Trans-European transport networks : a catalyst for European integration?
The aim of this thesis is to explain recent developments in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) infrastructure policy and their implications for European integration theory. It sets out to test the view that firstly, the ad hoc nature of the TEN-T programme leads to national governments reaffirming their role as key actors within the EU policymaking process. Secondly, the aspiration of the EU's sustainable mobility strategy is not implemented in practice at the national level. The thesis combines theories of European integration with a study of the EU day-to-day transport policy making process to show how the TEN-T programme fits into wider debates on sustainability and European integration generally. To achieve this objective the thesis examines the dichotomous debate that exists between intergovernmental and supranational theorists in their attempts to conceptualise the wider process of European integration. It argues that such approaches drawn from International Relations (IR) are sufficient tools to explain the EU system of governance. In order to characterise the EU transport policy-making process more effectively this thesis highlights the need to adopt a combination of tools from both IR and Comparative Politics (CP) schools of thought. The transport sector is examined within the thesis for the reason that it remains one of the few policy areas that can better illustrate the tension between intergovernmental and supranational approaches to European integration. In addition, the transport sector is of European significance as decades of unrestrained growth have heightened concerns about its ability to achieve sustainable mobility. Indeed, the TEN-T programme is offered as part of the solution to Europe's transport problems and as a means of promoting sustainable mobility within the EU. However, analysis of the TEN-T policy development reveals a set of obstacles to the implentation of a sustainable European transport infrastructure policy. The findings resulting from this research are firstly, contrary to the assumption that European transport policy is dominated by an integrationist strategy of the political centre in Europe: it is the national government that remains the key actor in the European transport infrastructure policy process. Secondly, based on the evidence presented within this thesis, the transport sector does not signify a marked shift towards multi-level governance. Thirdly, the absence of this power sharing framework can be used to explain the unsustainable direction of the current TEN-T policy.