Art, Economic and Tax Policy of the European Union

The European Union exerts some level of control over a wide range of policy areas. In some it exerts almost complete control at the supranational level (economic policy), while in others it has next to no influence (foreign and defense policy). A host of other issues lie somewhere in between these two poles, yet ultimately tend toward an intergovernmental character.
The collective economic policy of the European Union is one of the great success stories of European integration and the prototype for effective supranational governance. Pursuit of a single, free European market has been a goal of European integration since its inception as the European Coal & Steel Community. Though small steps in that direction were taken over the following decades, it was the passing of the Single European Act (SEA) in the mid 80s that signaled the realization of the single market was imminent. The act strove to eliminate all remaining non-tarriff barriers to the free movement of people, money, goods, and services . . . [taking] three main forms: physical, fiscal, and technical, (McCormick 159). The removal of these barriers necessitated an encroachment on the traditional domain of the nation-state. It threatened the territorial integrity of the nation-state, held influence over certain tax rates, and took control of product standards and regulations. The implementation of the single market represented a clear shift toward supranationalism in European economic policy. Besides asserting the primacy of the E.U. in economic matters, the act itself was the brainchild of the Delors Commission, the most supranational of E.U. institutions. The Single European Act and the resulting single European market are products of supranational administration and manifestations of supranational policies.
The implementation of the Euro in thirteen E.U. member-states is another proud moment in the history of European integration and the proliferation of supranational governance and policy. The implementation of the European monetary union required participants to meet certain convergence criteria, at which point they would relinquish control of exchange rate policy to the European Central Bank. Not only did these convergence criteria amount to E.U. control over national monetary policies, but the idea once again originated in the highly supranational Delors Commission. The hand-over of exchange rate policy control to the European Central Bank was an even greater concession, representing a clear and significant surrender of authority from the nation-state to the European Union. Though the Euro is not yet implemented across the European Union and has not been without its failures, it has helped to stabilize exchange rates for the single market, facilitated greater and fairer competition across borders, and placed European currency on the same level as the U.S. Dollar or the Japanese Yen (McCormick). Again, the unification of European monetary policy is both the product of supranational governance and an example of supranational policy in practice.
Attempts to build a coherent foreign policy within the E.U. have failed repeatedly to achieve anything close to a unified voice to the world. Initial attempts at foreign policy coordination, such as the European Defence Community (EDC) and European Political Cooperation (EPC) failed to have a noticeable effect and remained strongly intergovernmental in their structure. The current incarnation is the Common Security and Foreign Policy (CSFP), implemented by the Maastricht Treaty. Though CSFP has made some minor progress in coordinating policy, it has woefully underperformed with major issues—Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq War—on the table. Even if the CSFP were to perform up to expectations, it would still be undoubtedly an intergovernmental institution. Despite recent efforts to remedy this problem, the CSFP is implemented largely through the highly intergovernmental Council of Ministers, and, thus, is prone to disputes in the name of national interest (McCormick). A cogent, unified E.U. foreign policy is far from realization. The institutions in place today are not up to the task, national leaders will be loath to relinquish this primary duty of the nation-state (the protection of its people), and foreign policy goals vary significantly from nation to nation. European foreign policy as it stands could not be described as anything but strongly intergovernmental.
A wide range of domestic policy areas lie somewhere between the stark contrast of supranational economic policy and intergovernmental foreign policy. Agricultural policy has long been an important facet of European integration. The long-standing and quite successful Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is built on the promotion of a single market in [agriculture] . . . advantages to EU produce over imported produce, and joint financing, (McCormick 189). These goals for E.U. agriculture policy are supranational, focusing on the integration of separate markets and a common financial burden. Yet, the implementation of agriculture policy has strong ties to intergovernmental bargaining, as the current system of subsidies was born from French pursuit of national interest. The E.U.'s regional policy is a largely supranational undertaking. Designed to narrow the economic gap between the rich states of Western Europe and the poorer states of Eastern Europe, the joint E.U. approach has resulted in more efficient and effective regional aid. Clearly, this aid program places the interests of Europe collectively (the integrity of the single market, the success of some lesser members) over the national interest of the contributing nations. Finally, in environmental policy strong attempts have been made to establish a supranational authority, as problems like pollution or global warming transcend national boundaries. Despite this, the E.U. has been unable to fully implement a sound environmental policy across the member-states. Suggestions that the E.U. should be given powers to inspect and force compliance on environmental policy have been met with worries about loss of sovereignty and 'interference' . . . in the domestic affairs of member states, (McCormick 205). Attempts at forming a supranational environmental policy have been tripped up by familiar, intergovernmental stumbling blocks.
With the notable exception of the almost fully integrated economic policy, E.U. policies tend toward an intergovernmental approach. Foreign policy is almost entirely intergovernmental, while a whole range of other policies may pursue a supranational approach only to find themselves impeded by intergovernmental disagreement. Movement in the direction of supranational policy is apparent (and almost fully realized in the economic arena), yet the E.U. today remains largely characterized by intergovernmental policy outcomes.