The Six-Pack as a Test for the New Intergovernmentalism and Supranationalism Theories – An interview with Maria Valle-Flor, by Victor Thives

Comprising a total of six regulations and one directive, the “Six-Pack” was adopted in 2011 to strengthen the European Union (EU) economy as a response to the Euro crisis. The European economic turmoil led to the blurring of the two main decision-making procedures in the EU: the intergovernmental and the community method. By analyzing the Six-Pack, professor Valle-Flor identifies a new decision-making method in the Union – the intergovernmental-supranational one – which she explores in her article The Six-Pack as a Test for the New Intergovernmentalism and Supranationalism Theories published in RBPI (Vol. 61, n. 1 – 2018).

Valle-Flor argues that while the Six-Pack case underlines the way the classical community method had to readjust to the current days within the specific field of economic policy, it also substantiates the tenets of new intergovernmentalism as member states debate their preferences and policy alternatives in forums, influencing the results. Moreover, she shows that the consensual agreement through deliberation in the Six-Pack was based on a distorted consensus, which most of the time reflected the North/South divide. Professor Valle-Flor was interviewed by Victor Thives, member of the editorial team of RBPI, regarding her views on topics related to her work.

Even though analysts tend to evaluate the European integration process as successful in the long run, you point the growing lack of trust from the European citizens in the Union as one of the main challenges faced by Brussels these days. Indeed, we’ve seen the rise of Eurosceptic parties all over Europe. What’s the cause of such discontent?

The weak output performance of the policies undertaken to solve the euro crisis (i.e. low economic growth rates, deflation risks and unemployment spreading across Europe mainly within countries in the periphery), led to the overthrow of governments, popular unrest, the rise of extremist parties, an increase in Euro-scepticism, and even anti-European parties spreading from North to South. The politicization of the EU also changed both the content and the process of decision-making. In fact, while the first three decades of integration were years of “permissive consensus,” the last three decades might be described, by contrast, as times of “constraining dissensus.” However, although rising Euroscepticism poses an existential threat to the EU, it may be risky to fuel anti-EU sentiment. That is because countries can now see that article 50 can be swiftly applied and its negotiations may be very punitive for the exiting country.

By analyzing the Six-Pack, your findings point to a new decision-making method emerging within the EU: the intergovernmental-supranational one. Do you believe this new procedure is also in place when it comes to dealing with other dominant Europeans issues, like the migration crises, for instance?

The intergovernmental-supranational method applies better when we speak about economic governance. Social issues like the migration crises fit more comprehensively in the concepts of the “new governance” such as the open method of coordination. Even though the EU has the legal powers to regulate migration, the papers produced by the Commission so far, that explore the concepts of “regional disembarkation platforms” and “controlled centres,” refer to the undefined use of “tolls” instead of legal instruments.

Long before the Brexit, the United Kingdom seemed skeptic of some of the integration processes within the EU, opting out of many of its mechanisms, such as the Economic and Monetary Union, the Schengen Area, and even the European Fiscal Compact, as you’ve shown in your analyses. That said in light of your article’s framework, with the UK out could the community method grow stronger?

Brexit implications to the community method can be understood through its legislative bias. While the European Commission has the power to start legislation, it is up to the Council and the European Parliament (EP) to vote – on equal footing – on the legislative files. Implications for the EU decision-making after Brexit can thus be found in the voting processes in the Council. As different studies show, one country’s influence in the Council does not only reflect its weighting power but also the support it receives from other member states. As such, after the UK departure, the northern countries that used to align with the UK (e.g., Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands) will lose influence on decision-making. Nevertheless, although the UK was the most outvoted country in the Council (according to a VoteWatch publication), it has supported more than 90% of the EU laws in the past 13 years. As such, I don’t think Brexit is going to disturb the normal functioning of the community method. On the other hand, if we relate the community method to arrangements made within the EU framework – the institutional bias –, although the UK has always been skeptical of transferring sovereignty to the EU institutions (as was the case of the Fiscal Compact when it was first considered to be a European Treaty) I think the intergovernmental-supranational method will continue as the default method, as long as member states need the support, experience, and knowledge of the European institutions.

On the other hand, do you believe the rise of the Eurosceptic parties, along with the different crises the Union has been facing, could lead the decision-making procedure towards the intergovernmental method? Would this mean a setback in the European integration? If so, in what terms?

Euroscepticism influence on European decision-making can be found both in the way the members of the EP vote and the way the member states take their national interests to the Council. In both institutions, Eurosceptic parties and member state’s representatives in the Council don’t have, for the time being, a significant presence. Furthermore, and since the Brexit, there has been “a pro-European movement,” and Eurosceptic voices are now fading away since they do not have the UK backup. In the end, they know they can follow article 50.

Macron’s proposals to advance with European integration (with some of these being supported by Germany) were delayed mainly because the European economic spectrum is positive (according to the latest 2017 Eurobarometer, support for the euro is at its highest since 2004 in the euro area). Moreover, the setback in the European integration process can also be explained by the fact that the migration issues and trade policy are by far the most pressing issues on the European agenda. I think further integration is to take place based on the intergovernmental-supranational method. There is no setback but instead only a delay.

Read the article

Valle-Flor, Maria Sacadura. (2018). The Six-Pack as a Test for the New Intergovernmentalism and Supranationalism Theories. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 61(1), e006. Epub July 23, 2018.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201800106

About the authors

Maria Sacadura Valle-Flor – Higher Institute of Economics and Management (ISEG), Economic and Social History Office, Lisbon, Portugal (mariaameliavf@gmail.com).

Victor Thives holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Brasilia and is part of the editorial team of RBPI.

How to cite this interview

aclessa, "The Six-Pack as a Test for the New Intergovernmentalism and Supranationalism Theories – An interview with Maria Valle-Flor, by Victor Thives," in Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais, 02/09/2018, http://www.ibri-rbpi.org/?p=16423.

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