The Eurozone, Ukraine, refugees and Brexit – the European Union has had to confront and manage several major crises during the last decade. However, the outcomes of these crises in respect of political integration have been divergent. The Eurozone has become politically more closely integrated. The Ukraine crisis has not produced any significant effect one way or the other. In contrast, the refugee crisis has provoked some, albeit limited, political disintegration and, with Brexit, the EU is losing one of its three largest and most powerful member states. This divergent pattern of crisis outcomes is not easily explicable in terms of the existing ‘grand’ (neofunctionalist, liberal intergovernmentalist and postfunctionalist) theories of European integration. Applying a modified version of hegemonic stability theory, Douglas Webber argues that the divergent crisis outcomes are, to a large extent, the function of the extent to which Germany has been willing and able to play the role of a stabilizing hegemonic power in the EU. Germany’s prospectively diminishing willingness and capacity to play this role endangers the EU’s future if new crises develop – as they more than likely will.
Douglas Webber is Professor of Political Science at the international business school, INSEAD, based at its European campus in Fontainebleau, France. Before joining INSEAD in 1991, he worked at the universities of Essex, Strathclyde and Sussex as well as at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies at Cologne. At the European University Institute (Florence) he was a Jean Monnet Fellow from 1995 to 1997 and a Robert Schuman Fellow in 2016-2018. He was also a visiting professor at the University of California Berkeley (2010) and a visiting fellow at Monash University (Melbourne) (2009 and 2013) and the Australian National University (Canberra) (2011). He has published several books and edited volumes and numerous journal articles on issues of German politics and foreign policy, Franco-German relations, EU politics, European and Asian regional political integration, and Indonesian politics. His latest book, European Disintegration? The Politics of Crisis in the European Union (London: Red Globe Press/Macmillan), has just appeared.