Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The 7th edition of the best-selling textbook provides a broad-ranging but concise introduction to the EU, covering all major aspects of the European project. This edition takes full account of the current challenges faced by the EU, including the ongoing difficulties in the Eurozone and the rise of euroscepticism, which culminated spectacularly in Britain’s decision to leave the Union in 2016.

Fully updated throughout, McCormick continues to clearly and succinctly cover the history and institutions of the EU; the underlying principles of European integration; the impact of the EU on its member states and citizens; and the dynamics and effects of EU policies. Going beyond simplifying and summarising key points, McCormick also covers the nuances of principles, politics and policies that are often lost in concise introductory texts.

While this text would naturally suit Political Science and International Relations students, McCormick realises that the EU is both a global political actor and the wealthiest marketplace in the world, which means the EU must be studied from multiple disciplinary persepctives.

This textbook is packed with pedagogical features and written with minimal jargon and in interdisciplinary terms so as to be accessible for those with no prior understanding of the EU, enabling both Politics and International Relations students and students of other disciplines to have a refined understanding on the EU.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. What is the European Union?

Abstract
At the heart of the debate about the European Union is the question of how best to define it. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The EU is more than a standard international organization, because it has involved more pooling or transfer of authority than membership of – for example – the United Nations (UN) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). But it also falls short of being a federal United States of Europe, or a European superstate. This leaves it in limbo somewhere between these two points of reference, with multiple opinions about how it is best understood. Scholars have applied terms such as multi-level governance and consociationalism in their efforts to define it, but none has yet gained traction. Others who study the EU have described it simply as sui generis (unique), but this is less a descriptive term than a surrender to the uncertainty. Perhaps, as former Commission president Jacques Delors once quipped, it is simply an unidentified political object.
John McCormick

Chapter 2. The Idea of Europe

Abstract
We live in a European world. It is a multicultural and multiracial world, to be sure, but most of it has been colonized at some point by one European power or another, and most people today live in societies that are either based on the European political and cultural tradition or influenced by the norms and values of that tradition. The ‘world culture’ once described by the American political scientist Lucien Pye (1966) is ultimately European in origin, and the terms Western and European are ultimately synonymous. It is all the more ironic, then, that the idea of Europe remains hard to pin down. Its political, social and cultural qualities are hard to define (beyond being an accumulation of national identities), its geographical boundaries are debatable, and there is little agreement on what ‘Europe’ represents. Europeans have had much to unite them over the centuries, but they have also had much more to divide them. They long knew little about each other, they speak many different languages, they have struggled with religious and social divisions, their views of their place in the world have changed, wars have broken out among them with depressing frequency, the map of Europe has frequently been redrawn, and they have mixed opinions about the merits, goals and meaning of European integration.
John McCormick

Chapter 3. The Evolution of the EU

Abstract
While the idea of ‘Europe’ has been evolving for centuries, serious efforts to encourage regional integration date back only to the end of the Second World War, when three critical needs came to the fore: economic reconstruction, security in the face of cold war tensions, and efforts to prevent European nationalism spilling over once again into conflict. At the core of political calculations was concern about the traditional hostility between France and Germany, and the belief that if these two states could cooperate it might provide the foundations for broader European integration. This chapter traces the key events in the resulting story. A modest early step was taken in 1949 with the creation of the Council of Europe, but this did not go far enough for committed integrationists, who sought instead the creation of new institutions with supranational powers. The first move in this direction was taken in 1952 when the ECSC opened for business, bringing the coal and steel industries of its six member states (France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries) under a joint authority. The next step was the creation in 1958 of the EEC, with the same six member states but a more ambitious set of goals, including the development of a single market within which there would be free movement of people, money, and services, and common policies on agriculture, competition, trade and transport.
John McCormick

Chapter 4. The European Institutions

Abstract
The EU has a complex network of institutions, but they have evolved on the basis of short-term needs and compromises, with little sense of what the EU might eventually become. The result has been the creation less of a structured system of government than of a fluid system of governance: decisions, laws and policies are made without the existence of formally acknowledged institutions of government. The member states are still the only formal governments, with a strong grip on the policy process, but – as we saw in Chapter 1 – the EU has gone far beyond the definition of a standard intergovernmental organization. Briefly, the major institutions work as follows: the European Commission develops proposals for new laws and policies, on which final decisions are taken by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament (EP). Once a decision is made, the European Commission is responsible for overseeing implementation by the member states. Meanwhile, the Court of Justice works to ensure that laws and policies meet the terms and spirit of the treaties, while the European Council brings the leaders of the member states together at summit meetings to guide the overall direction of the EU. Alongside the Big Five are a cluster of other institutions with more focused responsibilities, including the European Central Bank, the European External Action Service, the European Investment Bank, Europol and numerous specialized agencies.
John McCormick

Chapter 5. The EU and its Citizens

Abstract
The Maastricht treaty claimed that the goal of European integration was to create ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen’. But public opinion differs on the merit of this goal. While many Europeans support further integration, and some are champions of European political union, critics charge the EU with being an elitist construct, offering ordinary Europeans too few opportunities directly to influence its work, and thereby creating a problem that has been serious enough to earn its own label: the democratic deficit. It sometimes seems as though the work of the EU continues despite public opinion, which is often confused, increasingly doubtful, and in some cases actively hostile towards integration. But how we rate the EU in terms of its democratic qualities depends on how we define it as a political entity: if it was a federal union, its democratic credentials would indeed be weak, but if we see it as a confederal system, then its procedures are almost everything we would or could expect.
John McCormick

Chapter 6. The EU Policy Process

Abstract
That the EU has the trappings of a new level of European governance is reflected in the extent to which the focus of policy making has – in many areas – been transferred from the exclusive domain of national governments to meetings of their representatives working within the EU institutions. Much policy is now shaped or influenced at the EU level, many of the actions of national governments being determined by new laws and policies collectively adopted by the EU members. In some areas, such as trade and competition, policy is made almost entirely at the EU level. The EU institutions, and the representatives of the member states working within those institutions, have become productive policy entrepreneurs and policy shapers – certainly more so than can be said of the administrations of any conventional intergovernmental organization. It is debatable just how much the EU member states can still do alone, and how far national interests still drive the work of the EU institutions, but there has been a clear pooling of policy responsibility by the member states. In the era of globalization, no state has true policy independence, because they are all impacted by – and must react to – international developments. This is particularly true in the spheres of economic and foreign policy. This does not mean, however, that critics of the EU do not still champion the cause of separate state identities and the protection of powers for their home governments. But others argue that the pooling of powers has been beneficial and efficient, and should not be a cause for concern: state identities and interests can be preserved and even promoted, they argue, in the face of common policies and collective institutions.
John McCormick

Chapter 7. Economic Policy

Abstract
Economic matters have long dominated the life and work of the EU, at few times more intensely than since the breaking in 2009 of the crisis in the eurozone. The causes and effects of that crisis were deep and complex, involving a mix of design problems inherent in the euro, fallout from the global financial crisis of 2007–10, poor policy choices by several eurozone states, and a failure by leaders of key EU member states to take decisive action. But so wrenching have been its effects – leading to speculation that the euro might be at risk, and indeed that the entire exercise of European integration might collapse – that fiscal and monetary matters have recently crowded out most others on the EU agenda. The priority given to economic integration dates back to the initial experiment in pooling coal and steel production, and continued with efforts to agree a customs union, early attempts to achieve exchange rate stability and address the economic decline of the European Community, and the building of the single market. There is now much freer movement of people, money, goods and services within the EU, a change that has had revolutionary consequences for business and consumers. New jobs and opportunities for trade have been created, standards have been harmonized, consumer choice has broadened and prices have come down. Corporations based in EU member states have engaged in crossborder mergers and acquisitions, the Commission keeping a close eye on attempts to circumvent policies on competition. And the EU has built a system of trans-European networks aimed at integrating the transport, energy supply and telecommunications sectors of the member states.
John McCormick

Chapter 8. Internal Policies

Abstract
The logic of policy spillover suggested from the outset that effective economic integration in Europe would not be possible without integration in a range of related policy areas. It was clear in the early days of the EEC, for example, that economic differences within and among the member states would need to be evened out by investing in economic development and job creation, the free movement of labour, improved living and working conditions, and the rights and benefits of workers. And as long as there were economic and social differences among the member states, there would be barriers to free trade. The Treaty of Rome listed only agriculture, trade, transport and competition as specific policy interests of the EEC. It also noted in very general terms that the EEC should promote ‘a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between the [member states]’. But these were all general goals rather than the basis for specific policies, and it was only when the member states began taking the steps to achieve these goals that they learned what the job meant in practice, and found themselves being pushed in unexpected directions by the pressures of spillover.
John McCormick

Chapter 9. External Policies

Abstract
Just as there is little agreement on how best to understand the EU as an organization, so there is little agreement on how best to understand its place in the global system. In many respects the EU is best regarded as a single bloc, while in others the member states continue to function independently. When trade issues are on the agenda, for example, or third parties seek access to the European marketplace, the EU can be considered a unit. But on foreign and security policy, the EU has developed many common positions, but member states still have their own more particular interests, and the EU is still not regarded as a global actor in the same league as the United States or China. Meanwhile, there are sub-groups of EU states working on their own projects, most notably in the case of the 19 members of the eurozone. The long-time lack of focus, consistency and policy leadership, and the resulting confusion felt by other countries, was neatly summed up in a (sadly, apocryphal) question credited to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: ‘When I want to speak to Europe, whom do I call?’ Some clarity was provided in 1999 when four external relations portfolios in the Commission were replaced with one, and a new position of High Representative was appointed to be the first point of contact on foreign and security policy matters. The office was confirmed under Lisbon, and given new powers, including a seat in both the European Commission and the Council of the EU, and management of a new European diplomatic service. But the EU is still represented in many high-level meetings by the presidents of the Commission and the European Council; small wonder, then, that President George W. Bush is reputed to have commented during a visit to Strasbourg, ‘You guys sure have a lot of presidents.’
John McCormick
Additional information