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European elites of the European Union: what vision for the future?

By Vivien A. Schmidt


When European ministers meet in the Council, they bring to the table very different visions of what the EU is and should be as well as of their country’s role in the EU. Although ministers have 27 different senses of their country's identity in Europe, they tend to hold one or more of four basic discourses about the EU’s identity: the pragmatic discourse of a borderless problemsolving free market; the normative discourse of a bordered values-based community; the principled discourse of a border-free, rights-based post-national union; the strategic discourse of a global actor doing international relations differently. Can such visions co-exist? And can the EU continue to move forward if European leaders hold to these views? This paper argues that there is one way: if European leaders were to think about the EU’s decision-making processes and future boundaries differently, to accept that the EU is a ‘regional state,’ and to give up on the rules of unanimity and ideals of uniformity which were adopted fifty years ago and adapted to six member-states. To demonstrate this, the paper analyzes each the four discourses in turn, enhanced by illustrations from the member-states which adhere to each of the discourses. It concludes with a discussion of how to re-envision the EU so as to allow for the co-existence of the visions in an EU that continues to widen and deepen

Topics: decision making/policy-making
Year: 2009
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