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The European Union: John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik Theories Essay

Moravcsik and Weiler Theories

Two major theories have been suggested to describe the formation of the European Union (EU). One of these theories is known as the neo-functionalism model. This theory asserts that the major forces that encourage nations to unite are supranational or subnational. This theory has been supported by thinkers like Joseph Weiler. The second theory is the “liberal inter-governmental” and asserts that societal groups in a given country will develop specific interests thus dictating the common policies developed by different nations.

According to Moravcsik, domestic actors benefit significantly from the increased level of market liberalization. Consequently, the nations are forced to cooperate in an attempt to minimize barriers to trade (Moravcsik “De Gaulle” 12). This essay discusses and compares the theories of John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik.

Discussion of the Theories

In the work “The Transformation of Europe”, Weiler argues that the integration of different European states transformed the continent into something similar to a federal arrangement (Weiler 27). The move allocated joint power and authority between national legal entities and supranational orders. By so doing, the nations managed to enhance their judicial authorities. The neo-functionalist theory presented by Weiler shows conclusively that the drivers of the EU integration were sub-national and supranational.

This is true because the integration was “driven by sub-national and supranational actors working tirelessly to pursue their interests in a sphere that was insulated politically” (Moravcsik “Preferences and Power” 491). Since the integration of the EU was engineered and managed by the court, the author conclusively shows that the process can be supported using a neo-functionalist approach or theory. The court, therefore, had a direct influence on both the political and economic aspects of the EU integration. The neo-functionalist theory goes further to describe how the interests of individuals were subordinated over time thus forming collective expectations in the long run.

Weiler’s argument shows conclusively that law can function as an integral aspect of politics. This means that the unique role of neo-functionalists is to forecast economic developments and political changes. The integration was something that could never be separated from the notion of politics. However, it would provide an acceptable buffer to ensure positive results are realized by specific nations. Such results could “not be realized in the political realm” (Weiler 44). The theorist shows “conclusively that law is something widely perceived by political decision-makers as the most technical” (Weiler 44). This fact explains why more lawyers have been given the freedom to speak for the national governments forming the EU.

On the other hand, Moravcsik focuses on a liberal approach to examine the economic interests and preferences of different countries. The preferences of nations are shaped by several competing demands and expectations. This notion explains why the scholar supports the liberal inter-governmental theory. The theory argues that nations tend to act rationally. The foreign policies implemented or embraced by a specific nation will always reflect their economic interests at home (Moravcsik “Preferences and Power” 484).

Moravcsik goes further to assert that societal groups in a specific country will tend to have special interests. At the same time, each government will be willing to exercise its liberties and freedoms. That being the case, the societal pressures presented by different groups put force governments to unite. This notion is used by Moravcsik to explain why the EU was formed.

Domestic actors in these nations have therefore continued to benefit from reduced business tariffs and trade barriers. The model goes further to explain why cooperation is fueled by the desire to improve the level of policy coordination. This is the case because “domestic policies might undermine local markets” (Moravcsik “Preferences and Power” 486). The model has also been used to explain how the Monetary Union associated with the EU might have been influenced by different domestic players.

Similarities and Differences

These two theories are the major models describing the integration of different European nations. The theories have been observed to co-opt ideas from each other. Some scholars have indicated that Moravcsik’s argument is refutable because it lacks concrete evidence. For example, some experts argue that “de Gaulle’s European policy was decisively influenced by agricultural interests through their peak organizations” (Lieshout, Segers, and Gluten 116).

Moravcsik was aware of the limitations surrounding this argument thus modifying it in his future works. The scholar gives powerful insights to analyze the facts and prospects of the European Union. This fact explains why some aspects of the two theories appear to converge. For instance, the political expectations of different nations are identified as unique forces that encouraged these countries to unite. The two theories use the concept of a stronger region to describe the purpose of EU integration.

The theories go further to present conflicting descriptions of how and why the EU was formed. For instance, the neo-functionalism theory views integration as a continuous process aimed at addressing the legal and political issues of the targeted nations. On the other hand, the liberal inter-governmental theory treats integration as a unique choice made by each of the member states. The neo-functionalist theory indicates that integration is supranational.

The liberal inter-governmental model views the decision as state-centric (Moravcsik “Preferences and Power” 491). In his theory, Weiler asserts that the decision to unite under the EU umbrella has continued to weaken every member state. Moravcsik model indicates that the decision to form the EU was aimed at strengthening the economies most of the member states.

Complementary Understandings About European Integration

These theories can be studied as complementary arguments trying to describe the driving factors and aspects of European integration. It is agreeable that the integration was fuelled by a wide range of forces and actors. On one side, Weiler’s arguments present the legal and political factors that motivated the integration. In his works, Weiler indicates conclusively that “every political outcome is usually decided or debated in the language and logic of law” (Weiler 44).

This fact explains why the theory has been widely applied whenever analyzing the development and facts of the EU. Using the theory, the author focuses on the fields of politics and law to explain the unique issues associated with this integration (Weiler 48). By so doing, the neo-functionalism theory explains how “the role of law in European integration was a product of a rational motivation and choice” (Weiler 76).

The other theory outlines the economic demands and societal pressures that encouraged more nations to unite and form the EU. With numerous threats facing the region, the decision to unite was favored to stabilize the nations. Consequently, the union made it easier for the countries to reduce trade barriers, improve transportation, and address the major challenges affecting them (Moravcsik “De Gaulle” 18). Despite the unique differences associated with these two theories, it is agreeable that they can be adequately used to describe the economic and legal drivers that catalyzed the formation of the EU.

Strongest Disagreement

Although the above discussion has indicated clearly that these two theories can be used to present complementary understandings about EU integration, the outstanding fact is that they disagree on the strength of each member state. The neo-functionalist approach indicates that the integration has the potential to weaken each member state while the liberal inter-governmental concept indicates otherwise (Moravcsik The Choice 72). That being the case, Moravcsik’s model is plausible because it shows clearly that each of the member states will need the others to remain strong. For instance, the EU has made it easier for many companies and business people to engage in profitable international trade.

The case of Britain can be used to describe this issue further (Moravcsik “The Great Brexit” par. 1). The decision by Britain to leave the union is something that has attracted the attention of many scholars. It is agreeable that Europe has developed because of the opportunities availed by the union. The EU has continued to stabilize trade, secure investments, and improve transportation. Member states have emerged stronger than ever before. That being the case, the politicians who “encouraged many Britons down the path to leave Europe would have to lead them back up again the next day to save their political skins” (Moravcsik “The Great Brexit” par. 14). This means that Britain might suffer the consequences of the decision. Britain might encounter numerous trade barriers and eventually reconsider its decision.

Works Cited

Lieshout, Robert, Mathieu Segers and Anna van der Vleuten. “De Gaulle, Moravcsik and the Choice for Europe: Soft Sources, Weak Evidence.” Journal of Cold War Studies 6.4 (2004): 89-139. Print.

Moravcsik, Andrew. “De Gaulle Between Grain and Grandeur: The Political Economy of French EC Policy, 1958-1970.” Journal of Cold War Studies 2.2 (2000): 3-43. Print.

—. “Preferences and Power in the European Community: A Liberal Intergovernmental Approach.” Journal of Common Market Studies 31.1 (1993): 473-524. Print.

—. “The Great Brexit Kabuki – A Master Class in Political Theatre.” Financial Times. 2016. Web.

—. The Choice for Europe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998. Print.

Weiler, Joseph. The Constitution of Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "The European Union: John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik Theories." October 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-european-union-john-weiler-and-andrew-moravcsik-theories/.


IvyPanda. "The European Union: John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik Theories." October 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-european-union-john-weiler-and-andrew-moravcsik-theories/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The European Union: John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik Theories." October 8, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-european-union-john-weiler-and-andrew-moravcsik-theories/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The European Union: John Weiler and Andrew Moravcsik Theories'. 8 October.

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