The Institutions of the Enlarged European Union

The Institutions of the Enlarged European Union

Continuity and Change

Studies in EU Reform and Enlargement series

Edited by Edward Best, Thomas Christiansen and Pierpaolo Settembri

How have the main institutions and decision-making processes of the EU responded to the arrival of new member states? This book assesses the actual state of the EU institutions in the years after the 2004 enlargement, examining each of the main institutional actors as well as trends in legislative output, implementing measures and non-legislative approaches. The contributors outline the key changes as well as patterns of continuity in the institutional politics of the EU.

Chapter 4: The European Commission: Enlargement as Reinvention?

John Peterson and Andrea Birdsall

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, public policy


* John Peterson and Andrea Birdsall Only the most courageous contemporary analyst could claim to know what significance will be attributed by future historians to the 2004–7 enlargements of the European Union (EU). Perhaps the radical expansion of the EU’s membership will come to be seen as one of the most heroic and consequential steps ever taken towards the political unification of Europe. By this view, the EU system would absorb, without damaging itself, an 80 per cent increase in member states over three years. Specifically, enlargement would succeed in three different senses. First, the EU’s institutions would smoothly integrate nationals from the new 12 member states. Second, the EU12 (as they have come to be called), many of which only recently regained their sovereignty, would grow comfortable with the idea of pooling it, thus enhancing the legitimacy of EU decisions and institutions. Third, the EU would continue to function without any ‘seizing up’ of its (already intricate) system of decision-making. Alternatively, 1 May 2004 might mark the moment when the unique European post-war experience of pooling sovereignty and delegating authority to the EU’s institutions became a sort of museum piece. A system designed during the Cold War for limited ends, and which (by some accounts) generated many unintended consequences, would finally lose its almost miraculous capacity for collective action. Especially in light of the rejection of the EU’s Constitutional Treaty – a result sometimes blamed on enlargement itself (see Cohen-Tanugi 2005) – the competing demands of 27...

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