What is it about?

This study investigates the preference formation of political leaders, their interstate bargains at summit conferences and their institutional choices in the post-Maastricht period. In this period, political leaders decided to transfer important policy competences from the national to the supranational level of the EU and to change the governance design for EU decision making, in particular by empowering the European Parliament. The empirical analysis compares the explanatory power of two competing views, intergovernmentalism and national partyism that provide alternative answers to preference formation of political leaders, their interstate bargains at summit conferences and their institutional choices.

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Why is it important?

For a long time, the paradigm of liberal intergovernmentalism has dominated our thinking about European integration in the 20th century. From an interest group perspective, the intellectual community of liberal intergovernmentalism shares the view that socio-economic interests determine the preferences of political leaders, who negotiate institutional agreements in an environment of low lost complete and perfect information that enhance the credibility of commitments. In this 21st century, the reasons for why European scholars change their thinking about European integration are accompanied by resistance against new paradigms and evidence against the major claims of liberal intergovernmentalism. This study introduces the new paradigm of national partyism for the study of political leaders’ country- and party-specific interests, their bargains in an environment of incomplete and imperfect information, and their institutional choices of veto bicameralism, which establishes functionalist responsibility for the goal of European integration at the expense of popular responsiveness to the distinct public preferences. National partyism, which is another dividing -ism following prominent examples such as racism, sexism, classism, and sectarianism that define the classical cleavages of race, gender, class, and religion in European societies, is an identity-based concept that promotes animus across party lines between in- and outgroups. In European integration of the 21st century, it manifests by the growing divide between pro- and anti-integrationists – first at the level of party elites, and secondly at the level of the voters who align along this cleavage in times of crisis. However, the reasons for this growing divide -ism can be found at the times before crisis when the political leaders negotiated treaties and treaty amendments that ineffectively reformed the European Union. This study provides evidence for the foundations of their preferences, the mechanism of their bargains, and the institutional choices that established veto bicameralism.


Until Maastricht, intergovernmentalism has become a standard framework for the analysis and understanding of European integration. In this period, political ledaders' preferences were formed by socio-economic considerations, their interstate bargains focused on the relative gains among the Big-3 from France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and their institutional choices enhanced the credibility of their commitments. Alternmatively, national partyism finds a more partisan-ideological foundation of the preferences of political leaders in the post-Maastricht period, a two-level game logic with (in)voluntary defect of their interestate bargains, and unintended consequences of their institutional choices, which shift power to the executive and the judiciary due to a gridlocked legislature.

Dr. Thomas König
University of Mannheim

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This page is a summary of: Still the Century of Intergovernmentalism? Partisan Ideology, Two-level Bargains and Technocratic Governance in the post-Maastricht Era, JCMS Journal of Common Market Studies, May 2018, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/jcms.12738.
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