The European Union How does it work?

The European Union, How does it work?, 3rd Edition, Authors: Elizabeth Bomberg, John Peterson and Richard Corbett, Oxford University Press.

It is always a challenge to explain the inner workings of the European Union to students. To the uninitiated, the EU can seem a boring, incompetent and overcomplicated organisation. I recently came across this book by Bomberg, Peterson and Corbett and found it good at clarifying the functions and outcomes of the EU in a short and precise way. The book helps to demystify the practices of the EU for students of politics but also for the wider public. It provides essential information on the EU in an easy-to-follow style. It includes chapters on the historic evolution of the EU, its institutions, the place of the EU Member States, the EU’s key policies, and also explains how policy is made. It tackles the issue of democracy, and dedicates an extensive part to the foreign dimension of the EU (EU expansion; the EU as a global and security actor).

The book follows the recent trend of academia in focusing quite substantially on the question of the EU and the wider world. However, a greater part of the budget of the EU is allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy and to Cohesion Policy, and these only get a few pages. It would be interesting to go into more depth on these policies and to provide an analysis of their impact on European societies. Furthermore, in a future edition, the introduction could be merged with the historic ‘How did we get here’ chapter since quite a lot has already been written on the historical trajectory of the EU by other scholars.

Notwithstanding these minor weaknesses, the book provides the type of scholarship we need in order to better understand the EU. It is full of informative figures, links and tables which make it easier for the reader to understand the main issues. It also includes questions which provide room for thought and reflection on the impact of the EU.

The book is written by well-regarded academics and practitioners. In this respect, the book has an added value since it not only mentions theory but also explains the real day-to-day politics of the EU.