Differentiated integration in the European Union: a comparative study of party and government preferences in Finland, Sweden and Norway
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In the field of European studies, the notion of ‘differentiated integration’ (Stubb 1996) was developed in the late 1990s as an alternative to the crude membership/non-membership dichotomy. While the theoretical benefits of this approach are broadly discussed in the existing literature, further empirical studies have been deemed necessary (Holzinger and Schimmelfennig 2012). The Nordic states constitute a particularly interesting laboratory in order to study this phenomenon. Indeed, while these states share several socio-economic and political characteristics, they also differ in terms of their relationship with the European Union. Several studies on these relationships emphasise the relevance of certain contextual variables as key explanatory factors for the variation in attitudes between the Nordic states. However, there is also lack of analysis that looks into the domestic political features that these countries share. Furthermore, most studies in the field tend to ignore the respective government’s positions on European integration, and mostly adopt a top-down approach when focusing on the nation-state as a whole. Adopting a most similar systems design, this thesis aims to answer the following question: have Nordic government preferences on European integration been influenced by domestic political factors? In order to answer this question, four domestic variables are introduced and analysed: relative strength of parties in parliament; composition of government; type of government; and government ideology. Within this comparative framework, three Nordic countries have been selected: the first one belonging to the ‘inner core’ of the European Union (Finland);; while the second is located at its ‘outer core’ (Sweden);; and the third one serves as a control case as an ‘EU-outsider’ which is still located in the Union’s ‘inner periphery’ (Norway). For each state, the analysis starts in the early 1990s, when ‘Europe’ developed into a politically salient issue in domestic politics. The focus is furthermore set on their respective government’s positions regarding five distinct policy areas: participation in the European Economic Area; application for European Union membership; participation in the Schengen Area; participation in the Economic and Monetary Union; and participation in European Battle Groups. The main findings of the thesis suggest that when analysing governments’ positions on (differentiated) European integration, the domestic political features should not be downplayed. For instance, the Swedish government’s opposition to participation in the EMU in 1997 is mostly explained by a lack of party consensus over this issue, unlike in Finland where a broad inter-party agreement was secured for this policy area. The analysis further suggests that studies on party and government preferences on Europe should focus on policy areas rather than on the issue of integration as a whole. Such a focus provides for better understanding of the nature of ‘Euroscepticism’ in the Nordic region and, to a broader extent, in Europe.