A period of Eurosclerosis and Euro-pessimism in the 1970s and early 1980s received an antidote in the form of the 1992 Programme, devised in 1985. The objective of this ‘technical’ Programme was to remove non-tariff barriers on internal trade in the European Union, open up the internal market, stimulate competition and, hence, increase welfare in the region. The next logical step to consolidate the earlier achievements in European integration by the elimination of exchange-rate fluctuations was the move towards the economic and monetary union that came with the Maastricht Treaty (1991). European economic and political integration gained momentum. Or, did it? In spite of long and positive declarations of many European Councils on European integration, limitations to the integration process, such as those in the monetary sphere, began to appear. In other areas, such as education, transport policy or environment there are many unexplored prospects for integration.
When big changes occur, such as the 1992 Programme, moves towards economic and monetary union, not to mention the reunification of Germany or disintegration of the eastern bloc, then interest is aroused as opportunities to redesign Europe are rare. The democratic system and market economy of the 15 countries of the European Union, with different degrees of success, provided a fairly flexible foundation for a relatively smooth absorption of the changes brought by these challenges. That is why the system adapted and survived. However, has the European integration exhausted itself? Are there limits to European economic integration? The answer to these questions is negative. For example, if certain ambitious approaches to integration such as economic and monetary union as based on the Maastricht Treaty (and with criteria that are not known in the theory of international monetary integration) are dead, that does not mean that the idea of European integration is dead too. On the contrary. There are many other areas for European integration, including monetary integration. Perhaps, a bit less in the monetary-integration sphere over a longer timescale than established by the Maastricht Treaty may produce a better and more stable European Union in the future, as well as preserve unity with diversity.
The objective of this book is to look into the origin, evolution, operation and prospects for economic integration in the European Union. Economic integration of some of the oldest nations in the world with different organizational traditions and history, full of secular conflicts, is a tremendously difficult, but highly rewarding, political and economic task. Economic integration between relatively small and medium-sized countries can be defended with the same arguments which are used