This blog entry is a partial response to the Presseurop / The Guardian My Europe series
The man in question is Princeton Professor Andrew Moravcsik, mastermind of the theory of liberal intergovernmentalism, that goes further than any other to explain the EU’s current predicament. The three stages of the theory – domestic preference formation, followed by interstate bargaining and finally the creation of supranational institutions – are the mirror for today’s EU.
Of crucial importance just now is the matter of domestic preference formation, for this is the ingredient that has undergone most change in the last decade. The historical imperative of reunification of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall was enough to keep a supranational EU on track until the end of the twentieth century; not so any longer.
An EU of 27 created internal tension (not least due to immigration) that had not been foreseen. Military intervention in Iraq drove a wedge between Member States. A baby boom generation of leaders took over from their predecessors born in the 1930s and 1940s; keeping the boomers happy has become more of an imperative than forging an optimistic model for the EU for the future. 24 hour news and the internet, coupled with fracturing of party political structures, make it harder than ever before to take tough, long term decisions.
So there are no grand statements from Merkel, Sarkozy or Berlusconi. Each takes what his or her state can get, individually behaving in a rational way in the EU, and when something is adequately pressing and vital a surpranational, institutional solution emerges. Moravcsik would be proud.
The institutions themselves, developed in another era with other imperatives, suffer from the same malaise. The Commission is limited in its vision as – rationally – every Member State doesn’t want its Commissioner to outshine its national government. MEPs are too often second raters drawn from national political parties so lacking in ideas as to be unable to muster up visionary leadership nationally, with little left over for Brussels.
The civil servants, the fonctionnaires previously attacked by British tabloids as the drivers of ever closer union, are few in number, feeble in motivation, and large numbers of them have more of an eye on their pensions than they do on the future of the EU for mid-century. Worse still, their efforts are occupied with the defence of programmes designed for times past – the Common Agricultural Policy being the most striking example.
So where for the EU now? Here I share Tim Parks’s concerns; I see nothing ahead but more of the same. The danger is not some supranational monster, nor is the danger the complete disintegration of the EU. There will be a further corrosion of public support, renewed bickering about the important matters of the day, more irrelevant fights among ‘pro-Europeans’ and ‘eurosceptics’ – all perfectly rational from a national preference point of view. Yet 27 national preferences do not a union make, but I’m stumped as to what alternative to this rather hopeless EU is going to be available any time soon.