This essay is only a partial reflection of the current state of European integration studies in Greece. It is thus neither extensive, nor perhaps representative of the many different scholarly efforts by Greek political scientists to capture the reality of the ‘polity’ that is currently emerging in Europe. Accordingly, what follows sketches a general outline of Greek academic interest in the nature of the evolutionary ‘EU order’, which has managed to combine high levels of segmental autonomy which are non-threatening to national identities, traditions and ways of life, with a sense of unity for the whole. The idea of the essay is to focus less on the microcosm of policy specific analyses and more on some theoretical projections that aim to capture the totality of what has been achieved so far – i.e., the general picture of integration at the turn of the first decade of the 21st century. Eclectic and, by extension, limited as it may be in its scope, the essay also makes the point that Greek scholarship on Europe is a fast-growing intellectual industry which, judging by the amount of work produced over the last decade, has little to be jealous of other, more established academic communities – no need to invent here, as some easily do, yet another instance of Greek ‘exceptionalism’. But what is still in question is the extent to which future Greek-based research on the EU will be investing more on the theory front, especially through collective intellectual synergies, rather than on the –no less exciting or for that matter less crucial– common working arrangements, including both the institutional dynamics and the various policy aspects of the collectivity. Having said that, a final note is in order: the essay does not proceed in any –more or less arbitrary– value-based judgments on the merits and weaknesses of Greek scholarly writings on Europe, but aims at sketching a broader picture –a panoramic but by no means exhaustive portrait– of the themes to which Greek scholars direct their analytical foci and, more broadly, their research interests.

Some theory projections

Greek EU scholarship has been steadily focusing for the last thirty years on the field of policy analysis and sector-based empirical studies, rather than on theory-producing accounts of the integration process – i.e., on what the EU ‘actually’ is and how best to study it; namely, with reference to the ontological and epistemological foundations of Europe’s integrative journey. Put differently, Greek political scientists have been mainly preoccupied with the micro-level –the various parts of the elephant, to recall Puchala’s (1972) colourful metathor–, rather than with the systemic or structural conditions of European polity-building, constitution-making or demos formation. Admittedly, there is nothing wrong with such research preferences, nor theory can be taken as a panacea for good social science. It is equally true, however, that greater emphasis on the theory of European integration –more accurately perhaps, on various combinations of social and political theory, whether normative, reflexive or analytical in kind, would have opened up new and promising horizons for the study of an essentially contested (polycemous), uniquely observed (sui generis) and, by its composite nature, interdisciplinary (myltiperspectival) object of social science enquiry. More than that, a theoretical projection of the EU as a general system –i.e., a polity, a political system or a (quasi)constitutional system– offers the possibility to think about the social and political constitution of a novel form of collectivity or even of a postnational polity in statu nascendi which is called upon to reconcile the ever present quest for the autonomy of the parts with a shared sense of identity for the whole (Athanassopoulou 2008). Such endeavours chime well with the idea of extending the organization of political authority in new areas of collective symbiosis, although such an idea should not be taken as a means for regional state-building. This view accords with Tsatsos’s (2007) account of the EU as ‘a sympolity of states and peoples’ and is indicative of the kind of conceptual synergies normative theory allows in postnational or post-statist directions. Likewise, the concept of ‘synarchy’ advocates a collective system of shared rule based on the idea that the component parts, as co-sovereign units, are capable of co-constituting the general system and co-determining its constitutional nature and dynamics (Chryssochoou 2009).

Such an approach is also linked to the ability of the EU qua general system to organize, project and perform political functions that can sustain and promote the extensive sharing of state sovereignty, without either invalidating the constituent sovereignties or threatening their legitimizing role within the national subsystems. The concept of synarchy refers to a novel form of ‘co-governance’ that does not presuppose the end of the (European) nation-state or for that matter any substantive, lat alone irreversible, loss of its capacity to steer the political community to which its demos –the civic body as a politically self-conscious collectivity– refer. It also brings to the fore a shared perception of states as constituent units with the capacity (and the political will, expressed through national channels of legitimation) to co-exercise sovereign authority, to invest in a commonly formulated law, and to determine the conditions of their collective symbiosis in a convergent and mutually beneficial manner. The whole idea of synarchy thus refers to an organized multiplicity of autonomous units, directing us to a form of governance which accords with a post-statecentric reality of the ‘EU order’, linking together the praxis of co-determination with the idea of ‘organized co-sovereignty’. Resting on the ascent of a co-operative culture among the subunits based on mutually reinforcing perceptions about the organization of collective life, it allows them to acknowledge the idea of synarchy as the basic principle around which a new form of unity is being built: an expression of an advanced sense of political co-ownership.

The notion of a post-statist analogy has attracted the interest of Greek scholars, albeit to a lesser extent as compared with their European counterparts. EU studies in Greece, at least as reflected in –mostly edited– academic textbooks and articles in refereed journals have also experienced the effects of the ‘normative turn’ in EU studies; a turn which has been evident in integration scholarship since the mid-1990s, and which has reached its peak with the insertion of normative social and political theory (and philosophy), as represented in the likes of cosmopolitanism, constructivism, constitutionalism, and (neo)republicanism (Eleftheriadis 2003; Antoniadis 2001; Tsinisizelis 2001; Galariotis 2009; Gofas and Hey 2008; Lavdas and Chryssochoou 2004). This has sparked a lively debate on the transmutations of sovereign statehood, and the development of new understandings on the nature of political authority exercised within a multilevel and multilogical system (Kazakos 2009). This kind of discourse, however, represents a rather small portion of Greek scholarly writings on Europe and focuses on the changing views of state sovereignty, which can now be interpreted as the right of the member polities to be involved in the joint exercise of common competences, while retaining ultimate responsibility in critical decision-making. Hence a new quality in sovereignty relations, evident in Europe’s composite polity (Manitakis 2007, Taylor 2008): even though sovereignty is still being made by the subsystems, the latter are constituted by the general system to which they also belong: their sovereignty becomes an expression of their participation in a larger unit (Taylor, 2003). As a synarchy of entangled sovereignties, the EU directs the dialectics of sovereignty towards a philosophy of governing that reconciles Europe’s political tradition as the cradle of Westphalian sovereignty with the transcendence of sovereign statehood itself. This new dialectic rests on a common learning process, making the EU the most advanced application of the principle of political co-determination.

Rethinking political Europe

A distinctive approach to the study of the EU, which introduced from early on the concept of the ‘sympolity’ (Contogeorgis, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2010) to define political Europe, distinguishes its relevance to the structure and evolution of ancient Greek sympolities, referring to the environment of the city-state. This correlation allows for a more profound conceptual understanding of the EU and, furthermore, distinguishes it from federal forms of polity, whose origins can be traced to an earlier evolutionary stage, when anthropocentric statocentrism was not yet solidified. Central to this line of thinking is the assumption that the present-day EU represents a ‘political system without a state’ or, put another way, a ‘stateless sympolity’.

It is obviously not the EU’s essential structure as a sympolity which inhibits the deepening of its political system and, with it, its internal or systemic cohesion, but the still incomplete anthropocentric condition of our era in general (Contogeorgis, 2007). At this stage, the political system is confined to and is identified by the concept of the state, which dissociates itself from the society of citizens and downgrades its role to a private one. The question here is not that a unified European demos is lacking, but that the very idea of the “demos” does not exist today. This view is harsh criticism of contemporary political science, which calls political systems as a whole ‘democracies’ simply on the grounds that their political personnel has popular legitimacy, although in every other sense it completely possesses the qualities of both mandator and mandate (Contogeorgis, 2005).

This concept of the political system, transplanted into political Europe, also falls short in terms of popular legitimization of its political personnel. This is reasonable, since today’s European sympolity depends largely upon the nature of the political systems of its member states, i.e. upon their leaders who possess political authority and naturally have no intention of relinquishing it to the society of citizens.

From this perspective, the weak structure of the EU polity is due to the emerging statocentrism which demands that the leadership of the member states define the European political landscape and determine their political personnel. Moreover, political Europe’s persistence in giving priority to one purpose of politics by focusing almost exclusively on the economic “market” results in the imbalance in the relationship between society of citizens, the state and the “market,” in favour of the latter. This imbalance must be attributed to the total exclusion of the society of citizens from the political system. Put a different way, rendering the purpose of the “market” the primary political purpose of the state –and particularly of the EU– conceals not the existence of a weak European identity, but the non-democratic or even representative structure of their political systems, referring back to the early anthropocentric stage of the modern cosmosystem.

From another point of view, this rendering of the interests of the “market” as the ultimate goal of political Europe is consistent with the EU member states’ choice of approaching politics through the prism of power or rather of force, and not as a sphere for the realization of freedom. It is precisely because the construction of the member states is based on the strict dichotomy between society and politics that the sympoliteian character of the EU becomes an instrument in the hands of their leaders to manage the European public space, putting their individual –state– interests before the common European interest. This becomes all the more evident in the way in which European citizenship is perceived. In the EU political system, the citizen is just an incomplete political subject, as in the case of the state, indeed whose status depends on his quality of citizen of the member state. It is incomplete not because the concept of the European demos is lacking. The modern citizen is in any case considered to be a private individual, a subject of the state, who is merely called upon to legitimize the power of the political personnel. For modernity in general it is inconceivable that the citizen should participate in the political system. Nevertheless, the European citizen possesses limited legitimizing capability, since in this case the state retains the relative authority.

On the question of the fundamental features that form the concept of European identity, this line of thinking ascribes them to the concept of “politeian patriotism (Contogeorgis, 2003, 2004). “Politeian” patriotism defines the set of parameters which comprise the nature of anthropocentric life, i.e. of societies living in freedom. These parameters refer back to the weighty Hellenic-Roman tradition and, therefore, to the consciousness of a common cultural heritage which developed essentially in Europe, and, in fact, was the backdrop of the modern European socio-economic and political condition. The distinguishing feature of European “politeian” patriotism is founded in the cultural pluriformity. In this sense, it is not contrary to nor does it negate the fundamental properties of collective national identity. Therefore, it is not meant to reproduce the fundamentals mark of the nation and to lead to the creation of a new super-nation this time, nor will it be post-national. The separate identities, such as those that refer to the nation or those that are the result of various cultural differentiations (ethnicity, religion, geography, etc.) will be part and parcel of the overall European collective identity. In these differentiations, it will reserve a considerable degree of political autonomy, fulfilling its homologous freedom. Therefore, according to this line of reasoning, it is not the lack of a European identity or its sympoliteian stucture that inhibits the deepening of political Europe, but its classification in the stage of emerging statocentrism that characterizes the modern anthropocentric cosmosystem and, in this context, its strictly pre-democratic and, as a matter of fact, pre-representative character. It stands to reason, then, that the concept of “politeian” patriotism is clearly broader than Habermas’s so-called “constitutional” patriotism and, in any case, capable of conveying a more holistic understanding of identity, instead of the restrictive reference to the simple political system (Contogeorgis, 2003, 2004, 2007). Therefore, political Europe is neither post-statocentic nor post-national, but a component of the statocentric period that refers back to the particular conditions being experienced by societies of a significant historical space, Europe. The post-statocentric stage is ascribed to the next, ecumenical stage in the development process of the anthropocentric cosmosystem, which the modern world is a far cry from. The state of the ecumenical period, the cosmopolis, a cosmo-state, is meant to host the heritage (state, nation, etc.) of the statocentric period, including the sympolity, not negating it. Nevertheless, the sympoliteian phenomenon is different in the statocentric stage from that in the ecumenical period, as seen in the Greek paradigm (Contogeorgis, 2006).

All of the above lead to the conclusion that the deepening of political Europe and the reorientation of its political purpose –from the interests of the “market” to the common interest of its constituents peoples– can be achieved through a new equilibrium in the relationship between society, politics and the “market,” which will be reflected in a shared European identity. This requires the reconstitution of the society of citizens as a demos, i.e. as an institutional and particularly component factor of the polity. This is the evolution of the political system, from the present pre-representative period to the representative phase. Even if this occurs only within the context of the nation-state, the issues and purpose of the politics of the European Union will have changed radically.

The evolution of political Europe away from being the subject of the world system toward a political system in its own right will transfer it from the scope of International Relations to that of political science. This will heat up and especially reorient interest in studying its new example. However, the main core of the scientific community will continue to focus on research into the institutional environment, functions and policies of the EU, although the study of its character as a political system will begin gradually. The Greek scientific community is also focusing on the study of Greece’s position in the common European destiny and also as a policy-building exercise. Nevertheless, the study of this question has inevitably noticeably shifted due to the changes in Europe and developments in the broader cosmosystemic environment. This is supported further by a widespread recognition on the part of Greek public opinion that political Europe is an integral, if not an organic, component of Greece.

Lisbon’s scholarly effect

The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by the French and Dutch publics in May and June 2005, respectively, represented a major blow to the cause of EU constitutionalism. More than that, it heralded a profound and prolonged, yet not entirely unexpected, political crisis of the integration process, which was conveniently termed, if not camouflaged, by EU officials as a ‘reflection period’. The Constitutional Treaty was eventually replaced by a Reform Treaty, widely known as the Treaty of Lisbon, as it was signed in the Portuguese capital by EU leaders on 13 December 2007. No doubt, it was viewed by many as a relatively modest step toward the full constitutionalization of the formal treaty framework. It was also asserted, however, that the new Treaty, which came into force on 1 December 2009 after a rather controversial process due to the Polish and Check presidents’ initial reservations, and mainly thanks to a second Irish referendum on 12 June 2008, is expected to contribute to a more balanced form of decision-making in the enlarged EU of 27, coupled by a strengthening of the EU’s institutional capacity to act in a more coherent manner in its external relations (although the initial provision for an EU Foreign Affairs Minister was not included with the final text).

In general, there were a series of primarily nationally-driven causes for rejecting the Constitutional Treaty which produced an ideologically incoherent but discernible voting block against the constitutional project, whose core institutional reforms were eventually to survive in the Lisbon Accords. This is not to imply that greater democracy in the general system can only be an outcome of substantive constitutional revisions, but rather that the road to a more democentric union rests largely upon the extent to which the political preferences and expectations of the national governing elites are convergent or divergent. At the same time, it needs to be stressed that the French and Dutch voters exercised their equally democratic right to oppose the coming into force of a major treaty reform, to which they –much like their fellow EU citizens– had little democratic input; for the Constitutional Treaty was ultimately determined by Europe’s political leaders, rather than by a genuine European constituent power. Be that as it may, were the Treaty to have been ratified, the fact would remain that the EU would have still rested (more) on a dynamic set of international treaty-based rules, albeit of an integrative nature and orientation, rather than on an elaborate system of constitutional checks and balances designed to organize political authority within a non-state polity. With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, a quasi-constitutional ordering had emerged, albeit of a (much) less federalist kind as compared with a conventional (or state-like) constitutional settlement. In a word, the new Treaty was not in the end meant to take the EU political system toward a genuinely postnational state of play (Habermas, 2001).

In many respects, the Lisbon Treaty represented the long-awaited response of the EU to a protracted political crisis. Most prominently perhaps, it classified the areas of actual or potential EU involvement into exclusive competences, shared competences and supporting actions. Other pro-integrationist measures, including those relating to the EU’s democratic life and the abolition of the three-pillar structure, include: an extension of QMV in some 40 new instances (including the area of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, with Britain and Ireland having secured the right to pick and choose whether to participate therein, and with the ECJ gaining broad oversight for the first time); a single legal personality for the EU; a full-time standing President of the European Council (elected for a 2,5 year term, renewable once) smaller Commission with fewer Commissioners than there are states, from 2014 (a rotation system would apply every five years; each country having a Commissioner for 10 years out of the first 15, although this decision has been suspended following a decision by EU leaders in December 2008 with the view to facilitating Ireland in the conduct of a second referendum); a strengthening of the EP’s co-legislative rights; an enhanced role for national parliaments in their dealings with Brussels –in particular, with the Commission– with reference to the application of subsidiary. But there was no mention of an EU Foreign Affairs Minister (instead, the Treaty merged the post of the CFSP High Representative with the Commissioner for External Relations), neither was an integrated treaty text replacing all earlier Treaties. Moreover, all reference to EU symbols, including the term ‘constitution’ were dropped (flag, anthem, motto) while it made a legal binding reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights but without including it in the formal treaty framework, as had the aborted Constitutional Treaty – to mention but a few instances of constitutional regression.

The prospect of a Reform Treaty to replace the stillborn ‘Constitution’, combined with the effects of the EU’s massive enlargement in the mid-2000s, was meant to renew the interest of Greek academia in the EU project (Tsatsos 2007; Maravegias and Tsinisizelis 2007; Ioakimidis 2005, 2008; Stephanou 2006; Tsinisizelis, Fatouros and Christodoulidis 2006, Xenakis and Tsinisizelis 2006; Chryssochoou, Tsinisizelis, Ifantis, Stavridis and Xenakis 2009; Pelagidis and Xenakis 2009). The general assessment to be drawn from such scholarly writings (also with regard to the political nature of the Reform Treaty) is that recent treaty reforms represented a compromised structure among divergent and, more often than not, conflicting national interests, accommodating the demands of the more sceptical actors. Too many reservations, opt-outs, references to states’ prerogatives in relation to competences and reform practices, along with a postponement of the double majority system of the Constitutional Treaty, deprived the EU from consolidating its political identity and failed to signal a shift in the basis of legitimation. The dominant view of the Lisbon Accords offered by Greek scholars has been that such reforms were driven by a rather moderate, pragmatic and, at the level of political symbolism, less enthusiastic revisionary strategy, largely at the expense of a democratic visionary project to re-ignite the public’s interest in EU affairs.

At a time when the EU retains its character as a via media between different forms of polity, governance and representation –an assumption that is commonly shared among many Greek political scientists and constitutional lawyers–, the initial prospects for endowing Europe’s politically fragmented demos with a common civic identity that would nurture a sense of European ‘civicness’ or ‘demos-hood’ –along the lines of Viroli’s (2001) ‘republican patriotism’ writ large– did not in the end prove realistic enough or, from a different angle, desirable enough. Instead, the rather unceremonious outcome of the Lisbon reforms was greeted by many Greek analysts as an indication, if not a conviction, that the exclusion of citizens from the drafting stages –i.e., the absence of a participatory and deliberative method of large-scale constitution-making or, at least, of constitutional engineering– has been largely at the expense of elevating their status to a system-steering agency: to become, in other words, the decisive agents of civic change by means of enhancing their horizontal integration within a larger pluralist order composed of entangled arenas for social and political action.

The revival of scholarly interest in EU studies by Greek academics, at least as far as the larger picture of integration is concerned – i.e., either in terms of exploring the normative qualities of the enlarged EU polity or in terms of attempting an assessment of the defining or constitutive features of the general system as an organized multiplicity of states and demoi– was linked with an attempt to explore the new dialectic between sovereignty and integration; a dialectic which carried the implication of an explicit right to political co-determination, but failed to produce a credible normative commitment on the part of the national governing elites to democratizing the general system. Much like previous treaty reforms, as the majority of scholars have asserted, the Lisbon outcome, for all its provisions regarding the legally binding status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, its references to representative democracy, the inclusion of a citizens’ (agenda) initiative right –to request the Commission to submit a legislative proposal upon the collection of at least one million signatures– and the envisaged role for the member state legislatures in the implementation of the subsidiarity principle, did not represent a cause célèbre for a more civic-minded process of union. Rather, it was yet another cautiously negotiated deal of ‘partial offsets’ to key democratic problems facing the EU, for what it failed to produce was not only a common democratic vision per se, but also a belief that such a vision remains without reach, at least in the foreseeable future.

Capturing the trend

For the last three decades, since the country’s acquisition of full membership status, Greek academics have been largely concerned with the question of Europe and the country’s role in it. This is a rather easy conclusion to draw, as this has been the case with the vast majority of countries which became members of this uniquely observed, dynamic and multilogical union. There are, however, at least two developments –perhaps striking for the older generation, but almost self-evident to younger people– that have taken place since the mid-1990s which merit our attention: first, the EU is no longer seen as an extension of Greece’s external relations, but rather as an integral part of the Greek polity’s structural and functional properties. EU politics no longer represent an autonomous sphere of activity or intellectual concern (something which does not contradict the continuing interest of Greek analysts in the country’s standing in EU external affairs), as was mainly the case during the first decade of its membership, when the country has often been accused of an introverted perception of EU affairs due to a concealed intergovernmentalism in the conduct of its European policy – a perception which led to an understanding of Greek-EU relations throughout the 1980s and up to the mid-1990s as a case of ‘uneasy interdependence’ (Tsinisizelis and Chryssochoou 1996).

This development has had a direct impact on the evolution of the Greek polity: being a relatively ‘small’ state, Greece has often in the past found itself in a rather delicate (and for some observers awkward) position between conceding –less critically put, delegating or entrusting– sovereign authority to the common system and retaining its freedom of action (or political independence) from external (mainly policy and norm-orienting) interference, especially in sensitive national issues concerning the transfer of competences that were traditionally located to the ‘hard core’ of the Greek state. But the dynamics of integration, especially after the country’s entry into the eurozone in the early 2000s, have acted as a call for institutional adjustment – for what has been conveniently described, mostly in lack of a better term, as the ‘Europeanization’ of domestic policy and public sector structures (Lavdas 1998; Tsoukalis 1999; Ioakimidis 2000; Paraskevopoulos 2001, Featherstone and Radaelli 2003; Featherstone and Papadimitriou 2008). In the Greek case, major attitudinal changes in favour of further integration, along with the emerging constellation of power between new and old political parties (and between the two leading parties which still account for a comfortable, albeit declining, majority of the national vote) portray the image of a liberal democracy which strives to break away from long-standing structural deficiencies.

Turning to the second development, EU studies, as taught at university level, have grown –and are still growing– strong in Greece despite the lack either of a strong international relations or, more generally, a political science scholarly tradition. Arguably, for a country in which the domain of legal studies (and in particular the study of public or constitutional law) has been the norm almost since the inception of the modern Greek state, both in terms of scholarly as well as professional prestige, the dynamism of EU studies at undergraduate and, increasingly, at graduate level, constitutes a rather remarkable achievement, at least from the perspective of higher education institutional pluralism (the emergence of new regional universities focusing on the social sciences) and ‘disciplinary’ progress (research conducted by Greek political scientists). Moreover, studying Europe in Greece is increasingly becoming part of an interdisciplinary academic laboratory, which is indicative not only of the current intra- and inter-departmental synergies taking place in Greek universities, but also of the prospects of learning about Europe through the insights of several socio-scientific lenses.

This second development is linked to the first concerning the gradual transformation of the country’s European profile over the last fifteen years: the promotion of European integration studies at university level, especially in a country with a remarkably high percentage of undergraduate students, combined with the efforts made by such institutes and organizations as the Hellenic University Association for European Studies, the Hellenic Centre for European Studies, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, the Centre for European Constitutional Law, the Institute of European Integration and Policy, the Greek Centre for European Studies and Research, the various Jean Monnet Chairs, Centres and European Documentation Centres, as well as the Commissions’ and Parliament’s offices in Greece, to mention but a few, are also important means of further enhancing Greece’s communautaire image, whether or not of a conventional or postmodern federalist direction.

Concluding note

For a polity that still rests on an international treaty and lacks a self-conscious demos, the transition ‘from democracies to democracy’ is neither easy nor linear. Although recent trends in EU theorizing perceive the general system as being closer to a statecentric as opposed to a state-like formation, this is far from an ideal state, as it hinders the emergence of a European demos. Like any other polity that aspires to becoming a democracy, the EU has to invent its own framework of participatory politics, while ensuring that its political outcomes informed by a principled public discourse. Until then, it will continue to be confronted with the reality of multiple polities and demoi. As for the hopes and agonies of the Greek demos, in a manner not entirely dissimilar to its celebrated ancient counterpart, it will also have to cope with the reality of an enlarged, more competitive, less cohesive, and certainly less egalitarian union.


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Xenakis, D. K. and Pelagidis, Th. (ed.) (2009), Interventions on Europe (in Greek), Athens: Papazisis.

- Διατηρείται το δικαίωμα αναδημοσιεύσης του παρόντος άρθρου σε οποιοδήποτε μέσο, με απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση να αναγράφεται η παρούσα ιστοσελίδα και ο συγγραφέας ως πηγή. -