After twenty years of continuous deepening and widening, European integration has entered an era of recurrent crises. Most students of the European Union (EU) seem to agree that the constitutional equilibrium between intergovernmental and supranational institutions has changed. Some see “new intergovernmentalism” and “integration without supranationalisation” prevail. Others contend that we witness a series of functional and institutional spillovers empowering supranational institutions. This paper argues that governance approaches are particularly useful to address the puzzling counter-positions represented in the current debate about the ‘nature of the beast. They are better equipped to explore how and to what end institutional structures and processes have responded to the crises than mainstream integration theories.
The paper starts with introducing the “governance turn” in EU studies as the attempt of EU scholars in the early 1990s to capture the nature of the EU. It then presents a typology that is based on a broad concept of governance as institutionalized forms of political coordination. The empirical part uses this typology to give an overview of the structures and processes of EU governance before applying it to the financial and the migration crises. The paper concludes with a discussion of the major challenges for European integration (theories) from a governance perspective, particularly with regard to managing current and preventing future crises.