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Is Europeanization A Useful Concept Economics Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Essentially, the term “Europeanization” deals with the fact that national politics, administration and policies are affected by the process of European integration. “Only by the end of the 1990s did the term Europeanization come to denote a distinctive research area in EU studies”(Sedelmeier, 2006). The term has no real common definition in the social science literature, however, it is commonly referred to as ‘a process by which domestic policy areas become increasingly subject to European policy-making’. This definition was made in connection with a study of sub-national policy responses within Spain and Germany(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 12) and it was also made by Robert Ladrech who stated that the “broad engagement of the EU in domestic politics is called Europeanization”(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 47). “In recent years it has become commonplace to speak of the European Union(EU) as a significant actor in the domestic policy-making of its member states”(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 47). As Robert Ladrech points out “an estimated 60 percent of domestic policy making must be co-ordinated with Brussels”(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 47) at the present time. This is more than half of domestic policy that needs to be referred back to the European Union.

Another common definition used is the “exploring the impact of integration upon the member states(and sometimes upon applicants or near-neighbours of the EU) is generally termed “Europeanization””(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005 : 10). For this reason we will be “exploring” how the impact of EU integration affects not only candidate countries, but also member states.

After defining what Europeanization is, the question to ask ourselves now is whether “Europeanization” is a useful concept or not. We will look at how “Europeanization” affects two countries, Spain and Lithuania, in order to seek out the answer to this question. As Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, it is still considered a relatively new Member State and the effects of “Europeanization” as a Member State are still ambiguous. For this reason we will be looking at Lithuania as a candidate country and how “Europeanization” affects countries before they adhere to the European Union. We will look at Spain before its adhesion to the European Union and how it is distinctive from the recent candidate Member States. We will also look at Spain of today and how “Europeanization” is still in motion in a Member State and how it affects its domestic policies.

While acknowledging that the relationship between the member states and the European Union is an interactive one, most attention is focussed on one side of the equation(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 46). Most attention is focussed on the ‘bottom-up’ process: “EU-member state relationship of exploring the role of the member states in the European institution-building process”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 46). As was said in Bulmer and Lequesne “a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between the member states and the European Union requires the systematic integration of the two dimensions” (2005: 46). This means that we also need to look at the ‘top-down’ process: “analysis of the effect of the evolving European system of governance on the member states” (Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 46).

Rational Choice Institutionalism is a theory which can be used to explain the “bottom-up” process. “Rationalist institutionalism, with its focus on the external incentives underpinning EU conditionality, and on the material costs incurred by domestic veto players, appears well suited to explaining variation in the patterns of Europeanization in candidate countries.”(Sedelmeier, 2006) Proponents of this theory argue that political actors’ rational choices are constrained (“bounded rationality”) but, individuals realize their goals can be best achieved through institutions. As stated by Shepsle, an institution “is a script that names the actors, their respective behavioral repertoires(or strategies), the sequence in which the actors choose from them, the information they possess when they make their selections, and the outcome resulting from the combination of actor choices”(2005: 2). If we take this model of institutionalism, the European Union can be regarded as the institution, the Member States can be regarded as the actors and their “respective behavioral repertoires” can be viewed as either EU law or domestic policies.

The European Economic Area (EEA) agreement between the EU and most members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) “created a regime in which the non-member states unilaterally adopted the EU’s rules and regulations – the acquis communautaire (except for agriculture)”(Sedelmeier, 2006). The acquis communautaire is a process by which the candidate countries must acquire the total body of the EU law. The candidate countries must also progress in order to meet the requirements of membership by adhering to certain criteria:

“the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;

the existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union;

the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union and the administrative capacity to effectively apply and implement the acquis.”(European Commission, 2005)

The EU’s adjustment requirements did not only include the implementation of the acquis communautaire, but also, as point one makes, “an explicit political and economic conditionality, which covered many rules for which EU institutions have no legal competences vis-à-vis full member states (such as democracy and minority rights).”(Sedelmeier, 2006). These are the criteria that Lithuania, and the other Central and Eastern European candidate countries, had to adhere to.

Europeanization in candidate countries can be seen as a subfield of Europeanization research as it has distinctive characteristics to the Europeanization of Member States – “First, the status of candidates as non-members has implications on the instruments used by EU institutions to influence the adjustment process. EU institutions cannot rely on the treaty-based sanctions, but have to use softer instruments, including conditional incentives, normative pressure, and persuasion. At the same time, monitoring of compliance is much more intrusive and direct than in full member states. Second, as non-member states, the candidates had no voice in the making of the rules that they have to adopt and the power asymmetry vis-à-vis the incumbents has led to a top-down process of rule transfer, with no scope for ‘uploading’ their own preferences to the EU level”(Sedelmeier, 2006). This can be seen in the acquis of Eastern European countries, such as Lithuania.

By Western European standards, all Eastern and Central European candidate countries were poor, stunted by forty years of communism( Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 13). “Well before beginning formal accession negotiations, the EU strove to bring the Central and Eastern European Countries up to a level of economic performance, political stability and administrative capacity necessary to endure the pressures of membership”(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 13). It did this by implementing the acquis communautaire and providing certain criteria that the candidate countries had to adhere to. The Central and Eastern European countries that were considered accessible for EU accession negotiations were Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Estonia and Slovenia were making reasonably rapid progress, although they were only marginally further ahead than that of the other two Baltic States(Latvia and Lithuania), yet were, according to the EU, also ready to make accession negotiations in 1998. The EU’s formal differentiation between the five front runners and the rest caused great concern for the countries that did not begin negotiations.

When in 1997 Lithuania failed to be invited to the first round of European Union(EU) accession negotiations, the news triggered a frenzy of defensive posturing and finger pointing throughout the Lithuanian political class(Pettai & Zielonka, 2003: 104). Lithuania, among with the other countries, feared that they would fall further behind. “The shock of rejection, or of perceived rejection, galvanized the other five applicants to catch up with the rest as soon as possible”(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 16). This prompted Lithuania and others to get their act together and work as hard as they could to catch up with the other countries.

During the Eastern European Accession the adjustment pressures were larger than for other candidate members as national policies had to be changed. It was the post-communism era, where all most member states knew little of nationalism, their countries were poor and were still recovering from being dominated by a communistic dictatorship. The adjustment pressures were different than to those who aided in making the rules, such as Spain. “In the 1978 Spanish Constitution, Articles 93-6 are devoted to international treaties; thus they were used as the basis for Spanish integration into the EC system”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 150). This made it easier for Spain to adhere to criteria and it was these articles that made the accession of Spain into the EU more fluid.

The European Union used a screening exercise as an incentive for the Eastern European candidate countries to do better. The EU kept a record of how each country was doing and the results were available for all to see. In October 2002, EU leaders decided at their summit that eight of the applicants, including Lithuania, would be eligible to join in 2004, subject to a resolution of all outstanding issues, notably agriculture, before the end of the year(Cowles & Dinan, 2004: 17). Lithuania finally, after nine years, joined the EU on the 1st of May 2004.

The distinctiveness of candidate country Europeanization compared to Member State Europeanization suggests that the post-accession period will be a key test for the effectiveness of the mechanisms used by the EU to ‘Europeanise’ these countries prior to accession (Sedelmeier, 2006). We will look at the impact of accession on the dynamics of pre-accession Europeanization and “how durable the patterns of candidate Europeanization are in the post-accession stage”(Sedelmeier, 2006). We will look at Lithuania’s economy in order to see if the EU integration has harmed or benefited its economy.

It is necessary to emphasize that during the period of 2001-2003, when there where no doubts about the forthcoming accession of Lithuania to the EU, the integration benefit was notable: expansion of export to developed countries accelerated, level of emigration increased and foreign investors become more active.(Piesarskas, 2007). Researches on the effect of integration in the EU forecasted Lithuania to have only positive effects of economic accession into the EU. The predicted yearly increase of Lithuanian GDP in the long term by Lithuanian and foreign scientific studies showed that this would grow “from 0.6 to 2.1%”( Piesarskas, 2007). The majority of calculations predicted also showed that the Central and Eastern European countries would gain more from the integration than the already Member States. From 2004 to 2005, Lithuania’s GDP grew from 7.3% to 7.9%, which resulted in a 0.6% rise as predicted(Piesarskas, 2007).

There are three other developments that provide an important context to the term Europeanization. These three propositions are: “that integration strengthens the state; that integration creates a new multi-level politics thereby recalibrating how domestic actors respond to integration; and that the EU transformed governance”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 11). These three propositions can be seen in the example of Spain. As Börzel points out there are also three other key aspects of Europeanization: “the dimensions, mechanics, and outcomes of domestic impact.”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 45).

Spain was a poor, mainly agriculture-based country marked by forty years of Franco’s dictatorship and subsequent international isolation. The negotiations for EC membership lasted for nearly a decade with the membership treaty being signed on 12 June 1985(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 143). The accession of Spain to the EU meant, for political elite and public opinion alike, “the return to the Western world from which the country felt excluded”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 146). In the case of Spain, the political process was of shaping, not making, democracy. Spain adapted their institutional machinery to EU membership. This meant for easier access into the EU.

Since joining the EU, Spain has successfully advanced in the world of politics. In March 1996, Jose Maria Aznar’s Popular Party (PP) won a plurality of votes. Aznar then moved on to decentralize powers to the regions and liberalize the economy, with a program of privatization, labour market reform, and measures designed to increase competition in selected markets. During Aznar’s first term, Spain fully integrated into European institutions, qualifying for the European Monetary Union(U.S. Department of State, 2009). This means, in terms of “Europeanization”, that Spain was now a fully functioning “Europeanized” Member State. The integration of the EU strengthened the State and created a new multi-level politics.

Spain also saw the EU integration as “a means for achieving economic modernization” (Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 142). After Spain’s accession in 1986, Spain’s economy was confronted with opening itself to trade and investment, improve its infrastructure, and modernize its industrial base. It also had to adapt to EU guidelines by revising its economic legislation. This proved to be a great success for Spain as these measures helped the Spanish economy to grow rapidly. “Unemployment fell from 23% in 1986 to a low point of 8% in mid-2007″(U.S. Department of State, 2009). After adopting the Euro in 2002, the country received a further boom in the economy. It received this boom due to greatly reduced interest rates which spurred a housing boom.

In relation to the Euro, we can answer the questions “where does the European Union affect the member states(dimensions of domestic change)?” and “how does the European Union affect the member states(mechanisms of domestic change)?”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 47). The European Monetary Union shows in what field the European Union affects member states – it affects the domestic currency and the domestic economy – and it also shows how the European Union affects member states – by implementing a unitary currency.

The Euro was established by the provisions in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. In order to participate in the currency, Member States are meant to meet strict criteria such as a budget deficit of less than three per cent of their GDP, a debt ratio of less than sixty per cent of GDP, low inflation, and interest rates close to the EU average. These provisions encouraged the Member States to advance themselves in order to benefit from the Euro. These provisions act more like “goals” where the hope of the European Union is to become “one”, a unity, in which all countries are equal and therefore enhance the power of the European Union as a whole. This also answer the question “what is the effect of the European Union on the member states(outcome of domestic change)?”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 47).

In other words, as Bulmer and Lequesne stated “European processes and outcomes feedback on the domestic institutions, policies and political processes of the member states”(2005:46). This can be seen in Spain, where the country benefited majorly from European processes, as the Spanish are considered to be supporters of European Integration(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 145). “In Spain the support for European integration is coupled rather with a self re-evaluation and a perception of the centrality of Spanish interests in Europe”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 145). One of the reasons the Spanish model was so successful was because it placed major emphasis on strong and stable governments. “The Spanish Legislative Executive relationship has been defined as the most pro-government of Europe”(Bulmer & Lequesne, 2005: 148). This is because of the country’s turn around in 1996, where a structured government was put into practice and it proved to be successful.

After 40 years of dictatorship, Spain has managed to work its way up in the chain of Member States and become a successful democracy. “Europeanization” has benefited Spain not only by allowing it back into the international political scene and gaining greater influence in the EU but also by benefiting its economy. As a predominantly agriculture based economy in the 1980’s, Spain has expanded into a multi-economy, booming in tourism(cultural, religious and coastal), textile and agriculture. “Europeanization” is still at play today with its huge influence on domestic politics, as seen in 1996 when Spain increased government responsibility and enhanced the economy’s structure.

In the case of Lithuania, the process of “Europeanization” was successfully implemented before Lithuania’s adhesion to the EU. As a candidate country, Lithuania was pressurized into conforming to the EU standards, with the use of incentives and fear of falling behind other Eastern European Countries. The majority of “Europeanization” happened before Lithuania’s adhesion to the EU, showing that candidate countries are susceptible to “Europeanization” before accession. Lithuania’s politics and economy had already been adopted to suit the EU’s standards. The EU had full impact on Lithuania becoming a “Europeanized” country.

Acting in unison, the EU could potentially become a global super power. However, in practice governments find it hard to relinquish sovereignty on external affairs. National preferences are at times fundamentally at odds with each other. “The deep divisions that emerged in the early months of 2003 between the EU Member States over the intervention on Iraq well underlined this state of affairs and sobered up any far-reaching ambitions the Convention might have had”(Verdun & Croci, 2005: 208). The two Member States discussed in this essay held two distinctive views to each other on the invasion of Iraq. Spain announced on January 24, 2003, that it would allow the use of its airbases in support of any military strike on Iraq but will not contribute troops to the war. Lithuania on the other hand offered humanitarian action in aid of Iraq: “Lithuania’s possible contribution to the settlement of the Iraq crisis will be not military but humanitarian participation, aimed at dealing with adverse consequences, by sending doctors, servicing staff and other specialists, as well as by participating in international programs aimed at helping the Iraqi people, including food aid.” — President Rolandas Paksas, Letter to President George Bush, March 19, 2003(Global Security, 2005). There was concern raised that the former communist, Eastern European states would merge with the United States of America and support them in the war in Iraq, however, from reading Lithuania’s statement there was no reason for concern. Although Spain did not physically intervene in the Iraq invasion, it did however offer aid and support to the USA.

If “Europeanization” acted in a way where all Member States of the EU consented to relinquishing their sovereignty, the European Union would have a greater effect on global issues. In this scenario, Europeanization would be useful in order to deem greater power on global issues and enable all Member States to equally contribute towards making global decisions. Regardless of these differences on international affairs, “Europeanization” deemed as a useful concept is a suitable statement when looking at the EU’s Member States, Spain and Lithuania.

If Europeanization is a process, rather than a status, in which the European Union affects domestic policies of member states, should the term be referred to as “EU-ization”? The term “Europeanization” connotes the Member States of the EU to adapt their domestic policies to that of EU law. This implies that instead of countries adhering to a universal European law, countries are adhering to a European Union law, which means that countries are being “EU-ized” instead of Europeanized. The sense of being included in a European community and yet still remaining a sovereign state by “Europeanization” masks the idea of the European Union wanting to dominate its Member States in order to evolve the EU into becoming an even bigger supranational power. It is also possible that “Europeanization” is nothing less than the convergence of countries to conform to the European Union. The Member States have converged into looking alike, acting alike and thinking alike.


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