In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Politics of the European Union

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Theories of European Integration
  • History of the European Union
  • Political Processes
  • Expansion and Enlargement
  • Public Policy in the European Union
  • Economic and Monetary Policy
  • Agricultural and Environmental Policies
  • Social Policies and Justice and Home Affairs
  • The European Union (EU) as a Global Actor
  • Foreign Relations

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Political Science Politics of the European Union
John McCormick
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0042


The European Union (EU) has become a critical new actor on the global stage, containing twenty-seven member states (with more considering membership) and nearly 500 million people. With its origins in postwar efforts to promote peace, security, and economic reconstruction in Europe, the EU constitutes a new level of authority above that of the member states and has overseen the building of a European single market, the launch of the euro, and the development of common (or coordinated) policies on agriculture, the environment, trade, regional development, external relations, immigration, and a wide variety of other issues. But the jury is still out on the personality of the EU and the wisdom of European integration, some praising its achievements but others regarding it as undemocratic and a threat to the sovereignty of its member states. The literature on the EU has grown exponentially since the late 1980s, as scholars and other analysts struggle to understand both the dynamics and the implications of European integration. This entry offers a taste of the range of topics within the literature, with sections on the theory and principles of integration, the history of the EU, its major institutions, political processes, and key areas of policy activity.

General Overviews

The number of general surveys of the politics and policies of the European Union (EU) has grown dramatically since the early 1990s, reflecting the new levels of interest in understanding how the EU works and what impact it has had on Europe, on Europeans, and on the place of Europe in the global system. These entries all offer useful points of departure, providing general surveys of the underlying principle of European integration, the history of the EU, its major institutions, and its policy effects. Nugent 2010 is a benchmark for the genre, while Dinan 2010 offers the perspective of a historian and McCormick 2011 is a brief introductory survey. Cini and Borragan 2009 and Bache, et al. 2011 are edited surveys, Ginsberg 2010 offers an American perspective, and Bomberg, et al. 2008 focuses on actors and policymaking.

  • Bache, Ian, Stephen George, and Simon Bulmer, eds. Politics in the European Union. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    This book covers much the same ground as Cini and Borrigan 2009, with similar effects.

  • Bomberg, Elizabeth, John Peterson, and Alexander Stubb, eds. The European Union: How Does It Work? 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    Another edited collection, emphasizing institutions, processes, and policies.

  • Cini, Michelle, and Nieves Perez-Solorzano Borragan, eds. European Union Politics. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    An edited collection that brings multiple perspectives to bear on the EU, although it is aimed mainly at European readers and quite dense.

  • Dinan, Desmond. Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2010.

    A survey of the history, institutions, and policies of the EU, written by a historian and offering more detail on the evolution of the EU than most other surveys.

  • Ginsberg, Roy H. Demystifying the European Union: The Enduring Logic of Regional Integration. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

    Unlike several of the other surveys, this one is written by an American author and aimed primarily at readers in the United States. The US perspective on the EU can be usefully compared with European perspectives offered by other survey texts.

  • McCormick, John. Understanding the European Union. 5th ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    A brief survey of principles, history, institutions, processes, and policies, offering a general introduction to the EU, the details of which can be followed up in other more in-depth treatments.

  • Nugent, Neill. The Government and Politics of the European Union. 7th ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    The first comprehensive survey of the EU (first published in 1989). Written by a British academic and aimed mainly at European audiences. Known for its attention to detail, which may be too much for newcomers but offers a valuable point of reference on the details of integration.

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