Has Europe Lost Its Heart?
22 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2009 Last revised: 18 Sep 2009
Date Written: 2005
The fifth enlargement of the EU has now brought together twenty five countries, a massive success. But success has its price: twenty-five countries do not cooperate as six used to. The result is a general impression that the undertaking is being diluted and that national interests prevail over the common good, which means less willingness to take the next integrative step.
This paper argues that this perception is largely misguided. The EU-25 group is considerably more integrated than the EU-6 ever was. Dilution is not a necessary consequence of enlargement, rather enlargement is bringing to the fore a number of institutional failures that were present all along.
This paper takes a politico-economic view of the link between enlargement and deepening. After a broad review of the task allocation principles, it concludes that enlargement and deepening are not substitutes but complements. It produces evidence that enlargement is not increasing preference heterogeneities within the union, but that it leads national governments to preserve more forcefully their own powers, often against the wishes of their own citizens. The result is an inability to reform the decisionmaking process that has become unwieldy as the result of enlargement.
The issue, then, is how to restore the EU's ability to run its affairs. The European Constitutional Convention has made little headway. Other solutions that go beyond current debates are examined. "Pioneer clubs" raise many unresolved issues. More promising, maybe, is the idea that the acquis communautaires should be once and for all decisions. By lowering the stakes of both sovereignty transfers and qualified majority voting, allowing changes in both directions between shared and national competencies could encourage governments to accept more daring reforms. Strengthening the legitimacy of union-specific institutions (the European Parliament or the Commission Presidency) would create a counter-power to deal with national governments' natural tendency to defend their own prerogatives.
Keywords: European integration, enlargement, constitution
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