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This study argues that the practices of European integration reproduce, rather than transcend, the practices of modern statecraft. Therefore, the project of European integration is plagued by similar ethico-political dilemmas as the modern state, and is ultimately animated by a similar desire to either expel or interiorize difference.




The recent uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the ongoing tragedy in Syria, have once again triggered a widespread desire among European populations to secure the borders of the European Union (EU) from unwanted flows of migration. Whereas people inside the member states have been allowed to move at least relatively freely within the space designated as the EU, refugees have been met with increasingly aggressively patrolled physical borders. Bordering discourses, most obviously but far from exclusively promoted by right-wing populist political parties, have provided various rationales for why the EU should expand its bor-der controls. Such anxiety has sometimes been expressed in terms of fears over an increased competition for jobs. At other times, however, anxiety about migration from certain parts of the world has been expressed in terms of that elusive thing that often goes under the name of identity. Would the arrival of a large number of migrants enable Europe to ‘remain European,’ or to put it in the theoretical terms that I will use in this book: would too many migrants threaten the alleged self-identity of Europe? Clearly, a link between the EU’s borders and European identity has often been made. Sometimes, moreover, such anxieties have been more loosely linked to conceptions of order.

Stefan Borg

1. The Question of a European Union ‘Beyond the State’

Countless academics, intellectuals, journalists, and politicians of all ideological stripes have celebrated European integration as something novel, innovative, and progressive. In its ‘Fourth Lesson about the European Union,’ the EU’s website rehearses this familiar refrain: ‘The European Union is more than just a confederation of countries, but it is not a federal state. It is, in fact, a new type of structure that does not fall into any traditional legal category.’1 What is more, this ‘new type of structure’ that the reader learns about in their Fourth Lesson about the EU has been widely celebrated from almost all quarters and ideological persuasions. Cosmopolitan theorist David Held laments that the EU suffers from ‘something of an identity cri-sis’ despite ‘all its extraordinary innovation and progress.’2 If the EU could somehow find a remedy to its ‘identity crisis’ and ‘find its true self,’ the reader may infer, the future prospects for global life would rapidly start to look much brighter. Neo-Gramscian Robert W. Cox, contrasting the EU to bête-noire US hyperpuissance, approvingly claims that the EU, by a skillful blend of realpolitik and moral preference, ‘tend[s] to envisage a world political order … as the search for consensus and the elaboration of international law.’3

Stefan Borg

2. On the Limited Imagination of Neofunctionalism

Neofunctionalism is an appropriate place to start in launching a sustained critical interrogation of European integration legitimation discourse, a way of theorizing which emerged, in the words of its most prominent theoretician Ernst B. Haas, ‘in order to give the study of European integration a theoretical basis.’1 Neofunctionalism has historically been, and in several ways remains, the most influential approach to theorizing about European integration. As Ben Rosamond points out in his seminal study of European integration theory, ‘for many, “integration theory” and “neo-functionalism” are virtually synonyms.’2 Indeed, it may not be an exaggeration to claim, as Rosamond does, that ‘we cannot think about the analysis of European integration without confronting neo-functionalism.’3 In this chapter, I am not concerned with the question that preoccupies most treatments of neofunctionalism in EIS: i.e., the explanatory, or predictive, power that neofunctionalism may or may not hold in accounting for the trajectory of European integration conceived of as a chain of historical events. Rather, I am interested in the question of what kind of ‘Europe’ neo-functionalist discourse seeks to enact.

Stefan Borg

3. Political Theory Meets European Integration Studies

At the opening of this chapter, it is worth emphasizing that the prevalent mood nowadays surrounding European integration is one of gloom and doom, and instead of grandiloquent proclamations and calls for further political, economic, and social integration from European elites, the general consensus is for the desirability of settling for the ‘consolidation’ of ‘historical achievements.’ But if the EU’s failed Constitutional Treaty in 2005 contributed to such sentiments among European elites, and at the present time of writing, the debt crisis and its political effects have led to the rise of the extreme right opposing European integration in several member states, the crisis of European integration is nothing new. Already, at the beginning of the 1990s, a tension between two major tendencies in the project of European integration was becoming increasingly evident. At the same time as the EU’s competences were extended and the EU moved from intergovernmental to supranational modes of decisionmaking in a number of policy areas, ‘Euroskepticism’ was seemingly on the rise across virtually all of its member states. The so-called ‘permissive consensus,’ i.e. the utilitarian belief that as long as European integration was understood to be correlated to increasing economic prosperity it was broadly supported at the mass level, which was thought to have enabled European integration ever since the creation of the ECSC in the early 1950s, could no longer be taken for granted in the 1990s and into the 2000s.1

Stefan Borg

4. In Search of a Foundation for Europe

Undeniably, and as I dealt with in the previous chapter, ever since the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, which formally estab-lished the EU, a general legitimation crisis has haunted the project of European integration.1 Such a generalized crisis is to be expected whenever foundationalist rhetorical figures of polity foundation are deployed in an era where the facile appeal to such absolutes has become increasingly questioned. Indeed, European integration could in large part be seen as an attempt at polity foundation in the age of its impossibility — i.e. in an age where the theoretical vocabulary needed for such an endeavor has largely exhausted itself. This historical epoch, which is characterized by, as Jean-François Lyotard famously put it, an ‘incredulity to metanarratives,’2 usually goes under the name of postmodernity, and provides the historical backdrop to the attempted European unification.3 The attempt to endow the EU with a constitution, which this chapter explores, may be understood as a high-profile attempt at polity foundation, and at symbolically unifying Europe after two devastating wars as well as the Cold War.4

Stefan Borg

5. Solana’s Struggle

Ever since the inception of the European Political Cooperation (EPC) in 1970, predecessor to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) which was established in 1993, the way in which the EU conducts external relations has been subject to much academic, as well as more popular, controversy. From François Duchêne’s and Hedley Bull’s ponderings over the virtues and vices of the EU as a ‘civilian power’ in the 1970s to the more recent debate on the EU as a ‘normative power,’ many commentators have argued that the EU’s approach to international politics is sui generis and qualitatively different from that of the modern state.1 It should from the outset be clarified that in this chapter I will not deal with the question of whether there is a greater emphasis on human rights and international law in the EU’s foreign policy discourse as compared to most states, which is sometimes claimed in the Normative Power Europe (NPE) discourse. Nor will I attempt to assess the justifications for the EU’s military missions undertaken outside of Europe. Rather, my argument in this chapter concerns what I take to be a more fundamental issue for questions of violence and ethics, namely how the European subject is differentiated, and what that might tell us when it comes to the question of the EU’s alleged difference from how the modern state subject is differentiated. In other words, I take up the problem of enacting a bounded identity from the point of view of foreign policy.

Stefan Borg

6. Euro-Crafting at Border Zones

A clip uploaded by an anonymous user on YouTube shows a group of 13 migrants being pursued in November 2010 by a unit belonging to the first land border patrol operation ever undertaken under the flag of the EU.1 The short film is shot from a helicopter that evidently helps the ground patrol to track down the migrants. A telescopic infrared sight follows the small group of people, and the migrants are clearly differentiated as white figures against a dark background. At 19:17, according to the clock on the helicopter’s dashboard, the helicopter detects the group of migrants. At 19:25, seemingly unaware of being under surveillance, the group stops for a few minutes. Two minutes later, the group encounters a border patrol team. One person is apprehended and the remaining 12 run away. But their running is in vain. The helicopter never loses sight of them. The migrants briefly stop and hide in some bushes. And at 20:08, a police team apprehends the group. The little group is surrounded by what appear to be armed guards, and bow down on their knees, stretching their arms up in the air. These are 13 out of some 47,000 people who ‘irregularly’ crossed the tiny 12.5 km land border between Turkey and Greece in 2010 and for most of them, this is their first encounter with Europe.2 Many of their fellow travellers would not make it, but instead die on their way to what they thought would be a better life, 45 of them drowning in the Evros river that marks Europe’s border with Turkey.

Stefan Borg


By way of concluding this work, let me first address the question of why one should bother studying practices of European integration at a time when they seem to inspire less enthusiasm than perhaps at any previous time in postwar European history. The introduction answered that question in rather general terms by arguing that deconstructive textual analysis is ultimately concerned with ethics. Thus, I have in the preceding chapters pointed to some potential dangers inherent in foundationalist desires for a European bounded identity — an EU which in a similar fashion to the modern state is enacted by practices of identification, bordering, and ordering. In this concluding chapter, I start by making two general points in relation to the timeliness of the ideas put forward in this book; the first point has to do with the increasing diversity on the European continent, and the second point concerns the rapid militarization of the EU. The second section of the chapter concludes the book by summarizing its main argument.

Stefan Borg


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