COURSE ESSAY "Political Aspects of European Integration"
By Yaroslav Sinitsov, EUBL
University of Amsterdam
Before answering this question, let us face some obvious facts. So far, the European Union has been the most advanced and successful alliances of the independent countries in the modern history. One cannot deny that it is only the EU which established – at least in the first pillar – a new legal order for its Member States, by which they voluntarily shared their sovereignty based on the rule of law in order to achieve the common task, as set forth by Article 2 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community: ‘...to promote throughout the Community a harmonious and balanced development of economic activities, sustainable and non-inflationary growth respecting the environment, a high degree of convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and of social protection, the raising of a standard of living and quality of life, and economic and social cohesion and solidarity among Member States.’[i] But as with any other international treaty, there is always room for diversity in interpretation. If the right to interpret the Treaty provisions and other Community legislation had been vested in Member States, the EU would have been nothing different but just another international treaty nicely falling within the general system of public international law, where no contracting party can be bound against its will. The EU is unique to have the European Court of Justice which, unlike any other international tribunals, has a compulsory jurisdiction and an exclusive authority to interpret the Community legislation – at least, with respect to the first pillar of the EU. By widely interpreting the EC legislation and relying not just on the text, but also on ‘the spirit’ of the Treaty, the European Court of Justice has actually developed its own doctrine which is now seen as one of the important sources of the Community law. This doctrine has played a crucial role in implementing EU policies, since the text of the Treaty and other Community legislation cannot cover in detail all aspects of integration. Despite the instability of its development, the EU remains by far more efficient that any other possible alternatives. The EU is a major achievement and is still on the move. IGCs being clearly inter-state negotiations bear little resemblance to classical diplomatic conferences reviewing international treaties. European Treaty reform ‘is perhaps better looked at as the constitutional process – with an integral role being played by the representatives of the people, both at national and European level.’[ii]
But why integrate? What made European governments act against their cautious political interests? The answer was given by Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Communities and a lover of aphorisms: ‘People only accept changes when faced with necessity, and only recognise necessity when the crisis is upon them’[iii] . I couldn’t agree more with the first part of Monnet’s saying, but I would like to replace the word ‘only’ with the word ‘better’ in its second part. A deep crisis is probably the most powerful impetus to bring peoples and countries together, although not the only one. This is exactly what happened immediately after the World WarII. The need for fundamental political and economic change in Europe was extremely strong. As the Cold War commenced and the Iron Curtain abruptly divided the continent, integration became a means by which the Western Europe could defend itself, in close co-operation with the United States, against the external Soviet threat and the internal communist threat. The need for a stronger and united Europe outweighed an initial desire of the Allies to pasteurise Germany. A stronger Europe must have a strong Western Germany. At that time the Europe was on the move to integrate. And it has been on the move to integrate since then. However, the dialectics of the integration has dramatically changed with the change of the world affairs in the years 1989-1992. The old dialectics was that of the Cold War, with the familiar and multiple interactions between the two Europes, the two alliances and the two great powers. The new dialectics is of a pan-European solidarity and all-European integration, and it has never been tried before.