To Euro or Not to Euro? The EMU and Identity Politics in the European Union

What do differing perceptions of the Euro project tell us about national stereotypes? This paper analyses elite-level debates in the light of identity politics, focusing on the schism between British and Franco-German approaches to the EU as a supranational project.

ARENA Working Paper 01/1998 (html)

Thomas Risse

This paper attempts to explain the variation in post-Maastricht elite attitudes toward EMU in Western Europe. It concentrates on the British reluctance to join the single currency early on as well as the French and German stubborn support for it. We argue that explanations based on solely material conceptions of actors' interests - whether economic or geopolitical - are indeterminate with regard to explaining the variation in attitudes. The Euro is about European union rather than just lowering transaction costs. Institutionalist accounts about path dependent processes, however, offer significant insights if they are linked to the more constructivist reasoning as developed in this article. The main argument in this paper then holds that the visions about European order which give political meaning to EMU, need to be understood in the framework of identity politics. The controversies among the political elites in the three countries as well as the variation in attitudes can be explained by differences in the construction of national collective identities and their relationship to European order. Money has historically been closely linked to state- and nation-building. The Euro is no exception. While the French and German political elites - from the center-right to the center-left - have incorporated "Europe" into their nationally defined collective identities, British policy-makers including New Labour remain hesitant. As a result, the continental European debates about the Euro have largely concentrated on the question when to join the single currency, while the British debate continues to discuss if joining was at all in the national interest.

Tags: identity, supranationalism, Euro, U.K., France, Germany
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM