Response to discussion

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Response 1:  

The European Union seems to be one of the few modern arguments that can be made in favor of liberal IR theory.  Following  WWII realist principles would have dictated that states compete to fill the power vacuum left by the fall of Germany with each state pursuing the sole goal of European hegemony.  Amazingly, this is the opposite of what happened.  Perhaps it was the need to  band together against the powerful Russian threat during the Cold War, which would conform to realist theory, but for whatever reason the European states chose to cooperate and form international institutions instead.  According to our lesson this week the  EU began as an economic IO to regulate trade in certain materials, and later customs.  This should not be surprising, given what we learned two weeks about the link between economic prosperity and the expansion of democracy, but it is still a unique phenomenon  in global politics.  Between NATO and the EU, Europe probably hosts more successful supranational organizations than any other region in the world.  There are other successful supranational organizations, such as ASEAN and the African Union, but they have  had significant troubles and do not enjoy the same level of support from their member nations that the EU does.  Some of the common difficulties we have seen facing supranational political organizations are accountability and enforcement.  Tallberg described  the two solutions to this as enforcement and management.  “Enforcement theorists characteristically stress a coercive strategy of monitoring and sanctions, management theorists embrace a problem-solving approach based on capacity building, rule interpretation,  and transparency.” (2002, 1)  The EU has figured out how to combine these two competing approaches into a political strategy that keeps states in line while not subjugating them or overly imposing on their sovereignty.  This is why I find this enforcement  and management theory most persuasive in analyzing EU policymaking.  The EU’s multi-level governance would not work without the accountability that they obtain through balancing enforcement and management.  As I said at the beginning of this post, realism  is the theoretical approach least persuasive when explaining EU development and effectiveness.  As someone who usually ascribes to the bleak, realist outlook, I find the example set by the EU to be refreshing and hopeful.  If ASEAN and the African Union could  replicate their success, it would greatly increase stability and peace in their respective regions.  The recent secession of Great Britain from the EU (dubbed “Brexit”) may indicate a trending decrease in support for the EU from member nations.  Going forward  the EU will have to carefully balance their enforcement and management mechanisms as states now see leaving the organization as a viable option if they are not happy with the EU’s policies.  Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU comes down to unwillingness  to cooperate with EU policies, unwillingness to obey a policy they do not agree with, which is an issue of sovereignty.  They are unwilling to compromise their sovereignty by submitting to the authority (and policies) of the EU against their will.  This is  a very realist response to the EU, and realist theory would indicate that more countries will follow when they no longer agree with EU policy and refuse to accept any higher authority than their own.  Only time will tell if the realist perspective or liberal  perspective will prevail, and if the ideals of the EU will continue to spread or if the organization will collapse.


Response 2:

Before discussing the theoretical perspectives to analyze the European Union  (EU) policymaking, it is important to highlight that integration cases can develop positively or negatively. Negative integration refers to the dismantling of restrictions on cross-border exchanges and the distortion of competition, while positive integration  implies common policies that shape the conditions in which markets operate (Scharpf 1998). This distinction is significant because the first can be achieved through intergovernmental procedures, but the second requires supranational organizations or standards.

When it comes to the theoretic approaches that were least persuasive, we have one of the oldest federalism, conceived as a successful model in the  United States and, therefore, admired and emulated elsewhere, including Europe. The federalist strategy admits two ways to advance integration: through intergovernmental constitutional negotiation or the call for a constituent assembly. Both paths lead to  the establishment of a federal state, and both are directed from above. However, when in 1949 it failed to uphold the Council of Europe as a model for an integrated continent, many of them opted for a shift to another type of approach (Burgess 2000).

Functionalism, in contrast to federalism, was created at the end of WWII as a pragmatic and flexible system to overcome the problems that nationalism  brought and an alternative to the policy of safeguarding world peace. It is empirically based on the experience of the US ‘New Deal’, understanding that a decentralized treatment area by area, and topic by topic, would curb the capacity of countries while  creating non-political organizations and bodies capable of dealing with administrative tasks but failed to contain a theory of politics and the inability to explain why certain options are chosen (Mutiner 1994, 99). Therefore, the neofunctionalism theory is  created, considering the idea that technological and scientific changes would produce incentives and pressures for international institutional innovation (Checkel 2005, 806). “From the beginnings of the integration process through the early 1990s, the dominant  theoretical traditions in EU studies were neofunctionalism, which saw European integration as a self-sustaining process driven by sectoral spillovers toward an ever-closer union” (Pollack 2005,359).

Currently, under the phenomenon of regional integration, the main contemporary theories that seek to explain it are intergovernmentalism and supranational  governance, a renewed descendant of neo-functionalism. Intergovernmentalism conceives of regional integration as the result of the sovereign decision of a group of neighboring states (Pollack 2005, 360). According to this approach, the States promote international  cooperation to meet the demands of their relevant national actors. The expected result is the strengthening of state power, which maintains the option to withdraw from the association, and not its dilution in a regional entity (Pollack 2005, 361). This approach  defines economic interdependence as a necessary condition for integration. As trade liberalization increases the magnitude of foreign trade, especially at the intra-industrial level, the demands for greater integration increase. In this framework, regional  institutions are conceived as mechanisms that facilitate the implementation of agreements, rather than as autonomous actors or as arenas of collective action (Checkel 2005, 818). Despite the relevance that this approach attaches to national States, the decision  to share or delegate sovereignty is considered inevitable if it is to achieve and sustain higher levels of exchange.

For its part, supranational governance conceives of regional integration as a process that, once started, generates its own dynamics (Checkel 2005,  801). This approach emphasizes the importance of supranational actors, which are created by the regional association but later become its drivers by promoting certain latent feedback mechanisms (Pollack 2005, 358). Supranational governance highlights the participation  of four central actors in advancing European integration: nations, transnational companies, the European Commission and the Court of Justice (Pollack 2005, 361). The last two are supranational institutions that do not involve in other regional matters. Hence,  outside the European Union, the interaction between national states and transnational companies is only to be expected. Furthermore, in the European case, the actors involved preferably demand general rules rather than specific decisions, which has generated  a unique institutional construction dynamic of its kind (Checkel 2005, 809).

As to the governance of the European Union, both the powers of national governments  and the European institutions and the relationship between the latter are vague and ambiguous. National executives play a key role, and most lobbying is done through them; but also the Commission and the European Parliament (and, in some cases, the Court of  Justice) are selected targets of pressure from sub-national governments and sectoral groups seeking to promote their interests through all available channels, leading to a process that has been called multi-level governance (Hooghe and Marks 2001). These approaches  consider society as a starting point for integration. Increasing in transnational transactions generate an increase in interdependence that, in the long run, leads the protagonists of the exchange to request the national or transnational authorities to adopt  regulations and policies to the new needs generated during the process.


Response 3:

Good day everyone!  This week’s readings were on the amazing story of the European  Union (EU) with 28 nations represented.  After two World Wars, it is fitting that the 2 primary objectives of the EU is Peace and Prosperity for their members, and I think they have done a excellent job in both these endeavors.  I found that term Europe’s  “sui generis” meaning of it’s own kind or in a class by itself quite fitting to “Europe’s degree of integration, level of political community, and pooling of sovereignty far outstrip those seen anywhere else” (Checkel, p 801).  I noted that the word sovereignty  was constantly brought up and I saw the contrast between supranationalism (having the power or influence that transcends national boundaries or governments) and intergovernmentalism, which allows states to cooperate in specific fields while retaining their  self-interest/ sovereignty.  The EU has been extremely successful in their supranationalism (Euro monetary currency, EU Schengen Zone, NATO) to benefit all members even though some state sovereignty rights have been taken away.  This could be countered by  the recent BREXIT where the United Kingdom do not want their sovereign rights decided by the EU.   

The EU does have many checks and balances much like the US Government.  The  EU has three branches of government (legislative, executive and judicial).  The legislative branch consists European Parliament (EP) and Council of Ministers.  The Members of the EP (MEP) are elected by the citizens of the EU, and the Council of Ministers  has 28 national ministers from each country, which operates under a intergovernmentalist approach and the states’ interests are emphasized.  The EP is able to pass laws through “co-decisions” which shows power sharing between intergovernmentalism by either  approving, rejecting (veto player theory will be discussed later) or amending the legislation.  Next, the executive branch consists of the European Commission and the European Council, which ultimately operates on the principles of supranationalism.  Their  role is primarily drafting proposals, managing EU policies and budgets.   

Although the EU has been extremely successful it does come at a price.  One  criticism of the EU does not provide a direct democratic right for citizens such as a petition for an EU wide referendum.  This deficiency is seen in the EP where the citizens elect the MEPs but the people have no say in the European Council/ Commission.  

The best example of theoretical perspective for policy making is the Enforcement  and Management Theory as it induces rule-conforming behavior.  The E&M theory permeates domestic as well as international jurisprudence.  The E&M theory can operate under a central, active and direct “police patrol” supervision conducted by EU’s supranational  institutions, and it can also operate in a decentralized, reactive, and indirect “fire alarm” supervision where national courts and societal watchdogs are engaged to induce state compliance (Tallberg, p 610). 

The less effective method is the veto-player theory, which posits that the  more actors that are required to agree in order for change to occur (i.e. the veto player), the less likely) policy change becomes and the more stability results.  Although new policies are difficult to repeal, the result is a policy environment characterized  by a slow but stable deepening of economic and political integration. 

Lastly, I have to mention the topic of Turkey and the EU.  The EU has long been  courting favor for Turkey to join the EU, however, it seems that many EU member states see Turkey as an outsider with respect to their history (unable to forget), religious (aversion to Islam), political (disapproval of human rights violations in Syria, Kurdistan,  Libya) and culture.  As a result the EU has only offered partial membership of which Turkey flatly rejects.  Surprisingly, the UK has been requesting partial membership during their BREXIT.  Turkey is not blameless in their endeavor to join the EU as their  have failed to meet many of their commitments to the EU as well.  It will be interesting to see the future of the EU and Turkey play out.

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