BRIT POLITICS, Study, Learn,  Create, Inspire

University 18 Yrs + | Britain & Europe

Britain & Europe banner

Britain and Europe – Ideas of Europeanisation

From 1972 the British political system had to adapt to being part of the EU and so it is important to look at different institutions but also at theories that explain the process.

European Studies is now a large field but most of its attention, until recently, has been concentrated on explaining the overall process of European integration rather than what happens within nation states.

There have been three main theories of European Integration:-


The theory argues that free trade and globalisation since 1945 has created more and more economic connections between nations.  This leads to the creation of international organisation to deal with these interconnections which then spill over more and more into the political sphere so that integration takes place here too. The theory has been criticised as over determinist and has less supporters than in the 1960s and 1970s


This approach stems from realist ideas in the study of international relations and is a rational choice approach. It sees governments cooperating because it is in their interests to do so and integration proceeds most rapidly when national interests coincide.  Integration strengthens the control that nations have over each other rather than leading to the decline of the nation state as such.


This concentrates on the European institutions which, it is held, take on a life of their own and carry various ideas about how Europe should work. The interaction between these and national institutions produce the process of integration.

Ben Rosamond Theories of European Integration, 2000 gives a good explanation of the different theories.

In the last 15 years attention has turned to ideas of the Europeanisation of national policies and political systems. Europeanisation has been used to mean various things, only one of which is the adaptation of national systems to European ideas and procedures (Johan Olsen   Journal of Common Market Studies Vol. 40 No 5, 2002 explains the various meanings).

Early studies assumed that national systems had to adapt to what came down from Europe and concentrated on how European directives were implemented.  More recent work explains that it is a complicated two way process and also that national governments may use Europe as an opportunity to get through changes that they wanted anyway.

National governments can also institute changes via the Council of Ministers and through influence over the Commission and Tanja Börzel, in looking at environmental policy found three strategies (Journal of Common Market Studies Vol. 40 No 2, 2002).

  • Some nations were pace setters (some to deregulate and some to regulate) and the advantage of playing this role is that changing European policy to reflect national policy meant that the political problems later in implementing European policy were less (though some countries might pace set to change their systems)
  • Some were foot draggers and did their best to prevent changes to their own systems
  • Some were fence sitters and would develop alliances with whoever seemed to meet their interests best.

The process of being involved in European discussions changed the perceptions of the national officials and politicians who were involved (Claudio Radealli sort of explains this in his European Integration online paper 2004

Europeanisation adds a new dimension to national politics but in the end none of the national political systems has been fundamentally changed by the process and they have all adapted in their own way.  In some cases globalisation may have been more important in changing policy than participation in Europe.