Protected and confederated: power politics and the forging of European Union
Kenealy, Daniel Peter
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This thesis explores the origins and evolution of European integration through the lens of classical realism. Classical realism, as an approach to International Relations, has had little to say about one of the most fascinating and politically important developments in the post-war international system, namely the effort by Western European states to integrate economically from the 1950s onwards. Grounded in classical realism’s ontology of power and the desire by states to secure autonomy and exert influence in the international system the thesis argues that a combination of military power, economic power, and power over opinion can explain the main contours and dynamics of integration. At the core of the argument is the idea of ‘Three Europe’s’ – Protected Europe, Confederated Europe, and a Europe of States – which have coexisted in a stable equilibrium for most of the post-war era. Protected Europe is grounded in both the military power and capacity of the United States and the national interest of the United States, remarkably static from 1945 onwards, to play a hegemonic role within the European military and security sphere. It was Protected Europe that created the military security and stability necessary for Western European states to pursue economic integration. It altered the guns versus butter trade-off and permitted Western European states to invest more in their welfare states. Most importantly if resolved the security dilemma that had existed between the most powerful states on the continent, France and Germany, and created a context in which their interaction shifted to one of intensive cooperation. The product was Confederated Europe. The logic at the core of Confederal Europe was a desire by France to bind Germany, and consent by the Germans to be bound. This was done for a variety of reasons. Internally the concern was to exert as much control over Germany as possible and Germany’s long-term national interest – to secure normalisation, independence, and reunification – complemented this urge. Externally the concern was to secure autonomy in the global economic system and to project power and influence within that system. But the components of the confederation remained distinct nation states and thus a Europe of States existed in an often uneasy tension with Confederal Europe. The fault line between a supranational economic structure and a political structure still tied to the states created intermittent tensions and political earthquakes that have punctuated the history of post-war Europe. However, throughout the period the European masses formed a permissive consensus vis-à-vis integration and, given the rather limited and technical nature of the confederation, this minimised the inherent tension between Confederal Europe and the Europe of States. All three Europe’s are, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, in a state of flux. The decline in the relative power of the United States, and the rise of new challenges in the Asia-Pacific, has triggered a strategic pivot away from Europe and a weakening of the commitment to Protected Europe. How Europe will manage this shift remains unclear but a more prominent European leadership role in NATO or a rejuvenated and more focused European security and defence policy seem necessary. The historical balance between a France that wished to bind and a Germany that consented to be bound has shifted palpably. More willing to act as a ‘normalised’ power in the European system, Germany has emerged as a clearly dominant actor and this will require a shift in the diplomatic practices of a European system that has become used to France leading and Germany both following and supplying the supporting economic power. If Confederal Europe is to survive it must accept stronger German leadership. Finally the permissive consensus at the mass level is being eroded as European integration touches upon ever-more salient policy spheres. This means that the power of the idea of Europe has to be strengthened and entrenched more firmly, thus diluting the prominence of the Europe of States, or integration must retrench to bring its competences back into line with its legitimacy.