Peoples of Europe — National Leaders and Public Opinion in The Post-Maastricht Era: In Conversation With Dermot Hodson

Why was the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty a significant moment for the EU? Who are the right-wing populists in the EU and how has their modus operandi changed throughout the decades? Why did the national leaders engage in the EU politics? In this conversation with RevDem editor Kasia Krzyżanowska, Dermot Hodson talks about his most recent book Circle of Stars. A History of the EU and the People Who Made It published by Yale University Press.

Dermot Hodson — Professor of Political Economy and Digital Technologies at Loughborough University London and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe. He has published widely on EU governance and integration and previously worked as an economist at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs. Circle of Stars: A History of the EU and the People Who Made It was published by Yale University Press on 10 October 2023.

Kasia Krzyżanowska: As Perry Anderson has famously put it, most of the “literature on the European Union and its prehistory is notoriously intractable: dull, technical, infested with jargon – matter for specialists, not general readers.” But there is a growing bulk of exciting literature that approaches the EU’s history from new perspectives, oftentimes critical. How does your book speak to this literature and how different it is from it?  What new or under-discussed aspects does your approach highlight?

Dermot Hodson: Thanks for a really interesting question to start with.
My book Circle of Stars tells the story of the EU from the signature of the Maastricht Treaty in February 1992 to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. It seeks to understand in a nutshell how the EU endured during the three decades of turmoil between these two momentous events. 

This is a book aimed at a broad readership. I think if you ask an average European on the street ‘Who governs the EU?’, a popular answer would be ‘faceless technocrats’. As EU scholars, we know that is not the case, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into popular discourse about the European Union. What is different about this book is that it tries to put people at the centre of its story. Often as political scientists we are trained to talk about institutions and states, and those concepts are incredibly important and they certainly feature in my academic work, but I really wanted to tackle this idea of the faceless technocrat head-on and to tell a story about the EU based on people. 

You obviously have to make a choice at this point. I chose three broad categories of actors to tell this story around: one was Heads of State or Government, the others were European officials, and the final one was right-wing populists. In a nutshell,

the argument in the book is that the EU was driven during this period above all by Heads of State or Government, and those Heads of State or Government consistently look to the EU in times of crises to try and weather those storms. 

In a way, cooperation came relatively easily to these actors, in part because they had a very similar view of globalisation. That view of globalisation, I argue in the book, was actually very simplistic, very naïve and it paid far too little attention to the down-sides of globalisation, particularly the cost to workers. I think that naivety came at a heavy price — it left the EU vulnerable to right-wing populists who were able to stoke popular discontent with the European project, but also with globalisation. 

In a nutshell, this book adds a story of European integration with people at the centre, and a story about how the EU endured not because of technocrats but because of Heads of State or Government, what happened at a heavy price because we see right-wing populists getting stronger crises to crises. 

You start the book with the Maastricht Treaty. Why, in your perspective, was it such a significant moment? How does its significance square with your observation of the declining popular support for European integration in the decades since? 

There are many good histories of the European Union that date back to the 1950s, and indeed sometimes the inter-war period. I chose to start with the Maastricht Treaty because I think something changed in 1992 when the Maastricht Treaty was signed. Now, what was the nature of that change?

I think it was at that very moment that policy makers came to understand that the so-called permissive consensus over European integration was over, that henceforth they would have to contend with citizens who had strong views about what the EU should or shouldn’t be doing, and that the era of elite-driven integration was very much over.  

Now, the question is why that back-lash occurred at that time. I still think of it as a question that is not easy to answer. There was something about the substance and the process of the Maastricht Treaty that illustrated this change. On substance, clearly the European Union moved into highly sensitive areas, so it took the existing European Community and built three very bold, but potentially controversial projects on top of this: the Euro, common foreign and security policy and justice and home affairs. These are sometimes called ‘core state powers’ in the literature, so the EU entered a very sensitive domain right from the beginning. 

But I think there was also something different going on in terms of the process. François Mitterrand didn’t have to call a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty. He thought that he was going to win it comfortably and have his own declining political fortunes reversed. Actually, what we see is that opens the door to a lot of contestation over European integration almost instantly. We see the same in Denmark. Right from that very moment we see a very different way of legitimating the European Union which actually struggles to achieve its objective, it actually exposes the problems facing the European Union. 

At this moment, the European policy-makers could have asked difficult questions about where this discontent was coming from, but instead they pressed ahead with more Treaty reform. There was the so-called Maastricht left-overs, which was a small number of issues that had to be dealt with by 1996. They were pretty narrow and could have been dealt with quietly. Instead, the demand for a more ambitious treaty reform takes off and then you get Amsterdam. 

That doesn’t address the problems of legitimacy facing the EU, and we are thrown into a decade of Treaty reform, which is designed in part to address the problems of legitimacy facing the European Union, but ends up amplifying that. We see this in the backlash against the Nice and Lisbon Treaties, and, of course, in the failure of the European Constitution. 

On your question about public opinion, I think there is no steady decline over this period. I note in the book that in 1991, 72% of respondents saw membership as a good thing, and by 1996 the support is 48% — that’s a pretty steep fall off. But it doesn’t decline consistently over the post-Maastricht period, it craters during the Euro-crisis for understandable reasons, and then there’s a boost again around the time of the war in Ukraine, perhaps when there is a sense of understanding what the European project is for.

What is clear is that public opinion matters in this period in a way that it didn’t in earlier periods. Rightly or wrongly, we enter a period in which, as some scholars talk about in the literature, EU policy makers are looking over their shoulders at the people.

You have mentioned already what was the national leaders’ reason for following European integration — they did not necessarily “share an ideological commitment to ever closer union”, but rather, as you mentioned, “they believed that their countries could manage global crises more effectively by working together.” What such a focus on national leaders and some EU officials/politicians would say about the functioning of the EU? And then as a lawyer, I have to ask this question: how does sidelining the EU Court of Justice and the legal-constitutional aspect help us understand the EU integration?

You have to make a choice when you write a book like this. I could have gone really narrow and told the story through one or two individuals. Instead, I wanted a broad, ensemble cast, I wanted to bring in leaders and politicians from as many member states as possible over the three-decade period. But even after that, there are still people and actors who I leave out: there are not many economists in the book. There is law to be sure, there is Treaty reform and constitutional law, and the difficulties of not only codifying, but also implementing and enforcing the EU’s fundamental values. But you are right, there are not many judges or lawyers in the book. My previous book was on Treaty making, where I spent a lot of time thinking about law. The lawyers that I worked with on this project asked exactly the same question as you, it is quite a legitimate question. I am not trying to negate the importance of EU law, but I am trying to tell a story about politicians in this book.

I noted that you interviewed Tommaso Pavone a few podcasts ago in your series, and that was a really great episode. I’m really impressed by his book The Ghostwriters which shows that even in a quite closed world of law, in which judges quite understandably don’t want to go on the public record, that you can do this kind of work in the quite secretive area of law. He draws attention not only to the role of judges, but of lawyers in the legal development of the European Union. I don’t deny the importance of this, I just had to make a choice in writing this book.

When you were doing the analysis you obviously had to think about features that national leaders have to possess in order to pursue both domestic and European politics. In your opinion, what kind of features should a national leader of an EU member state possess in the context of the European integration? How to act effectively as a national leader that governs a polity where its sovereignty is limited by the EU? And, in connection with those, how does being a right-wing leader influence cooperation with other Heads of State or Government on the EU level? 

I will resist the urge to play the role of Machiavelli here in designing the ideal type of leader. In this book I got to look up close at dozens of national leaders over a three-decade period and they all came across as pretty flawed individuals. Even the most impressive of them might take a principled value driven stance in one policy area, but then shortly afterwards do the opposite in another policy area. I was mindful of how actually flawed these individuals were as people. I don’t think there really is an ideal type of leader. 

An interesting ‘what if….’ question in the book is what would have happened if Jacques Delors had run for and won the French presidency in 1995. He was very high in the polls in 1995, he was probably Europe’s best known left-wing leader and I think he had a reasonable chance of winning, but for personal reasons he decided not to run. Had he won, I think he would have been a transformative leader in the way that Jacques Chirac never was as the President of France. On the other hand, I think Delors would probably have suffered the same fate as many of the Third Way leaders in this book, which is that they have an extraordinary moment in power in the 1990s and they probably don’t make the most of it, they diminish very, very quickly as a political force in the 2000s. So even someone like Jacques Delors, who understood the European project better than anyone and who could have been this transformational figure, I think probably would have suffered the same fate. 

On your question about right-wing leaders, it depends on what sort of right-wing leaders. If we take a centre-right leader, I think they had very little difficulty in engaging in EU cooperation, certainly in an area like economic policy. That’s not surprising because the Third Way leaders on the left had borrowed the right’s economic policies, and the right had borrowed them back again.

If you look at the economic discourse in the European Union, the change from centre-left to centre-right majority in the European Council doesn’t make much difference to economic policy, so there is a very smooth transition. 

Even David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, his initial focus on substance, which didn’t last very long, was almost Third Way in its argument that we need to focus on globalisation, global poverty and global efforts on climate change. So there was a uniformity there for better or for worse.

If we talk about more radical right-wing leaders on the right-wing populist front, again those leaders found it surprisingly easy to work with their EU peers. There was obviously huge contestation over fundamental rights and, I would say, a very ineffective attempt to enforce those rights against leaders like Viktor Orbán, who in turn campaigned very aggressively against Brussels and interference from the European Union. Day to day, Orbán managed to cooperate on a lot of EU policies. There is a story that emerges in this book about the willingness of politicians, particularly in the EPP [European People’s Party], to stand together despite, I think, legitimate criticism of where they stood on EU values. It is a story in which centre-right politicians take EU cooperation in their stride, there is nothing that is that new for them, right-wing on the populist front actually day-to-day manage to cooperate.

Who was the most inspiring national leader for you personally, and why?

I’m not sure I was inspired by any leaders in this book. If you take someone like Angela Merkel —when faced with the refugee crisis, she took a stance that to some degree was principled. Certainly, it was principled in a way that David Cameron’s response to the refugee crisis was not, he talked about a swarm of migrants coming into the European Union, whereas Merkel had a pragmatic approach to try and work with it. But Merkel also stood by Orbán as a member of the EPP.

I try to deal with a set of politicians who are inherently flawed in this story and my desire is not to tell a history of the EU that would put them on a pedestal. I was interested in knocking them off that pedestal at times.

You remind us about the political crisis that occurred when the Austrian Freedom Party and Jörg Haider used xenophobic rhetoric and spoke against the values of the EU at the beginning of the 2000s. The situation, as you present it, was handled by the national leaders, who mobilised to collectively bring action against Austria, even though you mention it was not a great success at the end. However, nowadays seemingly similar problems with member states not respecting EU values is rather handled by the European Commission and EU leaders, and not by the national leaders who are reluctant to act. Why do you think this is the case and what does such a shift reveal to you?

That is a really interesting question: did the EU effectively handle the 1999 election in Austria which saw Jörg Haider’s Austria Freedom Party come to power? Initially, EU leaders took a principled stance on this. I argue in the book that this was due to no small measure to António Guterres who was a President in office of the EU at the time. He was informed by his own experience of right-wing authoritarianism in Portugal and he reminded other EU leaders of their historic responsibilities. Their initial response was essentially to side-line Austria, to have an empty chair crisis and to really try to defend the EU’s values. They then took a decision to ask the President of the European Court of Human Rights to head-up a wise-persons group that would travel to Austria to find some facts on the ground and report back to the European Union. 

I think this was a really sliding doors moment for the European Union — that group, as you pointed out, acknowledged that the Austrian Freedom Party had used, and I quote, ‘xenophobic or even racist language’ while proposing at the same time to call off the sanctions on Austria. This wasn’t really the point of that high level group, they were there to gather facts but they made quite a normative recommendation. And EU leaders were very quick to climb down that ladder, so they took this principled stance and then they quickly backed down.

This was a really important turning point and a problematic one for EU fundamental rights — it showed the fear that the EU leaders had of taking on leaders on a point of national sovereignty. 

If we fast forward to the implications for today, I think this helps us to understand why those kind of norms that the EU leaders found so objectionable in the 1990s have become mainstream today and we haven’t seen a very effective push-back against it. Here I am talking about, for example, Hungary and Poland, but I could talk about other states, too. 

As for the Commission, what is interesting is the shift there, because Prodi as Commission President in 1999 didn’t want to confront a member state head on. Of course, we have the opposite today, where the Commission has tried, at least to some extent, to hold member states to account but with little effectiveness. I think the answer there is due to member states who are not willing to back the European Commission up on this, Article 7 is never going to get unanimity in the European Council. So what’s the implication of this is that

the EU has been fairly successful at codifying its values post-Maastricht, but much less successful at defending them.

You said that in your book you focus on three types of actors, national leaders, EU officials and right-wing populists — let’s focus on the latter now. You claim that around the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty, Euroscepticism was associated with preserving the Member States’ influence over European integration rather than embracing disintegration. But in the book appears yet another term, right-wing populism, that assumes many forms — you apply it to the anti-EU sentiments in the UK Conservative Party during Major’s term, to the anti-enlargement approaches in diverse member states before 2004, or to the disregard for EU values that is presented by Hungary and Poland. Then, what would be difference between legitimate criticism of the EU and right-wing populism? And how to deal with the fact that Euroscepticism is found on the left as well (the Labour Party of 1970s was an opponent of the European integration because of the labour unions and globalisation)?

I acknowledge in the book that Euroscepticism is as old as the European project itself, it is present in the 1950s and 1960s, but I argue that something changes around the time of Maastricht, that you get a new sort of right-wing populism that has the EU in its sights. I focus a lot on the early part of the book on sir James Goldsmith, the Anglo-French billionaire who, I argue, was very influential in setting a new direction for this sort of Euroscepticism. 

For example, if we compare Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech at the College of Europe in 1988 with sir James Goldsmith, I think you start to see these differences. What was Thatcher worried about? Thatcher was essentially worried about the rolling back of the state in the UK and being replaced by a sort of European socialism led by Jacques Delors. She was worried about state-building at the EU level. Sir James Goldsmith, who was a Conservative Party donor for many years, and was someone who had advised Thatcher, had a very different argument. His argument was that faceless technocrats in Brussels were building a borderless Europe, which would leave the EU vulnerable to global competition particularly from developing countries. The story that emerges there is not about building of a state, but a borderless Europe which is vulnerable to global competition. Goldsmith taps into these new debates on globalisation in the 1990s and points towards a very different sort of Euroscepticism – so that’s one difference.

Another difference is that this right-wing popularism is, as Cas Mudde and others have argued, a thin-centred ideology. It very different from the Euroscepticism that is imbedded in a wider political programme on the right or on the left. 

You see this in sir James Goldsmith who set up his own party to run in the UK general election in 1997, and his promise was that he was going to do one thing as Prime Minister and then resign. What was that one thing? He’s going to pass a bill that will allow a UK referendum on membership of the EU and then he was going to resign after 100 days. I think that really captures the idea of this thin-centred ideology: it doesn’t really stand for much else on the right or on the left, its very narrowly focussed on this discontent with the European project, and I think that is what makes it populist in quite a pure sense.

What do you think is the reason behind this right-wing populism in the European Union? Do you think that some of the criticism raised by right-wing populists is spurred by the actions of the European Union? Do you think that some of the points raised by right-wing populists are valid?

I argue in the book that it is Heads of State or Government with their very naïve view of globalisation that have created the space for right-wing populism to thrive. 

And right-wing populists have been very quick to pick up on the fact that this is a very uncaring, naïve vision of globalisation that doesn’t take account of the fact that trade is better for businesses and consumers rather than workers. In that respect it is quite shrewd politics. But it is also, as I mentioned earlier, a thin-centred ideology, Goldsmith was not much interested in solutions, he was interested in critique, and I think that defined his political project. The fact that it isn’t imbedded in this wider political programme that offers a different way to think about globalisation, it just sees this as a new cleavage of politics, and it rapidly picks on it.  

What do you think about the transformation or the process of Meloni’s government or Meloni’s position within the European Union? She started as an outsider, but now she seems to be in the middle of European politics. She’s treated not as an outsider like Orbán or Kaczyński/Morawiecki, but rather as one of European leaders who are there to lead the European Union.

I think the key word in what you said there is ‘treated’: it’s not what she is, it is how she is treated. One of the things I pick up on in the book is the sense in which political norms have shifted. If we look at the push back against Haider, it might not have been effective, but there was a sense in which this was a violation of political norms. We were told consistently that Meloni had changed, that she was a different sort of politician, we saw the same thing about Marine Le Pen in both French presidential elections. This tells us something not about those politicians, but it tells us something about the political environment in which we now live. Those norms have shifted.

I find it troubling that Meloni has been integrated so easily into the European Council, and the fact that Ursula von der Leyen, a leader who has shown real vision on some policy areas, particularly in response to Covid-19 for example, is so quick to try and join forces with Meloni on something like the controversial migration pact with Tunisia. 

Am I surprised by this? No, because in a way we see it also with Orbán. If you look behind the headlines, and you look behind what is said in general election campaigns, there is a day-to-day cooperation there with Orbán. There are challenger governments who are integrated surprisingly easily into the European Council and that tells a lot about the withering of certain EU norms over the last thirty years. 

One of aspects that you approach critically in your book is the social element of the European Union and the outcomes of the Third Way politics — you mention for example the protestors who demanded more social Europe around the time of ratification the Nice Treaty whose claims were not taken into account. In your opinion, why has a proper European social constitution been never designed?  

If I think along the lines of the Third Way leaders, they inherited Europe with very high unemployment. They came to see labour regulation as an impediment to job creation, rightly or wrongly. They looked at this high unemployment, they experimented with active labour market policies in the Netherlands, in Denmark and the UK, they watched what was happening in the US and they saw the apparent success of active labour market policies and the rolling back of tied employment regulation. I think they came to believe that globalisation was going to happen anyway, and if we can have growth, this will ultimately trickle down and benefit workers. 

But the limitations of this approach — and they were significant — became apparent in a number of ways, certainly when the global financial crisis hit, we saw how vulnerable workers were to changes in the global economy. We also saw it in France on the referendum on the European Constitution. This was a Treaty that had little to say about social policy and there was a huge backlash against it on the left in France. The reply was, ‘well, they are talking about something that’s not in the Treaty’ — which is the point, there was very little about social Europe there. 

I also talk in the book about Jacques Delors’ vision of social partnership. Delors was a socialist who believed that the single market in Europe could be combined with social Europe, in which representatives of the trade unions and employers would sit down together and perhaps even draft legislation. I talk about how that vision quickly withered in the post-Maastricht period, in which the single market very much dominated the social Europe project, and early attempts at cooperation between the social partners didn’t achieve very much.

I think there was a sense on the left that we didn’t need these social protections and that growth would be enough, but the global financial crisis and the backlash against the European Constitution showed how flawed that was. 

And if you go after the global financial crisis, you see the left in decline, there is simply not the political power base there to try and push through or revisit that idea of social Europe.

Now I’ve started to think about yet another discourse that is apparent around the European Union in domestic context: that is the problem of competence creep or a discourse on the protection against the influence of the EU. Do you see this as a novel discourse that appeared only fairly recently, perhaps around the time of the Lisbon Treaty, or do you see it as a constant feature of European integration?

It is somehow inherent in the European Union that is built on these three very ambitious projects that are coming quite close to core state powers: in economic policy, foreign policy and justice and home affairs. It is not surprising to me that this discourse takes hold. On the other hand, often that discourse looks in the wrong place for who is exercising power — there is a tendency to look at technocrats as the drivers of this competence creep in policy making. We saw this in the Euro-crisis for example, with a heavy emphasis for what officials of the European Commission were doing in negotiations with countries that required financial assistance, or Mario Draghi’s intervention with bond purchases and unconventional monetary policies. In a sense, this is where these two discourses come together, where the EU is involved in these very sensitive areas of cooperation and technocrats are in the lead in exercising that power. 

I challenge that view in the book — I think it is Heads of State or Government who are driving that cooperation forward.

If you look at the Euro-crisis, it was the Heads of State or Government who decided to save the Euro long before Mario Draghi gave his speech. I think it is the Heads of State or Government who should be held to account for the choices they made in that period. 

For example, the delay in providing financial assistance to Greece, the harsh conditions attached to that financial assistance, that failure to really understand the basics of debt sustainability dynamics and giving more and more money to a country that did not have a sustainable debt. The EU is involved in very, very sensitive areas of cooperation, but I find that discourse that it is faceless technocrats that are driving it forward is problematic and it does understand who genuinely governs the contemporary EU.

This is the right point to ask about democratic deficit. In the forum — with Moravcsik’s contribution — that you quote towards the end of your book, Christopher Lord argues that in order to refute a claim of democratic deficit, one has to be “able to show that national publics and parliaments can control” those who exercise power in the EU, and it is not enough “to demonstrate that member state governments can control EU institutions.” How do you approach the problem of democratic deficit?

As an inter-governmentalist, I am influenced by Andrew Moravcsik’s work. He has written a really, really interesting take on the democratic deficit, which argues that there isn’t really a democratic deficit because governments drive integration forward, and those governments are in turn accountable to their own national parliaments and electorate. I think that argument is elegant, but it doesn’t really work in practice — it is actually governments that have huge problems with legitimacy in the post-Maastricht period and they imprint those problems of legitimacy onto the European Union. 

Take an issue like Brexit. The UK is a parliamentary democracy with a tradition of royal prerogative, it usually ratifies treaties by putting them before the House of Commons, allowing for debate and then approving those treaties. This is what the UK did with Treaty after Treaty, but it failed to bring that legitimacy, that traditional mechanism of accountability, which I think should have worked in the Moravcsik’s account, but didn’t work in practice. So what do you see at this point? You see these traditional levers of legitimation breaking down and there is a scramble to find new ways to achieve legitimacy, and this is where the referendum idea comes from. There had been no great tradition of referenda in the UK, it is a parliamentary democracy, and yet we see this referendum in 2016, Cameron thinks it is going to win legitimacy and of course like so many other votes in the post-Maastricht period it exposes big problems. 

The idea that the EU has a democratic deficit should be taken seriously, but it should be embedded in a more nuanced discussion of why politics has a democratic deficit and why there is a wider problem of legitimacy facing the European Union. 

But I am also a little torn in the book, because the last thirty years is a period where the European Parliament thrived. The European Parliament was the only directly elected transnational parliament, it wins more power and becomes more prominent and there is often a failure to acknowledge just how unique that is. 

The forum that you refer to is the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is the last section of the book. For me this was a hugely interesting and entertaining experience for the European Union, this idea of getting citizens around the table, listening to them, but not really knowing what to do or what they were told. The citizens invested a lot of time in trying to work through proposals on the future of the EU, and the European Parliament really hoped they would talk about treaty reform. Instead they talked about something entirely different, so their proposals included things like cycling lanes, and that the EU needs to get involved in euthanasia. It terrified EU policy-makers to hear what EU citizens had to say — there was a very quick attempt to sideline their more radical ideas. 

I end the book on purpose by trying to draw these citizens in as it turned into a quite interesting and explosive moment for the EU in which it got very close to citizens and didn’t really know what to do or what it was hearing. The citizens at the end of the Conference on the Future of Europe said ‘well we’ve worked through our differences, we’ve come up with a set of ideas, now it’s over to you to see what you can do with this’, at which point there is a lot of awkward silence from the EU leaders in the room.

The European Parliament triggered the process of the Treaty change to implement the solutions to the ideas that the citizens produced for the Conference on the Future of Europe.  Do you think that the EU institutions might put pressure on the national leaders to rethink the EU architecture in the current circumstances of the war, the migration crisis and the climate crisis?

I think the European Parliament would have come up with a plan for treaty change whatever the citizens said in the Conference on the Future of Europe, that was kind of the point. I think there is an instrumental character in saying’ OK we’ve heard you, what you need is treaty reform’.

But I also think this is an interesting moment for the EU, where the European Parliament is claiming a kind of constitutional role by saying ‘we are the actor who can instigate Treaty change’. 

There is a long tradition of this, going all the way back to Spinelli in the early 1980s when he prepared a draft treaty on the European Union. But what we’ve seen consistently happen is that the Heads of State or Government decide for better or worse whether treaties go ahead. 

I think two things can happen at this point, one is that Heads of State or Government can follow the pattern of the last few years, which is to avoid treaty changes at all costs for fear of a backlash —there is a short-termism about that — rather than addressing peoples’ discontent. They say ‘Let’s not get too close to the people in case we have the kind of backlash that we saw against Lisbon and other Treaties’. 

But I think there is another scenario that’s possible — that the Heads of State or Government, while they make up their minds about whether Ukraine should be a member and whether other countries should come in, they throw out treaty reform as a kind of stalling tactic. I think there is a real possibility of this. If you go back to the debates over the Nice Treaty and the European Constitution, the argument was made that the EU would come to a halt when we had ten countries join. That was probably exaggerated, but what we saw was a decade or more taken up with treaty reforms that didn’t necessarily help the EU to cope with enlargement but lead to this long drawn-out constitutional crisis for the EU. It is not impossible to consider that something similar happens in Ukraine, so rather than addressing head on the question of whether Ukraine should become a member, we’re told that the EU should change, and the EU disappears into another problematic period of introspection.

In collaboration with Karen Culver.

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