The Future of the EU between Independence and Interdependence

Almost all contributions to the collection ‘The End of Eurocrats’ Dream’, edited by Damian Chalmers, Markus Jachtenfuchs and Christian Joerges touch upon a tension that has been implicit in the integration process from the very start, but has only explicitly manifested itself during the Euro-crisis: the tension between independence and interdependence. This tension is also evident in the refugee crisis, and in (the aftermath of) Brexit: how can we at once accept Member State autonomy (in fiscal policy, border control or deciding on the conditions for EU membership) while at the same time sustaining collective commitments towards, say, a monetary union, Schengen or free movement?

As many authors in the edited collection have highlighted, the Union’s traditional answer to this question has been to use law in cutting through political opposition to its policy objectives, and in institutionalizing strong compliance mechanisms. In hindsight, and now that it is under pressure, it must be said that this approach has worked remarkably well for the first 50 years of European integration. It is little surprise, as highlighted in the book’s introduction, that law (if not the traditions of the democratic Rechtstaat) have also been a frequent fall-back mechanism in the EU’s ‘rescue’ of the Eurozone. The arrival in quick succession of the three major crises of the EU’s history have highlighted, however, that using law only gets us to a certain point. Law lacks the capacity to resolve the tension between independence and interdependence in a manner that is legitimate and authoritative where it operatives in isolation from political contestation.

The most interesting contributions to the edited collection, in fact, go beyond this diagnosis of the problem, and suggest treatments options ...

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