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Chapter

Cover European Union Politics

4. Neo-functionalism  

Carsten Strøby Jensen

This chapter reviews a theoretical position, neo-functionalism, which was developed in the mid-1950s by scholars based in the United States. The fundamental argument of the theory is that states are not the only important actors on the international scene. As a consequence, neo-functionalists focus their attention on the role of supranational institutions and non-state actors, such as interest groups and political parties, who, they argue, are the real driving force behind integration efforts. The chapter that follows provides an introduction to the main features of neo-functionalist theory, its historical development since the 1950s, and how neo-functionalism is used today.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

23. The EU as a new political system  

Hix Simon

This chapter examines the development and operation of the European Union (EU) from a comparative politics perspective. It first considers the evolution of the EU, from the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1951 that established the European Coal and Steel Community to the admission of Lithuania in 2015 as the nineteenth member of the eurozone, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016. The chapter then explores the process of European integration and goes on to explain what it means to think of the EU as a political system. It also describes the two basic dimensions of the EU system: the vertical dimension (the EU as a ‘regulatory state’) and the horizontal dimension (the design and operation of EU decision-making). The chapter concludes by analysing the ‘missing link’ in the EU system—the lack of genuine democratic politics.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

1. Why EU institutions matter:  

five dimensions of EU institutional politics

Dermot Hodson, Uwe Puetter, and Sabine Saurugger

The European Union (EU) cannot be understood without reference to its institutions. But scholars differ on the questions of what precisely EU institutions are, what they do, and why they matter. This chapter defines EU institutions as decision-making bodies. It refers to the notion of EU institutional politics as the sphere of informal and formal rules, norms, procedures, and practices that shape such decision-making. The chapter explores how different theoretical traditions—international relations, integration theory, new institutionalism, the separation of powers, governance, public policy and administration approaches, and critical perspectives—think about EU institutions. Drawing on these traditions, this chapter encourages readers to think about EU institutions along five dimensions: intergovernmental versus supranational, international versus transnational, separated versus fused power, leaders versus followers, and contested versus legitimate. Seeing how the Union’s decision-making bodies move within and between these dimensions offers a deeper understanding of why EU institutions matter.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

14. The European Council and the Council of the European Union (EU)  

This chapter focuses on two European Union (EU) institutions that are principally composed of government representatives: the European Council and the Council of the EU. By virtue of their composition of government representatives (government heads, ministers, and civil servants), both the European Council and the Council of the EU remain part of a hierarchy of EU institutions. The chapter first provides an overview of definitions and distinctions, before discussing the intergovernmentalism of the European Council and how the Council of the European Union helped increase the supranationalism of the EU. It also considers the role of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and various preparatory committees.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

4. The Council of the European Union:  

co-legislator, coordinator, and executive power

Uwe Puetter

The Council is an institution of day-to-day policymaking in which the interests of member state governments are represented by cabinet ministers who meet, according to their policy portfolio, in different Council configurations and within the Eurogroup. According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the Council has a dual mandate. It acts as a legislative organ as well as an executive and policy-coordinating institution. This dual role is reflected in the organization and meeting practices of the different Council configurations. Those groupings of ministers dealing primarily with executive decisions and policy coordination tend to meet more often and are regarded as being more senior than those formations of the Council which engage predominantly in legislative decision-making. As a legislative institution, the Council has increasingly acquired features of an upper chamber in a bicameral separation of powers system, working in tandem with the European Parliament. In contrast, Council decision-making relating to executive issues and policy coordination in important policy domains, such as economic governance and foreign policy, is closely aligned with the European Council. In these areas, the Council can be considered to constitute, together with the Commission, a collective EU executive.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

24. Trade and Development Aid  

This chapter examines the European Union’s (EU’s) external trade relations in the context of the wider framework of global trade agreements, along with its related policies on development aid, particularly with the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states. It first looks at the history of the EU’s trade and development aid, before discussing its contemporary external trade and development policies. It explains the workings of the common commercial policy, considers disputes within the World Trade Organization (WTO), especially with the United States, and explores the EU’s trading relationship with developing countries and near neighbours in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). It then considers theoretical explanations of the EU’s external trade and development aid policies, as well as criticisms of such policies. Analysis of the EU’s external economic relations brings to the fore a number of theoretical themes, such as the tension between nationalism and supranationalism, the complexities of bargaining within multiple international forums, and the dominance of particular ideas across different forums.