Grahnlaw ended his post with this line (and perhaps I'm just imagining the weariness):
"There is no end in sight for blogging on the high politics of EU fundamentals."
No doubt some people do see European integration in somewhat doctrinal terms, but it's not something I've seen a lot of Eurobloggers do (indeed, it's noteworthy that Open Europe recently seemed to advocate greater discussion on the "Integrate or not to Integrate" question rather than focusing on policy*). Charlemagne is right to say that doctrinal thinking on integration - to see opponents as nationalists and integration as a higher goal - is wrong. But it's important to note that there are many shades of integrationalism and that being for integration is no indication of being against subsidiarity and healthy local government. For example, I don't think even the most ardent federalist would support a single European social security system (the clue's in the name "federalist" - federalists believe in political power at several levels).
Eurogoblin has called himself an "Anglo-Saxon European": greater democracy at a European level is good, but the Council is and should remain the most powerful institution, and member states should remain the primary form of political organisation. In a lot of ways, I agree: member states do a lot of things better than the EU, and the subsidiarity principle needs to be strengthened and given greater practical effect. However, I don't think that the Council should remain ever-mighty forever: it needs reform to be made more transparent, open and responsive to national parliaments. It is the focus on the national and intergovernmental character of the Council that gives it political licence to work in the secrecy of diplomacy and intergovernmentalism.
"Rather than creating a centralised federal super-state, my support for the EU stems from my belief that the barriers between states should be melted away. I want a genuine European single market – with goods, services, capital, labour and knowledge swimming backwards and forwards across borders. Europe is working to reduce the arbitrary power of the state over the individual, and to let citizens travel, settle or conduct business wherever they want. The EU is a tool of decentralisation – encouraging devolution of powers to regions and local administrations and helping to settle (peacefully) nationalist conflicts."
Again, here I'd like to point out that federalism emphasises power being dispersed to different levels (though I think Eurogoblin was relying on "centralised federal super-state" as a turn of phrase - it is, after all, a cliché of European politics). It's hard to see, however, how the EU could be a tool for decentralisation without interfering in the make-up of member states, which would surely entail a massive centralisation of power in the first place. Unless it was only meant to be an example of federalism to be repeated within member states.
I actually think that integration is a flawed process and not a panacea - and, perhaps ironically, this leads me to the conclusion that a more politicised EU would be better. This would entail greater political prominence of the institutions and greater political competition within them (and also greater public participation). Especially if the dismantling of barriers is to make sense. Which leads me to the next point.
A political Union or a Union that's political?
People have argued against a more political EU because they say that the EU cannot get the support to decide on redistributionist policies, so therefore the EU should restrict itself to the internal market. Now the internal market will never be complete, in the same way that national markets aren't complete: economic and business innovation mean that regulations will always be evolving. Nevertheless the internal market has made remarkable progress and it pretty integrated. Further integration and barrier-breaking would necessarily entail a degree of redistribution: of chances and opportunities in the market, etc. As the conflict over the services directive show, further market integration is not a non-political question. Should we integrate further in the free movement of services and people, there will need to be choices on what level of European protections need to be set.
The EU is a lot more "redistributionist" in its decision-making than is realised. What about CAP and the Structural Funds? Are decisions of more or less regulation not increasingly about market protection, worker protection, etc., and do these decisions not affect the incomes and lives of people? The Euro, as we have seen, redistributes risk - not only in the sense that ratings agencies treated Greece the same as Germany, but the whole European economy is integrated: after all, Greek debt is owned by French and German banks.
Integration has brought economic development and growth, as well as greater freedom for citizens across the continent. But simply liberalising everything doesn't help everyone equally: there are losers in this process. Let's flip the question of greater democracy in the EU on its head: instead of "can a democratic EU retain the support of the people?" let's ask, "can an EU focused on a closed-off Council make these decisions and retain public support - or would a more democratic EU be better placed to make these decisions?"
I believe in further integration and democracy because I believe that not everyone benefits, even though integration and the internal market are necessary for our economy(ies). An integrated market provides the best guarantee for prosperity, but we need the scope for greater political involvement to decide how we run it, and to decide how we can make it work better for those who have lost out. This requires greater political integration; more pan-European elections that offer a choice in competing policies. This also necessarily means that the EU level will become more prominent versus the national egos in the Council, but the member states will remain in control of most of the areas that affect citizens lives. Put simply, we need greater integration and participation in the areas we are already "integrated" in, and more political control, because integration isn't perfect, and we all need to be involved in making sure it works for us.
*I disagree completely. The more the Euroblogosphere examines the policy questions, the more mature it is and the greater impact it can have, rather than just being an online club for discussions on integration theories. Discussing integration is good and necessary, but we shouldn't withdraw into a theoretical bubble.
UPDATE: Grahnlaw has written another article on the subject.