Chapter 2 Analyzing the EU


  • Understanding the EU involves making a decision on the type of questions you are interested in and the way in which you want to answer them.
  • The most important distinction between different approaches to the EU is between theories of integration and theories explaining EU politics.
  • Neo-functionalism and intergovernmentalism are the two major approaches in integration studies. Intergovernmentalists claim that the EU is best seen and studied as a classic international organization, to which member states have delegated a limited number of tasks. Neo-functionalists on the other hand argue that the initial delegation of tasks to the supranational level, has generated an integrative dynamic of its own, leading to spillover of tasks into other policy-domains.
  • Theories of EU politics seek to understand the actual functioning of the EU as a political system, rather than explain how the EU came about in the first place. Multi-level governance and the comparative politics approach are the two major strands of research in this area.
  • Multi-level governance scholars consider the EU to be a one of a kind political system in which the old, hierarchical way of doing politics between member states has been replaced by a new, networked form of government where different levels of government (local, regional, national and supranational) have become mutually dependent for realizing their policy-objectives.
  • Comparative politics scholars try to understand the EU by asking the same type of questions they ask when examining nation-states. It is exactly by comparing the EU to national political systems that it becomes possible to find out how and why the EU operates differently compared to its member states.
© Herman Lelieveldt and Sebastiaan Princen 2011 & Cambridge University Press