From nation states to member states: European integration and social change
CEUR Guest Lectures Series
Contemporary debates about European integration remain stuck in the traditional dichotomy of a Europe of nation-states versus a new supranational Europe. Pessimists point to the deep divisions between individual members, the clash of national interests and the parochialism of national publics. Optimists and believers in the “European project” see in recent events an inexorable move towards fiscal federalism and – eventually – full political union. A closer look at the EU leaves us with a rather different picture. Closer integration is certainly taking place but in the absence of more supranationalism: national representatives and national officials remain at the heart of the EU whilst supranational actors such as the European Commission struggle to retain their place at the negotiating table. And yet, looking at those national governments, we find that they act in ways very different from the egotistical, bourgeois nation-states of old. Those involved in negotiations prefer compromise to conflict, seek consensus at almost any cost and interests are often exogenous to the negotiation process rather than decided ex ante by national executives jealous of their sovereign prerogatives. In order to understand this consensus-seeking and pragmatic union of states, we need to study European integration as a process of state transformation. Looking back at European integration historically, and studying the contours of the present crisis more closely, this lecture will argue that the EU is today made up of member states: a particular kind of statehood where ties between national executives at the pan-European level are as strong and as binding as the vertical ties between a government and its people. Member states understand their own existence as being bound up with other members of the EU rather than as standalone and autonomous political communities. This lecture will look in detail at the emergence of member statehood and its consequences for the practice of democratic politics in contemporary Europe.
Chris Bickerton has a D.Phil from Oxford in international relations, has taught at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam and is currently Associate Professor of International Relations at Sciences Po, Paris. His main focus is on European politics, including the development and future of the European Union. His publications include a forthcoming book with Oxford University Press, entitled European Integration: From Nation-States to Member States, and a book with Palgrave-Macmillan on EU Foreign Policy, published in 2011. He has publilshed in numerous academic journals and is co-editor of the political economy blog, The Current Moment.