The European Union's disappointing summit last December underlined how much European integration is caught in conflicting drives and aspirations. The EU's functional scope is broader than ever, thanks to monetary union and the new move toward a rapid reaction force. Its planned enlargement will extend its reach to the whole continent. But its system of governance is too Byzantine to function well, too obscure to be understood by its citizens, and too paralyzed by antagonisms. Neither the potential new members nor the United Kingdom seem willing to move toward a more federal structure. The tensions between the smaller and the larger states are acute, and the Franco-German "axis" is cracked.
In these two works, Sidjanski and Burgess focus on the debate between "federalists" and "intergovernmentalists" that has raged for decades. Burgess concerns himself with theories of European integration, trying to measure how far federalism has been achieved. But his conclusion -- that the EU has both confederal and federal elements, and these two schemes actually share many common features -- is a somewhat disappointing cop-out. (These elements in fact tend to lead in different directions, as the United States found out in its early years.) Sidjanski, in contrast, provides an eminently clear account of the EU's origins and development, arguing that federalism is both Europe's future and the best way to contain excessive nationalism. He devotes much space to the Balkan tragedies, which Burgess barely mentions, but his focus leads him into a different kind of trap. He analyzes the EU's evolution as a troubled yet necessary march toward federalism but fails to ask what it would take to build a European public space -- and whether there can be a European federation without a European "people." He seems torn between his faith and his awareness of the obstacles to federation.