European Union: Power and Policy-Making

By Jeremy J. Richardson | Go to book overview

2

The development of the European idea

From sectoral integration to political union

Sonia Mazey

We believed in starting with limited achievements, establishing a de facto solidarity from which a federation would gradually emerge. I have never believed that one fine day Europe would be created by some great political mutation…. The pragmatic method we had adopted would …lead to a federation validated by the people's vote, but that federation would be the culmination of an existing economic and political reality.

(Monnet 1978)


INTRODUCTION

The opposition of the UK Prime Minister, John Major, during negotiations preceding the 1992 Maastricht Summit to the inclusion of the 'F word' (i.e. federalism) in the Treaty on EU (TEU) was reminiscent of the immediate post-war debate on European integration. Then, as now, the key issues were what kind of European community-economic or political? Intergovernmental or supranational? What kind of institutional framework? The founding Treaties of the European Communities provided no clear answers to these questions; rather they represented an ambiguous compromise between intergovernmentalists and European federalists involved in the post-war debate on European co-operation. The former viewed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) created by the Treaties, as functional agencies charged with the co-ordination of national, economic strategies in designated sectors. 1 However, European federalists hoped that these agencies would, over time, provide the basis for a more comprehensive kind of political integration. The institutional arrangement created by the founding Treaties reflected this ambiguity. On the one hand, the European Commission and the European Court of Justice provided for a supranational European executive and legal authority. On the other hand, however, national governments, represented in the Community's Council of Ministers, enjoyed important legislative and executive powers with regard to the adoption and implementation of European Community (EC) policies. This uncertainty regarding the proper status and ultimate objectives of European integration left open the question of the future development of the EC.

In the absence of a clear blueprint, the development of the EC since 1957 has been uneven and erratic. Nationalism, economic recession, piecemeal enlargement and the growing importance of the Council of Ministers within the EC's decision-making system have at various times impeded EC decision-making and the process of European integration. Nevertheless, since 1957, the legal basis, institutional framework and policy competence of

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