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About this book

Cutting through the jargon of EU politics, the third edition of this engaging and informative textbook examines the history, institutions, processes and politics of the European Union with unprecedented clarity. The EU is a fascinating political experiment in regional integration and it has changed our understanding of Europe, how Europeans relate to one another, the role Europe plays in global politics and has even shifted our understanding of politics itself. Helping to make sense of it all in the author’s accessible style, this book is underpinned by theory and the latest research throughout. Organised in three main parts, the text covers everything from the history of the EU and its treaties to the institutions that make up the EU and its policies in areas such as the economy, the environment and the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

This is the go-to text for all students taking courses or modules on the EU, as well as functioning as an accessible introduction for anyone who wants to find out more about how the EU works and what difference it makes.

Table of Contents

History and Ideas

Frontmatter

1. Understanding Integration

Abstract
Understanding how and why regional integration has happened in Europe is key to understanding the roots, the evolution and the future of the European Union. There has been little agreement, though, on either the organizational origins of the EU or on how and why it has evolved the way that it has. The debate has centred on a complex set of theories and interpretations about the actions of states and nations, and about the motivation behind international cooperation. Much discussion has focused on the changing role of states, whose place in the world has changed in the wake of the growing interstate cooperation brought on by political and economic pressures and opportunities.
Multiple theories and analytical approaches have been proposed in an effort to explain integration, but while they each offer valuable insights, they have each been criticized and challenged, and no grand theory of European integration has yet won approval. The earliest explanations came mainly out of the discipline of international relations (IR), and portrayed integration either as a process with its own internal logic or as a process in which the governments of the participating states were the key actors. These theories are reviewed in this chapter. As the reach of European integration expanded, though, so the focus switched to explanations coming out of comparative politics and public policy, which see the EU as a political system in its own right, and pay more attention to the character of its institutions, processes and policy dynamics. These approaches are reviewed in Chapter 2.
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. This, however, is no easy task with the EU, which fits few of our conventional ideas about the way in which government functions. In our attempts to understand how large-scale political communities are organized, we have only two mainstream points of reference: states and international organizations. 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. Europe is a region of considerable diversity: it is divided into more than 40 sovereign states, while its people speak 60 major languages, and belong to several hundred different national groups. Because the lines of states and nations do not always coincide, most European states are multinational, and many of the larger national groups live in two or more states. The exercise of European integration – although it was designed to help Europeans move past their historical suspicions of one another – has made only limited progress in helping build a sense of European identity, or community of the kind discussed by transactional theory.
John McCormick

4. First Steps (1944–58)

Abstract
The roots of today’s European Union date back centuries. War and conflict have long been 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. Two world wars delivered a shattering blow to European power and influence, changing the way Europeans saw themselves and the way they defined their security.
John McCormick

5. Building the Community (1958–95)

Abstract
The early years of the EEC were troubled, with political disagreements over the powers of its institutions playing out against a background of deepening Cold War tensions. While President Charles de Gaulle defended French interests at home, international relations were rocked by the Berlin crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the war in Vietnam, and the Soviet crackdown on reform in Czechoslovakia. De Gaulle was also a key player in delaying early efforts to enlarge the membership of the Community.
John McCormick

6. From Community to Union (1989–2005)

Abstract
The ink had barely dried on the Single European Act before new initiatives on the political and monetary front encouraged Community leaders to think more deeply about political cooperation and monetary union. Three stages were agreed for the launch of a single currency by 1997, and a new Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht treaty) – focused mainly on monetary union and on foreign and security policy – transformed the European Community into the European Union.
John McCormick

7. Crisis and Opportunity (2004–Present)

Abstract
Writing in his memoirs in 1978, Jean Monnet (1978, p. 518) warned that Europe would be ‘established through crises and … the outcome will be the sum of the outcomes of those crises’. The tale of integration can indeed seem to be one of crisis following crisis, with the process declared dead or dying more times than can be counted. At few times in its history has crisis been so much a part of the EU as over the last 15 years, during which integration has suffered blows sparked by questionable decisions, circumstances and troubling doubts on the part of a European public that has been divided on its merits.
John McCormick

8. The Treaties

Abstract
Almost all organized democratic bodies 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 the term is normally defined, its member states having instead agreed a series of treaties that have played almost the same role: they include declarations about the purposes of the EU, and rules on the functioning of its institutions and the obligations of its members. Along with seven major treaties, the EU has reached several more focused agreements, including Acts of Accession for new members, and treaties dealing with budgets, cross-border travel and monetary union.
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, but there is much less understanding about the political status of the member states within the EU. As we saw in Chapter 2, the debate about the personality of the EU is ongoing, 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

European Union Politics

Frontmatter

10. The European Commission

Abstract
The European Commission is the most prominent of the major EU institutions, and the one most often blamed by critics for the supposed excesses of ‘Brussels’. Yet, despite its visibility, it is not always what it seems. It is often portrayed as powerful, secretive and expensive, but it has few independent decision-making powers, is one of the most open of all large bureaucracies, and has an institutional budget smaller than that of an average mid-sized European city.
John McCormick

11. The Council of Ministers

Abstract
If the European Commission displays many (but not all) of the conventional features of a bureaucracy, the Council of the European Union (more often known simply as the Council of Ministers) is harder to pin down. It consists of national government ministers of the member states and shares responsibility with the European Parliament for making EU law and approving the EU budget. This makes it, in some ways, something like an upper chamber of a legislature (or a European Senate), but the analogy cannot be taken too far, and recent studies suggest that it is doing less lawmaking and more policymaking.
John McCormick

12. The European Parliament

Abstract
The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly elected EU institution, and should logically be the one EU body that has developed the closest political and psychological ties to Europeans. 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 Council

Abstract
The European Council is the only one of the five major EU institutions that does not trace its roots back to the early years of European integration. It instead evolved out of need, when the leaders of EEC member states began to realize during the 1960s that their ad hoc meetings might be more productive and effective if they were organized and scheduled more formally and regularly. The result was the creation in 1974–75 of the European Council (EC), which is the meeting place for the heads of government (or state) of the member states, participating in summits at which they make broad strategic decisions and key appointments to other EU institutions.
John McCormick

14. The European Court of Justice

Abstract
The Court of Justice of the European Union (more often known simply as the European Court of Justice, or ECJ) does not often make the news, and it may not strictly fit the definition of a typical constitutional court (if only because there is no EU constitution), but its role in European governance is critical: its task is one of ensuring that the terms of the treaties are respected, understood and applied as accurately as possible. In its structure and character, it is one of the most clearly supranational of EU institutions.
John McCormick

15. 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 along the way. 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 the European Food Safety Authority, executive agencies that manage specific EU programmes, and advisory bodies such as the Committee of the Regions.
John McCormick

16. 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. As the reach of integration expanded, however, 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

17. Elections and Referendums

Abstract
European integration has long been criticized for its weak democratic qualities. Member states, argue the critics, have surrendered sovereignty with too little reference to the views of their 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

18. 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. However, 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 difficulties of 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

19. Public Policy

Abstract
Public policy can be defined as whatever governments do (or deliberately avoid doing) to address the needs and problems of society. It can be found formally in public statements, government programmes, laws and emergency actions, and can also be found informally in inertia and avoidance. If it was limited to the formal powers of government and its published objectives, it might be relatively easy to understand and measure, but government and governance are also influenced by opportunism, the ebb and flow of political and public interest in policy issues, and simply responding to needs and problems as they present themselves.
John McCormick

20. Economic Policy

Abstract
Economic matters have long been at the top of the agenda of European integration, the core goal of the Treaty of Rome and of the Single European Act being to build an open European market, while the Maastricht treaty launched preparations for a single European currency. The original objective of European integration was to generate wealth and opportunity in order to help Europe recover from the ravages of war, while also building enough mutual ties to make future war unthinkable. In this sense, it succeeded: Europe today is more peaceful and prosperous than at any time in its history.
John McCormick

21. 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 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 not just to remove these barriers, but to make integration more real to consumers and businesses. It was also hoped that its launch in 1999 would re-emphasize the strengths of the EU as an international economic actor.
John McCormick

22. Cohesion Policy

Abstract
Social and economic inequalities are a fact of life, if for no other reason than because humans have different aspirations, abilities and opportunities. Europe’s governments have a long history of trying to address the inequalities, some with more conviction and success than others. To their individual efforts have been added collective initiatives in promoting cohesion across the EU by trying to build a level economic playing field: the GDP of the wealthiest EU regions is several times that of the poorest, and urban areas are generally wealthier than rural areas, creating disparities that interfere with balanced development.
John McCormick

23. Agriculture and Fisheries

Abstract
Agriculture was long a headline issue in EU politics. For decades, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) topped the EC/EU budget, investments in agriculture helping encourage greater production, contributing to the end of food shortages and providing essential investments in the EU’s rural communities. However, that spending also 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 EU farmers, but a combination of enlargement and the pressures generated by international trade regimes forced changes to agricultural policy.
John McCormick

24. Environmental Policy

Abstract
Although environmental issues were a relative latecomer to the EU policy agenda (the earliest modest initiatives were taken in the late 1960s, but with little strategic thought), they have recently become one of the more important achievements of European integration. The focus of policymaking has shifted away from the member states as the EU has tried to take a more strategic approach to problems ranging from air pollution to water pollution, the production of waste, the protection of biodiversity and – without question its most important initiative – action on climate change.
John McCormick

25. Justice and Home Affairs

Abstract
Justice and home affairs is one of the newer areas of EU policy, describing efforts to coordinate approaches to asylum, immigration, cross-border crime, police and judicial cooperation, and terrorism. The pressure for action grew with the single market programme of the late 1980s, which increased the political demand for common internal policies while managing external borders. The goals of the so-called area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ) were finally established by Maastricht and incorporated into the mainstream of EU policy concerns by the Treaty of Lisbon. The notion of creating the AFSJ within the EU has been controversial given that it has touched on many domestic political and judicial policies, raising concerns about the protection of state sovereignty.
John McCormick

26. The Eu as a Global Actor

Abstract
As we saw in Chapter 2, there is no clear answer to the seemingly simple question ‘What is the EU?’ As a result, there is no agreement on how best to understand the EU as a global actor. It is not a conventional state, like the United States or China, and yet it often acts like one: its member states work together to develop and promote common policies on trade and foreign relations with other parts of the world, for example, and the EU is even a member of several key international bodies, such as the World Trade Organization. The member states do not always agree with one another, but they have shrewdly used the strength of their numbers to cast regional and even global influence.
John McCormick

27. The Eu and the World

Abstract
The last chapter looked at how the EU’s foreign, security and trade policies have shaped its role as a global actor. This chapter examines these 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, economic and military relationship in the world, between the EU and the US. It has not always run smoothly, and the differences that lurked beneath the surface during the Cold War have since become more visible.
John McCormick
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