This article proposes a debt‐based narrative able to explain both structural and substantive changes in European integration. The narrative results from a study of the dynamics of three different sources of external debt —cross‐border trade, sovereign debt and direct debt relations between member states– in the context of the successive stages of macroeconomic integration. The outcome is the identification of three cumulative orders of debt relations that can reveal the main features of the concrete constellation of power corresponding to each of those stages. Hence, cross‐border trade was decisive during the decades of monetary cooperation. Once the European Monetary Union was agreed in Maastricht, sovereign debt, as perceived by market actors, played the key role. Finally, since the sovereign debt crisis direct debt relations between member states are essential. The EU institutional system has accordingly adapted to these different constellations and nowadays guarantees the full repayment of debts to fellow member states.
- 513 Oikeustiede
- 511 Kansantaloustiede