5 min read — Analysis | The EU at a Crossroads (series)

The EU at a Crossroads: Facing Strategic Dilemmas (Part 1: Introduction)

With different ideologies of European integration at play, the Union is now in a game of tug-of-war between liberal and conservative paradigms. What crossroads face the EU? (Part 1 of the series)
The EU at a Crossroads
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By Nathaniel Thomas Carrier

First published: 2020 | Electronically published: March 3, 2023 at 10:30 

Note: This article is the first in a five-part series, “The EU at a Crossroads: Facing Strategic Dilemmas”. The series is taken from the author’s, Nathaniel Thomas Carrier’s, university thesis first published in 2020, Jagiellonian University (Uniwersytet Jagielloński) in Kraków, Poland. To see all five articles of the series, click here.

The European Union (EU) arose out of the European Economic Community in the efforts to stabilise western Europe and recover from the devastation of World War II. Years later, the Union has actively worked to increase the livelihood of Europeans and harmonise the continent. However, what is evident today is a system that is not only teetering on the edge of a slope but could also be on the brink of fragmentation. With different ideologies of European integration at play, the Union is now in a game of tug-of-war between liberal and conservative paradigms. These paradigms intensify the European arena in a fashion that hinders the growth and potential of what the Union could ultimately be. The future of the Union, however, is dependent on the ideas of its leaders and the will of its people.

The aim of this dissertation is to examine the effects on European legitimacy by further integration, done so by analysing a mere meagre of the many debates that have dominated EU politics since the Treaty of Rome and those thereafter. Subsequently, by using EU strategic dilemmas such as the deepening versus widening debate, the dissertation will determine the reason for the gap between functional institutional reform and EU legitimacy. The dissertation will show how the dilemmas were handled by European leaders and how their decisions have affected the EU on institutional and political levels, from a micro-level. What is absent from these debates, however, is a logical discussion from the input of sociological thought about the finalité of the Union. It is from this perspective that one can understand that discussing these topics is not only useful but also meaningful.1 This discussion will be present throughout the entire dissertation, thus, making it crucial to the ongoing political debates within Europe. In the following, this introduction will serve as an outline to this dissertation, explaining the structure and content of its subsequent chapters.

In chapter one [part 2 of the article series], titled Deepening vs Widening: conceptualisation of the debate, it will begin by identifying key arguments of each side of this debate: why are they important, and what does each side entail? Have these ideas been implemented as policies in the EU? If not, how has the widening of the Union impacted European society and national governments? To assess these questions, chapter one will examine the effects of the eastern enlargement of 2004 — its consequential fatigue, the crises that have arisen out of such occasions, and how the Union’s leaders have handled them. Thereafter, the chapter will have proven it appropriate to discuss the theories of European integration, such as neo-functionalism and liberal intergovernmentalism. Ultimately, determining which side of the debate each theory belongs to, ensuring that each political paradigm is examined to maximise results.

Chapter two [part 3 of the article series], titled Core-periphery Debate: in light of supranationalism, intergovernmentalism, and balance of power, will survey the effects of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism at the level of EU governance. This is done by expanding the debate about the future of the EU by examining it from a core and peripheral state of thought. Is the Schengen Zone too exorbitant in times of international conflict? Does a single European currency maximise the potential of an integrated market? These questions will lead to much-needed speculation: the utmost importance of discussing both the original expectations of the Union versus today’s reality. Though, with this, it is essential to show that the expectations versus reality are more complex than what is seen out-front. Although, how does this debate impact the state of sociological thought within the Union?

The final chapter [part 4 of the article series], The Post-Brexit Institutional Framework of the EU, will discuss the most recent dilemmas — the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU and the worldwide health pandemic caused by COVID-19. The divorce between the United Kingdom and the EU and the unrelenting spread of COVID-19 will have consequences; however, what will the consequences be? What are the effects of the global health pandemic in the EU? Will the Union continue to work towards an ever-more integrated Union? The uncertainty and unpredictability of these events are in themselves accelerating the crisis situation within itself. However, these situations create moments for crucial decision-making and substantial discussions of how the EU will overcome these fractures. Moreover, crucial to chapter three is the emphasis of the handling of the Brexit crisis and how the effects of it have and could impact the EU on institutional levels. Though, a post-Brexit EU does not mean an end to the Union, which will be discussed, but how the Permanent Structured Cooperation could be expanded after the United Kingdom’s departure. What will it look like? In the absence of a standing army, chapter three will continue with discussion about a security defence union and the deliberations that arise from its proposal. Continue reading part 2 here…

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