Bringing politics back in: rethinking the role of economic interest groups in European Integration
Journal of European Public Policy
GB : Routledge
367 - 654 p.
This paper argues that the most recent updates of classic integration theory tend to overstate the role of economic interest groups in European integration. Both 'liberal intergovernmentalist' and 'supranational governance' approaches see major economic interests - either national or transnational - as the main explanatory factor of European integration in the first place.Our view challenges both strands of literature and argues that economic interest groups are unable to act in a utility-maximizing way in a context of political uncertainty. European integration puts interest groups under 'stress': their knowledge about the political system and their political strategies are flawed by the emergence of European levels of governance. In such a context interest groups will usually strengthen relations with national authorities.Interest groups must undergo learning processes to understand European policy-making, which is facilitated by the institutionalization of European levels of governance. Only once they have adapted will they be able to return to utility-maximizing strategies of political representation. This paper draws on extensive field work on banking interest groups in France, Germany and the UK.