Structure of the Research Agenda
Discover its four themes
Democracy, Politics, Security and Rule of Law
Currently, the European Union faces serious legitimacy challenges. Consecutive changes to improve the Union’s demcocratic credentials have not fully convinced European citizens that the EU is truly democratic. The existing division of competences between the European Union, national authorities, regional authorities and cities, as well as between various European institutions, bodies and agencies is contested. Questions remain: which level of government is best suited to take which decision? How should EU institutions interact with national counterparts? Which reforms are needed to safeguard democracy and ensure that citizens get more involved in the European project? In addition, there are questions on the position of the EU within Europe and with its external relations – and of Europe and its place in the world
Identity, Heritage and the Citizens’ Perspective
Having initiated the integration process through the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community
(ECSC) in 1951, the governments of ‘the Six’ inevitably faced the ensuing battles of ideas over the notion of European unification and the future of European integration. The issue of integration penetrated domestic politics and caused deep rifts within cabinets and parliaments, cutting across conventional political camps and stirring up heated national debates between federalists, confederates, Eurosceptics and others.
European negotiations encompassed state and non-state actors from the outset. The lack of national control over this process prompted the formation of unorthodox coalitions across national borders and transnational bureaucracies, lobbies and networks. Influencing the integration process thus presupposed a certain Transnationalisation of European policies right from its earliest days. There is an empirical reason why existing historiography has not paid sufficient attention to all this: the governments’ convincing claims to be in control of the integration process. Research on the history of European integration aims to reinterpret and reanalyse this history from an interdisciplinary, transnational perspective. This includes due attention to non-state actors. The research will include various sources (e.g., archives, arts, heritage)
Prosperity, Welfare and Inequality
The EU seeks to increase the prosperity and welfare of its member states and citizens while maintaining cohesion and solidarity. Increasing integration through the creation of the internal market was one of the main instruments to promote both economic growth and convergence, leading to less inequality within and between countries. Although trade across countries and capital flows have significantly increased, convergence in living standards and health have remained limited. This has given many European citizens a sense of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and increasing public dissatisfaction with European integration efforts.
The limited success can be blamed partly to the 2008 financial crisis, the subsequent Euro crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we also acknowledge the fact that the creation of prosperity and welfare and the reduction of inequality depends on the complex interaction between European and national policymakers and the private sector. An adequately functioning internal market requires a well-developed institutional and legal framework for matters such as competition policy, property law – including intellectual property law, contract and company law, consumer law and rules for mergers and acquisitions. However, cultural and social heterogeneity across countries has been inappropriately neglected. Policy design should include differences in behaviour and preferences of companies and households and should be combined with serious policy evaluation to learn from experience.
Apart from the most recent crises that have hit Europe, other challenges are present, such as climate change, ageing populations, migration flows and technological changes. These all raise questions about the challenge of striving for prosperity and welfare for EU citizens while reducing inequality. Research is needed to reflect on the goals and strategies, and to provide future policy recommendations.
Knowledge, Technology and Digitalisation
Drivers of globalisation, like digitalisation, are transnational in nature. They connect cultural, social and political processes that cross country boundaries. Digitalisation facilitates the mobility of people, goods and services, but can also create tension with national and regional identities. As digital technologies cannot be understood within the confines of national frameworks, an international perspective is necessary to understand the production, governance and use of such technologies. We need to remain aware of the ways in which digitalisation affects Europe and the world.