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Rethinking the relationship with the EU: Greece, Italy, Spain and the Choice for Europe since Maastricht

European Politics
European Union
Governance
Euro
Cecilia Emma Sottilotta
The American University of Rome
Cecilia Emma Sottilotta
The American University of Rome

Abstract

The financial and economic crisis hit Europe and the Eurozone particularly hard and corroborated the warnings of economists, which concluded that economic policy coordination and loose fiscal oversight are insufficient to stabilize the monetary union. After the first reactions of shock and some reticence, the member states under the leadership of Germany agreed that the euro must be saved. They initiated rescue mechanisms and measures to strengthen fiscal surveillance and modes of sanctions based on a mixture of supranational law and new intergovernmental treaties. The impact of the measures taken so far is still to be seen. However, economic as well as political actors (first and foremost the European Commission) are asking for the construction of a “deep and genuine economic and monetary union” to prevent a recurrence of the crisis. Nonetheless, the idea of a deeper economic and fiscal union was met with substantial criticism especially in Southern European countries. As the consequences of the crisis for the countries belonging to the sub-region have been particularly negative, some sections of the public opinion and of the political spectrum alike have started to question the very desirability of EU membership. Such phenomena took place in Greece and Spain, but also in Italy, one of the EU founding members which indeed had welcomed the introduction of the single currency with high expectations. In the context of a research project which has won the competitive call HORIZON 2020 “EURO-1-2014” , entitled “The Choice for Europe since Maastricht : Member States' Preferences for Economic and Fiscal Integration”, this paper presents the first results of an empirical investigation on the preferences of Italy, Spain, Greece with regards to the concrete feasibility of different models and scenarios of economic and fiscal integration. The research builds on the comparative political economy literature as well as liberal intergovernmentalism and claims that domestic political, economic and fiscal characteristics explain member states governments’ preferences for different fiscal and economic integration proposals. The preliminary phase of the research is based on document analysis, subsequently complemented with data obtained through semi-structured interviews with former EU negotiators and experts from the countries analyzed.