Concepts of Intergovernmentalism and Supranationalism

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Intergovernmentalism refers to arrangements whereby nation-states, cooperate with another on matters of common interest in situations and conditions they can control. Intergovernmentalism allows the exercise of control. The presence of control, which enables the participating states to decide the scope and nature of this cooperation, means that national sovereignty is not hurt.

Intergovernmentalism or exercise of control in the decision-making policies of all participating states is apparent in the following instances:

  1. In major areas of policy are still decided upon at national levels. These include foreign affairs, defense, fiscal policy, education, health and JHA.
  2. In major decisions concerning the general direction and policy priorities of the EU, the European Council is tasked to do the job.
  3. Important decisions on EU legislation demand the approval of the Council of Ministers (unanimous decision is still required in some areas).
  4. Though power vested in the Commission and the EP has increased they still exercise restrictions in their decision-making powers. Limitations on their authority are apparent in the fact that they cannot impose policies that member states do not want.

Supranationalism pertains to situations which involve states working with one another in a way that does not allow them to have complete control over developments. This is evident in cases where states may be obliged to act against their preferences and will because they do not have the power to hinder decisions. Supranationalism takes interstate relations beyond cooperation into integration and some loss of national sovereignty may occur in the process.

Cases where supranationalism concept is applied:

–         The Commission plays an important role in constructing the EU policy agenda and is an influential decision-maker on secondary legislation.

–         The scope of QMV in the Council of Ministers has grown significantly.

–         EP influence on decision-making especially through the assent and co-decision procedures is also significant

–         The strength and status of EU law. In the end, EU precedes national law.

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