Deep divisions persist among members of the European Union as the recent crises of monetary union and massive immigration show. The biggest and basic problem is the lack of agreement on the final destination of the integration process, argues Giandomenico Majone, who calls for a decentralized system of operational agencies, tackling specific problems and being directly responsible for the results they achieve.
By Giandomenico Majone
The crises of monetary union and massive immigration from the Middle East have dramatically revealed the deep divisions still separating the members of the Union. The older Member States claim that the solution is to be found in a multi-speed approach to integration. Such an approach cannot solve the basic problem, which is the lack of agreement on the final destination of the integration process.
Functional Approach to Integration
Being in favour of a generalized agencification of Europe, i.e., in favour of a move to a strictly functional approach to European integration, means a change of approach that is the natural consequence of a change of the main criterion used to assess the consequences of integration: from evaluation in terms of process to evaluation in terms of actual results. The priority previously assigned to process made it possible to claim that the continuous expansion of supranational powers had produced a steady flow of benefits. The new focus on results makes it increasingly difficult to appeal to the indefinite goal of ‘ever closer union’.
Decentralized System of Operational Agencies
I argue that until the Member States reach an agreement on the final destination of the integration process, the focus of collective action should shift from the present emphasis on supranational institutions and policy harmonization to a decentralized system of operational agencies, tackling specific problems and being directly responsible for the results they achieve. Once the benefits of this mode of integration are generally recognized, it becomes meaningful to advocate close cooperation also in the political sphere—as long as one does not repeat the neofunctionalist mistake of assuming that close economic relations sooner or later must lead to political integration. Instead of trying to transfer to the European level all the key economic policies of the nation- state, collective efforts should concentrate on what Europe needs most if it is still to play a significant role internationally: a truly common foreign and security policy.
See for a more detail account of this argument: TARN working paper
Professor Majone is Emeritus Professor at the European University Institute in Florence.