The EU context of change in state and nation post-1973
Title: The EU context of change in state and nation post-1973
Author: LAFFAN, Brigid
Citation: Niall Ó DOCHARTAIGH, Katy HAYWARD and Elizabeth MEEHAN (eds), Dynamics of political change in Ireland: making and breaking a divided island, London ; New York : Routledge, 2017, Routledge advances in European politics; 130, pp. 44-60
The aim of this chapter is to analyse the impact of EU membership over forty years ago on state and nation in Ireland. This is challenging because the relationship between state and nation is highly contingent and complex. In addition the Union is a distinctive polity – not a traditional nation state but a form of political order that has traces of both state and nation. Moreover, the EU has not been a static polity but has concluded five major treaty changes, transformative economic programmes, and the addition of nineteen new member states since its inception. Change in the EU was driven not only by functional pressures, policy problems but also by the commitment to 'ever closer union' contained in the treaties. Thus, European integration is both process and project and there are powerful political and economic forces that favour and promote further integration among the member states and their regions. The academic literature on European integration is characterized by major disputes concerning the nature of the EU and its impact on state and nation. This is not surprising because the Union defies simple categorization and is highly novel and experimental. One view is that 'as a process, European integration has a transformative impact on the European state system and its constituent units'. Another is that notwithstanding over 60 years of formal European integration, 'the effects of European integration on identities and public spheres appear to be weak' and that 'national ideas and identities are deeply entrenched and resistant to change'. What is clear is that the process of European integration is neither linear nor inexorable. It is subject to the push and pull of domestic and international politics and political economy, goes in multiple directions and is characterized by waves of contestation and tension. Its impact on the domestic is stronger in some dimensions than others and the specificity of each member state matters: size, history, level of prosperity and geographical location. Although neighbouring islands, historical experience has meant that Ireland and the UK had different motivations for joining the EU and different expectations of what membership meant. The cross-over between the two states is of course found in Northern Ireland, a devolved region within the United Kingdom but a contested territory given the commitment of nationalists within Northern Ireland to Irish unity and the manner in which a United Ireland was part of the official nationalism of the Irish state. Moreover, Northern Ireland had to fight for a voice on European issues within the UK and the Dublin Government occasionally used its seat at the table to address issues of significance to Northern Ireland.
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