The Union, in part and in whole

Europe Recast - European Union Enlargement. First edition - Spain and the European Union. First edition - The European Union and British Politics. First edition
November 26, 2004

These four books suggest that, far from being saturated, the market for books on the European Union remains buoyant.

In making a major contribution to this relatively new body of literature, Desmond Dinan, in Europe Recast , focuses his attention on institutional and policy developments from the end of the Second World War to the present day. He argues that, although national interest was crucial in shaping the European integration process, EU histories should not ignore the contribution of idealism. It is this heady mix - in Dinan’s words, “a felicitous combination” - of ideological struggle, the role of strong individuals and bureaucratic intrigue that makes the story of European union so fascinating.

After a short introduction spelling out the aims of the book, Dinan divides the chapters chronologically, covering key phases in the EU’s history up to and including the Maastricht Treaty. The penultimate chapter, which discusses “Challenges of European Union”, brings the book up to date through a review of a number of key post-Maastricht issues, including enlargement and institutional change. A short conclusion then draws out some of the book’s key themes.

Europe Recast
is a worthy addition to the still relatively few books covering the history of the European integration project. Useful as a set text for any chronologically structured course, it is also certain to become recommended background reading for anyone who wants a quick and not-too-dry introduction to the subject.

European Union Enlargement makes for a distinctive textbook. For a start, it is an edited collection; second, although it can accurately be labelled as a textbook, it is one of those books that falls into the shady area between texts and monographs. This is not to claim that it is “difficult” or that it might be a challenge for undergraduate students.

Arising out of a research workshop, the book is not simply a summary or synthesis of the enlargement literature, as one might at first expect. It has a specific purpose: to define and explain the implications of the 2004 enlargement on various aspects of EU politics and policy. This is an ambitious objective, given that the book was completed before the May 2004 enlargement.
Four early chapters by the editor, Neill Nugent, are written in conventional textbook mode, however, reviewing key issues in what is labelled the “10+2 enlargement” and offering a helpful survey of enlargements past. Later chapters examine specific aspects of the EU from the perspective of the 2004 enlargement. Topics covered are identity, citizenry, economy, the budget, institutions and governance, intergovernmental politics, European monetary union, justice and home affairs, external economic relations, foreign policy and development policy.

The book concludes with a short chapter on integration/EU theories and how they relate to the theme of enlargement, with a second concluding chapter by the editor, which raises interesting questions that might be used to structure seminar discussions.
The other two books under review examine European integration from the perspectives of individual member states, namely Spain and the UK. Both examine European policy within the sphere of domestic politics, but also devote much time to analysing the impact of the EU on domestic politics, institutions and policy.

Spain and the European Union dissects the relationship between the EU and Spanish politics. The book begins with a short contextual history covering Francoism, the democratisation of the post-Franco period, and the accession and its impact. Subsequent chapters deal with the “input” side of the political system (the role of public opinion, political parties, pressure groups), the institutions of central government, and with territorial politics in the Autonomous Communities.
It also examines the Spanish contribution to the union, the tensions over specific policies, and the impact of the EU on the Spanish economy and on other policies, such as cohesion, foreign policy, and justice and home affairs.

The framework presented in the introduction gives something of a whistle-stop tour through European integration theory, but it does introduce the reader to the concept of Europeanisation, and thus to the primary argument of the book. This argument - that while Spain has become highly Europeanised the process of doing so has also permitted the emergence of a genuinely national project - is developed in a short concluding chapter.

In The European Union and British Politics , Andrew Geddes deals with similar themes, but the book is organised somewhat differently and, at first sight, not in the most user-friendly way. However, it does include key elements, such as two chapters on the history of Britain’s relationship with Europe - the first covering the period before accession in 1973, and the second on the period from accession up to new Labour.

There are also chapters on Britain and the European institutions, Britain and EU politics, the British state and European integration, party politics and Euroscepticism, and on public attitudes and media presentation. A final chapter is organised around six key questions about the EU and British politics. Once again, these can be used to good effect as a way of framing seminar discussions on Britain’s role in Europe.

The most unusual chapters, however, are two and three. Two offers an excellent assessment of British “awkwardness”, picking up on Stephen George’s understanding of Britain as an “awkward partner” in the EU. Three attempts to explain the jargon that pervades the world of European integration. Concepts such as federalism and subsidiarity are covered; so too is a discussion of European integration theory. While this is not the most intuitively organised chapter in the book, it may turn out to be the most useful for both students and teachers of EU politics.

Michelle Cini is senior lecturer in politics, Bristol University.

Europe Recast: A History of European Union. First edition

Author - Desmond Dinan
Publisher - Palgrave Macmillan
Pages - 371
Price - £52.50 and £17.99
ISBN - 0 333 98733 0 and 98734 9

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments