The Politicization of European Integration
When and how has European integration become a prominent issue in politics all around Europe? What can explain the rise to prominence of this issue on the radar of political parties, citizens, journalists, interest groups across the continent? Finally, where does it lead? Does increased public contestation over the shape and existence of the European Union affect the future course of integration and its democratic legitimacy? These questions about the nature, dynamics, causes and consequences of politicization stand at the heart of the ongoing project ‘Politicization of European integration’.
In the course of this project, the specificities of the European Union as a supranational organization – neither a typical international organization nor a nation state – are linked to the main research proposition of the WZB department of Global Governance: that the increasing authority of international institutions fuels a process of societal politicization, where its shape and nature depend on its perceived legitimacy. Empirically, we on the one hand combine data gathered in earlier research projects, covering amongst public debates on the EU Budget or the policy responsiveness of European Commission. On the other hand, we rely on the empirical strategies developed in parallel projects on the varying authority of international organizations, on the long-term trends in the societal politicization of international institutions, and on cleavage structures in de-nationalized politics.
Based on these sources we ask whether public debates and conflicts surrounding the European sovereign debt crisis can be considered ‘more of the same’ in relation to general developments in politicization or rather fundamentally alter the ‘nature of the beast’ of societal contestation. We also ask whether constitutional issues related to the institutional design and make-up of the EU are contested in similar ways as policy related issues, such as consumer rights or the EU Budget. Finally, we reflect on the implications of politicization for future transfer of sovereignty from European nation states to the EU and for the democratic legitimacy of the Union.