EU Institutions and the transformation of European-Level Politics – How to understand profound change (if it occurs)
The extent to which political cleavages are cross-cutting national boundaries is seen as an indicator of system transformation in the EU. In this paper cleavage patterns are seen as partly reflecting the EU's institutional architecture.
One key indicator of profound change in a Westphalian state order might be the extent to which cleavages are cross-cutting national borders. The kind of conflict structure found at the European level is supposed to be highly dependent upon the institutional architecture at that same level. Arguably, a peculiar thing about the EU’s institutional
set-up is that it might be able to generate a multi-dimensional cleavage pattern at the European level. In that case, power becomes significantly redistributed, and serious conflicts along a single axis are less likely to develop. If EU institutions really are that important, then we have to address more systematically the processes through which they themselves come about and change. Prevalent rational choice explanations, including liberal intergovernmentalism, have their shortcomings when profound institutional change is to be accounted for, and, particularly so, if such change is intended.
This paper has later been published in Comparative European Politics 3, 1 (2005), 102-117 It will also be published in 2006 as a book chapter in M. Egeberg (ed.) The Multilevel Union Administration (Houndmills: Palgrave).