Editors: Hubert Zimmermann and Andreas Dur
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Price: £65.00 and £24.99
ISBN: 9781137006158 and 06141
This innovative textbook presents the European Union through 14 significant European controversies, each covered by a pair of combative experts taking opposing sides of the argument. The 28 contributors have a mere six or seven pages each. The result is educationally stimulating but, given the complex and disputed nature of some of the material, it is not surprising that some authors make their case more effectively than others.
The chosen topics range, quite rightly, over the whole spectrum of economic, political and even philosophical questions about the EU, as well as some of the major policy areas. The first group of half-a-dozen debates consider fundamental issues: Has the EU been a success or a failure? Is too much power being concentrated in Brussels, or with the European Court of Justice? Is a “democratic deficit” inevitable? And can there be a common European identity?
The policy-related controversies forming the bulk of the book have clearly been chosen as much for their potential to stimulate debate and argument in class as for their intrinsic overall significance. This will be useful, but it means that some contributors, understandably, use their limited space to focus on one aspect of a familiar and many-sided problem - discussing, for instance, the making of the EU’s external economic policy essentially through the role of interest groups, or the regional or “cohesion” policy largely in terms of its institutional management rather than its achievements or failings, or the military aspects of the EU’s external relations with almost no reference to foreign policy - and readers of the book will need to be aware of this.
Further controversies covered include the uncertain fate of the euro; the EU’s protracted attempts at regulating finance and banking; the Cohesion Policy, lobbying on foreign economic policy and the prospects for a European Army; the Common Agricultural Policy; the question of whether the EU’s foreign policy should or could be that of a civilian or “normative” example to the world, or must more closely resemble that of a “normal” state; and the question of whether the EU’s Eastern enlargement should press on to include Turkey or has already gone too far.
Some readers will quickly note that certain of the authors take a polemical line whereas others are more balanced. This is all to the good in a book that undertakes the challenge of guiding students through hotly contested territory, and will add to the excitement and pedagogical benefit of the journey. The notes in most of the chapters and the comprehensive bibliography should guide students to the necessary background information, and the book should find an important place in the EU teaching armoury.
Who is it for?
Undergraduate students of the EU in politics or European studies degree courses.
Original and clear, although more figures would have strengthened some of the arguments.
Would you recommend it?
Yes, fairly strongly.