Operation Transformation: The Birth of the Modern EU, 1973-1986

Friday, July 14, 2017
WMB - Hugh Fraser Seminar Room 2 (University of Glasgow)
Peter Moloney , Boston College
The debate over Brexit has exposed deep-rooted public mistrust of the current EU’s structure and purpose. As the EU stumbles into a new phase of its development, painful reforms have to be addressed if implosion is to be avoided.

Ironically, we have been here before: the EU story is littered with existential crises, Machiavellian sideshows and threats of breakup.  Indeed, it is often these moments of extreme pessimism that have forced otherwise unwilling leaders to make fundamental structural transformations to save the Union.

In my paper, I will focus on one of the most dramatic transformations of the EU’s history, which provoked a fundamental reboot its very identity and global purpose. Before the landmark Single European Act of 1986, both internal and global influences combined to transform a fractured and fragile regional trade bloc into a politically and economically unified global superpower. 

In my paper, I challenge the traditional narrative that the transformation from Community to Union was accomplished mainly during short-lived political convergence after 1982. Instead, this brief convergence was merely the final trigger required to rapidly implement a series of institutional, legal and political innovations already in the works since 1973, a whole decade before. Without access to advanced studies on key projects, like EMU and the targeting of non-tariff barriers to trade, and the ready availability of a viable blueprint for significant change, the dramatic transformation from the EC to the EU may never have materialized as it did.