Impact of European Integration on Member States' Political Institutions

Adaptation of State Structures

Seminar Paper, 2012
14 Pages, Grade: 2,0



A. Introduction

B. Europeanization

C. Domestic Change
I. Partial Assessments
II. Anderson 2002
III. Schmidt 2006
IV. Provisional Results

D. Conclusions

A. Introduction

For over 60 years now European integration—or ‘Europeanization’—takes places. It can hardly be doubted, that there is ‘something’ going on in Europe since six European countries established the European Coal and Steel Community by the Treaty of Paris in 1951 until today, when 27 European countries—under the pressure of the Euro-crisis—seriously discuss to promote a political union.

The European states signed numerous treaties. A swelling stream of legal acts flows from the EU’s institutions to the member states. Representatives, executives, and judges all over the EU have, on the one hand, to obey, but gained additional channels to exert influence, on the other (cf. Hix and Goetz 2001, pp. 3 et seq.).

As obvious as these developments are, the much debated is the effective impact of European integration on the EU member states. In this paper I focus on the polity dimension of Europeanization. I follow the question: Has European integration led to an adaptation of the state structures of the EU member states? In other words: Is there a trend towards homogenization of the member states’ political institutions, i.e. the legislatives, the executives, and the judiciaries?

Due to the fact that authors use the term ‘Europeanization’ differently, I first clarify in what sense I use it in this paper. In my opinion, the dominant notions of the term are too narrow. Second, I summarize the existing literature on the issue of domestic changes in the EU member states. I highlight the studies of Anderson 2002 and Schmidt 2006, which are the most comprehensive ones on the issue and, at the same time, represent the two major answers to the question. Third, I draw my conclusions.

B. Europeanization

The meaning of the term ‘Europeanization’ is debated, and at least three different major notions can be distinguished.

Risse, Cowles and Caporaso 2001 understand Europeanization as “the emergence and development at the European level of distinct structures of governance” (p. 3-4). This definition zooms in on the top European level. Since I want to show the impact of Europeanization on the member states, this definition would be too narrow.

Another notion of Europeanization, formulated by Héritier 2001, defines it as the “process of influence deriving from European decisions and impacting member states’ policies and political and administrative structures”. As I am confessed that Europeanization is often also triggered by domestic factors and actors, this pure ‘top-down’ perspective would be too tight as well.

For Radaelli 2003 Europeanization means the “processes of (a) construction, (b) diffusion and (c) institutionalization of (…) rules, procedures, policy paradigms, (…) and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU public policy and politics and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures, and public policies” (p. 30). Radaelli focuses on the relationship between the European level and domestic entities, and describes it as both a ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ process. I agree with Radaelli insofar that Europeanization vertically proceeds in both directions—from the EU level to the domestic level and vice versa. Despite this, in my opinion a third dimension is missing: ‘Construction’, ‘diffusion’, and ‘institutionalization’ do not only happen at the top-level alone. Europeanization also proceeds horizontally between the member states without loop way over the EU institutions.[1] In addition, the concept that best captures homogenization is isomorphism. Only institutional isomorphism can explain ‘informal’ mimetic and normative processes that lead to organizational homogenization besides the ‘formal’ coercive explanation.[2]

Hence, Europeanization—for me—is a threefold institutional isomorphic process—from the EU level to the member states (‘top down’ dimension), from the member states to the EU level (‘bottom up’ dimension), and between the member states without loop way over the official EU institutions (inter-state dimension). By the way, following this understanding of Europeanization, the distinction between positive, negative, and framing integration (cf. Knill and Lehmkuhl1999, p. 1 et seq.) becomes obsolete.

C. Domestic Change

A large number of studies have been conducted due to the polity dimension of Europeanization. However, most of these studies do not assess the whole picture, but concentrate on certain political institutions or selected member states, and finally follow different methodological approaches.

I. Partial Assessments

Some authors compare the member states’ legislatives (McElroy 2006, Raunio and Hix 2001), some their executives (Goetz 2001, Héritier 2001, Kassim 2003, Knill and Lenschow 2001, Tallberg 2006), and others their judiciaries (Chalmers 2001, Conant 2001, Conant 2006). While the ‘big three’ EU members—France, Germany and the United Kingdom—are very often part of case studies (Caporaso and Jupille 2001, Chalmers 2001, Conant 2001, Goetz 2001, Knill and Lenschow 2001), some works focus on smaller countries (Sbragia 2001, Jones 2005, Egeberg 2005, Falkner and Laffan 2005), or the ‘new’ member states (Goetz 2005). Finally some authors follow an empirical whereas others a more theoretical approach (Börzel and Risse 2000, Knill and Lehmkuhl 1999).

All these differences make it hard to formulate a general conclusion. Given the substantive, analytical, and methodological diversity of the Europeanization literature and the breadth of topics covered, generalizations about its substantive findings are necessarily a hazardous undertaking, especially if they supposed to apply to all member states. But although these studies comprehend neither the full political institutional systems nor all EU member states, and follow different methods, a common denominator of their outcomes can be drawn: The political institutions of the EU member states have changed—but differently (cf. Bursens 2007, p. 124 et seq.). In some areas and in some countries the institutional systems converged—in others they diverged. Different trends in different countries have—for instance—been assessed for the legislative by Raunio and Hix 2001, for the executive by Knill and Lenschow 2001, and for the judiciary by Conant 2001.

Thus, the overview of the partial assessment does not reveal a general pattern or trend of adaptation of the member states’ institutional structures.


[1] The horizontal dimension is possibly the earliest form of ‘Europeanization’ (sic!).

[2] I recognize that some of the socialization approaches of neo-institutionalists partially tend to the same direction.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Impact of European Integration on Member States' Political Institutions
Adaptation of State Structures
German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer  (German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer)
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ISBN (Book)
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European Integration, Europeanization, Europeanisation, Polity, Adaptation, State Structures
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Tim A. Fongern (Author), 2012, Impact of European Integration on Member States' Political Institutions, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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