Study of the integration process, which represents a particular type of relationship between sovereign states, is a subject of many works of scientists and experts in international law and other scientific disciplines (the global economy, international relations, and others). European regional integration process is not an exception as it served as a fertile ground for the development of different views and integration theories. In order to conceive which theory of integration is the most cogent in the contest of European Communities, it is necessary to dwell upon these theories and mention the integration path of EU. Though the theories developed through the years, as well as the integration process did, for my point of view, the liberal intergovernmental approach is the most conceiving.
Well-known theories of integration include four theoretical approaches, or four academic schools. These are school of functionalism (which developed into neo-functionalism in late 1950s), federalism school, the school of intergovernmentalism, and the school of liberal intergovernmentalism (emerged in late 1990s). Many have debated on the role of the state from the theoretical point of view.
Functionalism is a theory that originated as an analysis of the causes that brought to League of Nations’ failure. From the viewpoint of British researcher Mitrany, the League of Nations collapsed primarily because the states saw it as a threat to their sovereignty. He offered to promote cooperation among states in addressing problems of common interest. Thus, functionalism offers not just expanding interstate cooperation in specific areas, which would be purely technical. Functionalism sees interstate cooperation as a way to achieve a political goal - the integration of states in the wider community through the gradual ‘dying’ of their sovereignty.
The emergence of ‘neo-functionalism’ is linked to the period of so-called ‘euro-enthusiasm’ in 1960-1970s, when the inevitability of the European Community states parties further integration was perceptible. Such famous figures as Ernst B. Haas, L. Lindberg and A. Etzioni made the greatest contribution to the development of this theory. According to the ideas of neo-functionalism, the sequence and structure of the integration process require the establishment of strong central institutions and the gradual transfer of the states parties’ sovereignty to the level of the Community as a whole. At the same time, states parties and the government are considered to play a passive role. The EU Commission, in contrast, is an active organizer and inspirer of the integration process.
The political institutions that serve as a starting point for the development of integration in the economic and social spheres lie in the centre of the concept of federalism, founded by Spinelli. International integration in the federalist model is an analogy with the internal regimes of states based on the principles of the federal structure. In the context of the European integration process, the idea of federalism is associated directly with the creation of a single federal Europe.
The term ‘intergovernmentalism’ refers primarily to the national governments that are the main actors in the integration process. The first of the researchers who used a theoretical intergovernmental approach was Stanley Hoffman. He claimed that integration in the political sphere can only take place when state’s benefits from it exceed the total costs. Classical intergovernmental approach emphasizes the role of state leaders in the process of integration, but it is based on the fact that leaders are motivated primarily by the interests of their countries. While strategic or tactical interests of different countries coincide, integration is possible.
The intergovernmental approach has been improved and extended by Andrew Moravcsik, who formed and developed liberal intergovernmentalism. Representatives of the liberal intergovernmentalism assert that the state is the supreme decision-making centre in the process of European integration. It makes a decision on the transmission and transmits a part of its sovereign powers to the supranational level to achieve certain aims of their policy. According to A. Moravcsik, the activities of actors are based on two basic assumptions concerning policy and integration. Firstly, states are the actors that reach their goals through more intergovernmental negotiations and arrangements than through the development and implementation of political decisions by the central authorities. This approach has led to the emergence of the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, noted E. Moravcsik.
However, the integration process of the EU started much earlier. The first step towards the economic integration of Western Europe was the Plan for Coal and Steel, proposed by French Foreign Minister Schumann in 1950. He suggested putting an end to the fragmentation of Europe and traditional Franco-German rivalry as well as establishing equal partnership between two countries within the framework of international cooperation.
Such countries as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, France and the Netherlands accepted the Plan. In 1951, they signed an agreement establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). Within the ECSC, the delegation of states parties’ sovereignty introduced supranational elements to the international life for the first time. High Authority, the executive body of ECSC, sitting in session in Luxembourg, determined the size of production, investment and the level of prices for steel and coal for every state in association. Thus, the first interstate union of the countries in Western Europe appeared. This fact represents the neo-functional approach. Nevertheless, it could not be the last step towards European integration.
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Gradually, the countries of association expanded economic and political ties with each other. In May 1957, in Rome, they have signed two agreements, establishing the European Economic Community or ‘common market’, and the European Atomic Energy Community. The members of the EEC pledged to conduct common economic and social policies, remove restrictions on trade between Member States, establish a common customs tariff in trade with third countries, eliminate restrictions on the free movement of capital, people and services, establish the rules of competition ‘within the common market’, and pull together the legislations of the participating countries. At the same time, EAEC was intended to promote the development of nuclear energy peaceful use by member states, the formation of a common energy policy, coordination of decision-making, reduction in energy prices, and ensuring control over nuclear energy.
Further, according to the Merger Treaty, signed in Brussels on April 8, 1965, EEC Commission and the Council of EEC replaced the Commission and the Council of Euratom, as well as High Authority and the Council of Ministers of the European Coal and Steel Community. Thus, three institutions of the three European Communities (ECSC, EEC and Euratom) merged and had single Commission, single Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Some consider this agreement as the beginning of modern European Union existence.
The next step towards the development of the integration process was the formation of European Monetary System (EMS) in 1969-83. This resulted in the European Monetary System establishment and the emergence of the European currency unit (ECU). A new stage (and in essence a radical reform of the EU integration activity) was marked by the completion of a unified internal market within the EU. Despite the abolition of customs duties after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the unity of the European Community remained incomplete both for citizens and economic structures. Numerous trade restrictions and borders between member states still existed, leading to the need of reforming the Community.
The main aim of reforming the EU was to create a single market, a holistic European economy, which was fixed in the Single European Act (SEA) that came into force in 1987. The single market was expected to be an area without internal frontiers with free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This provided the complete removal of physical, technical, fiscal, and other barriers in the EU space that almost led to the elimination of national borders and the creation of uniform economic space.
From my point of view, there is no doubt that SEA was the result of a compromise between the adherents of a federal Europe and the supporters of the national sovereignty of European countries. As a result, the European integration association connects and combines the elements of both federation and confederation. The integration process, starting with the European Coal and Steel Community first seemed to represent the neo-functional approach of integration. However, emphasizing the important role of national states and their place in the global system and the processes of European integration, the founder of intergovernmental theory, S. Hoffman, noted that analysing the European integration process, it is important to take into account the context in which it develops. Thus, S. Hoffman pointed to the existence of differences in the development of European integration, which is a consequence of the unique context of domestic politics and global factors, primarily the role of a state in the international system.
A. Moravcsik developed and widened this theory, applying the analytical framework of liberal intergovernmental approach to the process of European integration. He claimed that states are rational and their choice is, therefore, rational as well. Participation in creation of international institutions is determined by evaluating the arguments “for” and “against” the advantages and disadvantages of participation in order to protect the interests in the future.
Analysing the evolution of European integration and the European Union, it is obvious that the activities of the actors are carried out on two levels. On the first level, the political leaders unite the interests of their countries as well as their own interests and then formulate national preferences regarding the European integration. On the second level, the national governments voice their position during the intergovernmental negotiations in Brussels, where the final agreement reflects the strength of each state. So, it proves the rational approach, mentioned in intergovernmentalism.
Having analysed the theoretical approaches and the sequence of integration process of the EU until the creation of SEA, one can conclude that liberal intergovernmentalism provides the most compelling account of development of the European Communities. Based on two levels of cooperation mentioned above, economic interests and increasing economic interdependence almost automatically lead to closer inter-state cooperation and the creation of interstate institutions, which best describes the integration process of that time.