European Policies in the Period of Transformation of the European integration model

Research project objectives / hypotheses

The starting point of the project is the assertion that the processes of European integration are nowadays less and less based on the community model. That model was based on relative balance between European institutions on the one hand, and gradually growing autonomy of community  institutions (such as the European Commission or the European Parliament), which become independent from inter-governmental institutions. The community  model also involved an equilibrium between the biggest member states and the smallest or peripheral ones. One of the factors of this equilibrium was the system of community  institutions and the cohesion of the EU regulatory system. The core principle of the system was solidarity.

However, the community model described above undergoes erosion in the period of the eurozone crisis. A new integration model emerges, which involves growing formal and informal political influence of the strongest member states. Also, an asymmetry of power between inter-governmental institutions and the remaining European institutions becomes more pronounced, as does hierarchical order, listing the states from the strongest, to the smallest, politically weakest or peripherally situated. A companion process is the growing political segmentation in the EU, which results in the emergence of different circles of integration, in pursuance with the “two-speed Europe” process. The basis for this process is the strengthening of the political role of the eurozone, and its growing institutionalization, as well as territorial ad political division into central and peripheral states.

The main research questions:

The main research question is whether the change of the integration model affects the specific EU policies.

Political segmentation processes had been observed in the EU already before the eurozone crisis. They had also become the subject of academic inquiry.[1] However, the said crisis boosted the processes of segmentation. It caused a stronger tendency to institutionalize the cooperation within the Economic and Monetary Union, and a more pronounced tendency to introduce hierarchy between “close” and “remote” integration circles. Strengthening the integration within the eurozone also reinforces the political centre of Europe, organized around the strongest member states. As a consequence, the centre can exert a stronger influence not only on the eurozone, but also on the remaining EU states and other EU policies.

The processes of political segmentation following the “two-speed Europe” concept and other phenomena related to the changes of political integration in Europe move beyond economic management of the eurozone and take up an increasingly pronounced political and systemic character. Does the change taking place on systemic level, and decided by the highest political echelons trigger also changes in separate public policies, including sector policies? This question carries repercussions for the relationships between the so-called “high politics,” which centres on key geopolitical issues and “low politics” which involves other public policies.[2] Within this perspective, both foreign policy and the European Common Security and Defence Policy should be regarded as elements of high politics. They have the most direct connection with transformations taking place on the political and systemic level.

The research will address the following additional questions:

Is it possible to trace segmentation tendencies in EU policies before the eurozone crisis? If so, did the crisis strengthen or weaken segmentation tendencies? Do the crisis and integration processes tend to consolidate the lines of earlier divisions inside specific EU policies (e.g. divisions connected with extant conflicts of interest)? In this case, if the segmentation is strengthened, do the demarcation lines differ from one policy to another? Or conversely, is there a tendency to transpose the divisions apparent in the eurozone crisis to other policies? Clearly, the vital division during the Eurozone crisis is being “in” or “out” of the Economic and Monetary Union. In this case, segmentation would be all the stronger, because extant divisions would be reinforced by the widening rift between the Eurozone and the remaining EU member states. This would also constitute an explicit confirmation of the fact that the “two-speed Europe” is real.

Additionally, we are also interested in the following questions: do the EU policies that constitute the scope of our research show a hierarchical order between central states and peripheral states, made apparent e.g. through a growing role of political conditionality, where the weaker states need to fulfil certain conditions in return for benefitting from European financial instruments? Does the formal and informal role of inter-governmental institutions grow? Is there a tendency to diminish European solidarity, including reluctance to direct financial resources to smaller or peripheral states?

Conceptual and theoretical hypotheses:

The goal of the research project is an attempt to verify the following theoretical assumptions:

There exists a hierarchical connection between political processes taking place in the sphere of „high politics,” i.e. on the highest political level, and “low politics” which involves separate public policies. The hierarchical order means, that processes taking place in the sphere of “high politics” determine those taking place on the level of public policies. (The liberal hypothesis)

There exists a strong path dependency, which results in inertia in the transforming of public policies. That is why public policies are able to effectively defend themselves against the influence of political processes taking place on the systemic level (The institutional-liberal hypothesis)

There appears a change of tone in the sphere of European integration. The change is observable in politician’s speeches and in major documents, and it consists of reconstructing integration processes in the EU public policies pursuant to the changes of the integration model. (The constructivist hypothesis)

State of the art in project related research together with a list of relevant literature:

The problems of different integration speeds and political segmentation of the EU were seen and addressed before, both by politicians and by scholars. Among many proposed explanations, prominence should be given to these that make use of the following concepts: flexible integration, differentiated integration, variable geometry, two- or multiple-speed Europe, European avant-garde. Meanwhile, it should be stressed that all these explanations carried a tacit assumption that the member states whose integration with the EU is currently slower, will in time catch up and join the central group. There also exists a group of theories that assume a more permanent geopolitical segmentation of member states ( e.g. core Europe, Europe of concentric circles). Even though both these opinions are currently in evidence during the debate regarding the future of Europe, the approach favouring permanent segmentation (the “two-speed Europe) seems at present to gain more momentum. Additionally, extant literature on the subject rarely discusses these terms in a structured and comprehensive way, and providing cogent conclusions that would relate to the concepts of European integration or to political theory. In contrast to these previous studies, one of the aims of the present research is an attempt to provide a systematic review of segmentation processes with regard to separate public policies, and also in connection with three leading theoretical approaches in the field of political science.


Significance of the project:

The analysis performed in our research project focuses on a phenomenon that appeared during the eurozone crisis (starting from 2010). Our inquiry will help assess the influence of political processes taking place in the eurozone on other European policies. Additionally, it will attempt to offer a more comprehensive view of segmentation and of differentiating the integration speeds within the EU (both during the crisis and before it). Lastly, our research aims to elucidate the dynamics of change within the EU, which are responsible for the lasting and systemic character of the segmentation. A fresh perspective on the complex problems of political segmentation of the EU would be a very necessary addition to our state of knowledge. 

Work plan:

Main research areas and researchers in charge:

Introduction  (changes to the integration model, main research Assumption and objectives) – Tomasz Grzegorz Grosse, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

Systematization of the political segmentation processes with regard to integration -Joanna Ziółkowska, M.A.  (College of Europe, Natolin),

1)    Economic and Monetary Union and economic management in the EU – Artur Nowak-Far, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw and Warsaw School of Economic (SGH)),

2)    Cohesion policy – Tomasz Grzegorz Grosse, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

3)    Agricultural policy – Justyna Miecznikowska, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

4)    Research and innovation policy – Katarzyna Żukrowska, Prof (Warsaw School of Economic (SGH)),

5)    Foreign policy – Paweł Borkowski, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

6)    Safety and defence policy – Jacek Czaputowicz, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

7)    Energy policy – Kamila Pronińska, PhD (Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw),

8)    Climate policy – Krzysztof Księżopolski, PhD (Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw),

9)    Migration policy and internal affairs – Jolanta Szymańska, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

10)  Social policy – Krzysztof Szewio Prof, Jadwiga Nadolska, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

11)  Research conclusions – Tomasz Grzegorz Grosse, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw),

 Detailed descriptions of specific research areas:

1)    Economic and Monetary Union and economic management

This is the focal area of our research project, since in this sphere the changes pertaining to European integration tend to be the most visible. They include e.g. the strengthening of instruments of inter-governmental management, including new inter-governmental treaties and decisions taken outside community  institutions. Related phenomena include stronger informal leadership of the core member states and a hierarchical order of the member states, especially a rift between the givers and receivers of financial aid. Weakening of importance of community  institutions, and especially of the European Commission, is also a palpable phenomenon, as is their greater submission to the political will of the biggest member states. The division into the eurozone (which gains in power) and the remaining member states is also of prime importance.

The goal of this part of the research project is to offer a detailed description and analysis of the abovementioned processes. Their growth in strength is concomitant with rising economic difficulties after 2010 and with subsequent initiatives targeted at containing or fighting the crisis. The study is aimed to present changes in economic management (both in the eurozone and in all of the EU), and offer their evaluation from the perspective of segmentation and the vision of the “two-speed Europe” as well as their wider political and economic ramifications.

2)    Cohesion policy

Earlier segmentation tendencies within cohesion policy were usually linked to a division into two types of regions, introduced by the European Commission. The EC differentiated between faster and slower developing regions. The former received subsidies which were relatively smaller, and targeted to foster economic innovativeness and competition. The latter regions received subsidies which were primarily earmarked to support the development of basic infrastructure. As a result, more developed regions continued to develop innovativeness in their economies, whereas the less developed regions could at most import innovative solutions from outside. This resulted in less sustainable and more exogenous (i.e. conditioned on external financial resources and investors) development of the weaker regions.

During the eurozone crisis there existed a strong tendency to curb the budget for cohesion policy (as part of the EU budget), and there were some attempts to create a separate financial instrument, designed exclusively for the eurozone, whose goals would be parallel to these of the cohesion policy. These tendencies contributed to increasing segmentation of the EU and widening the rift between the “two speeds”. There is also an observable tendency to adopt conditionality when it comes to using funds within cohesion policy. This phenomenon is essentially similar to the situation within the eurozone as a whole.

3)    Agricultural policy

The continued debates about the direction of changes within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) divide the EU into two opposing camps: the proponents and opponents of keeping the high level of budget expenditure to finance the CAP. The demarcation lines divide the biggest beneficiaries of the CAP (e.g. France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria) and net payers, whose agricultural sectors do not benefit from CAP-related subsidies in a significant degree (the UK, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands). The latter countries lobby for restructuring and liberalizing the CAP, and of paring sown the related bureaucracy. They demand limiting the CAP’s share in the EU budget and transferring the funds thus saved to developmental policies, which will contribute to enhancing the effectiveness of European economies.

Apart from the dichotomy of  attitudes regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy in the EU, there also exists a clear division into old and new member states, which results from the lack of uniform rules in applying the cross compliance  mechanism and managing direct subsidy payments. The fundamental research question in this sphere is how the eurozone crisis will affect the existing divisions within the agricultural policy, and the methods in which it is implemented and managed.

4)    Research and innovation policy

The member states differ widely with regard to their ability to finance R&D, research projects, and the possibilities for scientists to publish their findings in recognized periodicals. Some of the disparities are due to differences of scientific and academic potential. So, far the EU research policy has shown a tendency to focus on countries that have the highest research and scientific potential. This principle leads to further perpetuation of the rift between central states, and less developed or peripheral states of Southern and Central and Eastern Europe. It is worth noting, that the current research policy is in a lesser degree addressed to the peripheral states within the eurozone, and to peripheral EU states. This suggests that the division lines within the EU research policy even before the outbreak of the eurozone crisis did not in fact mirror the division into the eurozone and the remaining states. The basic question is whether the crisis will change this division? Will anti-crisis measures addressed at the weaker eurozone states be effective in limiting the disproportions in the sphere of economic competitiveness? Will the new solutions strengthen the science and research potential of Southern European countries? If so, then the extant division lines with regard to scientific potential can be redrawn. It is possible that there will be a marked improvement of scientific potential in the South European countries, whereas the developmental distance between the new power group and Central and Eastern Europe will be sustained. This way, the extant segmentation in the sphere of research policy will gradually start to match the fundamental division of the EU states into “two speeds”, ie. into the eurozone and countries which are outside it.

5)    Foreign policy

With regard to foreign and security policy (FSC) within the EU at least up to 1995 there existed an internal division stemming the fact that some of the EU member states are neutral countries. Where it comes to discursive segmentation, there is a long-existing division into the so-called “Atlanticists” and proponents of strictly European policy and building a strong partner position in the EU relations with the US. The traditional leader of the latter faction is France, of the former – the UK. It should be analysed to what degree the isolation of London shall contribute to disturbing the relative equilibrium between these two approaches. So far, the dynamic between them resulted in strengthening Europe’s autonomous position while at the same time maintaining undeteriorated relations with the US.

The eurozone crisis does not touch directly on the FSC, but it weakens the influence of the EU. Other countries and organizations see the crisis as a weakness of the EU model, and refrain from treating  the achievements of European integration as a source of inspiration. The crisis therefore poses an obstacle on the route to create international identity of the EU, and it limits the assertiveness of individual member states (e.g. in their negotiations with creditors such as China). It does not systemically weaken of FSC, but it can be said that it prevents its strengthening. It does not seem rational to expect more funding for the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The French vision of “small and steerable Europe” can indirectly influence the EU foreign policy through privileging leader states or groups of states, who will share common visions of European foreign policy. Conversely, if Germany occupies the leader’s position – especially in view of the pull off of the United Kingdom and internal problems in Italy – the German supremacy could pose a threat to the French vision and could subsequently lead to weakening the position of France as an important player and initiator of international cooperation initiatives. Finally, it should be stressed that the eurozone crisis naturally draws the attention away from foreign policy problems, so it can be said to have a harmful effect on the EU’s presence and activity on the international scene.

6)    Security and defence policy

The spheres of security and defence belong to „high politics”, which means that they occupy a central position in the group of prerogatives linked to individual member states’ sovereignty. Nonetheless, the EU has a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Cooperation in this sphere however retains for the most part its traditional intergovernmental character. The CSDP does not meet expectations of the member states. One obvious reason for this are the differences between geopolitical interests of individual countries. This is a highly contentious area, and future and deeper segmentation is only to be expected. A good example of this tendency are the disparities between different member states attitudes towards the NATO, and towards transatlantic relations with the USA in general. The role of particular regional preferences of member states is growing. Already before the financial crisis, closer cooperation between some countries with regard to improving combat capacity and weaponry was observable. Another potential cause of segmentation can be the systemic cooperation instrument included in the Lisbon treaty.

Different theories of European integration involve varying perspectives on the CSDP. Within the realist paradigm, the defence policy is perceived as the cornerstone of a country’s sovereignty. In contrast, intergovernmental liberalism accepts the importance of the country’s power, and the influence of internal policy and preferences of domestic political actors. Within the neo-functional paradigm, European integration is said to spill over new spheres, and the creation of the CSDP is viewed as a result of the spill-over effect, a consequence of growing integration in the sphere of economy. The institutionalist approach highlights the influence of the EU on foreign policies and security of its member states. Constructivism maintains that the shared principles, norms and beliefs shape the agendas and behaviours of actors, and that the CSDP affects identities and interests of the participating states. And finally, within the governance-centred approaches, it is assumed that the development of the CSDP results from the appearance of non-military threats against security, from the proliferation of non-state actors, and from the creation of new forms of coordination of the political players. A fruitful research question would be to ask which of the abovementioned approaches possesses the best explanatory power when it comes to the transformation of the CSDP in the time of change of the integration model.

7)    Energy policy

The goals of the EU energy policy are in a major part shaped by the strongest players on the European energy market, and by EU’s biggest economies (i.e. the countries belonging to the old EU 15). From their accession, the new member states faced the necessity to adapt to the energy acquis, which was a result of power negotiations between EU 15 states. The acquis was not adapted to the very different needs and expectations of the new members, resulting from their diametrically different energy situations. Therefore, the demarcation lines between the EU 15 and the new member states from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe were very pronounced even before the eurozone crisis.

The beginning of the crisis coincided with the biggest energy crisis in the EU history, namely the Ukraine vs. Russia gas dispute in January 2009, which resulted in temporary shutdown of gas supply to some EU countries. The crisis has demonstrated the palpable differences within the EU with regard to standards of energy security (that is, a country’s need to ensure continued energy supply in the situation of an external energy crisis). As a result, in the years 2009-2012 new legal regulations and financial instruments were adopted. These new solutions constitute a decisive step towards fulfilling the energy needs of Central and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

The European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) gains a special significance during the financial crisis, due to the unprecedented scale of financial support that the EU has been extending to the energy sector.[3] New infrastructural projects benefit not only the countries who are directly involved (and who strive to improve their energy security), but also other countries that serve as suppliers of technologies, materials or staff (again, these would be countries belonging to UE 15). In view of the above it seems therefore that in the case of energy policy in the first years of the economic crisis, there is a tendency to further deepen the rift between the centre and peripheral areas.

8)    Climate policy

The European climate policy differentiates among member state on the basis of their readiness to reduce greenhouse gas levels. The group of well-prepared countries has access to necessary technologies, and funding and possess more sustainable structure of energy sources. The opposing group consists of countries that are not well prepared to fulfil the requirements of the climate policy. The division between these two groups is somewhat blurred, but it seems clear that the biggest and richest EU countries are set apart as a privileged group with regard to this policy. At the same time, other countries are  forced by virtue of community  legal regulations to participate in costly climate-related projects, and also in many cases to buy technologies owned by more developed countries.

This course of action can be explained by particular interests of e.g. Germany and France. The economic crisis has made these two countries more and more interested in climate policy. The introduction of clean energy sources can bring about a new wave of economic growth, new jobs, development of new businesses and service sectors, and deliver a stimulus for the development of agriculture and forestry.[4] The planned share of renewable energy sources it total energy production means that new technologies, patented e.g. by Germany and France, will have to be applied.[5] These technologies include the use of wind energy, solar energy and biomass energy. It seems probable that in this sphere we will be able to observe an increased amount of conditional arrangements, whereas the weaker countries will have to yield to the demands and requirements of the stronger partners in order to benefit from European funding. This constitutes a de facto breach of the EU principle of solidarity, because the availability of financial support will be conditioned by the will to accept legal regulations originated by the strongest countries. An important element of our research pertaining to this sphere is the question to what extent European institutions take into account the voice of smaller, weaker or peripheral countries in shaping of their legal regulations.

9)    Migration policy and internal affairs

Justice and internal affairs are among the most dynamically growing  spheres of cooperation within the EU. The foundations of cooperation were laid down in the Lisbon Treaty, and its provision were meant to constitute a starting point for further actions towards strengthening international cooperation. The post-Lisbon  reality was however quickly dominated by the looming economic crisis, and subsequently also by problems caused by the growing migration pressure in the south of Europe. Both crises, which were instrumental in demonstrating fundamental lack of solidarity between the member states, also put a reality check on the ambitious plans regarding future directions and shape of cooperation in the sphere of justice and home affairs. The political tensions were especially observable in the area of migration policy, and in particular during the debate surrounding a future reform of the Schengen treaty. It seems possible that some countries will try to pull off from the Schengen treaty (or otherwise they will try to obtain exemptions from some of the provisions). Another observable tendency is the strengthening of international management.

The research goal in this area is the analysis of post-Lisbon changes, and in particular a study of actions occurring within the sphere of EU cooperation with regard to border protection and third-country nationals. The focal point of the analysis will be the following question: what are the systemic implications of the crises that currently threaten the EU for the newly reformed sphere of justice and internal affairs? The analysis will also attempt to predict what will be the future directions and the desired shape of the European common ground of liberty, security and justice.

10)  Social policy

Actions taken within the EU social policy lie for the most part within the competence of member states. Only in a minor degree they constitute results of the community  decision-making processes. The most important obstacle against increasing integration in the social sphere are diverse social policy models implemented by different member countries.

The economic crisis has significantly boosted the leading role of the strongest central states, which are unquestionably the informal top players of the EU. For the countries who were hit by the crisis and who struggle with growing public debt, the access to financial resources is conditioned on the willingness to perform budget cuts, including cost cutting and structural reforms in the sphere of social policy. Such actions profoundly change the models of social security extant in these countries. This can contribute to changing the demarcation lines between EU states with regard to social policy. Interestingly, it also seems apparent that in the time of economic crisis, the EU starts to exert influence on spheres where its competence was previously very limited.


Research methodology:

The analysis of formal and informal changes taking place in the abovementioned EU policies, including the very recent changes (after 2010) will also involve a study of actions, political initiatives and visions of reform. The changes which will be the object of our scrutiny include also these that are the consequence of the new financial perspective for the years 2014-2020, and the influence of recently discussed systemic reforms of the EU on the contents and organization of public policies. The research should also include a study of possible changes of the language of European debate that would point out to qualitative changes of political climate. This component of the research will be based on close study of relevant documents and press releases and on in-depth interviews with the participants of decision-making processes regarding specific European policies.

Expecting results justifying requirements:

The effect of the research project will be a comprehensible publication, published in Polish and English language versions. Additionally, we plan to organize a conference that will present our research findings to the academic community and to selected political and institutional decision makers, who are responsible for the Polish position within the EU. At an earlier stage of the project, we plan to organize an internal research seminar, during which the researchers  will present their findings and discuss their implications and common elements and conclusions.

[1] For a discussion of extant literature and theories please confer: Holzinger K., F. Schimmelfennig (2012): Differentiated Integration in the European Union: Many Concepts, Sparse Theory, Few Data, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 292-305.

[2] Cf. Hoffman, S. (1966): Obstinate or obsolete? The fate of the nation state and the case of Western Europe, Daedalus, vol. 95, no 3, pp. 862–915 and D. M. Craig (2010): High Politics’ and the ‘New Political History, The Historical Journal, 53, pp. 453-475.

[3]4 billion euro was earmarked for 44 projects in the fields of gas infrastructure and electricity, 9 wind farm projects and 6 CSS projects. Many of these projects are located in Central and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

[4] L.E. Svensson, Combating Climate Change. A Transatlantic Approach to Common Solutions, Center for Transatlantic Relations, London 2008, p. 92.

[5] I. Haščič, N. Johnstone, F. Watson, Ch. Kaminker, Climate Policy and Technological Innovation and Transfer, OECD Environment Working Papers No. 30, 2010, p. 24.