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.

Main content

Selected Publications

Rauh, Christian/Parizek, Michal (2024): "Converging on Europe? The European Union in Mediatised Debates during the COVID-19 and Ukraine Shocks". In: Journal of European Public Policy, advance access, 24.04.2024, online:
Rauh, Christian (2023): "Clear Messages to the European Public? The Language of European Commission Press Releases 1985-2020". In: Journal of European Integration, Vol. 45, No. 4, S. 683-701. (vorab online publiziert 15.10.2022)
Rauh, Christian (2022): "Supranational Emergency Politics? What Executives' Public Crisis Communication May Tell Us". In: Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 29, No. 6, S. 966-978. (vorab online publiziert 23.04.2021)
Özdemir, Sina/Rauh, Christian (2022): "A Bird’s Eye View. Supranational EU Actors on Twitter". In: Politics and Governance, Vol. 10, No. 1, Special Issue "Analyzing Citizen Engagement with European Politics Through Social Media", S. 133-145.
Rauh, Christian (2021): "Between Neo-functionalist Optimism and Post-functionalist Pessimism. Integrating Politicisation Into Integration Theory". In: Nathalie Brack/Seda Grukan (Eds.): Theorising the Crises of the European Union. Globalisation, Europe, Multilateralism. London/New York, NY: Routledge, S. 119-137.
Rauh, Christian/Bes, Bart Joachim/Schoonvelde, Martijn (2020): "Undermining, Defusing or Defending European Integration? Assessing Public Communication of European Executives in Times of EU Politicisation". In: European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 59, No. 2, S. 397-423. (vorab online publiziert 02.07.2019)
Rauh, Christian (2019): "EU Politicization and Policy Initiatives of the European Commission. The Case of Consumer Policy". In: Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 26, No. 3, S. 344-365. (vorab online publiziert 27.03.2018)
Rauh, Christian/de Wilde, Pieter (2018): "The Opposition Deficit in EU Accountability. Evidence from over 20 Years of Plenary Debate in Four Member States". In: European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 57, No. 1, S. 194-216. (vorab online publiziert 20.06.2017)
Rauh, Christian (2015): "Communicating Supranational Governance? The Salience of EU Affairs in the German Bundestag, 1991–2013". In: European Union Politics, Vol. 16, No. 1, S. 116-138. (Vorab online publiziert 28. September 2014)
Rauh, Christian/Zürn, Michael (2014): "Zur Politisierung der EU in der Krise". In: Martin Heidenreich (Hg.): Krise der europäischen Vergesellschaftung?. Soziologische Perspektiven. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, S. 121-145.
de Wilde, Pieter (2012): "Politicisation of the EU Budget. Conflict and the Constraining Dissensus". In: West European Politics, Vol. 35, No. 5, S. 1075-1094.
de Wilde, Pieter/Zürn, Michael (2012): "Can the Politicization of European Integration be Reversed?". In: JCMS - Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 50, No. S1, Special Issue, guest edited by Walter Mattli/Alec Stone Sweet, S. 137-153.
de Wilde, Pieter (2011): "No Polity for Old Politics? A Framework for Analyzing the Politicization of European Integration". In: Journal of European Integration, Vol. 33, No. 5, S. 559-575.