1. Economic crisis and the European Union

Whatever merges from the current economic crisis in the European Union, it will undoubtedly be different from what most research and scholarship on the EU had presented only a few years ago. Whether it is the restructuring of the Eurozone, a British exit, a fiscal union, a political union or all of the above, EU studies will be dealing with a very different phenomena than that which it had studied in previous decades. This leads to the possibility that the economic crisis is the “end of the Cold War” moment for EU studies; that is, just as the sudden end of the Cold War lead to a great deal of theoretical reflection in international relations, the economic crisis is forcing a closer look at some of the main approaches and theories of European integration. The aim of this panel is to present research which asks whether theories and approaches to European integration and the EU were, and remain, useful tools to understand the nature, trajectory and dynamics of the crisis.

Chair: Vincent Della Sala (University of Trento)
Discussant: Eugenia Baroncelli (University of Bologna)

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Papers

1. Simona Piattoni (University of Trento) - Integration Through Crises: Neo-Neofunctionalism Strikes Back!

Neo-neofunctionalism (NNF) predicts that governance crises caused by the mismatch between the problems that the EU is called to tackle and institutional and procedural apparatuses will lead to a transformation of the latte, most probably (but not necessarily) in the direction of further integration (Schmitter 2004). NNF thus moves the causation ‘one-notch up’, from external socio-economic pressures to the tensions engendered within the EU by those pressures. The financial crisis of 2008-09 and the increasing pressure on sovereign debts in 2010-11 provide a vivid embodiment of such a mechanism. Although it is too early to tell, the creation of a Eurozone Council in October 2011 (more recently overshadowed by the buoyancy of the French-German directoire); the creation of a European Stability Mechanism, initially foreseen for March 2012 and later postponed until after the Bundesverfassungsgericht pronouncement on September 12; the increased powers of the ECB and the likely issuing of Eurobonds are results of the inadequacy of current institutions and procedures and proof of the capacity of NNF to capture the real forces of integration.

 

2. Vincent Della Sala (University of Trento) - Understanding the Crisis: Did EU Studies Get It Wrong?

It is time, perhaps, to examine whether the main intellectual tools we have used in EU studies, and political science in particular, have been useful to understand the onset, nature and trajectory of the crisis. A cursory glance at the main journals dedicated to the European Union and European integration in the second half of the last decade suggests that research was just as surprised as Europe’s political leadership with the speed and depth to which the troubles in the Eurozone have had an impact on the European project. This paper wants to ask whether there our principal conceptual tools – in particular, interest and institution driven accounts – have been deficient. While it is unfair to expect that social sciences be accurate predictors of future events, it is generally accepted that the role of theory in making sense of social phenomena is to give structure to events and, to paraphrase Gaddis, anticipate the future. The central argument of this paper is that mainstream political science approaches to the study of the EU provided few hints that the creation of a single currency would lead to major tensions and divisions, cleavages assumed to have been subsumed by the onward march of economic and monetary integration. More specifically, arguments rooted in institutionalism and neo-functionalism seem trapped in a logic that has led them to focus more and more energy on a narrower and narrower range of questions.

 

3. Manuela Moschella (University of Turin) - Learning from Abroad? The EU and the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure

Is the EU able to learn from abroad? Or is international experience irrelevant to lesson-drawing in the EU? This paper engages with these questions by examining the EU response to the sovereign debt crisis. In particular, the paper examines the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP) that entered in to force in December 2011. In order to ascertain the experiential basis for policy learning, the papercompares the institutional features of the MIP with the lessons drawn from the policy failures of IMF surveillance. In doing so, the paper assesses the extent to which the institutional design of the MIP does not replicate previous mistakes in international economic surveillance and/or fix the problems that have impaired its effective operation.

Keywords: EU; learning; surveillance; MIP; IMF

 

4. Mark Gilbert (University of Trento ) - The EU's Success Narrative and Its Limitations