A Cold-Eyed Look at Europe’s “Ever Closer Union”

Ever Closer Union?

Quantitatively​ speaking, the shift in the centre of gravity of work on the EU from America to Europe itself has been a product of a now vast academic industry: some five hundred Jean Monnet chairs are currently planted across the Union. In the midst of a sea of conformity, a cluster of thinkers has emerged whose writing represents a qualitative advance in critical understanding of the Union. In independence of spirit closer in type to Gramsci’s ‘traditional’ intellectuals, as distinct from the ‘organic’ variant represented by Luuk van Middelaar, these are not to be found nestling in official positions; form no collective school of thought; and are of diverse national and generational backgrounds. A short list would include Giandomenico Majone (Italy), theorist of regulation; the jurists Dieter Grimm (Germany) and Thomas Horsley (Britain); the sociologists Claus Offe and Wolfgang Streeck (Germany); the political scientists Christopher Bickerton (Britain), Morten Rasmussen (Denmark) and Antoine Vauchez (France); the historians Kiran Klaus Patel (Germany) and Vera Fritz (Luxembourg). In the work of these and other scholars, the dynamics of European integration emerge in a cooler, more searching light than in van Middelaar’s panegyrics, revealing what these omit and scrutinising what they don’t with a finer lens.

The Union, as we know it today, is a complex composed of five principal institutions: the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Central Bank. A consideration of these can begin with the term conventionally encompassing the story of their development, ‘European integration’. This came from America, as Patel has shown, and was adopted to avoid another term too pointed for tactical purposes in the politics of the 1950s. The word it replaced was ‘federation’, rejected by governments and what interested opinion then existed, if ardently espoused by a small but committed minority of activists. For them and their academic sympathisers, ‘integration’ supplied a more neutral term for progress towards an ideal best kept, for time being, in petto. Nowhere was it more helpful than in characterising the work of the Court of Justice, which was, as van Middelaar emphasises, the first mover in the ‘passage to Europe’ after the Treaty of Rome.

 
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Πηγή: lrb.co.uk

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