in the Treaty of Rome, and for decades the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) topped the EC/EU budget. But while spending on agriculture helped encourage greater production, contributing to the end of food shortages and providing essential investments in western Europe’s rural communities, it also created several problems: it distorted markets, diverted resources away from other priorities, and created tensions with the EU’s trading partners. Attempts to reform agricultural policies were long resisted by western European farmers, but enlargement combined with the pressures of international trade regimes to force changes to agricultural policy, which has since moved down the EU agenda.
John McCormick

23. Justice and Home Affairs

Abstract
Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the newer areas of EU policy, describing efforts to develop a coordinated approach to international crime and terrorism, managing immigration, and improving security and the protection of rights through police and judicial cooperation. The pressure for action grew with the final efforts to complete the single market in the late 1980s, which increased the political demand for common internal policies while managing external borders.
John McCormick

24. The EU as a Global Actor

Abstract
The great powers of the nineteenth century were European and exerted global influence mainly through their empires and trading interests. But the toll of two world wars left behind a relatively tame and introspective Europe, and the EEC in its early years was too focused on internal challenges to think much about its global role; western Europe mainly followed the lead of the US, while its eastern states were dominated by the Soviet Union, and a few holdouts tried to remain neutral.
John McCormick

25. The EU and the World

Abstract
Chapter 24 looked at how the EU’s foreign, security and trade policies have shaped its role as a global actor. This chapter examines those policies more closely by looking at the EU’s relations with different parts of the world. We begin with an assessment of the most important political and economic relationship in the world, between the EU and the US. This has not always been an easy relationship, the differences that lurked under the surface during the Cold War having become more visible since the collapse of the Soviet Union removed the one project that the two most clearly had in common.
John McCormick

Conclusions: Where now for the EU?

Abstract
This has been a book about the politics and policies of the European Union. Its purpose has been to explain how the EU works, where it came from, how it evolved, the context within which it has functioned, how it makes decisions, and its impact on Europe and Europeans. In this book, we have:
  • Looked at the underlying theoretical explanations of European integration, and have seen how the EU has evolved from being primarily an international organization to becoming a political system in its own right, with qualities that sit somewhere on a spectrum between intergovernmental and supranational, and between federal and confederal.
  • Reviewed the personality and character of Europe and its inhabitants, attempting to pin down the region’s geographical and cultural limits, understand what the terms Europe and European mean, and identify the norms and values that make the EU and its inhabitants distinctive.
  • Surveyed the colourful and controversial history of the EU, tracing events from the signature of the Treaty of Paris in April 1951 through to today’s EU, containing 28 member states and more than 500 million people, with other European states considering the prospects of membership.
  • Examined the structure and work of the major European institutions, seeking to understand how they function relative to each other and the member states, and reviewing what their work has meant for the decisions taken by Europe’s national leaders and the lives of ordinary Europeans.
  • Assessed the impact of integration on policies in fields as diverse as agriculture, asylum, commerce, competition, corporate mergers and acquisitions, defence, economic development, education, employment, the environment, fisheries, foreign affairs, immigration, monetary affairs, police and judicial cooperation, security, the single market, trade, and workers’ rights.
John McCormick
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