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Impact of the EU on Member States


The aim of this dissertation is to analyse how the European Union impacts on the national level of the foreign policy-making of its smaller Member States and how their role within the European political system and vis-à-vis other countries has or has not changed as a result. It will review the ways and means by which the national foreign policy-making of a small European state has been transformed by participation in a broader European political system. This topic was chosen because it relates to Malta, being the smallest country in terms of population and territory in the EU.

This dissertation will be approached purely from a political angle. The influence of EU membership on small states’ foreign-policy making will be examined by looking at the positions and strategies small states adopt during their day-to-day life in the EU and their behaviour towards EU Member States and non-EU Member States.

The literature examined shows that domestic factors such as public opinion, party politics and history seem to have considerable influence on the intensity and the pace of the process of Europeanization in small states. The post-Cold War context has also left its imprint on European foreign-policy making while international organisations have helped bring stability to small countries.

Europeanization is defined as an interactive and ongoing process of ‘Europeanizing’ countries, linking national and European levels. The institutions, structures, and processes utilized by the smaller Member States in Brussels are compared with a view to discovering whether there is evidence of convergence around a common model or whether national differences persist. Also analysed is the effectiveness of national actions in achieving the small member states’ intended goals and the factors that influence or determine performance at the European level.

Chapter 1

The Europeanization of National Foreign Policy

Since the failed European Defence Community (EDC), European Member States have increasingly felt the need to come up with common foreign policy positions. Two factors helped this process in recent years, namely globalization and European integration. By bringing states together in ‘high politics’, both globalization and European integration have left their trace on the traditional and modern Westphalian notions of sovereignty.[1]

However, in the post-modern context of European integration, the meaning of what constitutes sovereignty has changed. Strang argues that this is applicable to the concept and exercise of national foreign policy which in Europe has shifted from a national foreign policy created to secure a state’s sovereignty to one that is concerned with external issues; therefore adopting positions which are homogenous throughout the European Union.[2]

The terms ‘Europeanization of Member States’ and its outcome, the ‘Europeanization of national foreign policy’ are not new but they have become more well-known in recent years, following the increasing numbers of research projects that are being carried out in this field. Bulmer and Radaelli have identified four macro-dynamics that have stimulated an increasing interest in Europeanization.[3]

The first one is the institutionalization of the single market. Although the idea of the EU’s internal market has not yet been completely fulfilled, EU directives, regulations, and jurisprudence affecting national markets increased considerably since the Single European Act in 1986.[4]

The second reason is the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This is due to fact that EMU has not only created a single currency but it has also deepened the degree of interdependency and cooperation between other policies. Within the Euro zone, the outcomes and consequences of debates on key areas are not restricted simply to the nature of national policy but they also affect the process by which national policy is formulated.[5]

The third factor highlighting the debate of Europeanization is regulatory competition, having a direct relation to the single market. A number of European policy-makers think that “excessive regulatory competition may have already spawned a race-to-the-bottom, detrimental to the cause of the welfare state and the European social model”.[6] Europeanization could thus serve as a process by which national policies secure themselves in competitive terms within a broader EU context.

The fourth factor is the spill over effect from the process of enlargement of the European Union. The Copenhagen Criteria of 1993 contributed to quite a large degree of Europeanization. Candidate countries had to comply with vital European Union standards in relation to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and economic adjustment. The ‘Europeanization effect’ was very strong externally before the big-bang enlargement of 2004. After that the same ‘Europeanization effect’ has turned into something internal.[7]

These four macro-dynamics have had a significant effect on the foreign policy of European Union Member States which we will go into later on during this chapter while discussing what has changed in the character of the Member States, enabling them to ‘Europeanize’ their foreign policy in such a way as to make this topic interesting to study.

1.1 Defining Europeanization

Kevin Featherstone has claimed that “‘Europeanization’… can be a useful entry-point for greater understanding of important changes occurring in our politics and society. The obligation of the researcher is to give it a precise meaning”[8]

Having explained why Europeanization is such a hot issue, one needs to have a clear understanding of what exactly constitutes ‘Europeanization’. It is a word which has been given various interpretations in Western Europe by different authors throughout recent years.

The penetration of the European dimension into the national arena is the first thing that springs to mind when one hears the term ‘Europeanization’. Robert Ladrech (1994) was among the first to delve into the explanation of this term. He defines Europeanization as “an incremental process of re-orienting the direction and shape of politics to the extent that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of national politics and policy-making”.[9]

Therefore, when speaking of the Europeanization of a foreign policy, one is referring to “the process of foreign policy change at the national level originated by the adaptation pressures and the new opportunities generated by the European integration process”.[10] As the term has been applied to numerous fields including International Relations and social sciences, maybe the best way to define Europeanization in simple terms is as becoming more “European-like”.

From a Foreign Policy Analysis perspective, Ben Tonra, in his study about Danish and Irish Foreign Policies, defines Europeanization as

“a transformation in the way in which national foreign policies are constructed, in the ways in which professional roles are defined and pursued and in the consequent internalisation of norms and expectations arising from a complex system of collective European policy making.”[11]

“Europeanization”, as given in Tonra’s definition, is principally made up of two components – first, a political concept and second, a theoretic instrument.[12] The first implication is crystal clear; the political concept is present because firstly the European Union is a political body and secondly due to the interdependence between domestic politics and institutional structures and those of the European Union. The second term, the theoretical tool, is used to analyze the progress and change in the national and European Union policies and institutions, the influence they exert on each other and how they negotiate and get along with each other.

There are two dimensions to Europeanization. In the dynamics of EU-Member State relationships, Europeanization represents the ‘top-down’ approach or ‘reception’. This needs to be complemented by another dimension, the ‘projection’;

“European integration is not just ‘out there’ as some kind of independent variable; it is itself to a significant degree the product of member government’s wishes. Given that the European Union has its own organisational logic, it is necessary for national political actors […] to accommodate some of that logic if the opportunities afforded by the EU are to be exploited”[13]

A problem one encounters when assessing Europeanization is the difficulty to isolate the ‘EU-effect’ from other changes in the global, bilateral and national spheres.[14] So when defining ‘Europeanization’ there is a risk of conceptual stretching.[15] Conceptual stretching is the term used by Sartori meaning “the distortion that occurs when a concept does not fit the new cases”.[16] The limits of what can be classified under the term ‘Europeanization’ can be established either by examining if the changes which have occurred are of relevance to this process, by taking into account what is the link between the observed changes and the European integration process or else by exploring the changes inflicted in the light of other processes taking place on the international stage, running parallel to Europeanization.

1.2 Four Themes of Europeanization

There are four themes of Europeanization which are directly linked to the foreign policy of European Union Member States.[17]

The first one relates to new constraints and new instruments. There has to be a balance between formal and informal constraints, i.e. on the formal level there are transferred competences such as in the case of common policies (Trade, Agriculture, Fisheries) where national governments keep no direct competence in the areas which directly affect their relationship with other countries.[18] On the informal level, there are strong pressures to reach agreements and avoid unilateral action in areas which are dealt with jointly, as in CFSP discussions.[19] This is crucial for having a plausible European Foreign Policy in the eyes of third countries but also for internal cohesion and to consolidate an acquis upon which future policies can build. As regards European instruments, one needs to study how efficient they are when compared to national ones and how successful a Member State has proved to be in using the existing European instruments.

The second theme of Europeanization is becoming aware of identity, interests and preferences. Identity is all about the understanding of oneself. Participation in the common frame of European Foreign Policy has an effect on the external identity of Member States. Therefore, “national identities are defined or re-defined in the context of EFP, even if this is just for the purpose of making a difference with the other Member States’ external identity”.[20] National interest, on the other hand, does have an objective foundation which can be traced down to geographic, economic, historical, domestic, cultural and other factors. Here one has to take a look at the evolution of the Member State’s interests in a certain area and the policy consequences of those changes. Upon EU accession, no country violates its interests but aspects of interests can change during negotiations with the other Member States.[21]

Policy-making is the third theme in the study of Europeanization. It is quite tempting for Foreign Policy Analysis academics to focus on the EPC/CFSP only when assessing the impact of EU membership on national foreign policies as this is the focus of attention of most studies on Europeanization in political sciences.[22] However, one has to take into consideration the first (EC) and the third (JHA) pillar policies as they also have an effect on external relations. An example of such would be Trade, Agriculture and Fisheries which are dealt with in the European framework and for years they have been common policies. The Commission (and in some cases the European Parliament) has a very important role in the decision-making of these policies[23].

The last theme to be explored is the domestic dimension. Changes in the weight and orientation of the domestic political actors, national parliament, pressure groups and political parties all have to be taken into account when studying Europeanization. One has to investigate whether, as Hill and Wallace claim, national parliaments have lost capacity to monitor foreign policy.[24] Public opinion is also crucial for this debate because though foreign policy studies have often concluded that most of the time public opinion is indifferent to foreign policy, there still needs to be an assessment of how Europeanization has affected the role of public opinion in policy-making.[25]

1.3 The Link between Europeanization and National Foreign Policy

“The purpose of a nation’s foreign policy should be power, strength and influence in furtherance of its interests and beliefs. That purpose never changes. But the context in which it is pursued does”[26]

The outcome of the four factors mentioned in the beginning of this chapter – the institutionalization of the single market, EMU, regulatory competition and enlargement – has left Europe wondering “what is left for national public policy”.[27] Looking at these changes in Europe, there is little wonder why there has been an increase in academic interest in Europeanization.[28] With those four key prominent areas where Europeanization is actively taking place from a continental point of view, one needs not forget to turn the attention now to the other side of the coin; the national side, where national foreign policy and sovereignty go hand in hand.

Foreign policy is synonymous with sovereignty. In simple terms it refers to the external activities and relations of a sovereign state with other states in fulfilling its aims and objectives in the international sphere. In more sophisticated terms

“foreign policies consist of those actions which, expressed in the form of explicitly stated goals, commitments and/or directives, and pursued by governmental representatives acting on behalf of their sovereign communities, are directed toward objectives, conditions and actors – both governmental and non-governmental – which they want to affect and which lie beyond their territorial legitimacy”[29]

According to Rousseau’s volonté générale concept, foreign policy can be seen as the expression of the people’s will in a sovereign state.[30] The Europeanization of foreign policy is a post-modern phenomenon which is made possible and builds upon the changes in the concepts of both foreign policy and sovereignty.

The traditional conduct of state foreign policy which has always aimed at maintaining full state sovereignty has increasingly acquired a European dimension. In spite of Henry A. Kissinger’s warning not to abandon the sovereign nation-state as long as there is no proven alternative in place, the EU Member States have ceded substantial parts of their sovereignty.[31] As in the process of European integration, foreign policy has been subjected to the impact of the factors discussed previously, it underwent considerable change.[32]

Modern Westphalian conceptualizations of foreign policy are biased in favour of the state. The theoretical assumptions of the state-centric school seem to be outdated against the developing European foreign policy-making. This is due to the fact that in this theory, there is the notion of foreign policy as being an area no one can penetrate. So could foreign policy be immune to Europeanization? This question crops up as Member States are assumed to guard this key area of national sovereignty jealously.[33]

The European idealist school, as opposed to the state-centric school, allows for non-state actors to play a role in foreign policy. It recognizes that states’ foreign policies are important though over time they are being replaced by a common European approach. This is understandable because if this were the case, there would be no sense in studying the Europeanization of foreign policy. Jordi Vaquer i Fanés claims that “there is a case for studying the Europeanization of foreign policy, despite the fact that this policy remains, by and large, at the national governments’ hands”.[34] It thus becomes clear that “foreign policy is not a special case immune to Europeanization pressures”.[35]

1.4 Small States’ Europeanization – desire of inclusion or fear of engulfment?

As foreign policy is not immune to EU membership, one needs to include in the subject of ‘Europeanization’, the national foreign policies of numerous small states making up the European Union today. Indeed, today Europe has become a “union of small states”, with our own homeland, Malta, being the smallest EU country in terms of both territory and population. But do small states wish to be part and parcel of a larger institution or are they afraid of this?

Small states like Malta that decide to join the EU do so to build a shell of protection around them and help boost their economy through trade. So, suggesting they are “weak states” first of all does not help Europe as a whole and secondly, it does not really define their nature[36].

The main foreign policy objective of all countries and especially small states, is participating in a pool of wealth to ensure the free flow of information, money, goods and services as well as the eventual free flow of people and corporations.[37] In Malta’s case, the first step was Malta’s accession in the EU in 2004, now what we are assessing are the effects of Malta’s EU membership. Though Malta has been a Member State for a relatively short period, one can still determine if any changes have occurred in the country’s foreign policy.

Malta’s ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Michael Frendo declares that the real challenge in the EU is getting and holding the interest of the EU’s bureaucracy in Brussels; this is an ongoing difficulty for the smaller Member States.[38] According to Dr. Frendo,

“[membership] frees the mind from the constraints of a small territory and provides [Malta’s] citizens with a continent in which they can, by right, travel, study, work and reside. It provides us with the tools to influence decision-making in European policies including common foreign policy and therefore enables us to strengthen our relevance and enhances our weight to international affairs in all contexts, regional, bilateral, multilateral and/or regional context feeds strength and relevance in bilateral relations and vice-versa”[39]

The EU gives an international voice to its smaller Member States and places them on an equal platform as the other, bigger, Member States. The EU is the most important context for small Member State foreign policy-making. Keeping this in mind, one has to assess how small EU Member States are being affected by Europeanization and how they are conducting their foreign policy post-EU accession.

Chapter 2

The Influence of EU Membership on Small States’ Foreign Policy-Making

With EU membership, there are a number of areas in which the Member State in question must adapt and reform itself. When states join the European Union, their foreign policy is to a certain degree influenced by various factors such as how they are going to convey and address their policies towards existing and future Member States. Linked to the same argument, EU Member States must also develop a foreign policy towards non-Member States outside Europe. Over the years, there have been changes in the EU framework which have left their imprint on the process of European integration particularly in relation to foreign policy. From this perspective, one can say that the ever-changing European environment has had an impact on the existing Member States’ foreign policy as well as for the newer Member States. Membership has served as a milestone in the small states’ history, improving their relations with other countries.[40]

2.1 Historical Overview

In 1970, the EC Member States decided that they would strengthen their co-operation on international issues. This gave rise to European Political Cooperation (EPC). This was however on an intergovernmental level. Sixteen years later, the Single European Act formalized EPC under Title III and reinforced practices that were born through the years.[41]

In 1993 the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy was established through the Treaty of Maastricht, where for the first time the term “common foreign policy” was used. Since Maastricht, the EU has been able to express its stands on behalf of its Member States on armed conflicts, human rights and many other issues which the EU considers as a threat for its well-being or which go contrary to its values.[42]

A key step in the EU’s history with regards to foreign policy was the introduction in the Treaty of Amsterdam of the High Representative for the CFSP who is Mr. Javier Solana and of the Special Representatives of which currently there are ten. Their role is to help regions and areas which are torn apart by conflict by giving advice to the authorities concerned and ensure peace is restored whenever possible. Their political presence is essential in putting the EU on a prominent place on the international stage, acting as its “voice” and “face”.[43]

In 2003, when the Treaty of Nice entered into force, the number of areas which fall under qualified majority voting increased and the role of the Political and Security Committee in crisis management operations was enhanced. After the Nice Treaty, new challenges began to arise. One such challenge is the Helsinki Headline Goal which can be met through developing the EU’s defence policy. This is just one instance where small Member States may feel dominated by their larger counterparts, the reason being that large Member States would be keener on defence policy. Another example where small Member States would feel more controlled when compared to large Member States is in regards to the management of the single currency; the Euro. Small states may be scrutinized more than their larger counterparts, mostly because some argue that bigger economies have a larger say. So they put more pressure on small weaker states to comply with what has already been achieved.[44]

Over the years, the smaller Member States have looked up to the Commission as a “friend of the small”.[45] However, during recent years the Commission has lost part of its power and will undergo further reforms if the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified in all 27 Member States.

2.2 Small State Foreign Policy

With the end of the Cold War, the European Community looked like a fantastic idea; the ideal security organization for small states. As time went by, the integration process transformed the conditions for small state foreign policy-making in Europe. The coming together of the large powers in one single institution helped small states tailor their foreign policy according to their priorities. The dangers of conflicts and military attacks were wiped off small states’ concerns with the emergence of a larger community body and the development of the situation in Europe. The key issue on small states’ agenda by now had become how to influence large states while maintaining their own autonomy.[46]

For those states that joined the EU before the Cold War there was the challenge of adapting their foreign policy to the post-Cold War context. The bulk of small EU Member States joined in 2004, however there were some small states which were already members at this time, namely, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg. During this time, new tensions arose because the Member States had to learn how to interact with the world around them, as well as with each other.[47]

The dilemma between influence and autonomy is particularly relevant to small states’ cases for a number of reasons. Small states tend to risk being exploited far more than large states and their foreign policy decisions are more likely to have an impact on their security and survival. It may also be argued that they do not even really have the choice to opt-out of the EU because that probably will only serve as a blow to their security on the international stage.[48] So, very often they find themselves going to and fro, pondering whether to risk becoming trapped or enjoy having liberty and voice through the decisions taken at the international level. Thus, between autonomy and influence, small states are more willing to choose autonomy because that is a far more realistic approach. Though in the end they may reject this course for reasons just outlined.[49]

International institutions help small countries become more stable. They provide rules and regulations for their Member States to be applied uniformly and without any exceptions, while providing a voice to small Member States. This level playing-field gives the opportunity to influence the actions of more powerful states.[50] The disadvantage is that by becoming more prominent on the international stage, small states face the problem of losing their political autonomy. This is particularly evident in the foreign policy positions traditionally taken by European small states. One such strategy was neutrality. This strategy was chosen because it was no use involving small states in conflicts they had no chance of influencing anyway. Now, that the process of globalisation is widespread and countries are dependent on each other, neutrality makes less sense than ever before. EU membership was the ultimate factor which led these countries to abandon neutrality as defined in its classical meaning; Finland, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Ireland. In fact, today they are sometimes referred to as the post-neutral states.[51]

2.3 Balance between Small and Large Member States

By becoming an EU Member State there is the fear that a country loses its sovereignty. Its territorial size restricts it from exploiting its full potential, namely have an influential say in priority areas. The idea that big states are normally in accordance with each other over the majority of issues is not correct. Countries usually do what is in their interest, irrelevant of their size. This fact is sometimes pointed out as small states tend to be more adaptive than their bigger counterparts over international issues, the reason being that they know their security and survival would be at risk if they decide to take a stand that runs counter to what has been decided by the larger countries.

For a small state the EU can result in a challenging experience because it is characterized by a big bureaucracy. Considering the great number of small Member States that have recently joined the union, and with an effective foreign policy in place, however, a state who is willing, can manage to succeed.[52]

A Member State of a union can only have an effective foreign policy if it has voice and representation in the union it belongs to. Small states are usually known as having a good relationship with the Commission by relying on it to back them up on issues where they need support vis-à-vis their larger counterparts. The Commission acts as a mediator mostly because small states try to find a common footing, rather than wait for their large counterparts to take on a Council meeting and engulf the small states’ voices.[53]

According to Professor Esko Antola, the balance between the small and the large Member States was given priority in the founding of the European Community. This is shown through the system of weighted votes in the Council of Ministers and in the national quotas in the European Parliament. Antola therefore observes that the treaties of the European Union take into consideration both factors of population and territory rather than just the size of a state’s territory.

The Benelux countries, being the only three small states at the establishment of the European Community, were allowed over-representation in voting for reasons of balancing out the powers between the six founding states. When the Union began to expand and a series of small states began to join in, new ways of representation had to be adopted.[54]

During the 1990s, the European Union experienced tensions with regards to the composition of the Commission and the reform of the weighting of votes, as the number of small states joining it kept rising. This was seen as an important aspect in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. In fact, the balance of power between small and large states was high up on the agenda of the following intergovernmental conferences of Amsterdam in 1997 and Nice in 2000 both of which led to Treaty Reform.[55]

Small states would rather have strong institutions in place so that constant balance of power can be kept, even if this means pooling some layers of their own sovereignty. All Member States have a right to veto, on key issues particularly in defence matters, thus giving power to small states to stop large states from pursuing their own interests instead of the union’s interest as a whole. In addition, the great number of small Member States of the EU is crucial in decisions where unanimity is necessary. Strong institutions are a key sign of longevity for small Member States. Intergovernmentalism, according to Antola, is not so positive in promoting small state interests and threatens to eliminate equality between EU Member States.[56] This could be because intergovernmentalists feel that control of the EU should be in the hands of heads of states or governments. This way, the Commission and the European Parliament would be dedicated a much smaller role.[57]

Even though we tend to put all small states in one broad category, in reality small EU Member States are different from each other in many aspects. They also differ in their views of Europe. Some support intergovernmentalism and are Euro-skeptics like Sweden, Denmark, and recently Poland. Others are convinced that supranational institutions can better represent small states such as Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Finland. Then there are a group of other small Member States that have a somewhat different approach than those in the former two categories. Such an example is the Netherlands who is “not quite a small Member but has not a recognition as a middle power”.[58] In a peculiar way, such countries therefore, not being large states, have an interest in securing small states’ wishes but also a bigger interest in not expanding the EU budget, being one of the net contributors.[59]

A few months before the historic enlargement of 2004, critics argued that “equality between states had to give way in the name of effectiveness”. The reason behind this was that according to the large Member States, both the Commission and the rotating presidency would be negatively affected if there was to be no change whatsoever. However, even if each Member State would retain one commissioner, the Commission would still be much smaller than a national Parliament. The enlargement of 2004 resulted in a change in the balance of power between big and small EU Member States. This reasoning was only brought up to defend the interests of the large members and help them keep a tight grasp on small states.[60]

2.4 Changes in the Foreign Policy-Making of Small Member States as a Result of Enlargement

When the EU Member States were fifteen, there was already a considerable number of them which were referred to as “small states”. Now, following the big-bang enlargement of 2004, the EU has practically become a union of small states, with as many as six new small states joining in, namely; Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This is the reason why the issue of small states has in recent times come to the fore, with many policy-makers across Europe realizing that the role of the smaller EU Member States has to be looked at with more importance and be developed for the sake of Europe as a whole.

As a direct result of European Union membership, the foreign policy of Me

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