Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Sovereignty and European Integration: Deconstruction or Reconstruction of State Authority?

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Sovereignty and European Integration: Deconstruction or Reconstruction of State Authority?

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

European integration and its impact on Member States constitute a major part of present-day research within the field of Political Science. While much of scholarly literatures portray the European Union (EU) as a successful reality predicated on unity, solidarity, and "closeness," debates about the EU, as a controversial polity, or political, social, and economic project have, over the past two decades and within the context of globalization, increasingly focused on the "state's claim to sovereignty" (Bellamy & Castiglione, 1997). Integration advocates and critics remain at odds over the impact of institutions on state sovereignty despite claims through historical assessment that "the modern state has been treated as the superior form of political association" (Spruyt, 1994).

Although the European Council (hereafter "the Council") does not specifically reference the integration of the sovereign rights of states, the contention is strongly supported that states cede sovereign rights and empower the EU to act autonomously through integration, even issuing acts as a centralized polity with the "same force of law in individual states (Borchardt, 2010). Integration has therefore led to a deep friction, as it is the product of two competing principles. We argue that understanding the extent to which sovereignty rests with individual Member States or with the EU is related to the interaction between the Member States and the EU through three distinct categories of development: first, extra-state (non-governmental or non-state); second, state and sub-state; and third, supra-state.

The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to examine the nature of the European Union's system of governance; and second, to investigate the implications of the EU's institutional and decision-making arrangements for sovereignty. We engage a set of theories of European integration applied to a selection of developments of contemporary EU integration that have had different effects on EU Member States' sovereignty. We aim to highlight the linkages between these theories to show how the current EU political organization of authority qualifies as "shared sovereignty" in practice. In doing so, this article is structured into five sections. In the second section we briefly review the pillar theories of integration. We explore the concepts of "integration" and "sovereignty" in the third section. In section four we present three levels of development that we use to frame wider and deeper integration and it effect on Member States resulting in the transfer and sharing of sovereignty.

2. Theorizing European Integration

When studying something as complex as the EU, we need conceptual tools to guide us. Theories simplify reality and allow us to see relationships between the things we wish to observe. Diez and Wiener (2004) discuss theory as "causal argument of universal, transhistorical validity and nomothetic quality," testable by exposing hypotheses to empirical falsification (Jackson, 2011; King, Keohane, & Verba, 1994). Diez and Wiener (2004) argue that while empirical facts provide information that act as building blocks that could lead to impressions of certain phenomena, they can also be lacking in meaning, be misleading, or run the risk of being assumption-based; because of the complexity of the world of social science, mere observations and even "having more observations may assist us in this scientific process but it usually insufficient" (King, Keohane, & Verba, 1994).

Diez and Wiener (2004) provide us with three core reasons for theoretical endeavor. First, without theories, we cannot fully explain or grasp the crux of EU integration processes and outcomes; second, because social science inquiry typically unearths further questions and proliferates concern about the nature other phenomena that "require a deeper understanding of the normative issues at stake"; and third, "'pure' empirical knowledge of how institutions work is impossible. …

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