PROPONENTS OF European integration often claim that European integration has ensured—and continues to ensure—that Europe remains peaceful. From this perspective, the European project finds its justification in Europe's own lamentable history of war and interstate conflict. If European integration can bring this history to an end, then the European project has all the justification it needs. Viewed more closely, however, this security-based argument for European integration (as it might be termed) tends to fall apart. Indeed, there are at least three problems with this line of argument.
The first problem with the security-based justification is that Europe is already stable and peaceful. Simply put, if Europe has been peaceful for the last fifty years or so, why is it now necessary for Europe to take the further step toward full political integration? Indeed, it might be argued—as some eurosceptics have done—that further political integration would only jeopardize important elements of the postwar international order, including NATO and the bipolar balance.1 There is a certain paradox here. The success of western Europe in avoiding war since 1945 makes it more, rather than less, difficult to invoke a security-based argument for European political integration. Perhaps the security-based justification would be more plausible if Russia were to develop imperial aspirations with respect to other European states. But this does not seem likely. Nor does this prospect seem to call for European political integration. Indeed, NATO probably remains the best means of dealing with Russia. There is no obvious reason why European political integration would provide the answer to a resurgent Russia.
A second problem with any security-based argument for European integration is that it begs the question of why the value of security should weigh so heavily in the scales. A eurosceptic might allow that the project of European integration makes violent conflict within Europe somewhat less likely, but nonetheless contend that the preservation of national sovereignty outweighs whatever gains to security that political integration might yield. In order to meet this objection, the proponent of European integration needs to explain why security—and what form of security—matters.