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The Europe of ElitesA Study into the Europeanness of Europe's Political and Economic Elites$

Heinrich Best, György Lengyel, and Luca Verzichelli

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602315

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602315.001.0001

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Europe à la carte? European citizenship and its dimensions from the perspective of national elites

Europe à la carte? European citizenship and its dimensions from the perspective of national elites

(p.14) 2 Europe à la carte? European citizenship and its dimensions from the perspective of national elites
The Europe of Elites

Maurizio Cotta

Federico Russo

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the position of national political and economic elites with regard to a series of crucial issues that help define the nature and content of European citizenship. Citizenship is viewed as a multifaceted phenomenon related to both the political identity of a community and the rights, entitlements, and duties that pertain to its citizens. The positions of national elites on European citizenship are analysed according to the dimensions of identity, representation, and scope of governance. Overall, while the political and economic elites surveyed by the IntUne project seem to back European integration, they also display rather variable combinations of positions depending on whether they are expressing their views concerning the nature of European polity, its institutional configuration, or different sets of policy goals. Rather than aligning along a simple pro-European/anti-European dimension, they seem to prefer variable ‘menus’ of European integration which probably provide the best answers to their preferences.

Keywords:   European citizenship, identity federalism, scope of governance, intergovernmentalism, representation

2.1 Introduction

Over the years, new elements of a European citizenship have been progressively included in the proto-constitution (the treaties), the laws and the judicial rulings of the European Union, and now form a highly significant, albeit complex, legal, institutional, and policy reality (O’ Leary 1996; Closa 1998; Eder and Giesen 2001; Bellamy, Castiglione, and Shaw 2005). This testifies to an increasingly explicit self-understanding of the European Union as a polis: even more as a polity with democratic (although imperfect) foundations. Yet citizenship as a political phenomenon does not entail only a system of legal regulations; a fundamental aspect is the penetration of this idea (and the different elements of which it is composed) in the minds and the behaviour of the crucial components of the European political system. The experience of national states indicates that citizenship exists and develops as a real life phenomenon only as long as citizens, political actors, and authorities understand themselves and their roles as part of a ‘citizenship game’ and translate this mindset into appropriate behaviour. This test should also be applied to the European polity. When thinking about Europe, do European people (p.15) consider themselves as European citizens and not just as citizens of one of the twenty-seven member states, and are they prepared to behave accordingly? The same questions can be raised for members of European elites. Do they see Europe and thus also the relationship between European authorities and European people as inspired by the ideals of citizenship? As these questions do not seem to have been sufficiently explored yet and have become increasingly relevant after the great transformations of the 1990s, the IntUne project has attempted to find answers through a survey of the general public (the masses) and national (economic and political) elites in seventeen member countries.

Before embarking on this quest, however, some reflections are required about the relevance of national elites—of their beliefs, attitudes, and value judgements concerning Europe—for the system of European citizenship (Cotta 2008). In particular we need to decide whether their point of view should be considered as that of ‘external observers’ or of more ‘internal participants’.

It is quite obvious that the modern system of political citizenship, as it has developed in the framework of national states, is closely anchored to a strong and dynamic relationship between citizens and their political representatives (Marshall 1950; Manin 1997). Representative mechanisms have been the central instrument through which citizens have affirmed their citizenship rights and fought for their defence and expansion. At the same time, in their quest for popular support and legitimation, representative political elites have made a fundamental contribution to defining and shaping the ideas and the instruments of citizenship, and to making them part and parcel of the ‘supply’ offered to the voters. In the end, it can be rightly said that both the political self-understanding of the population as a community of citizens and the implementation of this idea in the national democratic systems are the result of interactions between the public at large and their political representatives. An obvious example is the expansion of the right to vote (a central element of political citizenship) for which pressures from below and support from above have typically fed one another (Sartori 1976).

When we shift from the national to the European landscape, the citizenship system and its dynamics are necessarily more complex. European citizenship is an element of what has been called a ‘compound democracy’ (Fabbrini 2007) and as such combines elements of an indirect citizenship (European citizenship as a consequence of the national citizenship of member states) and of a direct citizenship (European citizenship deriving directly from the institutional mechanisms and policy processes of the EU) (Cotta 2008; Cotta and Isernia 2009). Due to the persistent and dominant role of mechanisms of national representation for the functioning of the EU, its institutions, and its policy-making processes, and thus for the implementation of European citizenship, we can assume that national elites and their views about the (p.16) European Union also play a crucial role in the making of European citizenship. National governments, which are constitutive elements of the central organs of the European decision-making process, are legitimated by and accountable to national elites. The analysis of their views in these matters is therefore well warranted.

In the following pages we will conduct a systematic exploration of the positions of national elites of a sample of member states of the EU with regard to the crucial themes—identity, representation, scope of governance—which contribute to defining the nature and content of a European citizenship (Benhabib 2002; Cotta and Isernia 2009). Our research effort, however, not only covers political elites (defined here as members of national parliaments), but has been extended to include economic elites.2 Even if they are not directly part of the institutional system of representation, there is no doubt that economic elites exert a strong influence within national systems and, given the strong economic dimension of the European polity, have important interests at stake at the European level (Haller 2008). It seems reasonable, therefore, to consider the views of economic elites and to compare them with those of their political counterparts.

Before discussing our expectations with regard to the views of national politicians and top economic leaders concerning Europe as a citizenship-based polity, however, there are two basic aspects we need to consider. The first is that citizenship (at the national and presumably also at the supranational level) is a multifaceted phenomenon. Put simply, it can be interpreted as being defined by a horizontal and a vertical dimension: the horizontal dimension has to do with the definition of the identity of a political community and with the conditions of membership; the vertical dimension concerns the set of rights and duties of political action and the portfolio of entitlements pertaining to the citizens (Marshall 1950; Cotta and Isernia 2009). Consequently, the positions of national elites have to be analysed according to these dimensions; we may also expect that views concerning the different faces of citizenship could be relatively independent of each other.

The second consideration has to do with the ‘compound’ nature of European citizenship, which is closely connected to the way the European polity has been shaped by the process of integration. We must not forget that the European Union is not the product of a unified and coherent conception implemented by a centralized and dominant actor, but rather the result of a process of voluntary association and of the consensual delegation and pooling of sovereignty (Milward 1992; Moravčsik 1998) by the governments of the member states that have tried to keep a close control over the process. This (p.17) does not mean that the solutions adopted have always been the most highly preferred by each member state: although they have been seen as preferable to non-agreement. At the same time, it is probable that the different member states and their diverse elite groups must prefer certain aspects to others.

From these considerations we can draw the following points:

  1. 1. European citizenship has been constructed as a supplement to national citizenship rather than as an alternative to it.

  2. 2. It has been shaped more in a ‘patchy’ than in a systematically coherent way.

  3. 3. It is the result of compromises between the preferences of different member states.

The views of national elites should presumably reflect this state of affairs and thus show a composite picture across countries, political positions, and also across dimensions and aspects of citizenship. In general, we can expect the position of national elites (except for relatively marginal groups) to be characterized by an instrumental and pragmatic orientation more than by a principled and dogmatic one. Evaluations of benefits and costs should prevail over expressions of affection. Views about supranational identity and affiliation should not be framed as antagonistic to national identity and affiliation but predominantly as extensions of the latter. Similarly, the role and powers of European and national institutions should be seen as complementary to one another. With regard to policy competencies, a sharing of responsibilities between national and supranational authorities should be seen as better than a drastic devolution from one level to the other (unless national elites have become convinced that national authorities are unable to face the challenges of new problems). We can also expect that the views of economic and political elites towards Europe will differ on some aspects. Economic elites do not have to represent a broad spectrum of opinions and can express their own specific interests more directly so that we could, therefore, expect more homogeneity and cohesion from their responses. Finally, economic elites should obviously be more concerned with the potential economic consequences of certain aspects of citizenship and less with the political ones.

2.2 The Main Dimensions of Analysis

2.2.1 Views About the EU as a Political Community Beyond the States

The first dimension of citizenship we will consider is the horizontal one. As a result of the historical process of integration, the EU today defines itself as a new political community composed of both (member) states and individual citizens, which we can describe as a combination of ‘collective’ and ‘individual’ (p.18) citizens. When exploring the positions of national elites on this dimension we must distinguish between two main aspects: the evaluation of the process of integration and the interpretation of its meaning.

Evaluating Eu Integration

Here we consider three questions: What is the degree of support for the supranational polity, what are its bases, and to what extent are rational calculations and affective mechanisms of identification at work? If we start from an instrumental perspective, i.e. from an evaluation of the benefits of European membership, attitudes of national elites towards Europe appear widely positive. There are almost no doubts that the European Union has had beneficial effects for the countries represented by the politicians surveyed (Table 2.1). Only a very small minority has different views. Economic elites are even slightly more positive, and the difference is statistically significant.3

It is well known that, at the national level, established political communities are not valued only from an instrumental point of view. This element is in fact normally overshadowed by the strong feelings of identification and affection towards the polity that are shared by its members. It is therefore relevant to ask whether the positive instrumental evaluation of the EU is matched by feelings of attachment to this community; and if so, how this compares to the levels of attachment to other political communities, such as those at the national or regional level. Our data confirm indeed that the supranational community has also generated some feelings of affection: a very large majority within national elites declare being attached to Europe. However, when we consider the strength of these feelings, the EU is at a disadvantage compared to other communities. The attachment of elites to their country or regions is clearly stronger. Only a minority (albeit a significant one) declares a strong feeling of belonging to the EU. At the same time, however, the percentage expressing a strong rejection of the EU is very low, and outright opposition to the EU is only a marginal position among national elites.

Table 2.1. Europe as beneficial for the country of the respondents (%)

Has your country benefited from being member of the European Union?

Political elites

Economic elites










Chi-square sig. (2-sided)



Table 2.2. Attachment to region, country, and Europe (%)

Attachment level










Strongly attached







Somewhat attached







Not very attached







Not at all














Chi-square sig. (2-sided)




As might be expected given the strong international orientation of the largest firms, economic elites are somewhat less strongly attached to their country and region than political elites. On the other hand, their degree of attachment to Europe is more or less the same. As a result, the attachment differential between country and EU is substantially lower for economic elites (−27.3 per cent of strongly attached to the EU as against −39.5 per cent for politicians; see Table 2.2).

We may then ask whether feelings of belonging to one’s own country and to Europe are compatible or conflictual. The answer to this question, which is important for understanding the meaning of the two levels of citizenship, is rather straightforward: the two feelings appear quite compatible though the correlation is less than impressive (Spearman’s rho = 0.290, correlation significant at the 0.01 level). The proportion of those displaying a strong attachment to Europe is, in fact, higher among those with strong feelings of affection for their country than among any other category. Negative feelings towards Europe increase with negative feelings for one’s country. This direct relation between attachment towards one’s country and towards Europe is stronger for economic elites (rho = 0.329) than for politicians (rho = 0.267).4 On average then, Europe is not seen as a challenge to national bonds but probably as an acceptable complement. A complement perhaps that does not warm the heart as much as attachment to one’s country, but which does not create strong feelings of rejection either.

At least in Europe, national polities are by now ‘mature products’ and for them not much is to be expected in terms of future political growth (in fact for some of them the future seems even to harbour some degree of deconstruction). Future developments are, however, much more relevant for the European polity, which in many ways has the features of a ‘work in progress’. It is (p.20)

Europe à la carte? European citizenship and its dimensions from the perspective of national elites

Figure 2.1. Frequency distribution of the variable ‘unification has already gone too far (0) or should be strengthened (10)?’ for political and economic elites

therefore relevant to take into consideration the views of elites about the EU’s future: should unification stop here or go further? Our survey indicates that the positive view with regard to the past and the present of the EU is also matched by a favourable view for the future: among national elites, a majority wants to move further. Here, however, the proportion of those clearly sharing the idea that unification should be strengthened (on a scale of 0–10, those scoring 7 points or more) is still a majority but less strong (59 per cent) than the number of those who have a positive evaluation of the benefits of the EU and of those who feel attached to it. In addition, the share of those with serious doubts about the project (i.e. scoring 0–4 points, or 15.5 per cent) is twice as big as that of those who give a negative evaluation of the benefits of integration. A sizeable share is in the middle in a somewhat more uncertain position (Figure 2.1).

The distribution of responses to the proposal that ‘unification has already gone too far or should be strengthened’ is similar for economic and political elites, having a three-modal shape: the first peak comprises 15 per cent of respondents who are satisfied with the level of integration already achieved and think that process has neither gone too far nor should be strengthened. The second peak, which is also the tallest, consists of respondents taking a moderate but positive stance towards further integration. Finally, the distribution has a third peak at the extreme right, which represents those who stress that the process of integration should definitely go further. In general, economic elites are slightly more in favour of moving further with unification (and are even more positive about benefits), but overall the difference is (p.21) modest and statistically insignificant (Chi-squared sig. = 0.218). Finally, while a positive attachment to Europe is correlated with a positive attitude towards further integration, the coefficient of correlation is less than impressive for both economic and political elites (Spearman’s rho = 0.297, significant at the 0.01 level and Spearman’s rho = 0.228, significant at the 0.01 level, respectively).

From these results, we can easily see that orientations in the two dimensions are distributed in a somewhat unexpected way. Those expressing a stronger attachment for the EU should also be in favour of strengthening the integration. However, about a quarter of those strongly attached to Europe display only medium or weak support for further unification; and among those who are not attached to Europe, only a third opposes unification (see Table 2.3). From these results, it appears that a significant amount of support for further unification of Europe also comes from politicians who do not share strong feelings of attachment (and in some cases have even negative feelings). This suggests the importance of a more instrumental attitude which can to some extent counterbalance the lack of a positive affection for Europe. A rational evaluation of the benefits of integration is probably at work here. Not surprisingly, this position is even more significant among economic elites: among those indicating a negative attachment to Europe, almost 50 per cent show a strong support for further unification. It would seem that for top managers sentiments concerning attachment are not an obstacle to an instrumental assessment of the advantages of unification.

These results are evidence that views about the future of the EU are not simply based on affective feelings, but are shaped independently in ways that deserve further analysis in the final part of this chapter.

Table 2.3. Attachment to Europe and support for unification (%)

Political elite

Economic elite

Not very/not at all attached

Somewhat attached

Very attached

Not very/not at all attached

Somewhat attached

Very attached

Positive support for unification (7–10)







Moderate support for unification (4–6)







Negative support for unification (0–3)





















(p.22) The Nature Of Eu Citizenship

The second aspect related to the position of national elites on the horizontal dimension of citizenship concerns the meanings that national elites assign to European citizenship as a ‘community bond’. We know from the experience of nation states that a variety of elements—family lineage, cultural affiliations, language, place of birth, and choice and acceptance of standards of civicness—can be used to define the ideological foundations as well as the legal requirements of community membership. Some of these elements are more open and inclusive, others more closed and exclusive. The question to be explored here is whether the European community bond is perceived as significantly different from the national one or not.

On the basis of the different elements of identity proposed to the interviewees, national elites define one scale of importance for the national level and another one for the European level rather clearly (Table 2.4). It is interesting to note that the two scales mirror each other almost perfectly, and that the order and the importance of the factors are extremely similar. The support for all the elements is however less strong when European identity is to be defined: as could be expected, the relatively new and incrementally constructed supranational identity elicits weaker views.

For both national and European identity, ‘naturalistic traits’ (being born in the country/Europe and having national/European parents) and religiosity play on average only a limited role. The ‘civic’ traits (feeling national/European and respecting the laws) are the strongest elements, but two cultural elements (sharing the cultural traditions of the country/Europe and mastering the language of the country/a European country) follow quite closely.

From the point of view of elements defining the identity of the political community and its members, the EU is thus not very different from national states in the eyes of national political and economic elites. We suggest that this result again confirms the derivative nature of the supranational construction,

Table 2.4. Elements defining national and European identity (%)

Importance of different elements

Political elites

Economic elites

National identity

European identity

National identity

European identity

Being a Christian

14.3 (36.4)

9.6 (31.8)

9.3 (30.5)

5.1 (24.7)

To be born in the country/Europe

24.3 (56.4)

15.5 (49.2)

16.9 (53.0)

15.4 (49.3)

To have national/European parents

28.0 (62.2)

14.9 (49.3)

25.0 (62.8)

15.5 (51.0)

Share cultural traditions of country/Europe

49.7 (88.7)

38.7 (84.3)

45.1 (88.3)

44.7 (86.8)

To master the language/s of country/Europe

66.6 (94.2)

63.4 (92.5)

66.6 (96.4)

71.7 (95.1)

To feel national/European

68.4 (91.2)

64.5 (93.8)

60.9 (90.1)

65.3 (93.2)

Respect the laws of the country/Europe

72.6 (96.0)

65.0 (93.2)

64.1 (91.7)

67.4 (93.7)

Percentages answering ‘Very important’. Within brackets is the sum of ‘Very important’ and ’Somewhat important’.

(p.23) which is built on the basis of the same values that define its constituent units, the national states. The EU is not an alien product but rather a territorial extension of already existent models.

Within this general picture of similarity between the two levels, however, we can see that the naturalistic, religious, and cultural aspects are even less important at the European level, which is probably explained by the more artificial, composite, and less homogeneous nature of the EU. Economic elites do not differ very much in this field from political elites, except for the fact that they assign a stronger importance to a number of aspects (language, feeling of identity, respect for the law) when related to European as compared to national identity. Moreover, compared to politicians, they seem to attribute a greater weight to the role of language and cultural traditions in defining European identity. At first this might seem strange, but is perhaps due to an instrumental evaluation (which is probably more natural for economic elites) of what can positively affect the functioning of the European Union.

Threats To European Cohesion

A somewhat more indirect way to assess how national elites view the supranational polity is to examine their perceptions of the potential impact upon the cohesion of Europe of a number of challenges that the Union is facing from different directions (Table 2.5). Our survey asked them to evaluate the gravity of each threat. Of the possible threats submitted to the attention of national politicians, only two—the ‘growth of nationalist attitudes in member states’ and ‘economic and social differences among member states’—were considered important by a clear majority, and the first was definitely the most relevant. In addition, both threats originate internally. The other threats mentioned, which are linked to external factors, were important for a more limited number of politicians. Among them, ‘entry of Turkey’, ‘interference from Russia’, ‘immigration’, and ‘effects of globalization on welfare systems’ were important for a significant number of politicians.

With regard to economic elites and their perception of the importance of threats, results indicate that their profile is not so different from that of the political elite. In general, economic elites are slightly more anxious than politicians about threats to the cohesion of the EU, with the only clear exception being globalization, which they see as a minor problem.

The nature of the threats perceived by national elites as more significant suggests a greater preoccupation with the internal problems of the European polity and for its lack of homogeneity than for its external role and its relationship with other international actors. Could we suggest that an inward-looking perspective predominates among national elites when thinking about Europe? This finding can hardly be considered a surprise: though European leaders occasionally talk of expanding the international role of the (p.24)

Table 2.5. Threats to European cohesion (%)

Political elite


Economic elite


Do you think that the growth of nationalist attitudes in European member states is a threat?

33.4 (74.4)


37.4 (78.2)


Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include Turkey is a threat?

13.6 (42.4)


13.8 (50.6)


Do you think that economic and social differences among member states are a threat?

11.3 (54.0)


9.9 (49.2)


Do you think that the interference of Russia in European affairs is a threat?

10.6 (41)


14.5 (44.5)


Do you think that immigration from non-EU countries is a threat for the cohesion of the EU?

10.2 (39.4)


8.5 (42.2)


Do you think that the effects of globalization on welfare countries are a threat?

8.8 (40.6)


4.8 (26.7)


Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey is a threat?

4.9 (26.4)


6.1 (32.3)


Do you think that the close relationships between some European countries and the United States are a threat?

4.7 (20.7)


2.2 (18.9)


Percentages of ‘Big threat’. Within brackets is the sum of ‘Big threat’ and ‘Quite a big threat’.

Union, the process of integration has been mainly concerned with internal problems, and internal challenges (such as common economic and agricultural policies, the question of national sovereignty versus supranational governance, and the consequences of enlargement) have always been the most salient (Kagan 2002).

If we enquire about the extent to which threat perceptions are linked to one another, a principal component analysis (Table 2.6) shows that respondents feel EU cohesion is challenged by at least two broad phenomena: on one side, by the emergence of cultural differences (immigration and enlargement), and on the other, by a series of apparently different aspects (economic and social differences among members, the effects of globalization, and the special relation of some members with the ‘capitalist’ USA) that are probably related in a latent way to the defence of a ‘European special model’ of a welfare state. It is worth noting that the two dimensions reflect a right- and left-wing orientation, respectively: while conservatives fear enlargement and immigration, those who lean to the left are more concerned by challenges to the European social model.5 The threat posed by Russia forms a third dimension on its own, while rising nationalism, the threat felt more than any other, has no significant importance for any of these dimensions. (p.25)

Table 2.6. Oblique factorial analysis of threat perceptions (pattern matrix)





Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include Turkey is a threat?




Do you think that enlargement of the EU to include countries other than Turkey is a threat?




Do you think that immigration from non-EU countries is a threat for the cohesion of the EU?




Do you think that economic and social differences among member states are a threat?




Do you think that the effects of globalization on welfare countries are a threat?




Do you think that the close relationships between some European countries and the United States are a threat?




Do you think that the growth of nationalist attitudes in European member states is a threat?




Do you think that the interference of Russia in European affairs is a threat?




Extraction Method: Principal Axis Factoring. Rotation Method: Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization.

2.2.2 United for What? Views about the Scope of EU Governance

In the previous section, we have shown that national elites are almost unanimously convinced of the benefits of European integration for their countries, that they show a broad (but not always very warm) attachment to the supranational polity, and that they predominantly express support for continuing the process of integration. These elements indicate that the new polity is largely accepted as a significant feature of the political landscape and as one that can positively coexist with the traditional experience of national polities. We must now explore what is the (accepted/preferred) scope of activity of this supranational level of ‘membership’ which parallels and complements the national one. More specifically, we need to consider what policy responsibilities national elites would prefer to see assigned to the European Union and which they feel should still be kept in the exclusive sphere of member states.

These questions are obviously relevant: first, because any polity is to a significant extent defined by the policy responsibilities that are (legitimately) attributed to it. From the start of the EEC, the then EC, and now EU, the policy dimension has been a particularly crucial founding element. Indeed, it can be said that the European supranational community was a ‘policy driven polity’ from its initial conception. It should also be noted that, since contemporary national states have acquired a very broad panoply of policy competences during their historical development, ones which have helped define their identity and consolidate a strong relationship of trust and loyalty between them and their citizens, the new supranational polity has to face comparison (p.26) and competition with its powerful national counterparts. The views of national elites on this point are especially interesting as their members are strongly involved, either directly as decision makers (the politicians) or indirectly as advocates and customers (the economic elites), in the policy responsibilities of the national state. This leads to the question of how ready they are to accept a redistribution of policy roles between the two levels.

The IntUne survey enables us to explore the attitudes of national elites with regard to the more general purpose of the EU, as well as to some specific policy competencies. Concerning the former, one question asked respondents to choose between ‘a more competitive economy’ and ‘better social protection’. Here responses may indicate the broad ideological orientations of the respondents (pro-market or socially oriented), but they may also evoke support (when the first option is chosen) for the original and pre-eminent purpose of European integration (the creation of a broader market) versus a preference (with the second option) for extending to the EU what has been the dominant focus of national welfare states (i.e. providing for a social citizenship).

The views of national politicians are evenly split among those assigning to the EU the role of promoting a more competitive economy and those who expect better social protection (Table 2.7). To these should be added a large group that would prefer a combination of the two goals. These answers show that, for a large section of national elites, the scope of the European polity is probably conceived in terms that are not too different from those of the national states. The EU is seen as more than a purely economic organization (if there was still any doubt about this). However, the well-balanced distribution between the two opposite models and the large weight of the median position may raise some doubts about the future advances of the EU. This leads us to ask, which of two possibilities will prevail—a stalemate between the two different views or a compromise perhaps leading to a slow but two-pronged development?

It is worth noting that the question of a more competitive economy or better social protection produces the strongest difference between political and economic elites. Economic elites—not surprisingly—are particularly keen on the role of Europe in ensuring a more competitive economy and much less interested in its promotion of social protection. However, as we said before, it

Table 2.7. The broad goals of the EU (%)

Aim of the EU

Political elites

Economic elites

A more competitive economy



Better social protection









Chi-square sig. (2-sided)



Table 2.8. Views about Europe in the future (10 years) (%)

Approval for Europe in 10 years



Economic elites


Chi-square sig. (2-sided)

More aid to regions in difficulty

57.7 (90.0)


38.4 (82.5)



A single foreign policy

53.0 (85.7)


57.5 (90.4)



Common social security

31.3 (66.3)


27.2 (63.5)



A unified tax system

25.4 (57.1)


29.9 (61.1)



Percentages of ‘Strong support’. Within brackets is the sum of ‘Strong support’ and ‘Medium support’.

is a debatable point whether answers to this question really express a carefully assessed view about Europe and what it should be, or whether they simply reflect the basic values of the respondents. In order to move to firmer ground, we can explore the views about the aims and competences of the EU further by analysing the answers given by the members of national elites to questions about the specific directions along which Europe should develop in the near future (ten years was the time frame proposed in the survey). With regard to four possible directions of evolution of the EU (‘greater aid to regions in difficulty’, ‘a single foreign policy’, ‘a common system of social security’, and a ‘unified tax system’) answers are positive for the majority of both political and economic elites (Table 2.8), but breadth and intensity of support vary significantly. The directions receiving the greatest support are those suggesting a greater solidarity across the unequal territories of the European polity and proposing a common foreign policy, while support for the other two directions is at best lukewarm.

These findings do not really come as a surprise in view of what we know about the developmental trends of the nation states in Europe in the period of European integration (Hoffmann 1966; Milward1992). The answers of political elites indicate, first, that there is a large acceptance of the idea of the EU as a necessary instrument for economic re-equilibration among European countries (aid to regions). The national definition of the public interest is thus balanced, to some extent at least, by a European definition of solidarity. Second, there is a largely shared feeling of the inadequacy of national foreign policies in the current world and of the need for pooling resources in order to act effectively in the international arena. However, when it comes to what has been the main playing ground for internal politics of the past decade, i.e. the welfare state (social security), and the crucial instrument for ensuring its resources (the tax system), national political elites are more prudent (Ferrera 2005; Cotta 2007). Here we should remember that, for most of the countries in our sample, internal political alignments have been defined more on social than on foreign policies (Rokkan 1970). To abandon control of the former policy field would lead domestic elites into an uncharted political terrain.

(p.28) Although both economic and political elites are in favour of extending the role of Europe in (socially and territorially) redistributive matters, economic leaders take a more cautious stance: they are less supportive than politicians of a European social security and even less about aid to regions. Nevertheless, they are slightly more in favour of a unified tax system (probably perceived as an instrument of economic simplification) and of a common foreign policy (with obvious spillover into trade matters).

With questions and answers about the goals and scope of the European Union, we have started to deal with the vertical dimension of citizenship, which defines what citizens are entitled to expect from public authorities. We must now try to reach a greater level of precision. What are the specific policies that European citizens should expect the European Union and its authorities to deal with? To help us with this matter, there are a number of questions in the IntUne survey that can provide detailed information about how national elites would prefer to allocate some of the crucial policy fields between the different levels of authority existing in Europe. Indeed, it is immediately clear from our results that national political elites have a rather clear ranking of policies in mind. As suggested by the data displayed in Figure 2.2, there are ‘domestic policies’—health care, taxation, and unemployment—for which the member states (or sub-national authorities or a mix of the two) are still seen as the preferred level, and ‘European policies’, for which the European

Europe à la carte? European citizenship and its dimensions from the perspective of national elites

Figure 2.2. Preferences about levels of responsibility for different policies (only politicians) (%)

(p.29) level as such (to which we might also add the choice of mixed solutions combining the European and other levels) is clearly preferred to a purely national (and sub-national) level, as in the case of immigration and environment. Other policies (such as fighting crime) are somewhat in between.

These policy preferences confirm what we have seen so far: for policies related to the welfare state, such as health care and unemployment, the national level is clearly preferred. Here, Europe and its institutions are probably seen by a majority of national political elites as a competitor in their traditional domaine reservé. Certainly, it is well known that national resistance to Europeanization of social policies has been stubborn (Ferrera 2005: chapter 4). For other policies (either relatively new or receiving renewed attention because of recent developments) Europe can be perceived as an instrument for solving problems that national politicians may feel to be less easy to deal with effectively at home. In these cases, European institutions, either alone or in conjunction with national ones, can be seen by a large majority as a solution; we should not forget, however, the existence of a not irrelevant minority, which also defends the role of the state or of regional authorities in these areas.

When we consider the preferences of economic elites, we find a very similar ordering. Economic elites seem, more or less, to share the same opinions as political elites when it comes to allocating policies to different authorities, but generally show a somewhat greater propensity to subtract competencies to both state and sub-state levels. This becomes particularly clear for health care, taxation, fighting crime, and the environment.

To these areas we can add the question of policy related to defence forces (which could be taken as an indicator of preferences for the allocation of international security policy to the different levels of authority). In the survey instrument, this question was worded somewhat differently from the others and the choice offered to respondents was only between a purely national, a purely European, and a mixed solution. Politicians express a slight preference for a purely national solution as compared to a fully European one, but the largest preference is for a mixed solution. Economic elites are, however, much more in favour of the supranational solution, which reaches a level not far behind that of the preference for a mixed solution. The national solution is shared only by a rather small minority of economic leaders.

If these are the views about what Europe should do in different policy fields, what is then the amount of resources national politicians would be ready to allocate to the European level in proportion to the global amount of taxes raised? As one would expect, the range of variation in the answers is very large, but the mean (at 16.3 per cent for politicians and 18.3 per cent for economic leaders) is in any case quite high if compared with the current distribution of resources (Table 2.9). If these views were translated into practice, they would make for a dramatic increase of Union resources and raise the level of the (p.30)

Table 2.9. Share of taxes to be allocated to the European level (%)

Amount of taxes allocated to Europe


Economic elites

Up to 5%









21% and more






St. Deviation






European budget many times over!6 We may ask whether national politicians, when answering to this question, considered the consequences their words would have upon national policies, and thus also upon some of the interests they are so keen to defend!

2.2.3 Representation in the European Union

The elites we have surveyed are national elites and they are significantly involved in the national processes of representation, although in different ways. The politicians we have sampled, who are members of national parliaments, are by definition national representatives: their duty and their daily job, which derive from the national process of electoral representation and its mechanisms of accountability, are to represent the interests (however defined) of their country. Economic elites are not institutionally linked to the national arena: the firms they rule may have interests that go beyond the national scene. However, given the strong links existing between the economic arena and national politics, they too are typically and significantly involved in the national representation process as advocates—individually or collectively—of the interests of their firms and more broadly of the economy.

As the European process of representation is strictly connected to the national processes of representation, in that two of the main EU institutions—the European Council and the Council of Ministers—are the expression of national executives, and that elections for the European Parliament are fundamentally run by national parties and national politicians, it is particularly relevant to explore how national elites view the European polity from the point of view of its representation dimension. Our survey enables us to explore two aspects of the problem: from a substantive point of view, we can establish how national political elites assess the quality of the representation (p.31)

Table 2.10. Views about European representation (%)



Economic elites





Those who make decisions at the European Union level do not take enough account of the interests [of country] at stake

10.6 (48.0)

10.1 (52.0)

8.8 (50.2)

9.7 (49.6)

The interests of some member states carry too much weight at the EU level

32.5 (84.0)

2.7 (16.0)

34.9 (83.8)

3.7 (16.2)

Percentages of ‘Agree or disagree strongly’. Within brackets is the sum of ‘Agree or disagree strongly’ and ‘Agree or disagree somewhat’.

of national interests in the European framework; and from a procedural and institutional one, to what extent they support and trust the existing mechanisms of representation of Europe.

We have already seen that an extremely large majority of national politicians and even more of economic leaders believe that their country has drawn benefits from European integration (see Table 2.1). This suggests that they rate the European mechanisms of representation as not completely flawed. However, when more detailed questions are asked, this broad positive evaluation is corrected by some significant feelings of dissatisfaction with regard to the representation of the country’s interests in the process of EU decision making, and even more concerning the balance of power between countries (Table 2.10). Both politicians and economic leaders are almost evenly split between those who believe that the interests of their country are not taken sufficiently into account and those who disagree with this judgement. It must be added, however, that those who express strong feelings of dissatisfaction are only a small minority. When it comes to evaluating the degree to which the interests of the different countries are taken into account, however, an overwhelming majority believes that some countries are ‘more equal than the others’. The glass of European representation is thus half full—the benefits are undeniable—but at the same time half empty; its ability to take care of ‘local’ (i.e. national) interests is far from satisfactory and, perhaps more importantly, the effectiveness in creating a situation of equal treatment among the internal components of the polity is rather deficient.7

Is this somewhat sceptical (but fundamentally realistic) reading of the effects of the European representative process matched by a position of distrust vis-à-vis European institutions? Our results indicate that this is not the case. The levels of trust in the three main institutions of the EU (the (p.32)

Table 2.11. Trust in European institutions (within brackets economic elite)

Levels of trust in different institutions

High(7–10) %

Medium (4–6) %

Low(0–3) %



European Parliament

48.9 (30.4)

39.9 (52.0)

11.2 (17.6)

6.13 (5.36)

1295 (674)

Council of Ministers

40.8 (32.8)

47.2 (54.4)

12.0 (12.8)

5.82 (5.58)

1289 (663)

European Commission

36.5 (34.5)

49.0 (52.8)

14.5 (12.8)

5.6 (5.62)

1290 (675)

National Parliament

− (35.2)

− (42.2)

− (22.6)

− (5.34)


National Government

− (39.2)

− (40.3)

− (20.5)

− (5.48)


The last two questions have been asked only to economic elites.

Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the Parliament) are significantly positive (Table 2.11) and differences in level of trust among these institutions are not dramatic. However, when we analyse responses from the politicians, they reveal an (apparent) paradox: the two institutions that have a more pronounced supranational character—the Commission and the Parliament—are the least and the most trusted, respectively, while the Council of Minister is in between. A possible interpretation is that the least trusted institution, (i.e. the Commission) is also the least directly connected to the national processes of representation, and one that often appears as a severe judge of their decisions. Albeit in rather different ways, the two other institutions are more closely linked to national politics since the Council of Ministers consists of national representatives and the European Parliament is the result of elections, which national elites still heavily control.

The position of economic elites is different. Their preferences show a different order: the European Commission is rated as the most trusted, followed by the Council, and then by the European Parliament. Here we are probably seeing the typical preference of economic managers for governing bodies that have a greater decision-making power, and lesser trust in a debating body.

Unfortunately, the comparison with national institutions is possible only for economic elites as asking national MPs about their trust in the national parliament or in the national government had been ruled out for obvious reasons when the survey was designed. With regard to economic elites, when considering the average levels of trust, results show almost no difference in the level of trust between the national and the European Parliament, and only a very small advantage for the Council of Ministers or the Commission over the national government. Behind the averages, however, one can detect a somewhat more polarized distribution in their views about national institutions: the levels of distrust for national parliament and national government are considerably higher than those for the corresponding European institutions.

Quite obviously, the central aspect in a citizenship-based polity, and with regard to its vertical dimension, concerns the allocation of authority and the powers attributed to the institutions. The problem of who should represent (p.33) the citizens and be accountable to them is particularly complex in a polity such as the European Union, whose institutions have not superseded national ones, but rather complemented them. The institutions we consider here are the European Commission and the European Parliament, but we will also enquire about the role of member states, which play a crucial part in the decision-making process of the Union through the participation of national governments in the European Council and the Council of Ministers.

Taking the views of national politicians first, these again reveal what could be considered a not very consistent position. On the one hand, they make a strong defence for the role of member states in the decision-making process, probably because they think they are the most effective instrument of representation of country interests. On the other hand, they are quite ready to increase the powers of the European Parliament, with only a small minority being strongly against this. In addition, they have a balanced position with regard to the role of the European Commission, with only a minority strongly against and only a minority strongly in favour (Table 2.12).

These results are somewhat puzzling: they seem to show support both for an intergovernmental view, stressing the role of member states, and for a more supranational one, emphasizing the importance of institutions that are peculiarly European. Particularly surprising is that the defence of the role of member states is matched by strong support for expanding the powers of the European Parliament, which from this point of view fares better than the Commission. In an attempt to explain these results, we suggest that the European Parliament may be seen by many respondents not only as a supranational institution but also primarily as an instrument of representation for national interests (much as national parliaments are perceived as the locus of representation of local interests). As for results concerning the comparison between the European Parliament and the European Commission, we cannot deduce with certainty that national elites are more in favour of the former than the latter. The two questions posed in relation to this question were formulated somewhat differently: the question about the Commission had a stronger wording, and by asking about the role of this institution as the ‘true government of the EU’ set a higher threshold for positive answers; the question relating to the Parliament simply asked about it having greater powers and thereby was less demanding for those willing to give a positive answer. Moreover, the question about the role of the Commission probably induced the respondents to evaluate an alternative, suggested by the question about the role of member states.

With regard to the position of economic elites, results suggest that in general, they share a rather similar position to that of their political counterparts, except for being slightly more lukewarm concerning increasing the powers of the European Parliament. The size of the majority in favour of (p.34)

Table 2.12. Views about European institutions (%)

Political elites

Disagree strongly

Disagree somewhat

Agree somewhat

Agree strongly


The member states ought to remain the central actors of the European Union






The European Commission ought to become the true government of the European Union






The powers of the European Parliament ought to be strengthened






Economic elites

The member states ought to remain the central actors of the European Union






The European Commission ought to become the true government of the European Union






The powers of the European Parliament ought to be strengthened






extending its powers is significantly less and their answers less intense than those found among politicians, but with 68 per cent of favourable answers it is nevertheless quite large.

Using these data, we can move a step further and explore how different attitudes concerning the institutional shape of the EU relate to one another. For the sake of simplicity, we will now concentrate on attitudes towards the role of the European Commission and the member states in the governance of the EU, these being currently the two crucial poles in the institutional setting of Europe. The answers we received to the related questions allow us to define four different conceptual models of the institutional system of the EU: (1) a federalist position (the positive answer to the question ‘The European Commission should become the true government of the EU’ is combined with the negative answer to the question ‘Member states ought to remain the central actors’); (2) an intergovernmentalist position (a negative answer to the first question is combined with a positive one to the second); (3) a position of support for a ‘compound institutional model’ (when the answer is positive to both questions); and (4) a double negative position, which combines the two negative answers and probably reflects a full rejection of the EU.

Our data show that national elites are predominantly distributed among the first three models (see Table 2.13). The truly federal model is supported only by a significant minority, but the purely intergovernmental model, although prevailing, is more or less balanced by a position that combines national and supranational options. The differences between the two national elite groups (p.35)

Table 2.13. Views about European governance

The European Commission should

become the true government of the EU



Member states ought to remain the central actors


Federalism16.1% (19.9%)

Negative position 7.0% (4.5%)


Compound model 35.3% (33.0%)

Inter governmentalism 41.4% (42.9%)

Yes includes answers ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Agree somewhat’; No answers includes ‘Disagree somewhat’ and ‘Strongly disagree’. Percentages within brackets refer to economic elites.

are not very significant here (but among economic elites, federalists are somewhat stronger). The national elites are thus rather reluctant to embrace a more radically innovative model of European governance (the federal one), but at the same time their defence of the traditional role of member states is balanced by a wide acceptance of a mixed system, which would strengthen the arrangement that currently governs the Union. To this should be added that the diffuse readiness to see a continuing expansion of the role of the European Parliament provides a further element of support for further institutional integration.

The last aspect of the representation dimension that we cover with our survey concerns the instruments of political action that members of national elites think most effective for influencing EU decisions. Here we ask whether national channels of ‘representation’ are seen as more, or less, effective than those of the European Union. The answers from the political elite offer a double-sided view (Table 2.14). Among the instruments proposed in our survey, action through the national parliament is seen as the least effective. On the other hand, as expected, the national government is considered by a large majority to be a very important instrument. At the same time (somewhat unexpectedly) action through European parties also receives a fairly good rating, but direct contact with European institutions is considered even more important. National politicians confirm the view that, in the process of European integration, national parliaments have been to a significant extent sidestepped; at the same time they are aware that Europe works on the basis of more than one channel (direct and indirect) of representation. Economic elites are even more sceptical than their political counterparts concerning the role of national parliaments. They see action through business organizations and direct contacts with European institutions as the two most important instruments of action, and rate them as more effective than national governments. (p.36)

Table 2.14. Instruments of influence on EU decisions (%)

Instruments of influence

Not at all effective

Rather ineffective

Rather effective

Very effective


National Parliament













National Government













European party or business organizations













Direct contact with EU














2.2.4 A More Systematic Presentation of Elite Positions

After a rather analytical presentation of the positions of national elites with regard to the different aspects of European integration, it is time to attempt a more systematic interpretation. Our analyses have already shown that, with regard to some variables, attitudes towards Europe cannot be easily compressed into a single pro-European/anti-European continuum and that we must reckon with the existence of a variety of (relatively independent) dimensions. However, even if a high degree of reductionism seems impossible, there is still the need to assess the existence of a limited number of dimensions along which the attitudes of national elites are structured. In particular, we are interested in comparing the latent structure of our respondents’ attitudes with the main components of citizenship implied by Benhabib’s conceptual analysis, namely identity, representation, and scope (Benhabib 2002), which was also used to structure the IntUne project.

We will start by focusing on political elites, whose opinions can have more direct consequences on the process of integration. Among the several possible statistical techniques that can be used to explore attitude structures, we undertook an exploratory factor analysis with non-orthogonal rotation. There were two main reasons for our choice: first, when compared to orthogonal factor analysis, this method allows correlated factors to be identified without imposing unnecessary restrictions on the data; second, by using the same methodology and similar questionnaire items, the structure of elites’ attitudes could be compared with that of the masses (Sanders et al. 2011). For our analysis, we selected variables that would define attitudes towards European integration and conceptions of a supranational citizenship (Table 2.15). We did not include variables that might be used as explanatory variables, such as the variable concerning preference for a social Europe or a more competitive economy, as our main aim was not to explain positions but rather to elucidate the variety of attitudes towards Europe and to explore their connections.


Table 2.15. Oblique factorial analysis of political elites’ attitudes towards the European Union (pattern matrix)







Unification should be strengthend






Favours EU…for foreign policy






European Commission should become EU government






European army






Member states ought to remain central actors






Attachment to EU vs. country






European Parliament should be strengthened






Trust in the European Commission






Trust in the European Council of Ministers






Trust in the European Parliament






EU should make policy––environment






EU should make policy––crime






EU should make policy––immigration






Favours EU…for tax system






EU should make policy––taxation






Favours EU…for social security






Some countries have too much weight in the EU






My country is adequately represented at the EU level






Favours EU for regional aid






EU should make policy––health






EU should make policy––unemployment






Rotation sum of squared loadings






Extraction Method: Principal Axis Factoring. Rotation Method: Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization.

Table 2.15 suggests the existence of five main dimensions that can be fairly easily interpreted:
  1. 1. Support for supranational political integration.

  2. 2. Trust in European institution.

  3. 3. Support for delegation of ‘new policies’ to the European level.

  4. 4. Support for delegation of ‘traditional state policies’ to the European level.

  5. 5. Representation of national interests.

The first dimension is mainly defined by seven questions addressing three different issues: (a) strengthening the process of integration, (b) giving more power to those European institutions that embody the supranational principle, and (c) reinforcing the external and military role of the Union. In addition, the variable comparing the level of European and National Attachment8 (p.38) loads mainly on this dimension (0.428). In a way, this dimension appears to resemble the classic polarization between Euroscepticism and Euro-enthusiasm: those who rank high on this dimension actually want the construction of a more integrated Union dominated by the supranational principle and capable of acting in a unified way beyond its borders. Nevertheless, this dimension excludes some of the common attributes of Euro-enthusiasm, such as feeling of trust towards its institutions, readiness to delegate national sovereignty in further policy areas, or satisfaction with how the Union works. In fact, trust towards all European institutions, be they supranational or intergovernmental, forms a second dimension by itself. Support for delegating new policy areas, such as immigration, crime, and environment, to the European level emerges as a third dimension, while support for delegating some traditional policy areas, such as taxation and social security, is a fourth dimension. Finally, the perception that one’s own country is adequately represented in the European policy-making process and that inequalities among member states are too significant constitutes a fifth dimension.

These results can be related to Benhabib’s (2002) three components of citizenship, but our analysis of how national parliamentarians’ attitudes are structured brings some additional insights. First, national politicians’ attitudes are clearly distributed on a continuum that lies between a supranational and an intergovernmental pole. This dimension might have some similarity with Benhabib’s concept of identity, if we assume that in the minds of political elites support for a European identity directly translates into a coherent position about institutional integration. Representation is divided into two sub-dimensions, one referring to trust in European institutions and the other to the feeling that one’s own country is adequately represented. Here it is interesting to note that the perception of belonging to a country which is adequately represented is positively related to the idea that some countries carry too much weight in the Union: this constitutes a counter-intuitive finding that deserves further investigation. Finally, attitudes about the desired scope of governance of the EU split into two sub-dimensions, one referring to taxation and social policies and the other to new emerging policy areas, such as environment, crime, and immigration. Policies such as health and unemployment are divided between these two sub-dimensions, moderately loading on both.

Non-orthogonal factor analysis also allows correlated dimensions to be identified, and thus for relations among distinct latent attitudes to be assessed. Table 2.16 reports the intercorrelations among the five dimensions described above. It should be noted that to construct this analysis we have not used the scores directly derived from the factor solution: despite their advantages (they all have a mean of zero and a standard deviation of one), factor scores have (p.39)

Table 2.16. Correlations among constant range scale measures of five components of European citizenship

Supranational political integration

Trust in EU institutions

New policies delegation

Traditional policies delegation

Country representaton

Supranational political integration


Trust in EU institutions



New policies delegation




Traditional policied delegation





Country representation






Bivariate Pearson correlation coefficients reported; all significant at 0.001.

undefined ranges and this complicates their interpretation and prevents meaningful comparisons among factor scores. To overcome this limitation we resorted to constant range scales constructed by combining the variables that load highly on each factor in scales ranging from 0 to 10, where 0 is the most Europhobe and 10 the most Europhile position.9 These scales are constructed giving the same weight to each variable, regardless of their loadings: however, all the constant range scales are highly correlated (r 〉 0.85) with the original factor scores, with the partial exception of the scale of Representation of National Interest (r = 0.753).

Table 2.16 shows that different dimensions are somewhat interrelated, but correlations are generally weak. As a matter of fact, there are only two cases of correlation coefficients higher than 0.3 and both include the first dimension. Supranational Political Integration is correlated with Trust in EU institutions (r = 0.35) and with Traditional Policies Delegation (r = 0.454). This provides further support for the idea that attitudes of domestic elites towards Europe reflect a complex structure of feelings and interests. Particularly interesting is to find that support for the process of supranational integration and for its institutional aspects is only mildly related with the readiness to expand the policy competencies of the Union. Moreover, with regard to policies, attitudes change depending on the policies at stake. National elites have thus different agendas for Europe; some of them may be dictated more by views about the shape of the polity, others by more instrumental views about how to conduct more effectively different types of policies.

(p.40) 2.3 Europe à la Carte? Tentative Conclusions

From the results of our analyses we can see that a positive instrumental evaluation of the EU is shared by an extremely large proportion of both political and economic national elites, and that they see European integration overall as beneficial for national interests. A very large majority of both groups also reports an affective connection with the EU, although its intensity is significantly lower than that felt for the national community. We also found that support for taking the process of integration further is rather broad, but when it comes to defining European identity, a predominant majority opts for a ‘civic’ identity, while ‘naturalistic’ elements count generally less than for the national identity.

With regard to possible threats to the cohesion of the EU, both political and economic national elites seem particularly concerned by nationalist movements emerging from within and by inequalities among member states (i.e. by internal threats). However, when confronted with the dilemma between a European Union focused on creating a more competitive economy or providing better social protection, we find significant differences between political and economic elites. While the latter are heavily in favour of creating a more competitive economy, the former are more diverse in their responses and show greater spread between the two competing options.

Taking the future of the EU into consideration, the broad majority of national elites are ready to envisage a common foreign policy, to consider some degree of solidarity with the less prosperous regions of Europe, and even to contemplate common social security and taxation systems. But we find some group differences if we consider only strong expressions of support; political elites are only ready to express them for the first two possible future developments, while economic elites seem prepared only to give a strong sanction to a common foreign policy.

When it comes to a more precise and comparative choice between the national (or sub-national) and the supranational level for the conduct of specific policies, national elites only express a clear preference for a European solution against a national one with regard to immigration and environment; for health care, unemployment, and taxation, the preference is for policy control at the national level. In all these areas, economic and political elites show rather similar preferences, but with one exception. With regard to an army, economic elites are more ready than political elites to adopt the supranational solution.

With regard to the European process of representation, a very large majority of both elite groups share the view that member states do not carry the same weight within the EU, but when asked whether they feel individual country (p.41) interests are sufficiently taken into account, views are evenly split. Overall, their evaluation of European representation is not too critical.

In line with the results discussed so far, national elites’ trust in European institutions is more positive than negative. Where it is possible to compare levels of trust in European institutions with similar national institutions, differences are not significant, but they do tend towards favouring the EU. On the other hand, when faced with more concrete choices about the (relative) role and weight of different European institutions, national elites are generally conservative: a large majority continue to defend the role of national states, with only a minority ready to accept a transformation of the Commission into a true government of the Union. However, national elites appear open to accept increased powers for the European Parliament.

These results indicate that, as a whole, the national elites of the member countries surveyed by the IntUne project continue to provide a rather solid backing to the process of European integration. If European integration has been seen as an ‘Elite process’ in the past (Haller 2008), we see no strong signs that this is likely to diminish. Indeed, there seems to be quite substantial support for a continuation of European integration by the national elites. Things become somewhat more complicated when it comes to the different possible directions of the integration process. Our analyses have revealed the variety of views about Europe held by national elites (political and economic). It has also shown rather clearly that members of national elites, when asked to express their attitudes and positions towards Europe and supranational integration, do not define themselves along a simple one-dimensional continuum (pro-Europe ↔ anti-Europe) but display rather variable combinations of positions depending on whether they are asked to express their views on aspects that concern the nature of the European polity, its institutional configuration, or different sets of policy goals. It seems that, when confronted with an ‘à la carte’ menu of various components of European citizenship, national elites order a rather diversified combination of courses. We should not be too surprised by this finding, however, if we consider how the process of European integration has developed so far. It has not been the result of the victory of one ideologically cohesive front against an opposing force originating from a neat cleavage between pro- and anti-Europeans, but rather the product of a long series of compromises negotiated among a plurality of national positions, carefully aware of their specific interests, and trying to exploit the advantages offered by integration (and to contain associated disadvantages) as best as possible. The positions of national elites fundamentally reflect this background, and this makes for multifaceted and not necessarily geometrically consistent views of the European polity and citizenship. In particular, views about the institutional shape of the European Union and about its policy competencies are variable and liable to be combined in multiple ways. Those (p.42) who prefer a more supranational institutional system do not necessarily also want to expand the policy competencies of the Union, and vice versa. Moreover, with regard to policy competencies, preferences for a stronger European role vary according to the type of policy. This means that in the wide pool of national elites there is simply no group that wants ‘more Europe’, but rather different groups that want more of different aspects of Europe. Similarly, there is not so much a compact group that is against ‘more Europe’, but rather different groups that oppose different aspects of European expansion. This leads us to conclude that changing the shape and scope of European governance and the contents of European citizenship requires broad coalitions and compromises among these different views, and that, in order to understand the future of European integration, a careful assessment of how different attitudes are distributed across countries and what bases they can provide to the formation of positive (or negative) coalitions is absolutely crucial.


(1) This chapter was discussed and written jointly, but Russo was particularly responsible for subsections on ‘The Nature of the EU Citizenship’ and ‘Threats to European Cohesion’, and for the main section on A More Synthetic Presentation of Elite Positions’. The research for this chapter was funded by a grant from the IntUne project (Integrated and United: A quest for Citizenship in an ever closer Europe) financed by the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Union, Priority 7, Citizens and Governance in a Knowledge Based Society (CIT3-CT-2005-513421).

(2) Economic elites are defined here as the top managers of the top economic and financial firms of a country. To these are added representatives of the major business associations.

(3) Data presented in this chapter are from the IntUne survey unless otherwise stated and refer to all the countries surveyed in this project with the exception of Serbia.

(4) A slight positive relation also exists between attachment to Europe and attachment to one’s region.

(5) Right-wingers rank high on the first factor, while left-wingers rank high on the second: both correlations are statistically significant.

(6) In 2007 the EU budget was equal to 1.10 per cent of the Gross National Income (GNI) of its member states. Assuming that national taxation represents on average approximately 40 per cent of GNI, a share of such taxes transferred to the EU as that suggested by politicians (16.3 per cent) would mean an EU budget equal to 6.5 per cent of the European GNI. An increase of almost six times!

(7) As the factor analysis reported in Table 2.5 shows, feeling scarcely represented forms a single dimension with wishing more help for less developed areas.

(8) This variable is computed by calculating the difference between a measure of European Attachment (1–4 scale) and a measure of National Attachment (1–4 scale): the resulting scale spans between −3 and 3.

(9) As stated in the text, the fifth dimension has an ambivalent character and it was not possible to orientate it a priori.