Harvard Law School Jean Monnet Chair



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Harvard Law School

Jean Monnet Chair

Professor J.H.H. Weiler

Harvard Jean Monnet Working Paper (Symposium)


This paper is a part of contributions to the Jean Monnet Working Paper

No.7/00, Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer


Jan Zielonka
Enlargement and the Finality of European Integration

Harvard Law School Cambridge, MA 02138

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Without permission of the author.

© Jan Zielonka 2000

Harvard Law School

Cambridge, MA 02138

USA

jan zielonka

Enlargement and the Finality of European Integration

The major reason behind Joschka Fischer’s argument for deepening European integration is the forthcoming eastward enlargement of the European Union. As he puts it:


In the coming decade, we will have to enlarge the EU to the east and south-east, and this will, in the end, mean [a] doubling in the number of members. And at the same time, if we are to be able to meet this historic challenge and integrate the new Member States without substantially denting the EU’s capacity for action, we must lay the last brick in the building of European integration, namely political integration.
According to Fischer, the outcome of the integration process will be a European federation, preceded by the formation of a ‘centre of gravity’ within the Union; an ‘avant-garde, the driving force for the completion of political integration.’
Fischer’s vision has been met with a great dose of scepticism, if not open hostility, among officials of the Eastern European applicant states. Some of them are worried that any ambitious reform project might further delay their entrance to the Union.1 Others fear erosion of the national sovereignty that they fought so hard to regain in their struggles against Soviet domination.2 Others again fear that far reaching reforms might arrive before they are in a position to shape them as full EU members.3 These are all important concerns that are being ignored by Western commentators debating the future of European integration in a most self-centred manner.
Candidates from Eastern Europe have no interest in paralysing European institutions. Like Fischer, they want the Union to work efficiently after their accession.4 However, as I will argue in this paper, enlargement and Fischer’s vision are basically incompatible, despite all the assurances and qualifications spelled out by Fischer himself. I will try to show that a political federation within an enlarged Union is no longer possible, while the creation of a core group is set to undo the basic rationale for enlargement. Enlargement will greatly enhance the diversity within the Union and result in an ever greater disjunction between the EU’s geographic and functional boundaries. The Union will increasingly act in overlapping circles and along a variable geometry resembling a neo-medieval empire more than a post-Westphalian federal state.5 If this is unavoidable, the Union should try to find ways of making the emerging neo-medieval empire work better, rather than attempting to re-construct a neo-Westphalian state writ large. A neo-medieval empire does not need to be seen as a recipe for chaos and paralysis. Effective governance is today about recognising complexity, flexibility and dispersion. However, the increased diversity and multiplicity of governing arrangements might also have negative side effects, especially in terms of democracy and cultural identity. The Union should try to find ways of coping with various negative aspects of the new diversified Europe while utilising positive aspects for the benefit of the entire continent.

1. The Logic of Core and Periphery

Fischer realises that a European federation cannot spontaneously emerge overnight. It needs to be pushed forward by a few determined states; ‘a centre of gravity’, as he put it. Fischer does not use the terms such as ‘hard core’ or ‘a two-speed’ Europe that produced hefty debates and conflicts in the past. However, most commentators notice that a difference between a core group and a centre of gravity is only rhetorical. As M. Hubert Védrine, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, put it in his open letter to Fischer:


Over the past few weeks several present or former European political leaders proposed that the countries determined to make a big leap forward into political integration should create a ‘hard core’ or a ‘vanguard’ together. This is tantamount to accepting the idea, that was challenged vehemently for a long time, of a two-speed Europe. This is the line you adopted, after Jacques Delors and others, by suggesting the creation, in stages, of a centre of gravity that would one day become the core of a future federation.
The discussion about the pros and cons of an avant-garde core is usually conducted from a Western European perspective. However, the picture is much clearer from an Eastern European perspective, leaving little room for any debate. The idea of a European hard core is viewed as an East European nightmare because it condemns the post-communist states to an inferior peripheral status.
The concept of ‘core’ goes hand-in-hand with the concept of ‘periphery’. They are like two sides of a coin that cannot be separated. Those countries that form the core are on one side of the coin, while those unwilling or unable to join the core are on the other side. Clearly, the contrast between the core and the periphery does not need to be great; but if there is little difference between the core and the periphery, why does one need a core in the first place? Fischer insists that he intends to overcome the division of Europe, but the creation of a core group cannot but create a division between the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’. This has been well grasped by Robin Cook, the British Foreign Minister:6
We want those countries [i.e., applicant countries from Eastern Europe] to be joining as full members of a Europe of equals, not finding that some other countries have moved on to an inner chamber from which they are excluded.
Great Britain fears a core group for different reasons to those which are arousing fear among the applicant states from Eastern Europe.7 The latter might be willing to join the core group, but may be unable to do so for many years to come; Great Britain might be able, but is unwilling, to join the core group. For Great Britain, access to the integrated system of decision-making is at stake; for Eastern Europeans, the ability to catch up with the centre of prosperity and effective government is at stake. Before the fall of communism, the threat of a core group was often used to prod hesitant integrationists into more co-operative attitudes with regard to agendas set in Paris, Bonn and Brussels. Today, however, the threat of a core group has an entirely different meaning and implications. It is largely about perpetuating the division of Europe between an affluent and stable core, and an impoverished and unstable periphery.
Recent proposals suggesting some kind of a core group in the Union resemble similar efforts aimed at Eastern European exclusion put forward a decade ago. On the eve of the European transformation, some Western politicians hoped that integration within the EU could continue unabated among only the most developed European states for a long time. Eastern Europeans have been offered alternative forms of pan-European co-operation, such the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or a European Confederation project launched by the French President, François Mitterand. When it proved impossible to arrest the process of the eastward enlargement, the idea of a core Europe became an alternative strategy to keep the less developed Eastern European countries outside the frame of advanced integration. Fischer’s promise that each member of the Union will be welcome to join the core group is not very credible. If everybody can join the core group, there is no reason for having it. The whole point of a core group is to impose even stricter criteria for admission than is presently the case in order to join the existing European Union framework. Needless to say, the post-communist countries already have enough problems in trying to meet the latter criteria for admission.
In short, creation of a core group would undo the greatest benefit of the enlargement project; namely, allowing the less advanced countries of Eastern Europe to join the most advanced countries of Western Europe on equal terms. Joining the Union, but not its newly created core, might well have a positive symbolic meaning for those who have made little progress in meeting the Copenhagen criteria for admission. However, those who champion the meeting of these criteria as a precondition for admission will surely feel demotivated, if not cheated, when told that the centre of gravity, prosperity and peace has moved further away from them. If Fischer truly believes that enlargement is not only unavoidable, but also beneficial for the Union, he should recognise all these negative implications of a core group. He cannot have it both ways, because enlargement and the creation of a core group are largely in conflict.
Supporters of a core group, Fischer presumably among them, believe that it is better to dilute the meaning of enlargement rather than to dilute the meaning of European integration. They argue that paralysing the EU’s institutions through a fully fledged enlargement is in nobody’s interest, and not least in the interests of Eastern European nations dependent on Western help. Can the Union avoid a major restructuring if it is going to have about 30 very divergent Member States? The solution is a European federation gradually developed by a small group of the most developed and determined countries. Is such reasoning correct? The answer might be either normative or empirical. The former would say what the Union should do, while the latter would try to indicate what the Union is able to do under the current circumstances. As I find it futile to debate on whether a certain model is desirable before knowing whether it is possible, I will leave the normative approach to one side.
One question is whether the creation of a core group is possible, and another is whether the creation of a European federation is possible. I will try to answer the latter question because, for Fischer, a core is not an end in itself, but a means of building a federal European state. Without this ambition, the creation of a core makes little sense. However, the answer to the first question is not predetermined either. There is much evidence to suggest that efforts to create a core group would meet fierce resistance from the current Member States likely to find themselves outside the core. There is also evidence to suggest that a core, when created, would not be likely to work. This is the argument outlined by the Czech President, Václav Havel, in his speech to the European Parliament:
The idea that there could forever be two Europes—a democratic, stable and prosperous Europe engaged in integration, and a less democratic, less stable and less prosperous Europe—is, in my opinion, totally mistaken. It resembles a belief that one half of a room could be heated and the other half kept unheated at the same time. There is only one Europe, despite its diversity, and any weightier occurrence anywhere in this area will have consequences and repercussions throughout the rest of the continent.
Fischer apparently agrees with Havel’s general evaluation of the situation in the present-day Europe, and yet he suggests building a European federation by a newly created avant-garde group of only few EU Member States.8 Let us examine whether such a federation is a viable project in the post-modern and post-Soviet European setting.

2. Neo-Westphalian State vs. Neo-Medieval Empire

Fischer assumes that exclusion of Eastern European nations from more advanced forms of integration is only a temporary phenomenon. In due course, they are also likely to join the European federation. My argument is that a level of diversity in a broader pan-European setting prevents the creation of such a federation, thus exclusion would need to have a more permanent character. However, I will go a step further and argue that Fischer’s vision of a European federation is not even possible in a narrower setting confined to only the Western part of the continent. This is partly due to the persisting divergence among the EU’s existing Member States, and partly due to the forces of interdependence and globalisation currently at work in Europe and elsewhere.


Fischer’s term ‘European federation’ has alarmed most Euro-sceptics. But the key element of Fischer’s vision is not so much a European federation, but a (federal) European state. As Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse show in another contribution to this volume, there are already plenty of federal elements within the current Union despite the strong positions of individual Member-States. The point is, therefore, not whether the Union will transform itself from a confederation into a federation, but whether it will become a federal state. At present, the Union is anything but a state: it has no proper government, no fixed territory, no army or police, no constitution, nor even a normal legal status. And the federalist argument is that integration should produce most, if not all, of these characteristics. In short, the final state of integration would be the creation of a post-Westphalian type of state with clear borders, hierarchical governing structures and a distinct cultural identity. A contrast to this Westphalian model is provided by a neo-medieval model in which the borders are soft and never fixed, authority is dispersed, and multiple cultural identities co-exist. Table 1 illustrates these two possible extreme outcomes of the current political, economic and cultural developments in Europe.Of course, abstract models cannot but oversimplify complex processes and structures.9 But if the current trend suggests that there is a neo-imperial empire rather than a post-Westphalian federation in the making, then it is difficult to reverse this trend by a simple act of institutional engineering.
Table 1: Two Contrasting Models of a Future EU

Westphalian super-state

Neo-medieval empire

Hard & fixed external border lines

Soft border zones in flux

Absolute sovereignty regained

Divided sovereignty along different functional and territorial lines

The key variable in determining the future course of developments is the degree of convergence and divergence in Europe. A neo-Westphalian European state could only work in a relatively homogenous environment. Free trade zones can, admittedly, operate in a vastly diversified setting. However, this does not equally apply to more ambitious projects of political, economic and military integration. Common laws and administrative regulations cannot cope well with a highly diversified environment, and consequently various complicating opt-outs and multi-speed arrangements are required. A degree of common values and habits is also needed for a system to function efficiently and legitimately. The existence of largely incompatible members multiplies the EU’s internal boundaries, however informal, and creates incentives for some smaller groups of countries to ‘go it alone’.10


From a broader historical perspective, Western Europe certainly shares some important common cultural, economic, and political characteristics with Eastern Europe. However, crossing the East-West divide during the Cold War was like entering a totally alien, if not hostile, empire with different laws and a different economy, education, ideology and culture. Bridging this gap is seen as crucial for the EU’s enlargement policy to succeed. Without closing this gap, the creation of a Westphalian type of state is virtually impossible. The EU accession strategy is based on a strict conditionality principle. Applicant states are confronted with an ever-growing list of conditions that would make them compatible with the current members and fit them into the existing system, and the Union does its best to help the applicant countries to meet these conditions by providing financial help and human expertise.11 However, the process of adjustments cannot but take many decades. Economic discrepancies between the Eastern and the Western parts of Europe are great. Although some applicant states from Eastern Europe are currently enjoying much higher rates of economic growth than are the existing EU members, catching up with the affluent West will take at least 15 or 20 years, even according to the most optimistic scenarios.12 The adoption of an 80,000 pages long acquis communautaire should also be counted in decades not years, especially if we expect Eastern European countries to adopt not only the letter but also the spirit of Western European laws and regulations.
Moreover, the progress of adjustment is doomed to be unequal for different countries and in different functional fields. This will create a very complex map of divergence and convergence that defines geography, history and existing cultural patterns.
Finally, the Europeanisation of post-communist countries will go hand in hand with Americanisation and globalisation. In other words, some of these countries might, in due course, come to resemble less and less a ‘European model’ in a given functional field. In the field of social policy, for instance, countries like Hungary have already adopted a system that more resembles the United States of America than Germany or Sweden. The US also has much more influence in shaping the police and military forces in these countries.
Divergence is also significant among current EU Member States, and this possibly explains why the federal project has not ‘got off the ground’ before now.13 In many respects, Great Britain also resembles America more than Germany or France. Average support for democracy in Finland is much lower than in any other EU Member State (and lower than in some applicant states), while in Spain the average rejection of violence as a political instrument is strikingly below the EU average.14 Austria’s GDP per capita is more than double that of Portugal: $25,666 compared to $10,167 (figures for 1997). Slovenia’s GDP per capita ($9,039) is nearly as high as that of Portugal. In fact, the lines of divergence in various functional fields of the economy, law, and culture do not correspond with the Cold War divide between the East and West. These lines run across the continent in chaotic zigzags and create a very complex picture indeed.
But what about a Westphalian state confined only to a hard core of the most developed and compatible countries? If one looks at the historical process of state formation, success has largely been determined by the degree to which states were able to assure overlap between administrative borders, military frontiers, cultural traits and market fringes.15 As Stefano Bartolini put it:
Nation states of the European type are characterised by boundaries which are simultaneously military, economic, cultural and functional. By crossing the boundary of the state, one passes, at the same time, into the imperium of alternative extractive agencies, into a different economic market, into a different community and into a different set of functional regimes such as educational systems, welfare state, legal jurisdiction, and so forth. This (territorial) coincidence of different type boundaries has been their distinctive trait—which distinguishes them from earlier or different forms of politische Verbände—and their legitimacy principle.
If the core group of the EU is serious about constructing a Westphalian type of state, it will also need to provide an overlap between different the types of borders, frontiers, fringes and triads. However, this will not be easy to accomplish. The Union currently acts in concentric circles and variable geometric patterns due to various opt-outs negotiated by individual Member States in the areas of foreign, monetary or social policy. At the same time, its laws and regulations are increasingly being applied beyond the EU’s borders, particularly in Eastern European applicant states. The Union also lacks a strong and coherent sense of cultural identity, let alone a European demos. In short, there is a significant disjunction between the Union’s functional and territorial boundaries, and it would be difficult to overcome this disjunction by the creation of a core group. In fact, the creation of a core group is likely to complicate, rather than simplify, relations between individual EU’s Member States because an additional set of co-operative frameworks would be added to the existing ones.
Moreover, and probably more crucially, globalisation has eroded the capacity of any integrated political unit to maintain a discrete political, cultural, or economic space within its administrative boundary. Economic sovereignty, in particular, has been eroded by massive international labour and capital flows that constrain individual abilities of governments to defend the economic interests of their units. Territorial defence along border lines has been made largely obsolete by modern weapons technology. Migration and other forms of cross-border movements are on the rise, despite all the efforts of border guards and surveillance technology to seal the frontiers. Normative models and cultural habits are spreading via satellite television and the internet in a largely uncontrolled manner. Both the Union and its Member States are losing control over the legal and administrative regimes within their respective borders because they are increasingly being defined by supranational bodies such as the WTO.
In short, the instruments of a Westphalian type of state are no longer available to contemporary territorial units. It is no longer possible to control trans-border flows, suppress multiple cultural identities or defend particular lines of demarcation. It is difficult to regain an absolute form of sovereignty even among a largely compatible set of states. A core group would find it difficult to build up a Westphalian type of federation in a post-modern environment of cascading interdependence and globalisation.

3. Conclusions: Crafting European Integration

The argument thus far suggests that a neo-medieval empire rather than a neo-Westphalian state is in the making. This is bad news for supporters of a European federal state, but it is not necessarily bad news for supporters of European integration. There is no reason to assume that building a neo-Westphalian state is the only solution for the enhancement of European integration. In particular, there is no need to demonise diversity, overlapping authorities and multiple identities. Divergence is a normal state of affairs. Some would even argue that divergence is ‘pluralism’ by another name, and that it is Europe’s greatest historical and cultural treasure. Divergence is also a prerequisite of modernity (or, if one prefers, ‘post-modernity’), in the sense that only highly diversified and pluralistic societies acting in a complex web of institutional arrangements are able to succeed in conditions of modern competition. As Philippe Schmitter argues, effective governance requires ‘growing dissociation between authoritative allocations, territorial constituencies and functional competencies.’16 It requires an opening of the way for institutional diversity, ‘for a multitude of relatively independent European arrangements with distinct statuses, functions, resources that operate under different decision rules.’17 A particular form of territoriality—‘disjoint, fixed, and mutually exclusive,’ to use John Gerard Ruggi’s words—is no longer the basis of political life, and the Union is, in fact, very good at ‘unbundling territoriality.’18 The Union is transforming politics and government at both European and national levels into ‘a system of multi-level, non-hierarchical, deliberative and apolitical governance.’19


All this does not necessarily mean that we are condemned to neo-medievalism. Nor does it mean that there is nothing wrong with the rise of a neo-medieval empire in Europe. Consider, for instance, two basic prerequisites of political legitimacy: democracy and cultural identity. Democracy can hardly work in a complicated, if not impenetrable, system of multi-layered and multi-speed arrangements run by an ever-changing group of unidentified and unaccountable people. Similarly, affection and identity can hardly develop in a complex system of open-ended arrangements with fluid membership, variable purposes, and a net of cross-cutting functional frames of co-operation. Cultural identity and democracy require transparency, simplicity and a sense of belonging to a defined community, and these are difficult to acquire in a highly diversified and open-ended environment.
We should, therefore, work hard to mitigate the negative effects of neo-medievalism.20 In fact, some of Fischer’s suggestions could well be employed for this end. For instance, it would be good to clarify, possibly in the form of a treaty, what is to be regulated at European level and what is to be regulated at national level. It would also be good to codify a catalogue of basic human and civil, and possibly also social, rights of Europe’s citizens. It would, furthermore, be good to clarify which applicant countries are going to join the Union, why and when. Such steps would inject a degree of order and predictability into a highly diversified, and sometimes chaotic, European setting. Such steps could also enhance the Union’s legitimacy. The ambiguity of successive European arrangements prevents any democratic controls and makes it difficult for Europe’s citizens to identify with them. However, efforts to create a core group of countries trying to construct a federal European state should be discouraged. In the long term, these efforts are probably doomed to failure, and, in the short term, they are doomed to produce artificial divisions and conflicts.


1 See, for example, the Report of the meeting of the parliaments of the Member States and applicant countries of 17th June, 2000, that is readily available on the Internet at: http://www.europarl.eu.int/dg3/sdp/backg/en/b000717.htm.

2 See, a commentary of Poland’s Foreign Minister, Bronislaw Geremek quoted by PAP (Polska Agencja Prasowa), that is available, in electronic form, at the following address: http://euro.pap.com.pl/cgi-bin/europap.pl?grupa=1&ID=81.

3 See, an interview with the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, for the Austrian newspaper Standard, June 18, 2000.

4 As the Polish government stated unequivocally: ‘It is Poland’s intention to join an effective EU with all the consequences involved.’ See, Intergovernmental Conference 2000: the Polish Position, Warsaw, 12 June 2000, which is available on the Internet at: http://www.msz.gov.pl/english/unia/IGC.htm.

5 The term neo-medieval empire was first been used in Ole Waever’s, ‘Imperial Metaphores: Emerging European Analogies to Pre-Nation State Imperial Systems, (Waever 1997:61)

‘Future of Europe,’ a Letter from M. Hubert Védrine, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Joschka Fischer, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, Paris, 8 June 2000, an English translation provided by the French Embassy in the UK (internet source: http://194.216.217.67//db.phtml?id=4116). The French President, Jacques Chirac in his speech at the German Bundestag also avoided the controversial term ‘core group,’ and instead used the term, ‘groupe pionnier.’

6 Robin Cook in an interview for The Times, 29 June 2000.

7 For a detailed analysis of the British position, see Helen Wallace’s contribution to this volume.

This has been well argued in Jonathan Story’s ‘The Idea of the Core: The Dialectics of History and Space,’ (Story 1997).

Václav Havel, ‘Overcoming the Division of Europe,’ A speech given to the European Parliament on 15th June 2000, which is available, in electronic form, on the Internet at: http://www.TheEPC.be/Challenge_Europe/text/122.asp?ID=12.

8 As Fischer put it: ‘Following the collapse of the Soviet empire, the EU had to open up to the east, otherwise, the very idea of European integration would have undermined itself and eventually self-destructed. Why? A glance at the former Yugoslavia shows us the consequences, even if they would not always and everywhere have been so extreme. An EU restricted to Western Europe would forever have had to deal with a divided system in Europe: in Western Europe integration, in Eastern Europe the old system of balance with its continued national orientation, constraints of coalition, traditional interest-led politics and the permanent danger of nationalist ideologies and confrontations. A divided system of states in Europe without an overarching order would, in the long term, make Europe a continent of uncertainty, and, in the medium term, these traditional lines of conflict would shift from Eastern Europe into the EU again.’

9 For more about the use of models in analysing the future of European integration, see, Munch (1996) or Caparoso (1996).

10 For an analysis of the problem of managing diversity in the European Community in the early 1980s, see, Wallace & Ridley (1985).

11 The 1997 EU’s document entitled Agenda 2000 envisaged an ‘enlargement package’ of assistance to the applicant Member States of no less than ECU 75 billion: see, http://europa.eu.int/comm/agenda2000/index_en.htm.

12 See, for example, Vaughan-Whitehead (2000).

13 As Fritz Scharpf points out, (Scharpf 1994), the current EU lacks three of the crucial attributes which confer a degree of policy-making autonomy on federal states: relatively homogeneous political culture and public opinion, political parties operational at both levels of governance and a high degree of economic and cultural homogeneity.

14 For detailed data, Fusch & Klingemann (forthcoming).

15 See, Rokkan et al (1987:17-18); Kratochwil (1986:25-52).

Stefano Bartolini, ‘Exit options, boundary building, political restructuring,’ paper presented at the Departmental Seminar, European University Institute, Florence, October 28, 1997, p. 27 (unpublished).

16 Schmitter (1996b:132).

17 Schmitter (1996b:127).

18 Ruggie (1993).

19 Hix (1998:54).

20 I suggested some specific ways of handling the issue of democracy and cultural identity in a complex and highly diversified European setting of today in Explaining Euro-paralysis (Zielonka 1998:82-85 and 152-156).






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