The multinational integration process may de defined as the voluntary establishment by treaty, concluded between independent states, of common institutions and the gradual development by them of common policies pursuing common goals and serving common interests. Being "voluntary", a multinational integration process is clearly distinguished from any form of coercive governance or coalition of nations or states. A "multinational" integration process between several nations should be distinguished from "international integration", involving all or most nations of the world. It should also be distinguished from "regional integration", a concept frequently used to denote the integration of various states of a region of the world, but which should, in fact, be reserved to the integration of various regions of a state, a process that is going on in most countries of the world. Multinational integration may go on inside one state containing different nationalities, but, in this case, its institutions are based on a federal constitution rather than on a treaty between independent states.
The "gradual development" of common policies implies that multinational integration is a constantly evolving process without a clearly defined end. Since the process is voluntary, it ensues that independent states may join it at any point, following the procedures and criteria laid down by the group, or leave it, if they consider that the common policies developed or envisaged by the group, according to the majority definition of the common interest, do not coincide any more with their national interests.
The primary goal of multinational integration is the achievement of peace and security among the member states as well as between them and the rest of the world. But, unlike a military alliance where this goal is pursued by various pledges of a political and military nature, a multinational integration scheme is built gradually by means of a large number of common policies, cementing common interests and creating a real solidarity among the member states. In the words of Jean Monnet, the intellectual father of European integration, "union between individuals or communities is not natural; it can only be the result of an intellectual process... having as a starting point the observation of the need for change. Its driving force must be common interests between individuals or communities".
In EC/EU usage, "common policies" used to be the ones that took the place of the essential elements of national policies (notably, agriculture, fisheries and foreign trade), while policies that supported and supplemented national policies were called "Community policies". This distinction is obsolete, since the treaty of Lisbon abolished the European Community [see sections 2.5 and 3.1]. Now the Treaty on the functioning of the EU speaks about ''Union policies and activities'' (see e.g. Articles 7 to 10 TFEU); but ''Union policies'' are essentially ''common policies''. Note that the Treaty on the European Union calls the Union to define and pursue common policies and actions… in all fields of international relations (Article 21 TEU), although the common foreign and security policy is subject to specific rules and procedures (Article 24 TEU) [see sections 8.2.2 and 8.3]. Even the differentiation between ''policies'' and ''activities'' has no practical meaning. Indeed, all common policies or actions, whether they fall under Union ''exclusive competence'' (Article 3 TFEU) or ''shared competence'' with the Member States (Article 4 TFEU), are in a process of constant evolution. They start as mere objectives set in general terms by the Treaties or the institutions and are gradually built up by European legal instruments [see section 3.3]. Many common measures concerning a sector or activity end up in building a ''common'' or ''Union'' policy. In this book, the term "common policy" is taken to mean "the common policy of the Member States of the Union" in a certain sector, branch or field.
Common policies, developed gradually by the actors of the process, foster both political and economic integration of the participating states. Although multinational integration depends on political decisions, it greatly affects the economies of the member states. Increasingly, through the stages of customs union, common market and economic and monetary union [see part II], it opens up the participating economies to multinational trade and competition. Obviously, the economies of the member states are greatly influenced by common economic and other policies. As these economies are gradually opened up to multinational trade and competition, all economic parameters change: trade increases enormously within the large internal market, both supply and demand conditions are modified drastically, state intervention is seriously curbed and new dynamics are set in motion, notably concerning trade and investment opportunities. The creation and/or extension of multinational companies and the cross investments between them and national companies tend to bind the economies more closely together. The common policies build, in fact, a new concept and context of political economy, which affects the actions of political leaders and the activities of businessmen of the member states.
Indeed, by bringing about tougher conditions of competition than the ones existing inside the previously protected economies, multinational integration brings about radical changes in business habits and creates new business opportunities. Not surprisingly, business associations, constituting powerful interest groups, try to influence the integration process in their favour. They intervene by way of demands, suggestions or criticisms addressed to the principal actors - the common institutions and the governments of the Member States - at various stages of the decision-making process concerning particular policies or the advancement of the integration process itself [see section 9.4].
In the case of the EC/EU it is clear that the political elite were and still are influenced by open-minded and dynamic economic elite. In fact, more than by considerations of security or balance of power at world level, over-emphasised by political scientists, the historic decisions of the Member States were motivated by economic factors: revitalising the two most important economic sectors in the post-war period, coal and steel; creating a large market in order to give a new dynamism to their economies stifled by protectionism; completing the single market to further facilitate trade and investment within a large market; strengthening the single market with a single currency to further facilitate internal transactions and allow European businesses to better face global competition. These decisions and the ensuing common policies were supported, if not provoked, by influential economic groups in the Member States.
Although they are of paramount importance, economic pressures alone cannot start the integration process. The necessary condition for setting the multinational integration process in motion is that the political, economic and other elite of neighbouring countries are earnestly seeking to serve the interests of their nations, rather than their own interests or those of a particular class or societal category. Under this condition - which implies democratic regimes - economic and political leaders would sooner or later concur that trade liberalisation better serves the supreme national goals of peace and prosperity than existing protectionist economic policies [see sections 5.1. and 6.1]. They would then have an option: either to pursue mutual trade liberalisation through intergovernmental cooperation or through multinational integration.
Intergovernmental cooperation is a conventional shelter of national interests, entrenched in the solid and familiar bulwark of national sovereignties defended by national governments. It does not need strong central institutions or a great deal of common legislation. Although it is usually based on a treaty, which prescribes governmental action and behaviour for the reduction of trade barriers and sanctions in case of infringement by a participating state, the respect of the agreement depends more on the goodwill of the participating governments than on common legislation enacted and enforced by supranational bodies. By signing an intergovernmental cooperation agreement for trade liberalisation, such as that of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) or of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a government pledges to curb its freedom of action in the domain of tariffs and trade, but does not yield sovereign rights in this field. In case of a grave dispute with its partners, it may free its state from its obligations without serious legal or political consequences, other than the concurrent loss of the rights provided by the agreement.
In contrast, multinational integration is a dynamic venture of promoting national interests, depending on many unpredictable internal and external parameters and moved forward perpetually by the ever-changing requirements of the partners and by the extra energy provided by the combination of their forces. While safeguarding the interests of big and small countries alike, it requires common institutions and leads progressively to the establishment of a great number of common policies, to the harmonisation of legislations and to the common management of significant parts of national sovereignties. Small and big countries participating in the process have the same rights and obligations. They pledge themselves to pursue common objectives, which go much beyond trade liberalisation. In addition to this goal, the nations participating in an integration process also want to liberalise the movements of persons and capital and to facilitate the establishment and provision of services by companies from the partner countries. The legal acts needed to achieve all these ends create strong and innumerable ties between the economies, societies and administrations of the participating states. Even though governments have the theoretical possibility to break away from the integration process, these ties make the separation increasingly difficult and costly. It ensues that governments are ever more strictly obligated to follow the rules inscribed in the treaty signed and ratified by them, a treaty often amended to allow the progress of the integration process.
Hence, the fundamental decision of a number of states to establish a multinational integration process, outlined in a treaty, signed and ratified by willing governments, is the catalyst, which precipitates a sequence of secondary decisions formulating various common policies. If the implementation of these initial common policies gave satisfactory but not optimal economic results, it would reveal the necessity for more common policies and would thus have a multiplicative effect on the process. There is no predictable end to this process, as it depends on all sorts of internal and external factors. Depending on the stimuli exerted on the actors by those factors, the process may temporarily be slowed down or speeded up, but its general trend is progressive. An abrupt end to the multinational integration process is theoretically possible, but becomes increasingly improbable as the process itself continuously strengthens and multiplies the economic, political and cultural links between the participating nations.
Multinational integration is based on common policies, which develop and multiply thanks to an original decision-making procedure [see section 4.3]. Hence, common policies are the basic elements of a multinational integration process. A common policy, as far as multinational integration is concerned, is defined as a set of decisions, measures, rules and codes of conduct adopted by the common institutions set up by a group of states [see section 4.1] and implemented by the common institutions and the member states. A "real" common policy (to be distinguished from a so-called one) has to be implemented by all the participants and, therefore, needs to be monitored by supranational executive and judiciary authorities. Hence, by adopting a common policy, the participants agree to transfer some of their sovereign powers to common supranational institutions. This transfer of sovereign rights in the framework of common policies is the main drawback but also the fundamental characteristic of multinational integration. It explains why common policies are difficult to adopt, but also why, once adopted, they are the binding (or integrating) elements of the whole multinational structure. Common policies, thus, distinguish multinational integration from intergovernmental cooperation and explain nationalistic scepticism towards the former.
There are four main types of common policies: fundamental and secondary, horizontal and sectoral. Fundamental are the common policies, whose basic objectives and scope are inscribed in the Treaty itself and are, therefore, agreed by both the governments and the parliaments of all the Member States. Secondary common policies are the ones that are defined by the common legislative bodies within the framework of the fundamental common policies and in accordance with the decision-making procedure prescribed in the treaty. Both fundamental and secondary common policies can be divided into horizontal (such as social, competition or environment protection), which affect the overall conditions of the economies and societies of the Member States and sectoral, which concern certain sectors of the economies of the Member States (namely industry, energy, transports, agriculture and fisheries). All common policies can be classified in a decreasing order of importance, depending on the scope of the area covered by each one.
Multinational integration itself is, in fact, the most important fundamental common policy, since it is initially chosen by a number of states in preference to isolationism or intergovernmental cooperation. Integration is, indeed, the fundamental course of action (the trunk), decided voluntarily, in common, in a treaty from which all other common policies depend or emanate (like the branches of a tree). As the integration process develops in stages, the passage from one stage to the next - from customs union to common market, then to economic and monetary union and finally to political union - is also based on a fundamental common policy decision inscribed in a treaty [see part II]. These common policies, which frame the stages of the integration process, are the most important ones. In figurative language, they are the stronger branches of the tree. From them stem thinner branches concerning less important fundamental policies also framed in the Treaty, for instance on competition, environment protection or agriculture. From such fundamental policies emanate ever finer secondary policies, which are laid down by the common institutions and are implemented by them and the member states. For environment protection, for instance, there needs to be a general policy for the protection of the atmosphere and then specific measures pursuing this objective defined in regulations, directives or decisions. Such measures may be classified as specific common policies.
Common policies materialise when, where and to the extent that the governments, representing the parties to an integration treaty, believe that the individual interests of their states are better served by them than by national policies. To create a sentiment of mutual confidence, the formulation of a common policy by the common institutions must clearly indicate the common need that it addresses, the common goal that it pursues and the common interest that it serves [see section 3.2]. The essential element in a common policy is the definition of the common interest in the objectives and measures framed by it. This definition has to satisfy all Member States as far as fundamental common policies are concerned and most Member States concerning secondary common policies. It is possible that some common policies better satisfy the national interests of some participants than those of others. It is inadmissible and hence impracticable that all common policies better satisfy the interests of some members of the group to the detriment of the rest. Indeed, no party to a multinational integration scheme should feel that its national interests are being permanently and systematically damaged by the common policies pursued by the majority of its partners; but, on the other hand, no party to such a scheme may systematically obstruct the common policies proposed by claiming that they do not fully satisfy its national interests. Hence, all parties to a multinational integration scheme must be prepared to accept compromise solutions formulated in the various common policies and, sometimes, to give ground in one field, expecting to gain ground in another field. The hundreds of decisions taken every year by the EC/EU institutions demonstrate the fact that its Member States play the game according to this rule. The few exceptions confirm the rule.
A common policy may develop in two senses: in the sense of its legal evolution, which is required in order to keep up with economic and technical progress in the subject matter that it covers; and in the sense of the expansion of its field, which may happen in order to cover peripheral needs not formerly attended to in the formulation of the policy or new needs, either encountered during the implementation of the measures originally adopted or created by the geopolitical environment of the moment. Moreover, a common policy tends to spill over into the areas of other common policies, produce needs, cause reactions and nourish their development. Thus, common policies are closely knit together, support each other, foster their joint evolution and multiplication and, in so doing, promote the progress of the multinational integration process.
The governments which decide to launch the integration process cannot apply it immediately in all economic sectors, let alone in non-economic fields. The integration process being evolutionary, they have to proceed step by step and apply the legislative procedure, firstly, in order to abolish the most important obstacles hindering the economic relations of their states. As they solve this first series of problems they come across a multitude of lesser problems, which also require solution in order to attend to the efficiency of their markets. If the participants play the game according to the rules set by them in the treaty, they would tend to develop and multiply common policies according to their ever-changing needs. This happens because common policies, like all other public policies, are there to answer the needs which arise in a particular community at a particular time. These needs change and multiply over time. Therefore, not only the objectives that the member states set for each common policy, but also the means that they give to the common institutions to attain them and the measures that the latter adopt in order to implement them have to keep pace with the new and changing economic, political and social needs of the states participating in the integration process.
Since the solutions to arising problems have to be agreed by all (concerning fundamental policies) or the majority of participants (concerning secondary policies) and conciliation of the various interests involved requires many years of negotiations, the integration process is necessarily slow. Until an optimal solution to a particular problem is found by the legislative procedure, the actors of the integration process may and often have to resort to intergovernmental cooperation, in order to set common objectives, compare best practices to achieve them and, in any case, avoid widening the disparity of their policies on the matter. It ensues that, in the integration process, all economic policies and a growing number of non-economic ones are made up partly of common policy measures and partly of intergovernmental cooperation measures, the main difference between them being that the first have mandatory effects whereas the latter do not. Intergovernmental cooperation measures serve the learning process and usually pave the way for common policies formulated and managed by the legislative procedure. It follows from what precedes that the intergovernmental cooperation and the integration process are complementary, but that the latter tends to replace the former in a growing number of areas as the integration of the participating states marches forward. The reverse cannot happen, since intergovernmental cooperation does not have the institutions necessary to manage the integration process.