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From Nation-states to Member States: European Integration and State Transformation

Chris Bickerton

Understandings of European integration have traditionally been situated on a spectrum: supranationalism at one end and intergovernmentalism at the other. Methods ofintegration have been fitted into this understanding, with the Community Method most often associated with supranationalism. Looking at various features ofcontemporary European integration 'from economic governance through to foreign policy' this paper argues that these conventional understandings fail tocorrespond with today's European Union. Instead of a clear distinction between Community and intergovernmental based forms of integration, we see the curiousdevelopment of intensified forms of cooperation in the absence of either more supranationalism or of clear assertions of national power. National elites retain theirposition at the centre stage of integration but act in ways far removed from conventional notions of national interest and of inter-state bargaining or negotiation. Thetendency is towards consensus and deliberation between national officials but without the creation of new supranational institutions. Scholars have grappled with thisproblem by coining new terms such as 'deliberative intergovernmentalism' (Puetter) and 'supranational intergovernmentalism' (Howorth). This paper argues that the best framework through which to make sense of the contemporary EU is to theorize integration in terms of state transformation. The paper focuses on the historical shiftfrom nation-states in Europe to what it calls member states. It argues that this transformation is what drives European integration and it should be our starting point forthinking about methods of integration in the contemporary EU.

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