IntroductionDifferentiatedintegration is an expression used to outline any set of arrangements, bothwithin and outside of the EU-s institutional order, that embody a departurefrom the principle that all member states must move towards the same objectivesat the same speed.
Because EU centralization and territorial extension uniquelyvary across policies, we see the European Union as a system of differentiatedintegration (Leuffen, Rittberger &Schimmelfennig, 2012). Some examples of the differentiatedintegration would be the monetary policy that does not apply to all the Memberstates, the Schengen regime that does not apply in some of the member statesbut applies in some non-member states and internal market rules that have beenadopted by the non-members. Itis clear that the differentiated integration has become a key feature ofEuropean integration. It has been the subject of political and academicdiscussion for about three decades. However, we are still to understand it andits effects.Inthis paper we would like to see which theories can explain the differentiatedintegration and where they are lacking, with a focus on intergovernmentalism andconstructivism.Differentiated integration and constructivismSocialconstructivism is an approach to social inquiry and has no substantive claims aboutthe European integration (Jupille, Caporaso & Checkel, 2003; Risse, 2004).
Withneofunctionalism it shares the view of importance of spillover effect and therole of the supranational institutions, and with integovernmentalism the ideaof using interstate negotiations at the central way to understand the EU(Risse, 2004). The main idea behind constructivism is that the social realitydoes not just exist but that the human agents construct and reproduce itthrough their daily practices – the human agents do not exist independentlyfrom their social environment. According to this theory, the fundamentalstructures of international politics are both social as well as material. Interms of European integration, constructivism focuses on social ideas anddiscourse as important factors, and says that European integration is aboutcommunity building. Constructivists share withintergovernmentalists the notion that politicization and domestic ratificationconstraints are important for explaining differentiated integration in the EU.Their premises differ when it comes to ideational consensus (Leuffen,Rittberger & Schimmelfennig, 2012).
Forconstructivists, legitimacy of constitutional ideas isone of the factors that influence the differentiation in European integration.If there was a general consensus that the level of integration should be thesame across all sectors and all members should be subject to the same rules andpolicies, there would be no differentiated integration. Another source ofdifferentiation, if it varies across policies and norms, is ideational contestation, but if it doesn’t, it usuallyleads to integration failure. Policies with a strong ideational consensus aremore likely to be integrated sooner and more strongly than the ones wherepolicy ideas are challenged.
The larger the difference in ideational consensus,the greater the differentiated integration (Leuffen, Rittberger , 2012). Whenit comes to politicization, constructivist relate it to identity. The level of differentiation of policies will vary inregard to how important they are for collective identity or fundamental normsand values. We recognize “identity and technical issues”. Identity issuesare based on fundamental values and norms of the community and are importantfor the identity construction. They are less likely to be integrated thantechnical issues that are a matter of social construction. (Leuffen, Rittberger& Schimmelfennig, 2012).The higher the domestic ratification constraints,the higher is the chance that domestic opposition on identity issues is toobstruct integration and lead to opt-outs.
Anexample of domestic ratification constraint would be a mandatory referendum, soif both countries show the same level of opposition to integration, the onewith a mandatory referendum is more likely to opt-out then the one withparliamentary majority (Leuffen, Rittberger & Schimmelfennig, 2012).Differentiatedintegration and intergovernmentalismAccordingto intergovernmentalists, the differentiated integration can solve the “widening-deepeningdilemma” of EU integration. The differentiated integration would solve theproblem of uniform integration that is not flexible at all by giving theopportunity to different groups of countries to choose the level of integrationon which they want to cooperate with each other and the policies could beintegrated at different levels of centralization. Differentiated integration isvery useful for adapting to the international diversity and to prevent impasse incase of necessary intergovernmental consent. (Leuffen, Rittberger , 2013; Holzinger & Schimmelfennig, 2012)Forintergovernmentalism the differentiated integration is driven by multiple factors– diversity in interdependence, difficulties with cooperation, various statepreferences, different level of bargaining power, and limitations of domesticratification.
(Leuffen, Rittberger & Schimmelfennig, 2013) We candistinguish two forms of intergovernmentalism – realist (RI) and liberal. Realistintergovernmentalism Accordingto realist intergovernmentalism, states value their autonomy more than their welfare,the differentiated integration is thus driven by the preservation of their autonomy.We can distinguish between ‘high-politics’ and ‘low-politics’ areas (Hoffman,1966; 1982), key areas for national sovereignty and the ones that are not that crucialfor sovereignty. The division determines how the areas are going to beintegrated.
In general, highly politicized areas are less integrated than ‘low-politics’areas, where large and powerful states are less likely to be integrated than smalland not powerful countries, at a higher level of centralization. The selective integrationof policies of non-member states (external differentiation) is likely to beseen in less politicized areas where the non-member states don’t have tosacrifice their autonomy unlike in full membership. In contrary, differentiationamong the EU members can be seen in ‘high-politics’ areas. (Leuffen, Rittberger& Schimmelfennig, 2013)Liberal intergovernmentalismLiberalintergovernmentalism (LI) explains EU integration as rational choices made byits members. (Moravcsik, 1993) It is assumed by LI as well as by supranationalism,that interdependence is the main factor that drives the integration. (Sweet &Sandholtz, 1997) According to LI, if there is heterogeneity of interests, thestates prefer to choose differentiation in order to come as close as possibleto their preference and avoid the outcome being determined by the power withthe highest bargaining power. The higher the international interdependence is orthe earlier it was developed in certain area, the earlier the policy is likelyto be integrated and vice versa. However, if the differentiation’s transaction costsare higher than its benefits, the governments will block or even halt theprocess.
Differentiation can also create some negative externalities but theywould be long term only if the ones that lost would be compensated or if they don’thave the bargaining power, which results not only from material capabilitiesbut also from institutional factors. Countries that are more likely to haveproblems with ratification can easier reach ‘opt-out’, which explains subsequentconcessions after negative referendums regarding Maastricht and Lisbon treatiesof Denmark and Ireland. In addition to that, it is much easier to discriminate newmember states and non-member states compared to the older member states. (Leuffen,Rittberger & Schimmelfennig, 2013) For example, the EU has used its higherbargaining power many times in negotiations about accession of a new membersand discriminated them in order to lower the costs of enlargement for the already-memberstates. (Plümer & Schneider, 2007)ConclusionInour research we tried to explain which theories can account for differentiationin the European integration.
To explain differentiated integration, we usedconstructivism and intergovernmentalism. What is common for both – the constructivistsand intergovernmentalists – is the notion that politicization and domesticratification constraints are important for explaining differentiatedintegration in the EU. Accordingto the constructivists, the factors that influence the differentiation in theEuropean integration are legitimacy of constitutional ideas and ideationalcontestation. The level of differentiation of policies is determined by their importancefor collective identity or fundamental norms and values. The higher the domestic ratificationconstraints, the higher is the chance that domestic opposition on identityissues is to obstruct integration and lead to opt-outs. Accordingto realist intergovernmentalism DI is a result of autonomy costs of integrationand it is a reflection of variation in politicization, ‘high-politics’ areasare less integrated than ‘low-politics’ areas.
For liberal intergovernmentalismstates choose differentiation because they have heterogenous preferences andthere are also differences in interdependence, however externalities andtransaction costs of differentiation are also relevant. Differentiationhas become an essential part of the EU due to the increasing number of memberswho have heterogenous preferences, differences in international interdependenceand in the level of politicization of issues. Differentation can be partially asolution to the problems that have been occurring because of the widening anddeepening of the integration. However, there is lack of theory that wouldexplain this phenomenon. Thus, we emphasize the need for a comprehensive theoryof differentiation in European integration.