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Political Aspects of European Integration


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Course Essay

Political Aspects of European Integration

By: Yaroslav Sinitsov, EUBL

Has the EU reached the limits of integration?


Before answering this question, let us face some obvious facts. So far,
the European Union has been the most advanced and successful alliances
of the independent countries in the modern history. One cannot deny that
it is only the EU which established – at least in the first pillar – a
new legal order for its Member States, by which they voluntarily shared
their sovereignty based on the rule of law in order to achieve the
common task, as set forth by Article 2 of the Treaty Establishing the
European Community: ‘...to promote throughout the Community a harmonious
and balanced development of economic activities, sustainable and
non-inflationary growth respecting the environment, a high degree of
convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and of
social protection, the raising of a standard of living and quality of
life, and economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member
States.’ But as with any other international treaty, there is always
room for diversity in interpretation. If the right to interpret the
Treaty provisions and other Community legislation had been vested in
Member States, the EU would have been nothing different but just another
international treaty nicely falling within the general system of public
international law, where no contracting party can be bound against its
will. The EU is unique to have the European Court of Justice which,
unlike any other international tribunals, has a compulsory jurisdiction
and an exclusive authority to interpret the Community legislation. By
widely interpreting the EC legislation and relying not just on the text,
but also on ‘the spirit’ of the Treaty, the European Court of Justice
has actually developed its own doctrine which is now seen as one of the
important sources of the Community law. This doctrine has played a
crucial role in implementing EU policies, since the text of the Treaty
and other Community legislation cannot cover in detail all aspects of

Main Part

But why integrate? What makes people act against their cautious
political interests? The answer was given by Jean Monnet, one of the
founding fathers of the European Communities and a lover of aphorisms -
“People only accept changes when faced with necessity, and only
recognise necessity when the crisis is upon them”. Although I completely
agree with the first part of Monnet’s saying, I would like to replace
the word ‘only’ with the word ‘better’. A deep crisis is probably the
most powerful impetus to bring people’s and countries together, although
not the only one. This is exactly what happened immediately after the
World War II. The need for fundamental political and economic change in
Europe was extremely strong. As the Cold War commenced and the Iron
Curtain abruptly divided the continent, integration became a means by
which the Western Europe could defend itself, in close co-operation with

ould defend itself, in close co-operation with
the United States, against the external Soviet threat and the internal
communist threat. The need for a stronger and united Europe outweighed
an initial desire of the Allies to pasteurise Germany. A stronger Europe
must have a strong Western Germany. At that time the Europe was on the
move to integrate. And it has been on the move to integrate since then.
However, the dialectics of the integration have dramatically changed
with the change of the world affairs in the years 1989-1992. The old
dialectics were those of the Cold War, with the familiar and multiple
interactions between the two Europes, the two alliances and the two
great powers. The new dialectics are of a pan-European solidarity and
all-European integration, and this has never been tried before. A number
of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, plus some of the successor
states of the Soviet Union are striving to modernize economically and
politically. The EU is, therefore, an important magnet for them, whether
as a market, a political system seeking to uphold democratic norms and
values, or a putative defence system. The queue for membership has
lengthened. But sceptics suggest that the Union is not as attractive
from the inside as it may look from the outside. It seemed that the
‘Monnet-method’, i.e. a closer interaction of national elites as a means
for European integration has reached its limits. Indeed, the EU has
experienced serious internal problems in the aftermath of Maastricht.
One of the most obvious was the ratification crisis. In the narrow sense
it meant a ‘petit oui’ vote in France referendum for the ratification of
the Maastricht Treaty and the initial ‘no’ vote in Denmark referendum.
In the wider sense it meant a lack of political support of the EU,
widening of the gap between the governments and the governed, and the
lack of leadership in the EU.

Naturally, in some areas countries tend to reach agreements more easily.
‘The least disputed goal of European Construction is the large market
without borders; even those Member States with reservations over other
objectives do not dispute this one’. Community member states are willing
to share their sovereignty in this filed because it is in their interest
to do so. The European Single Market has become the world’s largest
domestic market. It has contributed significantly to the economic growth
, though its full potential has not yet been realised. But the political
will is evident. This needs to be translated into targeted action.

By contrast, quite little has been achieved since Maastricht in the two
intergovernmental pillars of the EU – Common and Foreign Security Policy
(CFSP) and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). This areas have appeared to
be extremely sensitive to the national governments. The euphoria of the


One of the solutions to

Legitimacy and democratic accountability.


As we see, the EU is still far from being perfect. And it never will,

like any other man-made enterprise. But the Union cannot afford to be
politically disappointing to its Member States, and especially to the
countries which would like to join it. One could always argue that the
EU will not benefit from the fifth enlargement neither politically, nor
economically, nor even administratively (since their ability to
participate in the management of the EU is doubtful), and that a wider
Union means a weaker Union. It is true, but, however, only in the
short-run. The EU must upgrade its capacity to respond favourably to the
other counties in Europe, otherwise we may find ourselves once again in
a divided Europe. Therefore, my suggestion is that the limits of
integration of the EU are politically unaffordable, though technically
possible. ‘Small issues’ may suddenly become ‘big issues’ in hindering
the process of integration. There is a tendency, for example, to keep
the diversity of the official and working languages of the EU. ‘The EU
Council of Ministers of 12 June 95 has not only reaffirmed its firm
attachment to Linguistic Diversity, it has also decided to set up a
commission to check that all the Institutions respect this... The
Commission has been invited to make yearly reports on the application of
these decisions ...’ The current number of working languages of the EU
is eleven. Since EU legislation is directly applicable in the national
law, all languages with the official status in one or more of the Member
States should be official EU languages as well. This means that there
are now eleven official EU languages. With some Eastern Bloc countries
joining the number will increase to 16 or more which, in my opinion,
will be virtually unworkable. This will only contribute to the lack of
efficiency of the EU institutions. I think it wise to limit the number
of working languages to a minimum of five, although in view of the fact
that Council members have never been able to agree on a limit the number
of working languages within the institutions, one may expect a heated
debate on this matter.

Nigel Foster. ‘EC Legislation’ (Blackstone, 1997), 2

Desmond Dinan. ‘Ever Closer Union? An Introduction to the European
Community’ (Macmillan, 1994), 14

‘The new “1999 Objective” for the large market without borders
submitted by the European Commission to the Amsterdam Summit’ (Bulletin
Quotidien Europe No 2039/2040, 12 June 1997), 1

ibid., 1

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