Spain and the European Union

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

One college-level course in Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, International Economy, International relations or Economic Integration.


This course will introduce students to the history and main political and economic features of European integration, the political system of the European Union, its economic and public policies, as well as parties and public opinion. We will seek to understand and examine the logic of economic integration, the political institutions of the European Union, as well as its philosophical foundations and historical development. Furthermore, its relationship to the EU member states will be studied in a comparative perspective and with special focus on the case of Spain. Students will become familiar with history and the contemporary polity, politics, policy-making and policies of the European Union, as well as its current major challenges: enlargement, Euroscepticism and Euro-crisis.

The course consists of five major parts:

  1. Analyze and reconstruct the historical development of economic integration in Europe and the political-philosophical justifications for the establishment of the European Union.
  2. Discuss the contemporary theories of European integration, including neo-functionalism, inter-governmentalism, and multi-level governance.
  3. Focuses on the government and its institutions. It scrutinizes the European Union as a supra-national polity, covering the EU´s existing major political institutions and its decision-making procedures and policy scope.
  4. Covers the main elements of the emerging EU politics: we explore the role of public opinion, get to know the transnational European political parties and analyze recent EP elections results, as well as the influence of interest groups on European policy-making.
  5. Deals with European economic and public policies with central focus on the creation and development of the Single Market and its complementary expenditure policies: Common Agricultural Policy and Regional Policy. Furthermore, we will discuss the historical development and current situation of the Economic and Monetary Union. We will examine the problems of the Euro-crisis, with a focus on the recent economic and political developments in Spain. We will also look at internal policies which accompany economic integration. Finally, some aspects of Foreign Policy will be discussed – most notably, the economic impact and political challenges of recent and future enlargements. Special attention will be paid to the social, economic and political consequences of EU accession of Spain.

As we discuss the different topics, we will move “down” to the discussion of selected EU member states and their relationship to/influence on the EU, and “up” in so far as we also broaden the horizon by incorporating comparative analyses (especially comparisons of the EU with the US) in order to deepen the understanding of the character of the EU. Special attention will be paid to the integration of Spain in the European Community and the economic reforms that were made in the country to meet the standards of the EU, as well as how the adhesion of Spain to the European Union has affected the national identity and nationalist forces in the Spanish regions, and the democratic consolidation in the country.

Watch this short video to get an overview for this course!

Attendance policy: 

Attendance is mandatory for all IES Abroad classes, including course related excursions. Any exams, tests, presentations, or other work missed due to student absences can only be rescheduled in cases of documented medical or family emergencies. If a student misses more than three classes in any course 3% of the final class grade will be deducted for every unjustified student absence. Six absences in any course will result in a failing grade.

Method of presentation: 

The class will follow a seminar format. This presupposes that the readings assigned for each week have been made before we meet in class.

  • Lectures by the instructor, supported with readings and other didactic materials
  • Questions and clarification
  • Seminar discussion/debates with the students
  • Presentations and the discussions are expected to be respectful, professional and anchored in the class materials
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Student participation - 15%
  • Map quiz - 5%
  • Written assignments - 20%
  • In-class presentation - 10%
  • Mid-term exam - 20%
  • Final paper - 30%



Session 1


  • A social, economic and political approach to Europe
  • The logic of economic and political integration
  • European Union as an economic and political system
Session 2

Part 1. History of the European Integration:

  • Foundations of European economic integration
  • The European Community
  • The European Union: establishment and development
  • From Constitutional Treaty to the Treaty of Lisbon and beyond
Session 3

Part 2. Theories of European integration:

  • Neofunctionalism
  • Intergovernmentalism
  • Multilevel governance
Session 4

Part 3. Government:

  • Institutional Actors: The European Commission, The Council of Ministers, The European Council, The European Parliament, Other institutions in the EU
  • Decision-making procedures
Session 5

Part 4. Politics:

  • Public opinion and popular Euroscepticism
  • Political Parties and EP elections. Party-based Euroscepticism
  • Interest groups. The business lobby
Session 6

Part 5. Policies, Economy and beyond:

  • Single Market
  • Expenditure policies: The EU budget, Common Agricultural Policy, Regional Policy and Social and Economic Cohesion, Environmental and Social Policy
  • Economic and Monetary Policy. The Euro-crisis. Focus on the crisis in Spain
  • Internal policies
  • Foreign policy and Enlargement. Focus on accession of Spain
Session 7

Closing Session:

  • Challenges ahead of the EU
Required readings: 
  • Michelle Cini and Nieves Pérez Solorzáno Borragán. 2013. European Union Politics, Oxford University Press.
  • Buonanno, Laurie and Neill Nugent. 2013. Policies and Policy Processes of the European Union. The European Union Series. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Closa, Carlos and Paul Heywood. 2004. Spain and the European Union. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Magone, José María. 2004. Contemporary Spanish politics. New York: Routledge.