Leblond, Patrick. (2007) The fog of integration: Reassessing the role of economic interests in European integration. In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
The main theories of European economic integration argue that private economic interests play an important role in the integration process. This role is a positive one, whereby economic interests provide the impetus and pressures for integration to move forward. Public policy analyses of the European Union’s legislative process, however, show that intense lobbying by such interests can prevent legislative proposals from being adopted, even if these economic interests were initially in favour of supranational legislation in the given policy area. So how is it possible that economic interests may initially be favourable to integration in a given policy area but then end up rejecting legislative proposals made by the Commission, usually by intensely lobbying the European Parliament and/or the Council of Ministers? The answer is based on the idea that economic interests initially face great uncertainty as to the precise costs and benefits of integrating a particular policy area. Only once the ‘fog of integration’ lifts – as a result of concrete legislative proposals being tabled by the Commission – are economic interests able to calculate these costs and benefits and, consequently, decide whether to lobby for or against the proposal. To provide a first run at validating the argument, the paper examines two cases of integration failure in the EU: the directive on patenting computer-implemented inventions (‘Software Patent Directive’) and the directive on takeover bids (‘Takeover Directive’). These cases not only indicate that the argument is valid but they also suggest that integration failure can take different forms depending on how economic interest polarize on a given policy issue. This leads us to conclude that regional integration scholars would benefit from integrating the lessons learned from the studies of EU politics and policy-making into their models of European integration.
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