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European Integration as Compromise: Concessions, Recognition and the Limits of Cooperation

Christine Reh

The role of compromise in European integration has been widely recognised by EU scholars and practitionersalike. At the same time, the systematic conceptual, analytical and normative study of compromise remains anexception. This is surprising, given that the study of compromise can be linked to three broader questions: 1) Howdoes the EU accommodate diversity? 2) What makes supranational rule normatively justifiable? 3) Who or whatdefines the limits of cooperation? Against this backdrop, this paper attempts to shed light on the concept ofcompromise, on the role of compromise in legitimising supranational governance, and on the limits to compromisein the European polity. I argue that the EU - a divided, multilevel and restricted polity - is highly dependent on thelegitimising force of 'inclusive compromise', which works through mutual concessions and the recognition ofdifference. This is true for vertical or macro-level relations between systems of governance (where compromiseworks through 'constitutional compatibility'), and for horizontal or micro-level relations between political actors(where compromise works through 'procedural accommodation'). Given the legitimising force of inclusivecompromise, the paper subsequently identifies the limits to such agreements and, thus, to supranationalcooperation; I argue that these limits are issue-specific and depend on where the costs of cooperation are borne.The paper concludes by outlining routes for follow-up empirical research.

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