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Intergovernmentalism is a term in political science with two meanings. The first refers to a theory of regional integration originally proposed by Stanley Hoffmann; the second treats states and the national government as the primary factors for integration.[1]


Intergovernmentalism treats states, and national governments in particular, as the primary actors in the integration process. Intergovernmentalist approaches claim to be able to explain both periods of radical change in the European Union because of converging governmental preferences and periods of inertia because of diverging national interests. Intergovernmentalism is distinguishable from realism and neorealism because of its recognition of the significance of institutionalisation in international politics and the impact of domestic politics upon governmental preferences.

Regional integration[edit]

European Integration[edit]

The best-known example of regional integration is the European Union (EU), an economic and political intergovernmental organisation of 28 member states, all in Europe.[2][3] The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states.[4][5][6] Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens. The EU's de facto capital is Brussels.[7]

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area (which includes 22 EU and 4 non-EU European states) passport controls have been abolished.[8] EU policies favour the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its boundaries,[9] enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade,[10] agriculture,[11] fisheries and regional development.[12]

A monetary union, the eurozone, was established in 1999 and is composed of 17 member states. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. Permanent diplomatic missions have been established around the world. The EU is represented at the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the G8 and the G-20.

Intergovernmentalism represents a way for limiting the conferral of powers upon supranational institutions, halting the emergence of common policies. in the current institutional system of the EU, the European Council and the Council play the role of the institutions which have the last word about decisions and policies of the EU, institutionalizing a de facto intergovernmental control over the EU as a whole, with the possibility to give more power to a small group of states. This extreme consequence can create the condition of supremacy of someone over someone else violating the principle of a "Union of Equals".[13]

African Integration[edit]

The African Union (AU, or, in its other official languages, UA) is a continental intergovernmental union, similar but less integrated to the EU, consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. The AU was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).[14] The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Teodor Lucian Moga (2009). "The Contribution of the Neofunctionalist and Intergovernmentalist Theories to the Evolution of the European Integration Process" (PDF). Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "Basic information on the European Union". European Union. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "European". Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 5 b. spec. Designating a developing series of economic and political unions between certain countries of Europe from 1952 onwards, as European Economic Community, European Community, European Union 
  4. ^ "European Union". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 1 July 2009. international organisation comprising 27 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies ... 
  5. ^ "European Union". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  6. ^ Anneli Albi (2005). "Implications of the European constitution". EU enlargement and the constitutions of Central and Eastern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 204. ISBN 90-6704-285-4. Retrieved 25 July 2011. In practical terms, the EU is perhaps still best characterised as a 'supranational organisation' sui generis': this term has proved relatively uncontroversial in respect of national constitutional sensitivities, being at the same time capable of embracing new facets of integration 
  7. ^ "Brussels' EU capital role seen as irreversible". EurActiv. Retrieved 28 October 2012. Brussels has become the de facto capital of the European Union 
  8. ^ "Schengen area". Europa web portal. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  9. ^ European Commission. "The EU Single Market: Fewer barriers, more opportunities". Europa web portal. Retrieved 27 September 2007. 
    "Activities of the European Union: Internal Market". Europa web portal. Retrieved 29 June 2007. 
  10. ^ "Common commercial policy". Europa Glossary. Europa web portal. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  11. ^ "Agriculture and Fisheries Council". The Council of the European Union. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  12. ^ "Overview of the European Union activities: Regional Policy". Europa web portal. Retrieved 6 September 2008. 
  13. ^ Matteo Laruffa, "The European Integration and National Interests: from an intergovernmental model to a Constitutional Agreement"(Hungarian Academy of Social Sciences, Budapest, 3 July 2014)
  14. ^ Thabo Mbeki (9 July 2002). "Launch of the African Union, 9 July 2002: Address by the chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki". ABSA Stadium, Durban, South Africa: Retrieved 8 February 2009.