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9.4.  Human networks and multinational integration in the EU

    In chapter 4 we examined the major role played by the common institutions in the European integration process. What needs to be brought out here is the secondary - albeit important - role played by transnational human networks, i.e. various economic, professional, administrative and other interest groups. The success of the European integration process is largely founded on the interaction of the secondary and main actors. The former expose the various national, professional or societal interests concerned by common policies. The latter filter those interests in order to arrive to generally accepted decisions [see section 4.3]. If those decisions do not satisfy the common interests of certain groups, these may continue their pressures on the main actors, with more chances of success the more transnational they are.

    A vast number of multinational networks bring together representatives of various economic interests and professions, employers' or employees' associations, non-governmental organisations, scientists and other experts of all nationalities. They take part in various formal or informal committees, which counsel, inform or lobby the Commission and the other main actors, or in ad hoc groups set up by programmes or projects of the various policies (e.g., education, research and environment). The members of these networks tend to convey to their fellows back home the "European spirit" or the logic of multinational integration. The influence of trade unions or associations for consumer or environment protection at European level should not be underestimated. It is certain that the positive or negative attitude of such a group may influence the position of the governments of one or more Member States and thus have an effect on or even block a common policy decision.

    An influential network is made up of the various officials of the Member States, called "national experts" in EU jargon, who take part in the numerous working parties and committees at Commission or Council level and prepare the decisions of the ministers [see section 4.1.4]. During their frequent meetings they come to know each other, understand the positions of their partners and discern the common interest in a proposed common policy. An important function of this network is to render more intelligible the European logic and mechanisms to national administrations back home, which keep national reflexes and are generally reluctant to shed a fraction of their power to the common administration in "Brussels". Through national experts, the national positions, which are at the outset very rigid, are progressively softened so as to allow finally a compromise decision by the ministers. When the decision is taken, the initiated in the European spirit may prepare the ground for its implementation at national level, an equally difficult and essential task.

    The most influential among secondary human networks is made up of business leaders. It is natural that they are concerned mostly by economic integration. By bringing about tougher conditions of competition inside the single market than the ones existing previously inside the protected national markets, multinational integration, on the one hand, threatens vested interests and, on the other, creates new business opportunities through market expansion and innovation. It ensues, that economic operators - big national businesses, state controlled companies, multinational companies and associations of enterprises, including the small and medium ones - cannot be apathetic onlookers in the integration process. They constitute powerful interest groups, which intervene by way of demands, suggestions or criticisms addressed to the managers - the governments of the member states - or to the principal actors - the common institutions - at various stages of the decision-making process, concerning particular policies or the advancement of the integration process itself. Economic integration may, indeed, begin and advance only if progressive and competitive elements have the upper hand within economic interest groups [see section 1.1.2]. Conversely, if these groups are dominated by conservative, protectionist elements, which have sufficient influence on the political elite at national or multinational level, they may stall the integration process or put off decisions on common policies. The EC/EU experience proves that business groups at national and European levels are dominated by dynamic elements, which support and influence the multinational integration process.

    Last but not least, many thousand students and other young people participate every year in European exchange programmes, create friendships and come close to the lifestyles and behavioural patterns of their neighbours [see section 13.4.2]. They thus create vast and strong links among the nations of the Union, which increase and firm up every year.

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    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

    Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
    Access to European Union law, economics, policies

    Translated into 14 languages

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