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Europeanisation: the process and it's dimensions


Europeanisation: the process and it's dimensions

By Neila Akrimi


‘Europeanisation’ has become a common term used not only in International Relations, but also by other social sciences to designate a multiplicity of phenomena. The risk of the increasing amount of uses of Europeanisation is that the word might well end up having no specific meaning beyond a vague reference to Western Europe. It is thus crucial to stop at this point and establish a working definition of the term. 

In the numerous uses of the term Europeanisation that we can come across, it is widely understood as ‘the penetration of the European dimension into the national arena’[i]. It is used in the social sciences to describe ‘the impact, convergence or response of actors and institutions in relation to the European Union.’[ii] 

In public policy analysis the term Europeanisation has become commonly used in the last years, and has been at the core of comparative politics’ approach to the European integration process. In the often quoted terms of Robert Ladrech: 

‘Europeanisation is an incremental process reorienting the direction and shape of politics to the degree that EC political and economic dynamics become part of the organizational logic of national politics and policy-making’ [iii].

In this definition, Europeanisation seems to be a national response to a European input. Bulmer and Burch suggest that this notion of Europeanisation, that they term ‘reception’, needs to be complemented by another dimension, the ‘projection’: 

‘European integration is not just ‘out there’ as some kind of independent variable; it is itself to a significant degree the product of member government’s wishes. Given that the European Union has its own organisational logic, it is necessary for national political actors […] to accommodate some of that logic if the opportunities afforded by the EU are to be exploited.’[iv] 

What exactly is Europeanised? Studies on Europeanisation focus sometimes in policy areas, and study matters like policy communities, decision-making structures, legislative and other output… More often, we come across studies that focus on institutions and institutional settings. Burch and Bulmer suggest that ‘if national political life consists of politics, polity and policy, it is likely that all three of these domains are affected by Europeanisation.’[v] 

Studying the Europeanisation of national politics would mean focusing on parties, interest groups and public opinion. The study of Europeanisation of national polity would start with constitutional and legal dimension to include more specific aspects of how governments handle European policy. Finally, the study of the Europeanisation of a policy is probably the most difficult because of the complexity of isolating an ‘EU-effect’ in most cases[vi]. Where competences have been transferred to the EU level, like in the case of trade or agriculture, the study of both passive (‘reception’) and active (‘projection’) dimensions of Europeanisation seems easier to justify than in the case of shared competence. 

The studies of Europeanisation cannot be reduced merely to national perspective. Europeanisation has an external dimension. First it is related to broader international developments and to the process of Globalisation, thus labelling as part of a Europeanisation effects and transformations coming from international phenomena. Moreover, Europeanisation is also a process that aims to export the European model of integration in the international arena. Moreover, we should not undertake the study of the phenomenon of Europeanisation before briefly assessing the very phenomenon of integration from which it stems. An uncritical acceptance of functionalist conceptions of the integration process may mislead the researcher to consider Europeanisation as an inevitable, progressive and aimed process. A conception that many theorists of European integration can easily challenge. For those reasons we believe that we should define Europeanisation as 

‘(…) a transformation in the way in which national foreign policies are constructed, in the ways in which professional roles are defined and pursued and in the consequent internalisation of norms and expectations arising from a complex system of collective European policy making.’[vii]. 

This definition comes close to the one Claudio Radaelli proposes for Public Policy analysts: ‘Processes of a)construction b)diffusion and c) institutionalisation of formal and informal rules, procedures, policy paradigms, styles, ‘ways of doing things’ and shared beliefs and norms which are first defined and consolidated in the making of EU decisions and then incorporated in the logic of domestic discourse, identities, political structures and public policies.’[viii] 

From this definition, and also taking into account Tonra’s and Radaelli’s, we want to underline two aspects: 

1. We define Europeanisation as a process, Tonra talks about a transformation, Radaelli about processes. The underlying idea is the same: there are changes that can be observed, and a final outcome of the transformation, a ‘europeanised’ policy. The result of the process is, according to Radaelli, the construction, diffusion and institutionalisation of rules, procedures, styles, norms,... and, we add, the adoption of policy decisions. 

2. Europeanisation has two main dimensions: reception and projection. We include both aspects in our definition, because we consider them to be complementary aspects of the same phenomenon. The Europeanisation implies two parallel processes: the first is the development of European integration (deepening and widening), the second process is the reactions stimuli stemming from outside agents. The way in which the EU acts now and in the future to external stimuli is inseparably connected with processes occurring within the EU. 


[i] Gamble, A. (2001). Europeanisation: a political economy perspective. The Europeanization of British public and social policy, PAC/JUC residential school., York. 

[ii] Featherstone, K. and G. Kazamias (2001). Abstract. Europeanisation and the Southern Periphery. K. Featherstone and G. Kazamias. London, Frank Cass. (in 

[iii] Ladrech, R. (1994). “Europeanization of Domestic Politics and Institutions: The Case of France.” Journal of Common Market Studies 32(1): 69-99, p 69. 

[iv] Bulmer, S. and M. Burch (2000). The 'Europeanisation' of central government: the UK and Germany in historical institutionalist perspective. The Rules of Integration. Schneider and Aspinwall. Manchester, Manchester University Press, p 4. 

[v] Ibid, p 3.

[vi] Bulmer, S. and C. Lequesne (2002). New Perspectives on EU-Member State Relationships Questions de Recherche/ Research in Question num. 4, January 2002. Paris: Centre d'études et recherches internationales Sciences Po, p 18. 

[vii] Tonra, B. (2000). Denmark and Ireland. The Foreign Policies of European Union Member States. I. Manners and R. Whitman. Manchester, Manchester University Press: 224-242, p 229. 

[viii] Radaelli, C. (2001). The Europeanization of Public Policy: notes on theory, methods, and the challenge of empirical research. The Europeanization of British public and social policy, PAC/JUC residential school., York, University of York, p 2.

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