This volume contributes to the recent trend to move the international history of post-1945 Europe beyond an almost exclusive focus on the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Community (EC). Attempts to challenge what could be called an EU-centrism of sorts have been gaining traction for quite some time, with organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development and the Council of Europe receiving more attention. The book, whose origins lie in a conference held in Helsinki in 2017, takes the debate yet another step further.
The two editors’ introduction outlines the state of the art and lays out the book’s agenda in a clear and effective way. While their key argument – that the EU does not constitute (institutional) Europe – is almost a truism, they rightly stress the need to contextualize this specific form of European integration. Matthew Broad and Suvi Kansikas propose three different routes: firstly, by analysing pan-European organizations and projections that spanned the Cold War divide; secondly, by examining other forms of regional integration in the East and West of the continent; and thirdly, by shifting the attention to the subregional level and hence to smaller entities of European integration. Obviously, the boundaries between the three levels are porous and divisions sometimes a bit artificial; still, the chosen approach can help to structure the debate.
Having said this, it is important to avoid a misunderstanding that might easily arise from the book’s title. The approach rests on a rather capacious definition of integration. While many studies associate the term with supranationalism, and hence with delegating power to an authority beyond the level of member states, Broad, Kansikas, and the other authors in this book build on Leon Lindberg’s more open definition. Writing in the early 1960s, Lindberg defined integration as “the development of devices and processes for arriving at collective decisions by means other than autonomous action by national governments”.1 Hence, the book omits the comparably few other international bodies with supranational traits, such as the 1804 treaty to regulate tolls and navigation on the Rhine, or the effects of EU integration across different regions of Europe. In this sense, the chosen approach is both broader and narrower than one might think at first glance.
On this basis, Daniel Stinsky opens the first part of the book, on the pan-European level, with a piece on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe as an international organization set up in 1947 that brought together member states from both East and West.2 The next chapter, by Philippe Vonnard, examines the history of sports and sports television, providing a fine-grained analysis of the negotiations over televising football matches between the European Broadcasting Union and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) as a hitherto little-studied process transcending the Cold War via sports and television. The third chapter in this section, by Alexandra Athanasopoulou Köpping, scrutinizes the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and their contacts with the East, in particular during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1985. While building on fresh archival research, the chapter remains focused more on the European Parliament’s activities and views than on the parties it interacted with, thereby expressing an EU-centric viewpoint. Last but not least, Emma Hakala writes about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its role in the post-conflict Western Balkans since the late 1990s – a text that is particularly useful in the context of this volume for the way it compares and contrasts the forms of integration specific to the EU with those of the OSCE.
The second part, on regional integration, likewise brings together a wide variety of ways to address the pan-European dimension. Two contributions deal with aspects in the Western half of Europe. Ettore Costa discusses the British Labour Party’s visions of European integration from the 1930s to the 1950s. He highlights how its preference for limited, ad hoc cooperation differed from the plans that ultimately dominated in continental Western Europe. The text is particularly interesting where it demonstrates how the various views clashed in the Socialist International. While the existing literature on transnational party-political cooperation has stressed the tendency for positions to converge as a result of networking, Costa argues that international socialist cooperation led to estrangement and reinforced stereotypes. Juhana Aunesluoma’s study of the European Economic Area (EEA) in the late 1980s and early 1990s is equally fascinating. He provides the first archival-based, granular analysis of this project, which has often been overshadowed by the attention given to EC and later to EU enlargements. The EEA strove to forge closer links between the EC/EU and states such as Norway that had originally joined the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The other two chapters move on to regional integration in the Cold War East. While research on the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) has proliferated of late, Falk Flade makes an important and original contribution by demonstrating that the CMEA’s transnational energy structures were among the most successful forms of Eastern bloc economic cooperation. Particularly important for this volume is the way he denaturalizes the EU-style approach to international integration, which is often seen as the yardstick for other organizations. Flade convincingly argues that, above and beyond the ideological differences, the CMEA stood for an alternative approach: rather than seeking to establish free trade by reducing custom duties and tariffs, it worked to deepen the coordinated division of labour between socialist economies in order to allow each to specialize in a particular field. The following chapter, by Anna Lowry, moves the debate to today’s Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). While earlier research has underscored the role of the EU as a model for the institutional design of Eurasian integration, Lowry promotes moving beyond benchmarking the EAEU against the EU and instead developing a more nuanced understanding of its performance. Freed from this concept, the level of cooperation in the EAEU appears to be more significant than often claimed.
The book’s third, and final, part moves the debate to what the editors call the “sub-regional level”. While the distinction between the various tiers is not always clear, this part of the volume also contains some very useful texts. It starts out with a contribution by Pauli Heikkilä on exile groups’ plans for a Central European federation during the early Cold War. The chapter focuses less on individuals and more on on various party groupings and associations, examining the efforts to realize such projects as well as the ideas behind them. Subsequently, John Krige discusses the early history of the European Launcher Development Organisation. Highlighting the British perspective allows him to identify similarities in national behaviours by comparing the United Kingdom’s position in this rather small, technical institution to the evolution of Brexit negotiations in the context of the EU between 2016 and 2019. This fascinating methodological move uses a non-EU past to shed new light on Britain’s EU/European policies. Alongside certain differences, significant similarities emerge, most importantly the priority given to economic considerations, whereas potential political advantages of European unification played next to no role for the British government. The last two chapters deal with the Visegrád Group. Katalin Miklóssy examines its role via-à-vis the EU for the participating Central European nations, arguing that this subregional entity often helped to emphasize national agendas. Martin Dangerfield complements these findings with his survey of subregional groupings in post-communist Europe, which also pays particular attention to the Visegrád Group.
Given that the volume’s agenda is more about multiplying and expanding the focus of research “beyond Brussels” than about focusing on a specific argument, the chapters in this volume are premised on different methodologies, raise a wide set of questions, and take readers in very different directions with regard to geography, actors, institutional formats, topics negotiated, and outcomes. Most of the texts are very strong research contributions, building on new archival research and providing important new insights about the respective international organization or constellation. Beyond their intrinsic value and beyond broadening the canvas outside the EC/EU, the papers dedicated to the pan-European level deserve particular attention – so far there has been comparably little research on European cooperation and integration efforts of this kind. The same holds true for those chapters that challenge the primacy of the EC/EU by addressing its role without sticking to the categories and interpretations that have dominated EU-centric research to date.
Finally, the book does a much better job than most edited volumes in drawing out links and connections between the various contributions. This is true not just of the introduction. It is reinforced in the individual chapters and brought to a convincing conclusion in Anne Deighton’s summarizing essay, which is very effective in placing the book’s approach and contributions in a longer historiographical arc. Overall, this book is an excellent contribution to the literature: it summarizes the discussion, challenges established notions, provides a string of contributions with fresh findings, and prepares the ground for further debate.
1 Leon Lindberg, The Political Dynamics of European Integration, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963, p. 5.
2 For the sake of transparency, I want to make explicit that I supervised Stinsky’s PhD thesis, on which his chapter in this volume builds. Hence, I do not discuss it further.