Beyond the progressive story: Reframing Resistance to European Integration

Beyond the progressive story: Reframing Resistance to European Integration. International Conference at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research

Federal Ministry for Education and Research; Max-Weber-Foundation; Hamburg Institute for Social Research
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
29.03.2023 - 31.03.2023
Alexander Hobe / Katharina Troll, Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung

Churchill’s underpants. For a fleeting moment, KIRAN KLAUS PATEL (Munich) exposed his audience to this image when opening his keynote address. Mercifully, he immediately solved the puzzle: He was not talking about clothing, but about the affectionate nickname designating the flag of the European federalist movement, a green E on a white background, a designation alluding to the commitment of the British Prime Minister and his son-in-law, Duncan Sandys, to European unification. In 1950, Patel went on, Churchill’s underpants were waving in the face of Paul-Henri Spaak. Spaak, however, was not being cheered by the federalists, as one might expect under the impression of his rank as a “European saint” (Alan Milward). Rather, he was booed.

The conference was characterized by these kinds of subversions of expectation. It attempted to find a new framework for histories of European integration, beyond the unbroken, conflict-free history of progress that dominates the self-portrayal of the European institutions. The assumption that Spaak and the federalists would have to be on the same side demonstrates the considerable success of this story.

As Patel showed, rendering resistance to integration processes invisible was a considerable part of the institutions’ self-portrayal, evidenced, for example, in the vague style of questioning in the Eurobarometer polling. Hence, the polls found consistently high support for “the idea of European unification,” even while respondents were unable to name even one concrete effect of the European Communities (EC). Out of this, the pollster drew evidence of “support for Europe,” concealing the fragile factual basis of this statement. Framing this act of concealment as an inherently conflictual one, and generalizing it from polling to politics, PHILIPP MÜLLER’s (Hamburg) concluding remarks asked if this might be where future histories of European union could be sought. Could they?

Rendering resistance invisible certainly was also part of the institutions’ political modus operandi. PHILIP BAJON (Frankfurt am Main) explained how the Luxembourg Compromise (1966) served as such a mechanism: The gentlemen’s agreement between European Economic Community (EEC) member states guaranteed them the option to block decision-making on national “vital interests”. However, it remained unclear and was never codified as to what might constitute such a vital interest, which continued in the subsequent EC and EU. Disagreement was concealed behind the compromise, which facilitated the rise of consensus-building (“silent voting,” in Bajon’s words) as a mode of decision-making.

VICTOR JAESCHKE (Potsdam) presented a similar case. In championing “subsidiarity” as a potential “cure for the Europe-weary”, the European Commission and the member states introduced yet another vague and ill-defined concept, in the hope to relieve the contestation of the process through delegation to lower levels. It was never clear, and interpreted quite differently by various actors, how and which regional levels should have the right to their own sphere of decision-making. This disagreement became visible when actors attempted to influence the way in which the concept would be legally defined, but it was obscured in its ambiguous phrasing in the treaty of Maastricht. Checking in with the question posed by Müller, it would appear as though both Jaeschke and Bajon had offered a story of two different strategies for containing the contestation of integration, in line with the sketch for going beyond the progressive story.

Following this line of thought, moments of enlargement would be points at which to seek such conflict. After all, the EC/EU were and are projects of ordering space. When this space is re-ordered, or when another spatial arrangement comes in interaction with it, one can expect contestation. Müller’s own contribution is an example: In the late 1960s, the EC developed new foreign policy guidelines (European Political Cooperation) which were challenged by the disagreement among member states on how to deal with Portugal and the Portuguese empire. The displeasure of West German and French business representatives as well as foreign policy officials with the EC institutional approach to this question produced an alternative Europeanization through bilateral forums. Actively bypassing the EC, their spatial ordering stood in conflict with it, all the while no less European.

However, questions of enlargement not only produced alternative processes of Europeanization but also led to the promotion of new visions of Europe to justify, inter alia, non-democratic governments. ELENI KOUKI (Athens), in the case of Greece, demonstrated how strongly Europe was connected to Greek national identity as a historical concept and heritage. When the junta came into power in 1967, the EC decided to freeze Greece’s entry negotiations and to block association privileges. This led the junta to change its rhetoric on European integration and to construct a new vision of Europe that was more in line with its convictions: Only a free Europe of nations (not of individuals) with strong connections to the US and NATO would guarantee Europe’s freedom and save it from communism.

In both Müller’s and Kouki’s case, accession (or the prospect of accession) provides a window into the contestation of the EC’s spatial arrangements. As OLGA GONTARSKA (Warsaw) showed, pre-accession Poland also witnessed contestation around the scales of international cooperation in the 1990s. The journal “Arka” was a forum of transnational exchange, based on networks Polish historians had already formed during the Cold War. Through this, US neoconservative speakers were introduced into the debate on European cooperation, and their networks with Polish historians produced its own vision of transnational cooperation, at odds with Polish EU membership.

ANTONIO CARBONE (Rome) also told a story of the conflictual interaction of different territorial scales. He analyzed the reactions of Italian and French farmers to EC Southern enlargement plans (Greece, Portugal and Spain) during the 1970s and 80s. Carbone demonstrated how the confrontation of Northern and Southern agricultural interests, dividing not only both nation states but also both national farmers’ associations internally, structured the farmers’ response to the Common Agricultural Policy of the EC. This became visible in a Europeanization of protest practices. Here again, different scales for ordering space intersected, leading to tension and contestation.

LARISSA KRAFT (Glasgow) showed how French policymakers created and promoted narratives in response to the rearrangement of space during the first British EEC application. They emphasized the Franco-German relationship over the Franco-British one, portraying it as more European. As the discussion pointed out, this was remarkable, given the background of the Second World War alliances. In this sense, Kraft’s contribution was a further reminder of the contested nature of the institutions’ European claims.

Of course, not only the spaces of the EC/EU were rearranged. There were changes regarding questions of what European institutions should decide but also of which institutions would be the correct forum. The actors felt or anticipated this, and, accordingly, reacted. Here, DAVID LAWTON (London) offered an example by focusing on a group of British lawyers which won the right to a judicial review of the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Lawyers, Lawton argued, were uniquely qualified to remake British Euroscepticism during the Maastricht period. Their expertise afforded them an awareness of the opportunity provided by treaty reform. However, their reliance on arguments of British legal exceptionalism was founded on a certain ambiguity, underwritten as it was by the lawyers’ contact with other constitutional challengers of the EC/EU, for instance in Denmark and Germany.

KATHARINA TROLL (Hamburg), using the example of the Council of European Industrial Federations (founded in 1949 to represent European industrial interests and to advise the Organization for European Economic Cooperation), on the other hand demonstrated how economic actors reacted to European integration and as a consequence Europeanized in the 1950s and early 60s. The work of the Council was characterized by conflicts over the correct path of integration and by the articulation of alternatives to supranational integration mainly in the framework of the OEEC. As an alternative and OEEC affiliated economic organization it developed into a separate body that concerned itself mostly with European integration developments.

Here, a clear dialogue with ALEXANDER HOBE (Hamburg) is visible: He showed how the plans for the European Defense Community (EDC) in the 1950s incentivized Wehrmacht veterans to form a European umbrella association. However, their Europeanization developed its own, not purely reactive dynamics, and hence, after the EDC failed, it set off on a separate path. In all three cases (Lawton, Troll, and Hobe) the openness of plans for re-ordering the European arrangement created the conditions of their contestation. This could follow different trajectories: A head-on challenge of treaty reform as in Lawton’s case, a tactical weighing of alternatives as in Troll’s, or the abandoned position on a seemingly dead-end path, as in Hobe’s. The variable relationship between the “official” European framework and its “challengers” was further underlined by insights from JOHANNES GROSSMANN (Tübingen): While his “Conservative International,” consisting of several Elite circles, produced its own alternative visions of integration, the postwar decades also saw them adapting to the hegemonic framework, as an unintended consequence of their interactions.

All of these contestations over the extent and the form of European cooperation reveal integration’s conflictual history. They return the reflection to the attempt to go beyond the progressive story by instead telling the tales of strategies for containing conflict. Fundamental to this rendering are struggles over the rules and the frameworks defining Europe. While the examination of their containment is an important element of this, the question remains if it should stand in the center of inquiries, or if the focus should not be on the contestations themselves.

Nonetheless, a perspective on resistance is not necessarily a step beyond the progressive story. The existence of such opposition might in fact be read as a confirmation of its teleological drive. A remedy might be sought in an emphasis on the openness implied by the willingness of actors to seek confrontations or indeed in the uncertain futures many of the presentations saw as central to their actors’ motivations. In the end, the conference revealed that, in attempting to go beyond the progressive story, researchers will continue to have to deal with the threat of teleology.

Conference overview:

Chair: Wolfgang Knöbl (HAmburg)

Introduction: Philipp Müller (Hamburg)

Daniele Pasquinucci (Siena): A forgotten interaction: Europeanism, anti-Europeanism, and the building of Europe.

Andrea Martinez (Rome): “Europe constructed, Europe contested”: Comparing Italian media responses to the treaties of Paris and Rome

David Lawton (London): Lawyers against European union: The Maastricht judicial review, 1992-1993

Kiran Klaus Patel (Munich): Putting the permissive consensus to rest. Rethinking societal attitudes vis-à-vis European integration

Chair: Martin Baumeister (Rome)

Antonio Carbone (Rome): North-South divide at the communitarian and regional scale: Italian and French farmers facing EEC´s Southern enlargement

Katharina Troll (Hamburg): Debating Europe transnationally: The Council of European Industrial Federations and the struggle over European integration, 1950-1962

Larissa Kraft (Glasgow): (Re-)Narrating the past in pursuit of different visions of Europe: French policymaking discourses on Britain’s first application to join the European Communities, 1961–63

Olga Gontarska (Warsaw): Creating a forum for Eurosceptic exchange. Polish historians as public intellectuals in the pre-accession period

Chair: Milos Reznik (Warsaw)

Philip Bajon (Frankfurt am Main), Resisting the majority. Informal decision-making in the EC/EU, 1958-2016

Victor Jaeschke (Potsdam): “The magic word for Europe-weary”. Subsidiarity and its limits as a potential cure for Euroscepticism, 1988-1992

Johannes Großmann (Tübingen): Europe in black. A conservative alternative to European integration from the 1950s to the 1990s

Beata Jurkowicz (Warsaw): Eurosceptical trends among anti-communist opposition in Poland between 1976 and 1980

Simona Guerra (Surrey): When traditionalism and religion meet the EU: The Polish case in comparative perspective

Chair: Christina von Hodenberg (London)

Alexander Hobe (Hamburg): The Europeanization of Wehrmacht veterans at the time of the European Defense Community

Eleni Kouki (Athens): Europe in decay. The Greek junta’s rhetoric on European integration (1967-1974)

Philipp Müller (Hamburg): Outside Europe. Managing economic relations between EC member states and the Portuguese colonial empire in the 1970s

Philipp Müller (Hamburg): Concluding remarks

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