Department of Political Studies - University of Catania

Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics

Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics


Donatella M. Viola

London School of Economics

International Relations and European Integration Theory:
The Role of the European Parliament

January 2000 - JMWP n° 26

Over the past fifty years, the pace of European integration has often accelerated, slowed or reversed itself in response to external political and economic events, confirming or refuting the validity of various theoretical assumptions and predictions. It is important, therefore, not to look at this phenomenon in isolation, but within the realm of international relations and to consider the European Union as part of a wider system, "a segment of international society" (Taylor, 1996, 90). Conceptualizing European integration cannot be seen exclusively as the application of detached and abstruse notions relevant only to Western Europe, but in a much broader sense, as an important component of the literature on world politics with its roots entrenched deep in the history of political thought (Keohane and Nye, 1993, 384-401).

            Winding through the maze of International Relations and European integration theories can be a lengthy and arduous challenge. The following overview, which is by no means exhaustive, intends to illustrate briefly the major theoretical assumptions relevant to European integration and set them, where possible, within the mainstream of International Relations theory, an explicit linkage which is too rarely made. In order to further highlight their relevance to this thesis, an attempt is also made to identify the role played or to be played by the European Parliament within the various original theoretical models, which are used as hermeneutic devises. Finally, variants of relevant concepts are tailored to allow for a theoretical conceptualization of political groups in the Europarliamentary environment. [1]

The `Trilogy' of International Relations Theory

Three main traditions have emerged in the history of political thought: realism embodied by Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, rationalism or internationalism by Hugo Grotius and universalism or revolutionism by Immanuel Kant. [2] However, these traditions "are not like three railroad tracks running parallel into infinity" and tendencies have often surfaced merging their characteristics. The above 'trilogy', largely followed, modified and contested, remains a milestone in the study of International Relations (Wight and Porter, 1991, Bull, 1977, 1995).

Realism and Neorealism

In the realist image, international relations are mostly characterized by warfare of all against all, best illustrated in Hobbes' axiom Bellum omnium contra omnes. Hans Morgenthau elaborates further this concept, claiming that:

                International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power. Whatever the ultimate aims of international politics, power is always the immediate aim; Regardless of the instrument employed, the ultimate aim of foreign policy is always the same: to promote one's interests by changing the mind of the opponent (Morgenthau, 1973, 27 and 333).

States compete for power and, in such a confrontation, moral principles are the first to be lost (Brown, 1992, 97). By considering national security as a priority, realists are especially concerned with actual or potential conflict between states. They advocate a state-centric view of international relations and regard nation states and not international organizations as the only "durable units" in society and the real motors of change (Weiler and Wessels, 1988, 238). Realism reflects the tenet that influential states hold the reins of the world and bear direct responsibility for international order (Banks, 1985, 15). International organizations may aspire to the status of independent actors, but their ambition has not so far been achieved to any significant extent.

            In the early 1970s, after having dominated for two decades, the theory began to falter only to re-emerge invigorated under the emblem of neorealism (Little, 1985, 74). Its proponents, including Kenneth Waltz, Robert Gilpin, Stephen Krasner, George Modelski and Robert Tucker, explain state behaviour in conditions of anarchy, while stressing the importance of structure within the international system and how this may influence state conduct. For some neorealists such as Robert Keohane, the modern world is woven into interdependent relationships, but the term interdependence, like a web, conveys the negative connotation of vulnerability which should be fought or at least minimized. However, interdependence does not denote equality between the parties since not all states are vulnerable to the same extent (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 55-56). This coming to terms with interdependence was rejected by theorists belonging to the orthodox realist tradition pursued by Waltz. Both realists and neorealists, nevertheless, maintain a net distinction between `high' and `low' politics where the former dominates the latter (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 7).

Realism in the Context of European Integration

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Schuman Plan, which catalysed the reconciliation of two historical enemies, France and Germany, and the consequent efforts to develop further economic, political and social relations between Western European countries, represented for realists a serious anomaly (Groom, 1990, 9-10). Any attempt at replacing the nation state system with another form of supranational government was considered artificial and highly hazardous, inevitably leading to its destruction and subordination to a third power. In the realist logic, not only would the establishment of a supranational European Union not enhance Europe's international capability, but it would even deprive the nation state of this capacity (Weiler and Wessels, 1988, 238-239).

            Modern realists such as Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, therefore, believed that the European integration process, embarked on mainly in reaction to Cold War bipolarism, would come to a halt with the fall of the Iron Curtain (Waltz, 1979, 70-71, Mearsheimer, 1990, 5-56). In the eyes of realists, European integration can be justified by the fact that a more integrated and institutionally elaborated international organization can better serve, at least provisionally, national interests. As such, the EU embodying a confederation of sovereign states becomes the instrument for the member states to achieve their own national objectives (Cameron, 1992, 28-29). However, should they no longer feel the necessity of this membership, the states reserve the right to withdraw. The intergovernmental institutionalization of EPC/CFSP is acceptable in as far as it cements existing interstate bargains. This view is aptly outlined by Inis L. Claude:

                It is evident that the long-term evolution as well as the current functioning of the Community institutions is fundamentally a matter to be determined by the national governments concerned. Supranationality has contrived no genuine escape from sovereign states. It may be a step toward federal unity, but it is a step taken by governments, which retain the capacity to decide whether to take further steps forward, to stand still, or to retreat (Claude, 1964, 1965, 1971, 103).

a)         The Role of the European Parliament in the Realist Model

As seen in the previous section, realism is hardly conducive with the supranational development of the European integration, regarded as anathema because it leads to an artificial system whereby the state loses the prerogative of promoting its bias (Weiler and Wessels, 1988, 238). As such, the realist thesis reaffirms the primacy of member states' governments and excludes any significant functions for supranational organs including the European Parliament. Realists argue that the general state of anarchy that characterizes the EP as a multinational platform for discussion does not make it a suitable and efficient decision-making institution, especially when dealing with foreign policy issues. The view that "strong supranational institutions are (..) the antithesis of intergovernmentalism" is not fully shared by Andrew Moravcsik who maintains that they can instead serve the purposes of the member states (Moravcsik, 1993, 507).

With regard to the European Parliament's political groups, their interactions are regarded by realists as a `zero-sum game', where the extent of the gain for one side corresponds to the loss for the other (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 241). It is obvious that one actor holds more power than another if it can contribute more effectively to defining and shaping policy results. Its power over a coalition decision can be confirmed when its unilateral revocation of support means jeopardizing the feasibility of the coalition agreement. The more potential coalitions a group can destroy the greater its bargaining power (Raunio and Matti, 1995). The capacity of political groups to inspire and define parliamentary policies can be assessed through the concept of power and compromise in the light of `game' and `cooperative' theories. [3] Duncan Snidal's analysis of relative gains and patterns of cooperation produces results relevant to the understanding of the dynamics of political groups over policy-making within the European Parliament. Political groups enhance their possibilities of safeguarding themselves by building coalitions and generally the less well united their respective rivals are, the safer and more powerful they are. If the political groups decide to cooperate, each of them receives on every occasion a constant return to scale (Snidal, 1993, 176, 192).


Rationalism/internationalism, exemplified in the work of Grotius, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz, emphasizes the exercise of reason as the unique basis for belief in contrast with the passive acceptance of authority or spiritual revelation (Wight and Porter, 1991, 13). It stresses the value of `international and institutionalized intercourse' in the context of international society, whilst it acknowledges the moral strain exerted on the decision-making process, the pressure and distress of rationalizing political power and justifying the recourse to war, by appealing to the principle of the choice of the `lesser evil'. In the Grotian Societas quasi politica et moralis diplomacy and trade prevail during the pacific intervals by attempting to institutionalize interstate dealings. Rationalists reject the `high-low' politics dichotomy and hierarchy and often regard socio-economic issues as being as vital as military and foreign policy (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 229). [4]

Rationalism in the Context of European integration

It is possible to locate within the rationalist tradition, albeit to different degrees, four theories of European integration - functionalism, neofunctionalism, pluralism and consociationalism - for reproducing the Grotian image of `international society' and for their emphasis on `international and institutionalized intercourse'. The various players are assumed to find benefit through mutual interactions in what is defined as a "variable - or positive sum game" (Mitrany cited in Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 241).

a.1)      Functionalism

Functionalism is one of the traditional approaches of international integration which is commonly associated with the rational school of thought for its characteristic of surrendering ideology to "enlightened self-interest" under the influence of economic growth, for its modest and pragmatic character of adapting to changes, for its problem-solving approach and for contemplating the primacy of economics in international relations as an antidote to the application of traditional power politics (Wallace and Smith, 1995, 140, Taylor, 1990, 126, 136 and Harrison, 1974, 28-29, 66). Yet, it can also be set within the realm of revolutionism for its universalist vocation envisaging the creation of a world society, for its ambition of bypassing the role of national governments and gradually eliminating the nation states and for reviving the concept of `historical determinism' present in the work of Comte and Marx. [5] A functionalist reading of integration is neither based on traditional national units nor aimed at the creation of a superimposing regional state, as that would not solve the present discontents, but only perpetuate and magnify dangerous political cleavages at a higher level (Pentland, 1973, 75-76, 149). The telos is, rather, that of establishing technical and depoliticized units specializing in specific functions, which might lead to the creation of a world federation (Mutimer, 1994, 29). This entails the gradual demise and substitution of the state-system by an administrative network that fulfils the needs of the emergent global community. Functionalists are interested in eliminating the state-system in the process of building a welfare-oriented world society whilst acknowledging that along with international organizations, nation states remain basic units in the international society.

            Borrowing Charles Pentland's metaphor, the functionalist logic sees the state in the context of international cooperation as "the insect in a carnivorous plant" which while "attracted ever inward by the benefits, it finds that behind it the avenues of retreat are progressively blocked" (Pentland, 1973, 82). By definition, modern society generates a myriad of technical problems that can best be resolved by experts as opposed to politicians. A successful collaboration in one particular technical field or functional area would lead to further collaboration in other related fields by means of the spillover mechanism. Governments recognize the common benefits to be gained by such cooperative endeavours and allow for their further expansion (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 241). This can also allow for cooperative distribution mechanisms to balance out some of the disparities within society, whilst recognizing, however, the impossibility of realizing a `perfect world' (Taylor, 1990, 179).

            Functionalists accept the net `high' and `low' politics dichotomy, which is also reflected in the distinction between Community and CFSP pillars (Mutimer, 1994, 26, Lodge, 1983b, 12). They also express their preference for concentrating on non-political aspects in the international workshops "where the nations shed their conflicts at the door and busy themselves only with the cooperative use of the tools of mutual interests" which may be thwarted by the increasing tendency to politicize all international issues (Claude, 350-353). In the words of David Mitrany, "[s]overeignty is not effectively transferred by diplomatic formula, but via a function". The accumulation of partial transfers of tasks from one sector to another leads eventually to "a translation of the true seat of authority" and to the achievement of world society (Mitrany, 1966, 35).

a.2)      The Role of the European Parliament in the Functional Model

The definition of institution in functionalist terms, which can be easily applied to the European Parliament, is not only of a conventional organization with buildings and officials, but of "recognized patterns of practice around which expectations converge" (Young, 1980, 337). In the functional model, the European Parliament has not only to ensure a fair system of `check and balance' within the European Union, but to accommodate the views of members belonging to different nationality and ideology.

             Although explicitly referred to the interest groups and bureaucratic and technocratic élites, their mechanisms of interaction can be compared to those of EP political groups, characterized by gradual changes of MEPs' attitude and greater propensity for cooperation. The emphasis is on the process of `social learning', whereby MEPs "are weaned away from their allegedly irrational nationalistic impulses toward a self-reinforcing ethos of cooperation" within their respective political groups and within the European Parliament and become more aware of their real mutual interests (Pentland, 1973, 73, quotation 84). This slowly allows for the materialization of new loyalties, directed at first not to the European Parliament, the common institution, but mainly to the other members of the group. These loyalties are not mutually exclusive and "can be `fractionated': just as a community is the sum of its functions, so loyalty to that community is the sum of particular loyalties to agencies in the community which satisfy functional needs" (Pentland, 1973, 264, quotation 85). MEPs' loyalties are assumed to be based largely on utilitarian assessment of the degree to which the European Parliament and the political groups gratify their individual needs.

b.1)      Neofunctionalism

Set between the rationalist and revolutionist tradition of international relations, neofunctionalism, also known as `federal functionalism', combines some elements from both functional and federal theories. Integration is considered a process for the creation of a `political community' which resembles the `supranational state' proposed by federalists (Pentland, cited in Lodge, 1-5). Along with federalists, neofunctionalists disdain the Tönnian model of society, the Gemeinschaft, which embodies a community whose aim is the attainment of the general welfare and whose roots are based on common loyalties and feeling of duty. They replace it with the Gesellschaft model, a pluralist type of society where conflictual interests coexist and where cooperation and integration can be reached through a convergence of interests (Taylor, 1983, 3-5). In the eyes of many neofunctionalists, the objective of integration is still blurred but may lead to the establishment of a federation where national sub-systems yield, function by function, their authority to a central federal body (Leonardi, 1993, 5, Cameron, 1992, 28). Although envisaging a supranational state as the end product of integration, neofunctionalists do not exclude non-federal forms of political system and direct their attention towards the process rather than the goal. As the process advances, the nation state is no longer the basic unit of analysis and transnational interactions beyond the management and control of national governments become increasingly more frequent (Keohane, 1993, 386). Unlike the functionalist universal tenet, neofunctionalism focuses on the establishment of a regional integration (Mutimer, 1994, 27). However, both theories place great emphasis on the concept of spillover, [6] described by Leon Lindberg as

                a situation in which a given action, related to a specific goal, creates a situation in which the original goal can be assured only by taking further actions, which in turn create a further condition and a need for more action, and so forth (Lindberg, 1963, 9).

The original goal of economic integration may be achieved by furthering the transfer of competence in other policy areas from member states to European Community level. Ernst Haas applied the concept of spillover to the ECSC which, by creating a common market in the sector of coal and steel production, raised the necessity for integrating the entire energy resources of the Community, such as nuclear energy covered by the Euratom Treaty in 1957, and gas and oil covered by the EC Treaty, and eventually led to the establishment of a common market for all goods and services. By the late 1960s, earlier predictions of progress in the field of political integration failed to occur, obscuring the general validity of this theory. Haas himself had to admit that a spillover from economic to political sectors and a shift of authority and legitimacy from national to supranational level were no longer automatic, but only probable (Haas, 1966, 93). And yet, despite its imperfections, for some authors, such as Andrew Moravcsik and Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, "[n]eofunctionalism is by no means obsolete" (Tranholm-Mikkelsen, 1991, 19), indeed it "remains the sole attempt to fashion a coherent and comprehensive theory of European integration" (Moravcsik, 1991, 43-75).

b.2)      The Role of the European Parliament in the Neofunctional Model

Haas's definition of integration extends to "the process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities toward a new centre, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over the pre-existing national states" (Haas, 1958, 16). Integration is seen as a process in which politically significant élites "gradually redefine their interests in terms of a regional rather than a purely national orientation" (Hodges, 1978, 245). Whenever such a constellation of interests emerges, it results in a greater role for the central institutions and in the fostering of the integration process. The role of these institutions, including that of Parliament is crucial for the creation of a supranational state (Pentland, 1973, 122-123, 149). Neofunctionalists attribute great importance to élite interaction, usually formalized in system-wide institutions. These institutions sometimes act as arbiters, passive registrars of the results of the conflicts inevitably arising in such a system. Political consensus evaporates because the central institutions are not powerful enough to create the support for further integration.

             Neofunctionalists focus on the degree of alteration of élite behaviour through learning (Sweeney, 1984, 25). Herbert Kelman's models of attitude-change can be applied to theories of integration and in particular to neofunctionalism and can make explicit the effects of conflict-resolution among MEPs within their groups and within the European Parliament (Pentland, 1973, 256). [7] Individual attitudes are based on two components the `cognitive element' related to the perceptions of the political world and the `affective element' related to loyalties, values and sense of community (Pentland, 1973, 127, 129).

            According to neofunctionalists, the leaders of political groups support policies enhancing integration not out of general principles or ideologies, but on the basis of advantages perceived in specific situations. In addition, they may seek access to political processes operating beyond the national level. In both cases, while MEPs' loyalties may not change fundamentally, their perception of their political group and the European Parliament does in view of the fact that these institutions gradually become the most important source of benefits (Pentland, 1973, 256). Tensions occur to transnationalize these groups, and gradually a new political outlook emerges to support such changes. In the neofunctionalist outlook, representative assemblies are supposed to deal with at least some areas of people's everyday life and to establish control over crucial sectors of governments more effectively than old-style national parliaments, which tend to lack expertise and are remote from the central decision-making.

According to Haas,

                Parliamentarians (..) are part of the institutions which shape the emerging European political community (..) [they] are crucial actors on the stage of integration (..) [as potential legislators and as catalysts for fostering the process of integration] (Haas, 1958, 390).

This view is shared by Moravcsik who recognizes the fundamental role of the European Parliament in fostering the process of EU integration and pressing for further reforms by "acting above the nation-state". Yet he rejects supranational institutionalism as a variant of neofunctionalism along with the assumption that international institutions and transnational interest groups play a major part in the integration process, independently from the member states (Moravcsik, 1991, 43-75).

Neofunctional integration theory suggests that a supranational entity like the European Parliament, representing the `general interest' of the Union, seeks to increase its powers in order to oppose the attempts of member states' governments to put their own individual interests forward. Together with the federalists, the neofunctionalists believe that central institutions gradually would substitute national bodies in the exercise of decision-making (Ifestos, 1987, 73), by virtue of the spillover effect "across functional and to political sectors" (Cameron, 1992, 25). The EP's acquisition of formal powers is advocated and seen as a form of progress towards further integration. Its compartmentalization into specialized committees, where MEPs and officials who are experts in their various sectors work side by side, makes Parliament the ideal combination of a political and technical institution.

Early neofunctionalists attached particular importance to the role of political parties in the European integration process as "carriers of values and ideologies whose opposition, identity or convergence determines the success or failure of a transnational ideology" (Haas, 1958, 5). Their creation and development within the European Parliament may be seen as a way to legitimize, expedite and foster the integration process. Party integration stems from political and cultivated `spillover', embodying the aspiration to elevate the élites in the European Parliament's spectrum to the status of European parties (Hix, 1995a, 2). Neofunctionalist incremental strategy is aimed at encouraging group interactions, to "upgrade the common interest" by educating its members to understand the advantages of working together which would ultimately lead to the emergence of truly transnational bodies, showing more loyalty to the European Parliament than to any other political authority, and to their political group rather than to the national party (Wallace and Smith, 1995, 145).

The integration process can be evaluated by the level of involvement of the above institutions and their capacity for representing and combining the conflicting interests of the various member states. The European Parliament can therefore fulfil an important mediatory role as a permanent forum for debate, conflict-resolution and coalition-building whereby members become acquainted with new rules and are progressively drawn to readdress their loyalties from the national to the central echelons (Pentland, 1973, 117).

This view is not shared by David Marquand, who argues that neofunctionalism is "apolitical if not anti-political; and [...] aparliamentary if not quite anti-parliamentary. Parliaments, after all, reflect political opinion and give expression to political demands. If integration were a technical process rather than a political one there could be no place in it for a Parliament" (Marquand, 1980, 1). On these lines, the powers of the Assembly of the Coal and Steel Community and the Assembly of the European Economic Community were extremely limited. However, as Marquand himself admits, "it seems clear that (..) the founding fathers believed that [the parliamentary element] would expand as time went on" (Marquand, 1980, 2). In this sense, two fundamental neofunctionalist attributes need to be highlighted: supranationality and political élites. The application of the principle of supranationality would require certainly a more active role of the `supranational institutions' in the EU decision-making process. The political élites could find in the European Parliament the forum to lobby their political and economic objectives.

                If parties to a conference enjoy a specific and well-articulated sense of participation, if they identify themselves completely with the procedures and codes within which their decisions are made, they consider themselves completely `engaged' by the results even if they do not fully concur in them (Haas, 1958, 522).

In relation to the intra- and intergroup decision-making, Haas's three modes of accommodation can be applied. The first consists of reaching the `minimum common denominator', the second involves `splitting the difference' and therefore finding a compromise between the parties, the third and final implies `upgrading the common interest', focusing temporarily on the areas of consensus and hoping that the areas of disagreement eventually fade (Taylor, 1983, 8, Øhrgaard, 1997, 3, 16). Of the three strategies, "the second and the third yield the greatest amount of progress towards the goal of political community", although only the last mode epitomizes the veritable contribution to the integrative process (Haas, 1961, 369). As the German MEP Otto von Habsburg emphasizes, "the learning process of parliamentary representatives is witnessed by the fact that we have succeeded, after some hard negotiating, in agreeing on a common text" (Habsburg, 9/10/1991, 165).

For neofunctionalists, passionate politics and ideological clashes were to be replaced with a problem-solving strategy, which was used effectively by the two main groups within the European Parliament, the Socialists and the Christian Democrats as the only way to be able to make an impact on the other EC institutions and on decision-making. However, the neofunctionalist motivation towards integration was considered reductionist by many since it inferred that loyalties followed rational perceptions of interest rather that non-rational assumptions of identity (Wallace and Smith, 1995, 146).

One of the major concerns of neofunctionalists revolves around the process of socialization, which results from "the combined effects of the organizational context of decision-making, the pressures of the crisis situation, the force of habits and procedure, the interaction with other political actors, the awareness of a commitment or need to agree, and similar features of the political setting, to force actors to a redefinition of their situation, interests and methods" (Pentland, 1973, 130). In Lindberg's words,

                Participants in the activities of central institutions may develop multiple perspectives, personal friendships, a comraderie of expertise, all of which may reflect back upon the national governments and affect future national policy-making (Lindberg, 1963, 10).

Lindberg's observation may be applied to the members of the European Parliament working in close contact within political groups, specialized committees and inter-parliamentary delegations. This process is particularly conducive for the purpose of this thesis since it entails the mechanisms to bring about the required shifts of loyalties of parliamentarians to their political groups and the European Parliament, as a result of close and continuous working relationship (Taylor, 1983, 9, Lodge, 1989, 40-41, Tranholm-Mikkelsen, 1991, 5, 14, Øhrgaard, 1997, 3, 15-17).  Neofunctionalist theory discerns between the `cognitive' and `affective' factors of individual attitudes. The former relates to the perception of the political world, the expectation concerning the sources of interest-fulfilment. The latter, which is less `rational' and is connected with loyalties, values and the sense of community, is favoured by neofunctionalists. Given the strong orientation towards utilitarian satisfaction and the various sources of such satisfaction, political attitudes of individuals tend to be multiple and internally divided (Lindberg, 1963, 6). Hence, shifts of loyalties and expectations are not deemed to be either total or simultaneous, but gradual.

c.1)      Pluralism

Pluralist/transactionalist or communication school [8] can be placed within the realm of rationalism in both its descriptive and normative elements for its emphasis on `international and institutionalized intercourse'. Karl Deutsch, its main architect, envisaged as the objective of integration the realization of a `political community' consisting of an international system of developed nation states which, albeit without a common government, is characterized by a high level of international communications and transactions. Closer diplomatic and commercial contacts foster "a sense of shared community and trust" which make war between members inconceivable (Wallace and Smith, 1995, 153). However, there is no evidence that those institutions emerging to promote cross-border cooperation and communication, represent the "embryo of a supranational state" (Pentland, 1973, 29).

            Non-state actors represent a focal point in the pluralist paradigm, for their interactions within the states and other non-state actors operating across national borders. States are not integrated entities, but are composed of bureaucracies, interest groups and individuals that attempt to influence foreign policy through competition, coalition building, conflict and compromise. Against this background, pluralists challenge the notion of the state as a rational actor because, to establish a consensus or, at least, a minimum winning coalition, is a process different in kind from what is usually meant to be a rational and optimal decision.

On pluralist assumptions, integration reflects the "attainment within a territory of a `sense of Community'", by turning previously separate units into components of a coherent system and by fostering transactions between societies and changes in public attitudes within societies. And yet, there is no requirement for the abolition of the nation state nor for the creation of a unitary supranational state (Deutsch et al., 1957, cited in Ifestos, 75). Within a pluralistic security community, individual governments retain their legal independence (Hodges, 1978, 244). The process of adjustment in various spheres seems to constitute the terminal situation and not a process leading to a `supranational state', although pluralists prefer the community-model to the state-model advocated by many federalists (Taylor, 1975, 13).

c.2)      The Role of the European Parliament in the Pluralist Model

According to the pluralists, the telos of integration consists of "an international system of developed nations" with no central governmental institutions. They admit the possibility of attaining in future a supranational European dimension, but deny that this might result from popular or parliamentary clout since governments still hold the monopoly over the destiny of their respective countries. Although designating the direct relationship between citizens and the European Parliament, pluralists acknowledge the restricted popular and therefore parliamentary involvement in international politics. In brief, in the pluralist paradigm, "no (..) government is likely to put itself in a position of being swept out of power by a surge of popular internationalist [or Europeanist] feeling" (Pentland, 1973, 33, 38, quotation 63).

Deutsch envisaged an increase in international communications and transactions that would encourage "a sense of shared community and trust". In particular, he stressed the importance of socio-psychological factors in community building, also associating loyalties with the capacity to provide security (Hodges, 1972, 19). This emphasis on the integrative effects of communications between members and its socio-psychological aspects can be easily applied to the political groups and to the European Parliament as a whole.           

d.1)      Consociationalism

The term `consociationalism', coined by Arend Lijphart in 1968 and resurrected by Hans Daalder in 1974, refers to a model for deeply divided societies, a speculative instrument for solving disputes of inter-ethnic nature and a new pattern of international integration which has been applied by Paul Taylor to the European integration process (Taylor, 1990c, 172-173, 176). The theory, drawn from the domain of comparative politics, focuses on two main concepts: `consociation', regarding vertical relations between the states and the collectivity, and `symbiosis', regarding horizontal relations between the states (Taylor, 1996, 79).

The peculiarity of consociationalism lies in its ability to combine an advanced regional integration with the survival of existing national sovereignties. Its strategy focuses not on mitigating antagonisms between nations, but creating a framework within which dissenting minorities gain some degree of autonomy. The European Union can be regarded as a case of `cohabitation' of sovereign states which although preserving their distinctive cultures deliberately replace competitive political attitude with what Gerald R. McDaniel defines as `politics of smoothness' (Glidningspolitik) or the practice of accommodation and compromise aimed at reaching mutual understanding (MacDaniel, 1963, cited in Chryssochoou, 1994, 20-21).

d.2)      The Role of the European Parliament in the Consociational Model

Following the consociational logic, the European Parliament, in its holistic approach, could host diverse interests by giving birth to a new socio-political entity which goes beyond the simple sum of its components. The ambition of creating transnational political groups is not within the scope of consociationalism which instead envisages the formation of multinational groups that can still maintain their political unity even without surmounting national barriers. The model allows for MEPs to coexist and collaborate within a group without the need of sacrificing their national identity to the accomplishment of their respective interests, and contends that despite language, religious and ethnic differences, a certain level of group cohesion can be achieved.

 `Symbiosis', used synonymously with `mutualism', refers to a harmonious partnership between different entities in which the `symbionts' eventually benefit from the association. It implies a state of affairs whereby two or more actors learn to live with each other, test their strengths for cooperative interactions and, if necessary, reconcile a welter of distinct and often conflicting interests in a mutually acceptable and advantageous manner rather than embarking on an exhaustive competition at the expense of the others' vital interests (Chryssochoou, 1994, 19-20).

Efficiency in the EP policy-making and activities can be achieved, according to this theory, by establishing a positive-sum game at PG and EP levels to accommodate both supranational, national and ideological predicaments, paving the way towards the formation of consociational partnership: an elaborate system of cooperative subcultures which practically means the achievement of a balance of advantages and costs for all the participants involved in regional decision-making, irrespective of their national, subnational or supranational origins. This would reconcile two opposing necessities: `democracy' underpinning the need for the expression of all various opinions and `efficiency' relating to the capacity of the segments to formulate policies by hammering out agreements through the practice of appeasement and compromise.


Revolutionists/universalists [9] identify themselves with the moral unity of international society claiming to be totally committed to its achievement through the establishment of transnational social bonds between citizens of the various states and the gradual overcoming of the absolute supremacy of the state and of interstate barriers (Halliday, 1994, 99). Universal renovation and radical transformation are constant attributes of this doctrine, which is not exclusively addressed to states but to international organizations, transnational actors and their interactions. In antithesis with the realists, revolutionists reject the artificial dichotomy between `high' and `low' politics emphasizing that economic factors serve to explain the dynamics of the international system (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993, 8, 10-11, 18).

Revolutionism/Universalism in the Context of European integration

a.1)      Federalism

A myriad of interpretations surrounds the concept of federalism, as reflected in its various theoretical underpinnings as well as in the political branches of federalist thinking. The moderate and more pragmatic branch falls perfectly within the rationalist school of thought for the emphasis on `international and institutionalized intercourse'. The radical and idealistic branch recalls aspects of the revolutionist/universalist tradition of Althusius and Rousseau with its intention of transcending the conventional nation states and its ambition of transforming international realities by going beyond the construction of a society of states. To this utopian vein belong writers such as Guy Héraud and C.L. Kohr who believe that by encouraging a new common political culture it is possible ultimately to create a world society and government (Harrison, 1974, 45). Integration is seen as a dramatic, revolutionary process as "the time becomes ripe for change" (Taylor, 1975, 12). This view is reiterated with vigour by Denis de Rougemont who insists that to establish this model of federation is "the primary, long overdue and decisive task, the real leap, the revolutionary and creative action without which we shall not leave the present plane of impossibilities" (de Rougemont, 1967, 348).

Nevertheless, federalism shares the realist premise of the birth of the Hobbesian Leviathan, a supreme ruler entrusted with the authority to maintain order and peace by the people in order to escape from the dangers of the anarchic `state of nature' (Pentland, 1973, 147).

Some authors, such as Murray Forsyth, focus on federalism

                as a type of government founded upon a foedus or treaty between states. It is the process by which a number of separate states raise themselves by contract to the threshold of being one state (Forsyth, 1981, 2).

In this context, the nation state is seen as a basic political unit that needs to be accommodated rather than abolished. By contrast, for others such as Héraud the nation state is nothing but a `historic accident' which rational federal development would supersede. He visualizes a Europe des ethnies composed of collectivities naturally united by language and other cultural traditions and much more equal and manageable entities that the nation states (Harrison, 1974, 45). This view is based on the Kantian tradition of International Relations which stresses moral imperatives enjoining not simply cooperation among states but rather the overthrow of the system of states and its replacement by a cosmopolitan society where the European federation is a step as well as a required catalyst (Bull, 1977, 1995, 25). Federal Europe can be created "on the widespread destruction and disillusionment brought about by the war by providing an attractive alternative to the rebuilding of the nation-state system with its inherent rivalries" (de Rougemont, 1965 cited in Hodges, 1978, 241). And yet, while representing the first and most well-known approach of European integration, federalism has been often denied recognition as a real theory in the traditional sense, for its explicit normative content and for privileging the description of the final goal over the scientific analysis of method and procedure (Mutimer, 1994, 8). The final condition of integration presents an alternative to "national atavism and insularity" by proposing the creation of a federal union among previously sovereign powers (O'Neill, 1996, 23).

While agreeing in principle on the goal of European integration, federalists disagreed on the methods to be employed to achieve a fully-fledged federation. The maximalists, among whom was Altiero Spinelli, author of the 1941 federalist Ventotene Manifesto and founder of the Mouvement Fédéraliste Européen (MFE), believed that European integration was a process to be achieved through political means (Harrison, 1974, 49). More specifically, maximalists intended to promote an international campaign aimed at persuading public opinion and mobilizing political forces which would culminate with the setting up of a Constituent Assembly, elected by universal suffrage (Marquand, 1980, 1). This assembly would draft a federal constitution endowing powers to the central government with regard to budget, foreign policy and defence, including provisions for safeguarding fundamental and minority rights. This text would be finally submitted either to national parliaments for ratification or directly to European citizens by means of popular referenda. Minimalists gathered under the Action Européen Fédéraliste (AUF), to which eventually Spinelli converted, took the more pragmatic view that the federal goal could be achieved by gradual steps through the establishment of organizations such as the ECSC, EURATOM and European Economic Community (Harrison, 1974, 50). This dichotomy inherent to federalism makes it rather difficult to place this approach within the mainstream of IR theory.

The great merit of federalism rests in the ability to reconcile the integration process with the necessity of preserving diversity, an element which represents a precondition of any kind of integration in Europe and of the prerogatives of the European Parliament. By dividing political power between central and local powers, the federal model represents a very attractive strategy for uniting groups of states possessing diverse interests and satisfies the often mutually exclusive criteria of efficiency and democracy (Hodges, 1978, 241). Within a federal union, not only national, but also regional and local interests are duly represented. This emphasis on model privileges decentralization and, therefore, conforms to the logic of subsidiarity, a principle which Britain has promoted and which is now enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (Mutimer, 1994, 18). The essence of federalism lies in the decentralization of power and not, as is wrongly perceived especially in Britain, in "a greedy form of government in which central government progressively deprives [...] national governments of power, making them subordinate to the central authorities" (Lodge, 1983b, 9). According to Juliet Lodge, the hostility of certain politicians to the idea of a federal evolution of the European Union may often arise from ignorance and misunderstanding of its main principles.

a.2)      The Role of the European Parliament in the Federal Model

Federalists give a salient position to the European Parliament which represents the focal point for the integration process for its ability of promoting the European idea and offering a platform for discussion (Spinelli, 1966, 154) [10] and embodies the Lower House of the European federation, comparable to the US House of Representatives or the German Bundestag (Lodge, 1983b, 9-10). Together with the Council, which would become a legislative Upper House, the EP would rule "with the executive over all the spheres of activity placed under its control by the federal constitution" (Haas, 1958, 394). Federalists demand the expansion of direct and indirect democratic controls over the execution of foreign policy and the realization of the democratic system of `check and balance' in the form of greater parliamentary powers at European, national and regional levels.

In line with the Kantian perspective, the EP's vocation is to promote a "European perspective and not one that would be only the sum of the national ones" (Spinelli cited in Burgess, 1989, 135). This transnationality/supranationality element characterizing the federal approach is central to this doctoral thesis which intends to test the feasibility of this goal within the EP and the PGs through an investigation into two case studies, the Gulf and Yugoslav crises. For federalists, common needs or fears have the effect of producing common perception of the sort of political solution required, as well as the common loyalties to support it. Communication and interaction constitute the basis of a collective learning process towards an increased awareness, trust and loyalty between the members of the groups, "assumed to be self-reinforcing, rather like the ascending spiral of `escalation'" (Pentland, 1973, 252). Federalists assign great relevance to the presence of `political will' and `élites' favourable to a shift of powers from national to supranational institutions (Ifestos, 1987, 71). However, they allow for multiple levels of political allegiance, so that Members of the European Parliament can remain loyal to their constituency, nation and EU which, albeit of varying intensities, are not incompatible or conflicting. The approach presupposes that the desirability of European Union is widely accepted and envisages the establishment of new habits of collaboration between groups, new decision-making mechanisms as well as the emergence of new attitudes or mentalities, but recognizes that the shift of loyalties towards the centre is not total (Pentland, 172-174). This engrenage differs from neofunctionalist spillover in so far as it lacks the latter's dynamic characteristics. For Reginald Harrison, it implies "the enmeshment of member units and the `locking-in' of whatever integrative steps are achieved. It is likely to be limited in scope. It does not assume continuous progress and is not, therefore, invalidated by the conservative forces of adjustment which may be asserted in response to change" (Harrison, 1974, 244).

The establishment of central institutions, endowed with certain autonomous powers, an effective decision-making process and democratic control, which would lead to the formation of genuine European political parties, is necessary for the fostering of the integration process (Harrison, 1974, 244).


The endeavour of locating European integration theories within the wider theoretical spectrum of International Relations has proven to be ambitious and challenging, mainly due to the difficulty of incorporating such a variety of concepts, often overlapping, within clear-cut classifications. The main theoretical assumptions relevant to European integration do not always remain in a fixed position within the three IR traditions since they often combine elements of different schools of thought. This is partly because, as Hedley Bull states,

                [t]he modern international system reflects all three of the elements singled out respectively by the Hobbesian, the Kantian and the Grotian traditions: the element of war and struggle for power among states, the element of transnational solidarity and conflict, cutting across the divisions among states, and the element of co-operation and regulated intercourse among states. In different historical phases of the states system, in different geographical theatres of its operation, and in the policies of different states and statesmen, one of these three elements may predominate over the others (Bull, 1977, 1995, 39).

And yet, such an attempt has been made with the aim of generating a debate that has been neglected for too long in academic literature. Another difficulty arises from the fact that "the term `integration' glitters with a multiplicity of meanings" (Abelshauser, 1994, 1), ranging from the creation of a fully-fledged federation of the states of Europe to the establishment of a loose concert of independent states: the Gaullist Europe des Patries. While the former stresses the totality of central institutions with a great emphasis on the position of the European Parliament, the latter focuses on nationally-based centres of decision-making, denying any role to the European Parliament.

European integration was strategically negotiated, therefore, as a `journey to an unknown destination' to enable member states' governments as well as the proponents of the various integration theories to interpret freely the real meaning of this nebulous term. The final hindrance to the explanation of European integration also stems from the fact that it is not a single definable event, but a "continuous series of processes" not comparable to other regional or international organizations (Harrison, 1974, 22-23). Any search for a self-contained formula able to describe theoretically the evolution of this phenomenon is "doomed to fail" as its interpretation requires recourse to different notions and analytical methodologies from social science and history (Hill, 1994, 104-105). It is, therefore, not surprising that no single IR and integration theories can explain adequately the role of the EP and political groups in the integration process. Depending on one's adherence to the realist or federalist perspective, the EP's functions will vary enormously. Aspects of two contesting approaches under the banners of federalism and neofunctionalism are particularly relevant in terms of maximization of the EP's competence. The process of transnationalization within the European Parliament and its political groups can be seen in the revolutionist perspective of overcoming national barriers, overthrowing the system of states and replacing it with a universal community. Both paradigms accord a vital role to the European Parliament, retaining the view that the transfer of decision-making from the national governments to the central institutions is crucial to the integration process. Functionalism, neofunctionalism, pluralism and consociationalism recognize that, through a `learning-by-association' process, members of the European Parliament develop a stronger cooperative ethos which can modify both their perceptions of political life and their feelings toward each other. They all perceive political groups, which are "composites of subnational, national and supranational elements" as generators of attitudes enhancing integration, although only rarely is this notion expressed in a theoretically coherent fashion (Pentland, 1973, quotation 222, 242, 251, 262).

An in-depth analysis of the traditional integration theory has largely been overlooked in recent years. In particular, the learning and adaption processes within the European Parliament need to be filtered into any theoretical account of the integration process. The learning of cooperative habits stressed by functionalism, the effects of élite-interactions indicated by pluralism, the formative influence of institutions emphasized by federalism, the socialization process analysed by neofunctionalism and the phenomenon of symbiosis emphasized by consociationalism - all of these notions that rely on similar assumptions represent useful conceptual tools for an understanding of MEPs' interactions. Pluralists and functionalists rely upon the generalized process of `social learning' while neofunctionalists focus their interest on a more restricted process of attitude change among those individuals within a political group or within the Europarliamentary arena characterized by an active reorientation towards political life and by a high rate of political participation. This factor, which is examined in the second part of the thesis, is a crucial indicator of the achievement of the overall process of integration.

The application of socio-psychological insights to the study of political integration can be helpful with regard to MEP behaviour within the political groups within the European Parliament, often neglected by theorists of integration. The extent to which élite attitudes are reliable indicators of the probable direction of integration depends on such factors as the internal cohesion of the groups, the structure of the decision-making institutions, the general distribution of power in the institution concerned, and the degree to which particular issues such as foreign policy affect deep-seated values or feelings among the general public. In addition, regular contacts among MEPs of different nationalities, either within political groups or the European Parliament, can generate the forging of `European' attitudes and are important factors in enhancing integration.

In summary, the previous theoretical survey has been helpful in reaching the conclusion that, while no single approach seems to capture the phenomenon adequately, a number of elements derived from integration theories can assist us in the search for an explanation of the expanding role of the European Parliament in EU policy-making and the evolution of the political groups. The Europarliamentary arena and the various political groups operate as a living laboratory, where an experiment has been undertaken - that of placing together members representing various national and political approaches with the aim of studying their interactions.

[1] The most comprehensive and, at the same time, detailed surveys of the traditional set of European integration theories are those of Pentland (1973), Harrison (1974) Taylor (1983) and George (1985).  A more recent effort at reviewing the main theoretical contributions with extracts of their key authors is offered by O'Neill (1996). However, these books devote little or no space to the remit of the European Parliament and its transnational political groups in the various International Relations and European integration theories. The role of the political groups are often subsumed into the general analysis on interest groups. Corbett (1998) attempts to redress this omission to some extent by examining the role of the European Parliament in light of the following approaches to European integration: constituent federalism, gradualist federalism, neofunctionalism, interdependence theory and intergovernmentalism.  He also looks at the expectations within the academic and political circle of the elected Parliament by also briefly referring to the development of political groups inside the EP arena. Webb (1983) makes only a brief reference to the Parliament in her review of integration theories. Other books focus on the parliamentary powers in the federal model (Spinelli, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1972; Wheare, 1963). Others touch only briefly on the place of parliamentary developments in the federal and neofunctional logics (Marquand, 1980). An attempt to study the possible role of the European Parliament and the political parties in the European integration process by using neofunctionalist theory is made by Sweeney (1984). And yet, the most accurate analysis of the political groups remains that undertaken by Haas (1958) who devotes Chapter IV of his book to the supranational political parties in the ECSC Common Assembly. Several studies including that by Geoffrey and Pippa Pridham (1981) focus on the historical development or on the organization and working of the political groups, neglecting however their role in integration theories. The historical evolution of the EC underlying the emergence of the various theoretical approaches over time has been outlined by William Wallace and Julie Smith (1995).

[2] Although agreeing in principle on the trilogy of philosophical thought, Martin Wight and Hedley Bull used a different terminology. Wight's classification consists of realism, rationalism and revolutionism while Bull's classification includes realism, internationalism and universalism.

[3] Game theory relates to the interactions between at least two actors, while cooperative theory focuses on the dynamics of a concerted decision-making process achieved by establishing coalitions.

[4] Besides Wight and Bull's classifications, Viotti and Kauppi distinguish three streams of political thought: realism, pluralism and globalism (Viotti and Kauppi, 1993). Many of the features of rationalism referred to within this article can also be found within Viotti and Kauppi's definition of pluralism.

[5] As Charles Pentland notices, not all functionalists agree with this determinist view and, in particular with R. Lemaignen's belief that European integration represents a subsequent phase of the `irreversible' phenomenon of nation absorbing province absorbing tribe (Lemaignen, 1964, 209-210 cited in Pentland, 1973, 65).

[6] George (1991, 21-24) introduces a distinction between `functional' and `political spillover', while Tranholm-Mikkelsen (1991, 4-6) identifies three kinds of spillover: `functional', `political' and `cultivated'. The latter's distinction is followed by Hix (1995a, 2).

[7] Kelman's analysis includes three levels of attitude-change: compliance, identification and internalization. Compliance operates through the promise of economic, political or symbolic reward, identification occurs mainly through the satisfaction of psychological needs and internalization results from the enhancement of personal values, but the main external stimulus is likely to be new information gained through communication or interaction.

[8] Pluralist, transactionalist and communication school are terms used to refer to Karl Deutch's integration theory. Some scholars such as Charles Pentland (1973) call it pluralism, others, including William Wallace and Julie Smith (1995), refer to it as transactionalism and, finally, Laura Cram (1996) speaks of transactionalism/communication school.

[9] Terminology used respectively by Martin Wight and Hedley Bull.

  [10] Altiero Spinelli, one of the founders of the Ventotene Manifesto and supporter of the revolutionist method, eventually converted to the `Community method' (Spinelli 1966, 154).

ã Copyright 2000. Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics 

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Donatella M. Viola, London School of Economics