Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The European Union: A Regional International Society from the Point of View of the Romanian Governmental Elites

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

The European Union: A Regional International Society from the Point of View of the Romanian Governmental Elites

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The European Union (EU) is an experiment in flux aiming at creating solidarity or a union in which states agree to share a common standard of civilization reflected by common interests, values, rules and a framework of common institutions. To what extent do newly accepted members understand the Union's common interests, values and rules before they participate in the creation of common institutions? What meanings do they attach to the Union's common interests, rules and values? Existing studies involving testimonies of key decision makers in Romania and the EU reveal that some Romanian political elites perceived membership in the EU as a way of "acquiring greater legitimacy, new sources of wealth, and increased political influence."1

As an area of research, the EU attracts the attention of many scholars. However, studies on the EU tend to focus more on the impact the EU enlargement has for the union (Nugent 2004); reasons why the union expands (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2005); the Europeanization of domestic politics (Featherstone and Radaelli et a/., 2003), as well as the nature of EU integration (Leuffen, Rittberger and Schimmelfennig 2013). Regarding the EU conceptualization, scholars use a variety of theoretical approaches and methodologies including organization/system approach in a neofunctionalist and institutional integration framework (Keohane and Hoffmann 1991), as well as the grand theory (Nugent and Paterson 2006). For example, to understand the nature of the EU, Leuffen (et a/., 2013) use a system approach and contrasts the EU with the state and the international organization perspective highlighting that "the EU fits neither type, and that it is like an international organization in some respects but more akin to a state in others" (Leuffen et ai, 2013:1).

In contrast, scholars associated with the English School (ES) examine the EU from the society perspective using the international society framework (Stivachtis 2002, 2003; Stivachtis and Webber 2011; Diez, Manners and Whitman 2010). In the ES sense, there is a distinction between the EU as a regional organization, and the EU as a regional society. The distinction is dictated by the fact that in an international organization states pursue membership as long as they have an interest in the organization whereas, in an international society, states observe international law and society's norms, common values and interests. Since more emphasis in EU literature is on examining the evolution and expansion of the EU, this study aims to contribute to ES literature on regional international society with a study on how a society is constituted by meanings and actions of domestic actors. Using the international society perspective advanced by the ES, this paper will show how the EU is a society of states or an international society constituted by meanings diplomats and state leaders give to their views and actions in the EU. The paper uses the working definition of ES that describes governmental elites as officials who affect political outcomes.2 Governmental elites selected for this paper include elites associated with the Democratic Liberal Party (LDP). The LDP coalition is perceived by Romanian and western comparative politics scholars as pro-western and focused on integrating Romania into the structures of European institutions (Tismaneanu & Gross 2005; Stan 2005; MungiuPippidi 2005).3

The study examines textual data: written political statements, speeches and interviews provided by governmental elites (Presidency, Government, European Integration, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) with respect to the EU and EU integration from the time they were invested into office, December 2004, to December 2010. The length of time, two years before EU accession and three years after, will show a variation in meanings and actions before Romania received EU membership and after EU accession. Criteria for data collection are based on the definition of international society 'word categories' reflecting content associated with meanings. …

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