Thursday, September 20, 2012

How likely is it that the European Union will Disintegrate? A Critical Analysis of Competing Theoretical Perspectives

WEBBER Douglas
Access the publisher's website European Journal of International Relations 20, 2 (2014) 341-365


This article turns existing theories of European integration on their head, exploring the conditions under which they would predict that the European Union will disintegrate, and assessing to what extent these conditions currently exist. It argues that these theories, especially the most ‘optimistic’ ones, have an insufficiently comparative inter-spatial as well as inter-temporal focus. Combining insights from domestic politics approaches to international relations and hegemonic stability theories, it suggests that the future of European integration and the European Union is more contingent than most integration theories allow. First, they do not take sufficient account of the role of domestic politics in the member states, in many of which the last decade has witnessed a major upsurge of ‘anti-European’ political attitudes and movements. Second, they overlook the extent to which Europe’s uniquely high level of political integration depends on the engagement and support of the region’s economically most powerful ‘semi-hegemonic’ state, Germany. Even though a fundamental reorientation of German European policy at the present time seems unlikely, it is not inconceivable. The European Union has confronted and survived many crises in the past — but has never had to confront a crisis ‘made in Germany’. The European Union’s current crisis is symptomatic of a broader crisis or malaise of regional and international multilateralism.