European Integration and the Re-conceptualization of State Sovereignty: A Challenge for Neorealism

George Koukoudakis


This article focuses on the challenges that the political and constitutional development of European Union (EU) poses to the neo-realist paradigm. European integration constitutes a unique experiment in international integration and, especially since the mid-1980s, in large-scale polity-formation. Moreover, a “security community” in the sense of Deutsch has emerged among the component polities of the EU, something that comes in stark contrast to the Hobbesian view of international politics as an arena within which power-hungry states find themselves in constant competition with each other. Instead, the EU represents a unique exercise in peaceful voluntary integration and has played a crucial role in the transformation of the domestic orders of the component states, shaping their interests and behaviour, while contributing to a reconceptualisation of state sovereignty. It thus challenges the explanatory power of state-centric neo-realism. Also, the building of a European polity challenges the unitary character of the state – an assumption underlying most realist premises – as questions of subnational representation and mobilisation are now part of the EU’s system of governance. Hence, a multilevel polity has emerged in Europe characterised by complex patterns of interaction among state and non-state actors. The proposed study, by examining normative discourses on European polity-formation, challenges the analytical validity of the neo-realist paradigm and raises the question for new theoretical orientations in international relations of post bipolar Europe.

Keywords: European Integration, Neorealism, European Union, State

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