Tanel Kerikmäe, Archil Chochia, and Max Atallah
Integration with the European Union has been far less distressing for the three Baltic States than for numerous other accessing countries owing to their strong societal impetus to (re)join Western political, economic, and legal culture after they regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the accession of these states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—had several distinctive features related to constitutional background and settings, which heavily influenced problem solving between government and the EU institutions.
In general, the controversial issues regarding how to solve the problems with supranational power have never been dramatic with regard to the Baltic States, which leads to the assumption that often the governments have taken rather compliant positions. The latest cases, such as the European Stabilization Mechanism, indicate the change in paradigm: the three Baltic States are more aware of the margin of appreciation and actual borderlines between policy making- and decision making.
Today, in setting up an EU-related agenda, more skills than previously are needed in finding allies and choosing partners. The road the Baltic States took in joining the EU was a difficult one, nor has their role in the EU been easy. Should a small state with a big initiative be allowed to mentor other member states regarding that initiative, meaning in particular Estonia and its digital development?
Another peculiar aspect of the Baltic States is their (inter)relationship with Russia. Considering themselves a bridge between East and West, the Baltics have been active in Eastern Partnership and Development Aid initiatives and have also spoken out strongly against intervention in Georgia and Ukraine. This position sometimes complicates any EU attempt to achieve consensus on foreign policy.
Lenka Anna Rovná and Jan Rovny
The collapse of communism in late 1989 released the Czechs to freely consider and shape the social and economic structures of their country. The diverse formulations of the contours that a democratic and market competitive Czech Republic should take were closely intertwined with the visions of Europe and the European Union. Two prominent postcommunist politicians, Václav Havel and Václav Klaus, offered two perspectives. While Václav Havel stressed the cultural, socially liberal anchoring represented by European democracy, Václav Klaus initially focused on Europe as a market-liberal economic model. By the time Václav Klaus replaced Václav Havel in the presidential office, Klaus shifted his European rhetoric from economic to sociocultural matters, opposing Europe as a limitation on Czech sovereignty.
The discrete visions proposed by these statesmen are reflected in Czech public opinion, shaped between economic and sociocultural considerations. While Czech public opinion initially viewed the EU in economic terms, this changed around the time of the Czech Republic’s accession to the Union in 2004. By the early 2000s Czechs started to view the EU rather as a sociocultural project. It was also around this time that public support for the Union starts to significantly decline.
The European Union, as a multifaceted organization with an encompassing legal framework, has been both an inspiration and a scarecrow in Czech politics. While for Havel it has provided an imperfect but stable sociocultural expression of liberty and openness, for Klaus it was initially a symbol of free market economics, only to later become a much-opposed damper on Czech national independence. Klaus’s economic view dominated public understanding of the EU in the 1990s; however, the 2000s have seen a shift as the EU comes to be understood as a value-based, socially liberalizing project. While this development coincides with Havel’s vision of the EU, it, paradoxically, has led to increased public opposition to European integration.
Referendums are frequently used to ratify European Union (EU)–related propositions. Since 1972 there have been in total 46 EU-related referendums, excluding third-country referendums on EU-related matters. While referendums are constitutionally mandated in some countries in order to ratify new treaties, other referendums are held for either normative or for political reasons.
Referendums deal with topics that are less familiar to voters, where key issues typically do not map onto domestic political cleavages. This means that we should expect that campaigns and the information they provide about the issues and the positions of political actors might matter more in framing issues than in first-order national elections. While there is by no means a scholarly consensus, recent research has shown, for instance, that an issue that dominates media coverage can impact how voters evaluate a proposition.
Finally, what do we know about voter behavior? While referendums on EU affairs have been criticized as being decided by “second-order” factors such as government popularity, there is evidence that when a proposition matters for voters, voting behavior is more dominated by issue-voting. Recent research has drawn on advances in cognitive psychology to investigate the impact of attitude strength and personality characteristics for voter behavior.
Gerald Schneider and Anastasia Ershova
Rational choice institutionalism (RCI) conceives of European integration as the outcome of three interplaying forces—interests, information, and institutions. Cooperation in the European Union (EU) is thus based on collective choices among a diverse set of actors ranging from voters to member states that disagree over the potential outcome of the decision-making process, are uncertain about the motives and resources of other players, and are exposed to decision-making rules with varying distributional consequences. RCI distinguishes between two fundamental choices the supranational organization can make. EU actors can in this perspective either decide how the EU should be governed (“decision-making about rules”) or how a policy should be changed with the help of a given rule (“decision-making within rules”). The first perspective deals largely with the intergovernmental conferences during which the European Union has changed the rules that structure the interactions among the member states. The latter viewpoint addresses how the relevant decision makers of the European Union have amended or prevented policy changes alone or in collaboration with other actors.
Both perspectives draw on the standard assumptions of the rational choice research program that actors engage into means-ends calculations in a consistent way, process new information efficiently, and are aware of the preferences and rationality of other relevant actors. This implies, in the context of EU decision-making, that the adoption of new rules and polices is the consequence of the strategic behavior of those players who possess the power to influence the collective choice. The application of the RCI approach to EU integration has resulted in a multitude of studies seeking to explain its capacity for institutional reform, policy change, or absorption of new members. While the European Parliament, like any other legislature, concludes its deliberations through voting, other EU decision-making bodies mainly decide either through bargaining or through delegating certain tasks to a subordinate actor. RCI has adopted different workhorse models borrowed from game theory to reflect the variety of decision-making modes: the spatial theory of voting, non-cooperative bargaining theory, and principal-agent models have become the standard approaches to study European integration.
RCI research has faced several challenges since becoming a mainstream approach in the study of EU decision-making. The first set of criticism focuses on the axiomatic basis of the RCI research program in general and questions its usefulness for understanding the evolution of an organization as complex and large as the EU. Other objections that are frequently raised refer to the empirical tests of the hypotheses derived from the game-theoretic models. Finally, critics of the approach question the ability of the RCI program to deal with the role of informal institutions.
Ireneusz Paweł Karolewski and Maciej Wilga
Multifaceted in its character, the relationship between Poland and the European Union is now more than a quarter of a century old. After the breakdown of the Eastern bloc, Poland signed the Association Agreement with the then European Communities in December 1991, which led up to an EU membership application three years later. Not yet a member, the country had some impact on the Union in the Nice Treaty negotiations (2000–2001), as well as on the European Constitutional Convention proceedings (2001–2003). After a successful EU membership referendum in 2003, reflecting a great deal of societal support, Poland, along with nine other newcomers, became a fully-fledged member of the EU. Once within the bloc, Warsaw was at pains to develop a more coherent EU policy, as it often changed its positions between more collaborative approaches and veto threats, but also absolving a successful rotating EU Council presidency in 2011. The country collaborated with other member states in Central and Eastern Europe—in the Visegrád framework and with the older member states—through the Weimar Triangle, for example, however with sometimes mixed results. Poland has prioritized a number of issues in the EU such as the energy sector, security and defense, and the Eastern partnership, the latter focusing on the EU Eastern neighbors, including Ukraine and Belarus. In particular, during the Ukraine-Russia conflict of 2014–2015, Poland was one of most active actors in the EU foreign policy. However, since 2015 Poland has become a subject of controversy within the EU, regarding the rule of law standards that were criticized by the European Commission and Warsaw’s rejection of a relocation scheme in the EU refugee and migrant policy.
In recent decades, the efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) movements has created powerful inroads for sexual rights in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. While conditions for LGBTI people vary considerably between and within countries, activists across the region are reshaping political, legal, and social understandings of gender and sexuality through their advocacy, both by seizing opportunities and navigating periods of backlash and repression. Over the years, activists have established domestic movements and have expanded their reach to articulate demands in regional and international forums. Their work has challenged the universality of models developed in other parts of the globe and has generated new tactics to respond to religious, familial, and state-sponsored prejudice. At the same time, questions of representativeness, accountability, and strategy have been raised by constituencies and longtime activists alike, inviting critical assessments of movement politics in the region.
Christopher A. Whytock
Political scientists—primarily in the discipline’s international relations subfield—have long studied international law. After considering how political scientists and legal scholars define international law, this article identifies five stages of political science research on international law, including the current interdisciplinary international law and international relations (IL/IR) stage, and it reviews three trends in political science research that constitute an emerging sixth stage of interdisciplinary scholarship: a law and world politics (L/WP) stage. First, moving beyond the “IL” in IL/IR scholarship, international relations scholars are increasingly studying domestic law and domestic courts—not only their foundational role in supporting international law and international courts but also their direct role in core areas of international relations, including international conflict and foreign policy. Second, moving beyond the “IR” in IL/IR scholarship, political scientists are adapting their research on international law to the broader world politics trend in political science by studying types of law—including extraterritoriality, conflict of laws, private international law, and the law of transnational commercial arbitration—that govern the transnational activity of private actors and can either support or hinder private global governance. Third, moving beyond the domestic-international divide, political scientists are increasingly rejecting “international law exceptionalism,” and beginning to take advantage of theoretical convergence across the domestic, comparative, and international politics subfields to develop a better general understanding law and politics.
Federations have existed in a modern form since the constitution of the United States entered into force in 1789. Riker defines a federation as follows (1975, p. 101) “a political organization in which the activities of government are divided between regional governments and a central government in such a way that each kind of government has some activity on which it makes final decision.” The process of getting to the federation, the integration process, is best described as federalism.
There is some agreement on the core of what a federation is, and some disagreement over whether to apply the term “federation” strictly to states and state-like actors or in a broader sense. Federations are concrete ways to organize government, but in many writings, they are also given positive attributes, such as enhanced democracy and efficiency, too.
There are two ways to think about federalism: as a politico-ideological theory of action and as an academic theory of regional integration. The first theory is propagated by writers such as Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, Jean Monnet, and Altiero Spinelli. This theory is of political rather than academic interest. Academic theories of regional integration are divided into two groups, following the common practice in international relations theory: liberal theories (by far the largest group) and realist theories.
Federalism theory as a theory of regional integration was abandoned too early because, inter alia, it had been linked to the development of the European Community, which was in crisis from the mid-1970s till the mid-1980s. This was a mistake. Federalism theory provides the scholar with at least two tools. First, under the title “federation,” it introduces a large number of theories, methods, and empirical studies on how to analyze the European Union and other regional integration projects. Second, as a federalism theory, especially in the realist or the Riker-McKayian version, it provides a theory of how countries may unite peacefully. This approach must be developed in terms of (a) the concept of threat, which must be broadened to include economic, social, and cultural elements, and (b) the role of a basic common culture, which primarily facilitates the founding of the federation and constitutes the foundation securing the maintenance of the new federation.
A brief analysis of the development of today’s European Union, following the realist approach, demonstrates that, broadly speaking, a correspondence exists between threat and the integration process: In times of threat, the process of integration and federalization advances; in periods of peace and no crisis, the integration process stagnates.
Developed in the 1950s and 1960s, neofunctionalism underwent several ups and downs, often closely related to the stops and starts of the European integration process. During this time, neofunctionalism has repeatedly become subject to revision, a development that has continued in the new millennium. The theory has been widely criticized, and some of the criticisms have aptly revealed considerable shortcomings, but neofunctionalism retains a central place in conceptualizing European integration. This is due to (a) neofunctionalism possessing a unique toolkit for analyzing important issues of European integration, mainly concerning the dynamics of the integration process; (b) the theory inspiring subsequent (micro-level) theorizing, and later approaches having frequently drawn on neofunctionalist tenets and concepts; (c) neofunctionalism having proven to be capable of reformation. Instead of pinning the theory solely down to certain time-sensitive formulations dating from up to six decades ago, neofunctionalism should be understood as an evolving theory, whose research agenda is by no means exhausted.
Indigenous peoples have become important social and political actors in contemporary Latin America. The politicization of ethnic identities in the region has divided analysts into those who view it as a threat to democratic stability versus those who welcome it as an opportunity to improve the quality of democracy. Throughout much of Latin America’s history, Indigenous peoples’ demands have been oppressed, ignored, and silenced. Latin American states did not just exclude Indigenous peoples’ interests; they were built in opposition to or even against them. The shift to democracy in the 1980s presented Indigenous groups with a dilemma: to participate in elections and submit themselves to the rules of a largely alien political system that had long served as an instrument of their domination or seek a measure of representation through social movements while putting pressure on the political system from the outside. In a handful of countries, most notably Bolivia and Ecuador, Indigenous movements have successfully overcome this tension by forming their own political parties and contesting elections on their own terms. The emergence of Indigenous peoples’ movements and parties has opened up new spaces for collective action and transformed the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state.
Indigenous movements have reinvigorated Latin America’s democracies. The political exclusion of Indigenous peoples, especially in countries with substantial Indigenous populations, has undoubtedly contributed to the weakness of party systems and the lack of accountability, representation, and responsiveness of democracies in the region. In Bolivia, the election of the country’s first Indigenous president, Evo Morales (2006–present) of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, has resulted in new forms of political participation that are, at least in part, inspired by Indigenous traditions. A principal consequence of the broadening of the democratic process is that Indigenous activists are no longer forced to choose between party politics and social movements. Instead, participatory mechanisms allow civil society actors and their organizations to increasingly become a part of the state. New forms of civil society participation such as Indigenous self-rule broaden and deepen democracy by making it more inclusive and government more responsive and representative. Indigenous political representation is democratizing democracy in the region by pushing the limits of representative democracy in some of the most challenging socio-economic and institutional environments.