Since the European Union’s creation, its structures have been shaped by a succession of internal and external shocks. However much scholars might debate the role that the EU’s supranational institutions and member states have played in that process, they tend to agree that European integration has been crisis-driven. And since the EU’s early days, as well, skeptical commentators have predicted that it would not survive its “next” crisis, particularly as its member states grew in number.
At the same time, not every problem confronting European policymakers has led to further integration. Corruption scandals or disasters in a particular member state often have only limited effects on the EU as a whole. Nor is the EU alone in appearing at times overwhelmed by circumstances out of its control. Huge challenges that put the EU under pressure, like climate change, are equally felt by other global powers.
It is only when specific external threats become intertwined with tensions inside the EU that a moment of crisis can develop the necessary momentum to force EU member states into a stark choice between deepening integration or facing the collapse of the European project.