Chapter

Flexibility: A Tool of Integration or a Restraint on Disintegration?

Helen Wallace

in European Integration After Amsterdam

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198296409
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599989 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198296401.003.0010
 Flexibility: A Tool of Integration or a Restraint on Disintegration?

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’Flexibility’ emerged as one of the key words in the practitioners’ discourse during the Intergovernmental Conference leading to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. The term became part of the new Eurospeak of the process, and shorthand for a broad‐ranging debate on the institutions and politics of the EU. It surfaced much as 'subsidiarity’ had done in the negotiations leading to agreement at Maastricht in 1991. Subsidiarity had then appeared to provide both a rationale and an operating tool for rearranging the division of labour between the European and national policy arenas. This chapter argues that similarly flexibility, according to its proponents, promised a new principle and a new tool for responding to differences in the enthusiasms and capabilities of the member states of the EU to take on new tasks of policy integration. In the period following Maastricht, it had become evident that subsidiarity was both a contested concept and a muddled guide for practice. In the aftermath of Amsterdam, flexibility needs to be examined both for its role as a potential principle in the integration process and for the scope it might offer for resolving problems of practice. This chapter develops this proposition more in detail. To that end, it puts the development of the principles of subsidiarity and flexibility in historical perspective.

Keywords: Amsterdam Treaty; discourse; European Union; flexibility; intergovernmental conference; Maastricht; member states; national policy; policy integration; subsidiarity

Chapter.  8147 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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