Aligning rulesets: understanding cooperation in the European Union

J.M. Bongers, L. Hillary, Guus Wieman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The story of European Integration has often been told as that of an ‘ever closer union’. This narrative has rightly attracted criticism over the years. However, it is worth exploring through which practices this ‘ever closer union’ is pursued, because these practices go to the heart of what the European Union is. Existing concepts used to interpret cooperation in the European Union, like harmonization, are unfulfilling, as they are used in different ways depending on the field in which they are applied. Currently, common ground and conceptual clarity are lacking. In an attempt to provide the kind of simplicity that facilitates cross-disciplinary analysis, we introduce the concept of aligning rulesets, a five-level framework for studying international cooperation (differentiating between (1) full alignment, (2) methods-based alignment, (3) ends-based alignment, (4) principles-based alignment and (5) no alignment). After introducing our framework, we demonstrate its applicability in the domains of statistical measurement, the responsibility for asylum applications, and the COVID-19 vaccine purchasing policy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2012086
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Research Exchange
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2021


  • Aligning rulesets
  • European Union
  • cooperation
  • ever closer union
  • harmonization


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