The European Union: Supranational or Intergovernmental?
The European Union is a complex political body that is very difficult to summarize under simply one category. However, I believe the most important categorization to help explain the European Union and how it operates is whether it is viewed as a primarily supranational or intergovernmental organization. The main difference between whether the European Union is viewed as a success or failure hinges primarily on this classification. Derek Beach asks the question: “Are we witnessing a transformation of the EU from a strong supranational institution into a weaker Union dominated by governments?” (Beach, 2012, p. 49). I think the answer to this question is crucial to determining how the success level of the European Union is viewed, and many more focused questions hinge on this answer. Is there a common European identity? Is the euro a success or a failure? Does the Union need a common defense policy? Does the European Union experience a democratic deficit? All of these questions can be analyzed best by determining the nature of the European Union and its governance. Uwe Puetter notes that “It is hard to ignore the constantly growing activism at the top-level of intergovernmental decision making in European Union politics” and goes on to say that “the enquiry as to what next step the EU will take is directed towards the capitals rather than the Brussels-based bureaucracy” (Puetter, 2012, p. 56). It is under this consideration that I propose that the answers to these questions are best explained by viewing the European Union as primarily an intergovernmental body. European Identity and the Role of the Member State
A fitting place to start the discussion on the success of the European Union is with the concept of a common European identity. John McCormick and Jonathan Olsen remark that, “one of the prerequisites for a successful political system is a strong civil society, consisting of all the voluntary and spontaneous forms of political association that evolve within a state and are not formally part of the state system, but show that citizens can operate independently of the state” (McCormick and Olsen, 2014, p. 196). This strong civil society is important in the sense that citizens must feel as though they are part of their government, that they have a voice in their government, in order for a political system to succeed. In the European Union, I genuinely believe that, especially over the last decade, a genuine sense of European identity has burgeoned throughout the continent. This is due largely to the fact that each member state has to deal with the same problems as their neighbor. Ulrike Liebert, when arguing for the emergence of a European identity, notes that, “increasingly, EU policy issues – from the 2004 EU enlargement and the 2004-9 treaty reforms to the eurocrisis management – appeared on member states’ public agendas at the same time, as questions of similar concern, looked at through comparable lenses, and triggering exchanges across national boundaries” (Liebert, 2012, p. 99). Member states, and in turn, citizens of said member states, have increasingly realized the benefits of tackling problems not as a solitary actor, but as one of many in collaboration with each other. “Incrementally, these processes helped overcome the segmentation of national public spheres, while preserving their diversity” (Liebert, 2012, p. 99). Jürgen Habermas notes that there is an “interest in preserving culturally influential ways of living… which the citizens recognize as part of their collective identity” (Habermas, 2013, p. 42). European citizens have come to enjoy a type of citizenship rather unique to Europe, one in which political identity is meshed together while maintaining unique cultural identities. Habermas states that “citizens of the Union have a justified interest in their respective nation states continuing to perform their...
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