Regional Integration and Global Governance: the Example of the European Council, 1974-1986

The emergence of the European Council in the mid-1970s is an interesting case-study of the evolution of both the European Economic Community (EEC) polity and the international system. Very quickly, the European Council acquired a central role in the governance of the EEC polity; and very quickly too, the European Council had an impact in international relations. The two sentences constituting the uncodified constitution of the European Council, taken from the final communiqué of the Paris summit of December 1974, best summarise these interactions:

“Recognizing the need for an overall approach to the internal problems involved in achieving European unity and the external problems facing Europe, the Heads of Government consider it essential to ensure progress and overall consistency in the activities of the Communities and in the work on political co-operation. The Heads of Government have therefore decided to meet, accompanied by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, three times a year and, whenever necessary, in the Council of the Communities and in the context of political co-operation.”

LCI_009_L148Three key features are present in these sentences: the need for an approach encompassing globalisation and Europeanisation processes; the need to coordinate Community affairs and political cooperation; and finally the privileged capacity of heads of government to fulfil the two above-mentioned aims. This article explores these three central issues of the European Council’s development, from its inception in 1974 until its constitutionalisation in 1986 – that is, when it first formally appeared in a European treaty, the Single European Act (SEA). In order illustrate these three features, it elaborates upon three case-studies: the European Monetary System (EMS), European Political Cooperation (EPC) and the socialisation of heads of government.

The full article can be downloaded here.

Published in Les cahiers IRICE, No. 9, Volume 1, 2012, pp.91-104.