A Liberal Intergovernmental Approach to the Establishment of the European Stability Mechanism

  • Abstract:

    The European Union (EU) was both created by and developed through a series of Treaties signed by participating nation states where intergovernmental bargaining prevails. Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) is an influential European integration theory which aims to account for EU milestone developments and policy outcomes forged by intergovernmental negotiations among EU member states. The establishment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) — a permanent rescue mechanism purposely adopted to counter the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis via a series of intergovernmental negotiations — represents a typical case of EU development achieved through interstate bargaining among Eurozone countries. Utilizing the research methods of congruence testing and process-tracing, this paper examines LI’s analytical and predictive power in explaining the creation of the ESM. The research results show that the three-phase LI model works well in accounting for the formation of the ESM. Based on the case study of the ESM, several new factors and causal mechanisms are proposed as additions to the LI model, illustrating the validity and vigour of LI as an EU integration theory, as it has developed alongside the empirical progress of the European integration project.