Challenges and Prospects
Edited by Klaus Liebscher, Josef Christl, Peter Mooslechner and Doris Ritzberger-Grünwald
Changes in the focus of European economic integration
Axel A. Weber In the process of European integration, 2004 was undoubtedly one of the most memorable years. In May 2004 ten new member states joined the European Union. The eastward enlargement of the EU presents major political, institutional and economic challenges. Moreover, there is a very high probability that the process of eastward enlargement has not yet come to an end. Does the enlargement of the EU imply a new shift in the focus of economic integration in Europe? At this juncture, it is diﬃcult to give a clear answer to that question. The history of the EU has seen several such shifts. While in the early years of European integration the focus was on the goods markets, ﬁnancial market integration has received more attention of late. 1. EARLY STEPS TO EUROPEAN ECONOMIC INTEGRATION Some ﬁfty years ago, a quite ordinary, yet pressing, cause gave rise to European economic integration. In the midst of reconstruction eﬀorts, steelmakers – representing the backbone of several European economies – were heading for a crisis of overproduction. The danger of competition being restricted by the re-erection of cartels was looming large, when Robert Schuman, then French Minister of Foreign Aﬀairs, proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community.1 His proposal not only aimed at creating a uniﬁed market for coal and steel products; it also encompassed the bold idea that member states should surrender control over the coal and steel industry, which was still deemed strategically important, to a...