A comparison with the previous literature

Studies of the process
of European integration have taken different tolls, either the historical one,
the international relations theory one, or the combination of the two. The most
distinguished works on European Integration are to be attributed to two
academics, Walter Lipgens and Alan Milward, who have developed contradictory
theories on the subject when analyzing the post WWII period (1945) to the
Treaty of Rome era (1955). At the core of Lipgens’ argument on European
integration, the emergence of federal structures resulted from a subconscious
faith in the power of supranational organizations to prevent the rise of any
further conflict among European states. In addition, supranational
organizations produced a positive externality on the process of integration,
that is a spillover effect as well as a multiplier effect. In other words, EU
integration became a self-sustaining process, from the formation of NATO to the
ECC and the Single European Act of 1986. The construction of a EU supranational
institutions framework, whereby each institution had various mandates and
members – referred to by Lipgens as “variable geometry” – would aim to the
increase ties among European States and annihilate the potential for a future
war. On the other hand, Milward rejected the theoretical picture depicted by
Lipgens in his 1992 book The European
Rescue of the Nation-State. In his work, Milward advances the thesis that
the higher the necessity to increase state power, the higher the implementation
of European integration by member States. Hence, the spillover effect to reduce
state power by “delegating” State power to supranational institutions as suggested
by Lipgens was rebuffed in Milward’s argument. The sole objective European
States had in mind when including international solutions was to overcome the
economic as well as the security challenges faced in the 1950s, with the
creation of the European Economic Community and the Euratom in 1957I.

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The contribution of Andrew Moravcsik

In his book The
Choice for Europe, Andrew Moravcsik seeks to revolutionize the study of
European integration by going beyond the approach of Lipgens and Milward, who
are either focused on the historical side of EU integration or the political
science one. Instead, Moravcsik seeks to combine the two and broadens the
spectrum of analysis by examining and integrating the studies of Milward and
Lipgens to include five crucial moments in the construction of Europe from the
EEC in 1957 with the Rome Treaties to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which set
the ground for monetary integration as well as providing an incentive to
further federalist cooperative schemes. Moreover, the innovative feature of
Moravcsik approach is centering his core argument on economic aspects, mainly
export and foreign direct investment (FDI) promotion by using both
macroeconomic theory, both in terms of economic theory and political economic
policies – and microeconomic theory, describing member states as the players of
a zero-sum game.

In fact, the
methodology used by Moravcsik in explaining Member States’ behavior in terms of
economic policies utilizes the Game Theory framework. The first step to do this
is by describing the “battlefield”; in other words, the author stratifies
decision-making on three analytical levels. These three levels are: national
preference formation, bargaining between respective actors, and the interaction
with institutions.

The first
chapter of the book goes through a thorough analysis of how economic and/or
political factors influence state policies. This exploration comes to the
understanding that national interest stems from the consequences of specific
events; the case of European integration reflects how governments reacted to
economic challenges when making decisions. At first glance, economic factors
become of primary importance yet they are not the sole element having
triggering European Integration. In his second chapter, Moravcsik puts under
discussion the role of supranational institutions in their ability to reach
international agreements. Instead, he argues that the negotiations role is
better upheld by traditional diplomats and diplomatic actors within national
boundaries. In fact, this somewhat realist thinking is at the center of his
work. In the last chapters, Moravcsik analyzes the role of institutions. In
contrast with Lipgens theory whereby integration was promoted by a continuous
self-sustaining process supported by federalist ideals, the Commission and
individuals like Jacques Delors or Jean Monnet. In fact, Moravcsik argues that
only by building a credible commitment can start a negotiation process, thus
the “credibility of commitment” of nation-states.

As previously
stated, the author continues his analysis by exploring the five key moments
that have characterized European integration: the building up of the Common
Market, its consolidation and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); the failure
in building up the monetary union during the 1970s, referred to by some as
Eurosclerosis; the negotiating deal of the Single European Act (SEA) signed in
1985; and lastly the treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Overall, Moravcsik provides
the reader with a deep and persuasive argument on the SEA and on the Maastricht
Treaty although the other case studies he discusses lay out some weaknesses.

The creation of
the Common Market and Euratom are the first cases to be analyzed, whereby
Moravcsik argues that an important driver of European integration was export
promotion, one of his strongest arguments throughout his work. Although it can
be rather logical to support this thesis, it does present some drawbacks in his
argument.

This section
contains four important shortcomings. Firstly, in understanding the economic
situation by focusing mostly on continental Europe – Great Britain, France and
West Germany – only provides a meek glance on what was the creation of the
European Economic Community and the Britain’s failing proposal of a British
Free trade area. In fact, these events should take into consideration the role
of the United States with regards to the Economic Community and the role of the
Netherlands with regards to Britain’s Free Trade Area. The contribution given
by these two states is not present in Moravcsik’s narration on European
integration. In this respect, Moravcsik avoids discussing their roles in order
not to contradict his thesis. Other authors, like Geir Lundestad in ‘Empire’ by Integration’II, have supported the thesis whereby
European integration came about for geopolitical reasons and not for economic
ones, and thus neglects any American support to the European evolutionary
process. Moreover, one of the keystones of the Treaty of Rome were given by the
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Johan Willem Beyen and the byproduct of Willen
Drees cabinet in 1955. This narrow-spectrum focus on the continental European
countries previously mentioned does not allow for a complete understanding of
what is actually the wide foundational basis of European integration history.

On a second
stance, Moravcsik puts forth the importance of economic factors, leaving on the
edge the geopolitical ones which on one hand allows for the undermining of the
key role the United States played and on the other it gives a faux image of the British Commonwealth.

The Whitehall by
1955 was well aware of the downfall of the British predominance on world
affairs, especially on it colonies. However, although the West was still
willing to support Macmillan’s ties and inference over the former colonies and
in spite of the Cold War, the geopolitical saying of Britain’s dependent
territories hindered the government from forfeiting the interests of the
Commonwealth to smooth relations with Europe and accomplish the Free Trade
Area. Thirdly, as pointed out earlier, Moravcsik discredits the importance of
geopolitics in Europe’s post World War II realm. In fact, he makes little
reference to the attempt of the Western European Union (WEU) in rearming and
incorporating West Germany in NATO in the year 1955. Yet, European integation
preceded any other deal: further economic integration would not have been
possible without solving the geopolitical matters first for the Six. Moreover,
American influence and support for the Treaties of Rome was crucial especially
at the initial stages, as there where elements in the Adenauer government who
supported the Free Trade Area who could have easily been able to curb West
German support for the Common Market and the Euratom. Last but not least with
regards to the first chapter of Moravcsik’s book, he asserts that France did
not actually gain what it expected to during this period. However, this assertion
seems to be counterfactual in light of history, since France was one of the
most favored countries among the SixIII.
Moreover, France played a successful role in filibustering the plan to
establish an OEEC-broadband Free Trade Area.

The stronger
points of his first chapter can be seen when he provides an objective argument
over British policy towards the European continent. Moreover, he provides a
substantial and convincing discussion when rebuffing features of traditional
European integration scholarship, in particular when describing the “Great Man”
and the “Spillover/federalist” theories.

In his second
case study, Moravcsik brings to full light his core argument: the fact that
economic factors pushed forth European integration. In fact, the case study
refers to the consolidation of the Common Market, when France, West Germany and
Britain, motivated by the commercial advantages in agricultural and industrial
sectors, gave full support to its realization. However, this argument stands in
contradiction with previous scholarship of this period, which claims that
European integration resulted from high politics; the role of supranational
actors – such as the Commission – heavily contributed in shaping the agenda of
European integration by prioritizing those economic arrangements that were
rather unpopular in the member states to which they were addressed. Yet,
according to Moravcsik there was a pooling of sovereignty by the States, that
is national sovereignty was delegated but at the same time pooled into the
hands of one bigger entity, but this was done for the sole aim of achieving
gains from commercial trade, and not the geopolitical ones. When looking at the
French case, it is commonly understood that France was mainly a rural country
and since Napoleonic times, the role of agriculture and farming always played a
major role in politics. History and politics always repeat themselves,
apparently. In fact, France’s main aspiration was instituting the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP), which was the De Gaulle’s main reason to oppose the
British inclusion in the EEC during this period, which prescinded from the
special relationship Britain had with the United States. Although it can be
questionable that De Gaulle pursued his policies to satisfy his French
electorate and not because of his inspirational beliefs of French Grandeur, the
author effectively counters the argument that supranational political ideals,
like Europeanism triggered European integration.

The author
continues by depicting the politics of European integration in the 70s. This
period is described by the literature as being static, labelling it as
“Euroscleoris” and an impediment to the process of European integration. Moravcsik
claims that this categorization is wrong and it is based on scholarship’s great
attention to high politics. In fact, it was an impediment for federalism;
Moravcsik on the other hand says that if European integration was mainly driven
by economic interests, then the idea that it was an evil decade for European
integration blurs away. In this chapter, Moravcsik re-builds the narrative that
led European authorities in 1973 to keep floating exchange rates (the Snake in
the tunnel), and the agreement that followed in 1978 to establish fixed
exchange rates in Europe, the so called European Monetary System (EMS).
However, Moravcsik does not provide a concrete explanation of the reasons for
which these agreements fell apart. The lack of success of these agreements
proves that the previous literature was somewhat right when describing this
period as uninfluential to European integration. Moravcsik proceeds describing
the Bretton Woods system and how floating currencies were adopted, yet he fails
to provide the reader a clear understanding of the reasons for which these
currencies were harmful for Europe after the collapse of Bretton Woods, when
these currencies should have been tied together by economic policymakers. In
conclusion, this chapter suffers from the endeavor of comparing the Snake and
the EMS to other agreements such as the European Economic Community, the Common
Agricultural Policy, and the Single European Act, significantly altering the
conception of Europe.

On the other
hand, Moravcsik’s description of the Single European Act is outstanding where
he develops a solid critique of the conventional literature. Common scholarship
argues that the Single European Act was the child of Rhenish capitalism and
English pragmatism, materialized in the minds of EC Commissioner Jacques Delors
and Lord Arthur Cockfield, the European Commissioner for Internal Market Affairs.
This view is underpinned by George RossIV,
although Moravcsik rejects it. In fact, as proposed in his introduction,
Moravcsik claims that there was a convergence of the three dimensions, namely:
national preference, intergovernmental bargaining among national leaders and
the creation of a new international institutional setting which allowed for
more credible commitments. The emphasis on the economic aspects which led to
this convergence clearly outweigh any of the political aspects mentioned by
conventional scholarship. In fact, this chapter is dedicated to the
demystification of the figure of Jacques Delors and assigning greater political
influence to statesmen like Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and François
Mitterand. This implies that State governments were the main actors and not the
European Commission in advancing their preferences with regards to the Single
European Act. Overall, Moravcsik displays a great effort in scrutinizing this
period and giving a better analytical contribution contrary to Ross, who
mystifies Delors’ influence.

Following the
discussion on the SEA, Moravcsik goes on to describe the Maastricht treaty, the
milestone treaty for Economic and Monetary Union, foreign policy coordination
and intra-member states collaboration on justice and domestic policy. As done
in the antecedent chapters, Moravcsik contradicts previous academia on the
issue, contemplating German reunification, supranational officials and agenda
setting powers of the Commission, and federalist ideologies explaining
Maastricht. In contrast, Moravcsik insists on the economic goals of strong and
weak-currency Member States that triggered Maastricht. Contrary to popular
belief whereby Maastricht and the sell-out of the Bundesbank by Kohl was
necessary for German reunification, Moravcsik argues instead that France and
Germany were already committed to move towards monetary union way before the
fall of the Berlin Wall. Moreover, the intergovernmental negotiating trend
re-surfaced after being completely abandoned during the 1970s during the SEA
negotiations. The final results of the negotiation ended up favoring Germany
according to Moravcsik. The author’s thesis on the economic factors influencing
Maastricht are convincing in that they are well lay out, yet the implications
that the geopolitical factors had on selling monetary union better to the Germans
are not mentioned in his argument.

Although
Moravcsik provides an original contribution as well as a unique analysis
combining game theory and commercial trends to European integration, it gives
way too little importance to geopolitical factors. The strength of this
approach is effective in the last two cases but is weak in the first three
cases he discusses, mostly because the commercial primacy is weaker in the
first cases. Moreover, Moravcsik avoids the concept of “variable geometry” for
almost three chapters, whilst this concept being significant to European
integration. The fact that political factors are not contemplated at all when
describing European integration is a clear flaw, especially when failing to
describe multi-track Europe with the creation of the international institutions
that built it piece by piece at the end of World War II, such as NATO ECSC
EFTA, hence a process which dates back way before the 70s.

In conclusion
one can say that, despite some issues arising from the attempt to describe 35
years of European integration with the use of international trade theory and
game theory, Moravcsik does bring about an innovative approach to traditional
studies on European integration. In fact, the latter largely focus on
supranational technocrats’ ability to conclude agreements and advance ideas,
whereas, this was not technically the case as Moravcsik proves in his last two
cases. Moreover, Moravcsik’s book can be better understood by a reader who has
a solid background on monetary economics as well as some knowledge of the
mechanisms of game theory, as this will facilitate the reading and understand
the dynamics the author is laying out when explaining the case studies.

 

Books cited

 

I Walter Lipgens, ed., Sources
for the History of European Integration, 1949-1955, Leiden: Stijhoff, 1980;
Walter de Gruyter A History of Euoropean
Integration, vol. I, Berlin, 1982; Alan Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation State, Berkley: Univeristy of
California Press, 1992.

 

II Geir Lundestad, “Empire” by
Integration: the United States and European integration, Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1998.

 

III Moravcsik, p. 148; Milward, p.220.

 

IV George Ross, Jacques Delors
and European Integration, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. 

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