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Summary - Class notes - Politics of the European Union
1556661600 Lecture 1
Is the EU a state?
- It has institutions, with divisions of power
sovereignty, a lot of power transferred to Brussels
- It has a 'foreign ministry' which makes it seem
- It has a legal personality.
But no, it is not a state
- The EU is unable to define its own powers. First there needs to be a transfer of powers from its member states. Important!!
- It does not have a monopoly of violence or its own police or army or enforcement power.
- It does not collect taxes.
Is the EU an International Organization?
Many people think it is, but too many differences with traditional IOs:
- EU is active among too many different policies. For example NAFTA is for trade, NATO for security etc.
- EU law has direct effect on its citizens and precedence over national law.
- The commission and parliaments are institutions of the EU that are maybe
supranational, but precedented.
Is the EU an unidentified political object?
Delorspredicted in 1985that the EU in 30/40 years would become a sort of unidentified political object that people from especially smaller states won't identify with and will feel neglected.
Why study the EU?
Many people haves trong opinions about the EU, but few people have detailed knowledge about the EU. Make sure your opinion about the EU is based on facts.
Current questions about the EU:
- The international environment is changing; the Liberal Order is contested.
- Internally, the EU faces democratic backsliding: should it act? Does it have a right to interfere in domestic affairs? Think of Hungary, which is becoming a less free democracy.
- Is the Euroscepticism on the rise? Can de EU deal with it? It was always there but governments are also increasingly Eurosceptic (NL, Poland), even though the public opinion is still high (>80%)
What will happen with the EU after Brexit? More (NL/Poland) or less (DE) euroscepticism? Is it disintegration?/ or will the EU integrate faster and deeper?
Will the EU be better or worse equipped to meet international challenges.
Three levels of politics (these boundaries are blurred)
- Domestic politics (in the member states)
- EU politics (Mainly in Brussels)
- International politics (e.g. EU in the UN, EU- Japan strategic partnership)
Roaming abolished in the EU, because of the EU
EU is an international actor, for example many trade deals with Japan, Singapore and China, etc.
1556748000 Lecture 2
What are some successes of the EU?
- Nobel Peace Prize (2012): the Union and its forerunners have over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
- Single Market. This is rare, Canada does not have this, it is an economic integration without trade barriers.
What are some current challenges of the EU?
- Financial crisis. Difficult to have one policy to solve this, because all countries have different economic systems and policies. The ECB has a hard time making a policy that everyone benefits from. Also the EU doesn't have a very large budget. Usually governments have about 40-50% of the GDP to spend, the EU only spends 1% of the whole EU GDP, which they already use. So when there is a large crisis, they don't have much reserves. So they need cooperation to solve it.
- Migration crisis, The humanitarian crisis that it caused and the unfair division of refugees over European countries. This caused conflict within the EU and xenophobia.
- Deepening and Widening, Deepening is the integration by EU institutions on a particular policy area, for example integration on security on EU level. Also environmental policies. Also on monetary policy by the Central Bank. Widening is the expansion of the geographical space in which the EU is, so the expansion of the number of member states. Discussion on when it needs to stop widening; also Morocco/ Canada? And when do you stop deepening?
History of the EU
European unification is a concept that has been around for centuries. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi (Pan European Union). But the European unification really took off from 1945 onwards.
- Idealistic visions: creating a federal state with a supranational authority.
- Pragmatic goals: intergovernmental cooperation (Benelux)
- Competence; power to make laws regarding certain policy areas.
Jean Monnet (1888-1979): founding father ofthe European integration. Worked sas a cognac merchant; he visited Canada (1907-1914), and travelled to Scandinavia, England and the USA. By travelling he saw how different cultures worked together as a melting pot, and got inspired by this idea of cooperation.
- Congress of Europe in the Hague (1948): Council of Europe
- Schuman Plan (9 May 1950)
- The Monnet-Method (Monnet & Schuman believe that through economic integration, political integration will be achieved)
- Robert Schuman came from Alsace-Lorraine (In France, occupied by the Germans in WWII)
- The first higher authority was created: High authority.
1951: European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC): (1952-2002)
1957: European Atomic Energy Community of 'Euroatom'.
1957/1958: European Economic Community
(1952: European Defence Community signed; rejected by France in 1954)
The 1960s -> Empty chair crisis. France was scared they would not be able to veto the Council of the EU and therefore boycotted it, because they wanted to make the vote majority instead of unanimity. Agricultural policies were at this time the most important. It takes time for the European parliament to have control over the budget of the EU. France therefore didn't show up for 8 months at the EEG until the Luxemburg treaty, there was a majority & no consensus, except when it was of great importance for a country (basically veto).
The 1970s -> Quite a turbulent period with the oil crisis and the different resonses on it. A lot of member states have a hard time picking up their economic policies. They all have small national markets and in this period they want to give the (industrial) economies a jumpstart. A feeling that the European integration is not really going anywhere.
The 1980s -> The idea that there should be a new (single European act) to give this European economic integration a head start.
The 1990s -> Intergovernmental conference which founded EU.
Treaties that made the EU
1986 -> 'Single European Act' -- This made the idea of a common currency
1992/ 1993 -> Treaty of Maastricht -- This made the EU
1997/1999 -> Treaty of Amsterdam -- majority voting and Schengen
2001/2003 -> Treaty of Nice -- Agreements about new member states entering the EU.
2004 -> Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe -- this failed, not ratified bc of NL and France.
2007/2009 -> Treaty of Lisbon -- almost the same as the one before but less symbolic, ratified. European Council now formalised and in practice, Donald Tusk.
Summary and Conclusion
- European integration started a long time ago with the idea of lasting peace.
- Enlargement only works if member states all agree
- Sometimes deeper integration does not work
- Deepening is often incorporated into treaties.
1556834400 Lecture 3
What happened during the Empty Chair crisis?France did not show up at the EEG for 8 months until the Luxembourg treaty, because it was scared that they would not be able to veto the Council of the EU and therefore boycotted it, because they wanted to make the voting majority instead of unanimity.
Who proposed a plan for a Coal and Steel community in 1950?Robert Schuman
Why look at institutions; aren't states all that matter?
A state-centric approach (e.g. neorealist school in IR) downplays the role of institutions, especially in IR: " The false promise of International institutions" (JJ. Mearsheimer)
Is the EU the 'European rescue of the nation state'? (Alan Milward, 1992).
Insitutional approaches that matter:
- By altering state preferences
- By altering power structures
- By providing normative environments.
The Political system of the EU:
Article 9: The union has an institutional framework which aims to promote its values, advance its objectives, serve its interest, those of its citizens and the Member States. It ensures consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions. The Institutions :
- The European Parliament
- The European Council
- The Council (of Europe) (not part of EU)
- The European Commission
- The Court of Justice of the European Union
- The European Central Bank
- The Court of Auditors.
The European Commission
"The Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate intitiatives to that end."
-> This is why it's called supranational. Also why it sometimes makes policies that are of interests for smaller member states, because it's not just about the bigger European powers.
-> Discussion: who defines the 'general interest' of the Union? Critic: unelected bureaucrats.
Function 1: The Guardian of the Treaties and of the legal Framework
Example 1: the case of Poland and the 'rule of law' procedure
The Commission argued that there were certain new policies in Poland that are considered unlawful and undemocratic according to the EU. There were new laws to undermine the division of power and the independence of the judiciary accroding to the European Commission.
Competence in the rule of law frameowkr: The EC (or Parliament by 1/3. and the Council by 4/5) may determine that there is a clear risk of serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Art. 2. Basically they may determine whena state is doing something unlawful and may impose sanctions by a procedure.
Art. 2: values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, human rights, rule of law.
Rule of Law framework: adopted by the Commission itself. The objective is to prevent emerging threats to the rule of law to escalate to the point where the Commission has to trigger the mechanisms of Article 7 (= which is to suspend certain rights from a member state)
Three stage procedure
- Commission assessment
- Commission recommendation
- Monitoring the follow-up.
The Commission oversteps its mandate - the view of the Polish government. They find it arrogant that the EU dares to interfere in domestic Polish politics. VS. The Commission must act in defence of the values enshrined in the Treaties - view of the EUC and some member states (NL), who said if you don't exist for this, then what are you for?
Actions against firms
EU can take actions on companies that:
- Breaching EU law on restrictive practices and abuse of dominant market positions
- Breaching the EU law on state aid
- Potentially breaching the EU law on company mergers.
- Giving companies fines; Google fined 1.3 billion euro, Microsoft also fined half a billion.
- Ireland was fined because they helped Apple pay less taxes.
Margaret Vestager talk: basically the prohibition of mergers/ fusions to protect the consumer, so that not too many monopolies are created.
Function 2: Initiator of law
The right of initiative: the Commission has a right of initiation when it comes to most of the EU laws.
- Regulations: directly and immediately binding in their entirety (often rules of procedure or technical standards)
- Directives: binding in terms of goals, but the states may decide how to achieve those goals (often future objectives or harmonisation)
- Decisions: binding but not targeted at specific member states, individuals or institutions.
- Recommendations: not binding
- Opinions: not binding.
Know the European Secondary Law:
- Worker directive: every worker has the right to at least 4 weeks of paid holidays. Every worker has 11 rest within 24 hours.
- Drinking water directive: all members must ensure a high quality of drinking water.
- EU regulation on Illegal, Unregulated fishing.
Function 3: External negotiator (e.g. in trade)
Transatlantic Relations and the Tariffs on Steel. Think of the slides about Trump and the Commission conflict about Aluminium and Steel. And also the speech of Trump thanking everyone uncomfortable Juncker, it was about their agreement where they try to eliminate as many trade barriers as possible.
Function 4: Manager of EU finances
The EU budget:
- The Commission is responsible for drafting and implementing the budget
- The Council and the European Parliament control the upper limits and take the framework spending decisions.
- MFF - Multiannual Financial Framework.
Those were the main functions. The big question is: Political or technocratic?
Structure of the European Commission:
- The president of the Commission is chosen by the European Council (QMV)
- Has 28 members, namely one commissioner per country. UK one still in charge while they're not out.
- Approved by the European Parliament in individual hearings, with difficult questions.
- Can be dismissed (together) by the European Parliament.
- College of commissioners: one vote per commissioner
- Each commissioner has his/ her own Cabinet. very political
- Directorates-General is usually corresponding to the portfolios of the commissioners: e.g. DG trade
- Horizontal services: Secretariat General (SecGen), legal service, translation services.
-> look this up in the book.
Impartiality: you are not representing the interests of your country, but of the EU! so why do member states still want a commissioner from their own country? Because even if they're not representing their own country, they are from that country and therefore have a sensitivity & empathy for that country and will bring forward new thinking and ideas when it comes to topics regarding their country. Timmermans and Rutte have close contact about what is going on.
Collegiality: Commissioners may disagree, but when they do take a decision they all have to stand by it and defend it. So you can't bash the decision of your own commission in the media.
The current Juncker Commission 2014-2019
5 former Prime Ministers, 4 Vice Prime ministers, 19 former Ministers, 7 returning Commissioners, 8 former members of EP, 9f/19m.
Two special Commissioners
- The high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security policy (HRVP), is also in charge of the European external action service (EEAS). Frederica Mogherini
- The first vice-president, in charge of better regulation, inter-institutional relations, the rule of law and the charter of fundamental rights. Frans Timmermans.
Whom do the
Commissionersshould act independently from their member state: do they? If so, why do member states insist on the rule 'one Commissioner per country?'
- The expectation at home is often that they would represent (or take into account) national interest - but this is against the spirit of the treaty.
- European Commissioner as a
Media example: Juncker rebukes Hungary's EU commissioner, look up. He said you're not here to represent your Hungarian citizens, the European Council is to represent member states, you're here to represent EU citizens.
Current political discussion: mode of appointment
Spitzenkandidaten needed to be translated into what later became known as lead candidates in the EU elections. The European Parliament used the translation of the treaty of the EU, to re-interpret it so that there is a candidate to run the European Parliament for their party, and the winner will then be the President of the European Commissioner, so Juncker's party became the largest party in the European Parliament.
How does the College of Commissioners work?
- Focusses on political tasks
- Meets at least once a week, chaired by the Commission President.
- Usually decided by consensus, but a vote by a simple majority is possible.
How do Directorates General work?
- Each DG is responsible for policy initiation and management
- DGs are broadly aligned with the competence of the Commissioners.
- There are difficulties with horizontal coordination within DGs and across the European Commission (between different DGs)
- This is why some theoretical approaches warn against treating the Commission as a bloc.
The Different roles of the European Commission
- It acts as a 'Guardian of the Treaties' and monitors implementation.
- It has the right of initiative and legislative proposals.
- It acts as a mediator and conciliator (between institutions and the member states), it does this by representing European and not individual interest.
- It represents the EU externally when it comes to trade (Juncker and Trump meet)
- It manages (drafts + implements) the EU budget.
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