European Union: Power and Policy-Making

By Jeremy J. Richardson | Go to book overview
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Enlarging the European Union

Gerda Falkner


The process of EU enlargement has always been problematic for social scientists as well as for politicians. Indeed, integration theory has traditionally focused on the internal development of the EU rather than on its attraction for new member states (Church 1994:4). This is true for both of the mainstream theoretical approaches to European integration. Thus, neo-functionalists usually focused their analyses on functional spill-over, i.e. the process of internal extension of integration to ever more policy areas. Intergovernmentalists mainly concentrated on the series of 'grand bargains' on constitutional reform of the Union such as the Rome Treaties, the Single European Act, and the Maastricht Treaty on EU (for a critique on both mainstream approaches see e.g., Anderson 1995).

Today, however, the accelerating process of widening and its implications for the EU policy-making process are inevitably of central interest. The 1950s and 1960s saw only the six original member states participating in the integration enterprise, the first doubling of participants occurred between 1973 and 1985. This number did not increase until the inclusion of some of the EFTA countries (Austria, Finland, and Sweden) ten years later. Yet within the next decade, the EU could actually double to thirty member states. In fact, the debate on further enlargements, to include Mediterranean as well as central and eastern European countries (CEEC), started well before the 1995 widening. Clearly, this major development deserves both empirical and theoretical investigation.

The following section of this chapter, therefore, discusses the empirical paradox involved in EU enlargement: the obvious development of the original European Communities to a Union with important supranational features has by no means discouraged aspirant member states. Why is it that more and more states are willing to give up much of their otherwise cherished national sovereignty by joining this Union, knowing that even more sovereignty will be eroded over time? After this, we will analyse the internal implications of these developments. What does enlargement imply for the policy-making process and the other dimensions of Union development? Finally, we will examine the indispensable institutional and policy reforms to accommodate further widening, and the changes in the Union's pre-accession strategy over time.


Viewed from a distance and over time, the EU can be seen as the centre of a galaxy. For many years it seemed as if some of the surrounding groups of states moved quite independently


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