There has been a lot of talk about the European Union's so-called 'democratic deficit', by which is meant its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. This book provides a critical analysis of the democratic stalemate in European politics. It argues that the root of the 'democratic deficit' has more to do with the domestic political fields of the Union's member-states and the structure of the evolving European political field than with the relationships between supranational institutions. The book analyses the complex ways 'Europe' is integrated into domestic politics and shows how domestic political fields and cultures have prevented deepening integration. As a result of the formation of a European political field, political resources in European 'postnational' and 'postabsolutist' polities are being redistributed. The theory of structural constructivism proposed fuses French structural theories of politics and a 'bottom-up' approach to European integration. The book examines the relationship between French political traditions and the construction of a European security structure from the point of view of identity politics and the French post-imperialist syndrome. The educational and social homogeneity of French civil servants provides a political resource that certain individuals can use in Brussels, influencing the direction and form of European integration. Studying legislative legitimacy in the European Parliament elections, the book highlights that intellectuals are important players in French politics: the politics of the street has always been a key part of French political life.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book provides a critical analysis of the democratic stalemate in European politics. It presents current theories of European integration and elaborates an alternative, structural constructivist theory of European integration. The book examines transformations in French European policy and France's foreign policy rhetoric. It analyses the integration of French politicians and civil servants into European Union institutions. The book looks particularly at the characteristics of French Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) compared to other political groups in French politics, and at the status of the European Parliament in the career patterns of French politicians. It discusses the European Parliament elections of 1999 from the point of view of the challenges they presented to French and Finnish society and state institutions.
A major obstacle to an adequate examination of European integration is the definition of political phenomena as requiring either a national or an international relations (IR) approach. European political integration as the emergence of a relatively autonomous and structured European political field is often confused with the modernisation of national economic, social and political lives. The process of structuration of the European political field can be understood both as involving processes of convergence and divergence. This implies the institutionalisation of new political and economic values and patterns of behaviour that unite national politics into a structurally looser entity, the European political field. For politicians like Dominique Strauss-Kahn, integration into the evolving European political field, with its institutions and procedures, presents new fora for the accumulation of a distinct type of political resource.
This chapter explores in detail structural constructivism as a theory of European integration. Pierre Bourdieu's structural constructivist theory of politics offers powerful instruments for a critical analysis of political power. In Bourdieu's theory of the political field, politics is a game. In many ways, Bourdieu's pessimistic analysis of politics is reminiscent of Plato's critique of the Sophists. The political reality of the European Union is Janus-faced. On the one hand, it is an emergent system of governance that is networked, not hierarchical, and open, not closed. On the other hand, the European Union is far from being a power-free institutional and discursive space. Compared to other approaches in European integration studies, one of the advantages of structural constructivism as an alternative to social constructivism is that it does not commit itself to either a state-centric or a supranational point of view.
This chapter examines the relationship between French political traditions and the construction of a European security structure. In France's Grand Strategy for Europe, French hegemony in the European Union was to be achieved by maintaining a dominant position in the French-German duo and by modelling European institutions on French administrative structures and their culture. France's quitting North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1966 was designed to reinforce the impression that it was the only alternative to American security dominance. The more Europe has become integrated, the more France's goal of constructing Europe in its image has become unrealistic. In general terms, President Jacques Chirac's vision of France and Europe has been very much in line with Charles de Gaulle's intergovernmentalist vision of the 1950s and 1960s. In the sector on justice and internal affairs, the French presidency would work on putting together a European policy of asylum and immigration.
European integration has numerous effects on key national institutions, national constitutions and national political personnel in all European Union member-states. In response to European integration, the venerated École nationale d'administration (ENA) has been partially relocated from Paris to Strasbourg. Because French Eurocrats were most often on détachement in Brussels, it was natural for them to be in touch with the French government and various interest groups on a regular basis. This chapter discusses Jacques Delors as a member of the more restricted group of French Commissioners in the Brussels bureaucracy. If in France constitutional reform led to a shortening of the president's term in office, in Finland constitutional reform had more far-reaching effects. The Finnish reform changed the relationships between central political institutions, the presidency, the government and the parliament, empowering government and parliament and disempowering the president.
The European Parliament is a dominated element in the evolving European political field. From 1979 to 1999, French electors have been choosing their representatives to the European Parliament directly and by proportional vote, with a 5 per cent threshold rule. The 1999 contingent of French Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) fits by and large the profile of their predecessors. The level of women's representation in the European Parliament varies from one European Union country to another. The poor representation of women in France's power elite has long been the subject of complaint, both in France and abroad. In France, entrance to the European Parliament is regulated by political party leadership that decides on the composition and order of election lists. Beginning in the 1980s, women's positions and opportunities in French politics have certainly changed for the better.
This chapter argues that while European Parliament campaigns provide an opportunity for politicians and civil activists to engage in a dialogue that has multiple effects in the French political field, political agents reproduce national political culture and its in-built power relations. In Finland, a country that joined the European Union in 1995, the effects of European Parliament elections on domestic politics are significant. In contrast to other European Union countries that are divided into several regional districts for the elections to the European Parliament, France comprises one national electoral district. For the European elections of 1999, Jacques Chirac created his own list on a sovereignist platform. Apart from the electoral lists of social movements, which did not pass the 5 per cent threshold, the losers in these elections were the extreme right, the Communists and the Rassemblement pour la République-Démocratie libérale-Génération écologie list (RPR-DL-GE).
The often contradictory process of symbolic integration into the evolving European political field has had a significant impact on public debates concerning the politics of Europe, and also concerning France as a whole and its political and intellectual heritage. Two models of political engagement for European intellectuals coexist today: the model of the oppositional intellectual and that of the functional intellectual. France is a country where intellectual culture is highly developed and where the oppositional intellectual rules. Specific historical traditions of the status of sociology as an academic discipline enabled Pierre Bourdieu to elaborate his particular political vision of society. In France, starting with Auguste Comte and later Émile Durkheim, sociology has been the intellectual heir of metaphysics, philosophy and religion. In Bourdieu's view, political parties, and especially the French Socialist Party, have neglected social movements and intellectuals.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book describes the democratic stalemate in European politics through an examination of European integration as a general transformation of practices, norms and identities. It also describes France's European policy as an executive political strategy that attempts to influence the shaping of European institutions and common European interests. The book explains the integration of French politicians and civil servants into European institutions, the European Parliament and the European Commission. It examines the constitutional reforms of 2000 in the only two semi-presidential political systems in the European Union, France and Finland. The book analyses the European Parliament elections of 1999 in Finland and France. It demonstrates that European Parliament elections have also provided French intellectuals with an opportunity to reaffirm their role in public debate.