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Chapter

Cover The European Union

11. Conclusion  

Daniel Kenealy, Amelia Hadfield, and Richard Corbett

The EU is extraordinary, complex and—in important respects—unique. This concluding chapter revisits three key themes that can help structure understanding of the EU: experimentation and change; power sharing and consensus; and scope and capacity. It also returns to the question: how can we best explain the EU and how it works? Finally, the chapter confronts the question: ‘Where do we go from here’? Does knowing how the EU works give clues about how it might work in the future? In light of the COVID-19 pandemic will the EU develop in a more intergovernmental or federal manner? Or will the sort of flexible pragmatism that has helped the EU survive to this point characterize the future?

Chapter

Cover The Member States of the European Union

2. Member States in European Integration  

Christopher Bickerton

This chapter explores the role of member states in European integration. It first looks at the idea of member statehood, exploring its ambiguities and arguing for a more sophisticated understanding of what it means to be a ‘member state’ of the EU. The chapter considers in detail the role played by member states in the EU, highlighting in particular the centrality of member state governments and their power to EU policy-making and its institutions. At the same time it notes the relative absence of member state publics. The chapter ends with a reflection on whether there is a return of the nation-state, with its associated trends of nationalism and inter-state rivalry.

Chapter

Cover The European Union

4. EU Member States  

Ramona Coman and Daniel Kenealy

This chapter focuses on the member states of the EU. It begins by considering how two different theories—liberal intergovernmentalism and postfunctionalism—explain member states’ engagement with the EU and the different visions of EU integration held by the member states. It goes on to explore the important role of the member states in the EU’s decision-making processes with a focus on the coalitions and cleavages among the member states, the importance of the rotating presidency of the Council (of ministers), and the increasing role of the European Council in setting the EU’s political agenda. The chapter discusses key concepts such as Europeanization, euroscepticism, and differentiated integration, which help understand the challenges faced by a Union of 27 diverse member states.

Chapter

Cover European Union Politics

29. The Future of the EU  

Brigid Laffan

This chapter is structured around four scenarios on the future of the European Union (EU): ‘Disintegration’, ‘Piecemeal Adjustment’, ‘Functional Federalism’, and ‘A European Sovereignty’. The EU is now facing the immense challenges of climate change, the accelerating digital transformation, Europe’s unstable neighborhood and the impact on Europe’s role in the world arising from the return of Great Power competition, all against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The perennial questions about the EU remain—how does it collectively amass sufficient political authority to address Europe’s challenges while maintaining its legitimacy? How can it be resilient as a Union while managing the deep diversity that characterizes Europe? Disintegrative fissures cannot be ignored. Piecemeal Adjustment continues to have resonance, as does Functional Federalism,. ‘A European Sovereignty’ sometimes defined as ‘strategic autonomy’ emerged on the political agenda with the election of French President Macron in May 2017.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

16. Internal Security and External Complication(s)  

Sarah Wolff

After the end of the Cold War, the internal–external security nexus, which refers to the links between what used to be distinct concepts under the Westphalian approach to international relations, has become a reality of European security. This chapter reviews the development of the external dimension of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), which manifests this internal–external nexus, covering its evolution from a side product of European economic integration to a multi-dimensional and increasingly digitalized policy area. In the last decade, multiple ‘crises’—from the Syrian refugee inflows of 2015, to Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in 2021, the war in Ukraine in 2022 and its ensuing refugee flows to the European Union (EU)—shaped the policy responses. From the reintroduction of internal border controls in March 2020 as a first reaction of EU member states to the Covid-19 crisis to the adoption of the temporary protection directive as an unprecedented response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, the EU has developed new coordinating tools to adapt to this state of continuous emergency and to the proteiform nature of global security changes.