EURO-4-2014 - Political challenges for Europe
Specific challenge: Europe's crisis has triggered a renewed European-wide debate on the future of European integration and the political system of the EU. The crisis has revealed structural flaws of European integration adding a political and social dimension to the crisis. Europe's values, the rule of law, considerations for economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity, as well as the legitimacy of its institutions have come under strain. Unsurprisingly, the number of protests against European integration increases in periods of a downturn in the economy, and the notion of the European Union's democratic deficit seems to be confirmed. Even more so, trust and confidence in national politics, politicians and political parties, in general, has also fallen considerably across Europe resulting in growing nationalism and populism. The crisis has raised questions about the capacities of political leadership at the EU and national levels to manage the crisis and formulate adequate solutions.
Consequently, although often not new, ideas such as the pooling of more sovereignty in a Political Union, developing a European public space, strengthening the EU parliamentary system and political parties or the use of more flexible integration mechanisms ('differentiated integration'), departing from the 'Community method', including the creation of new institutions, are reconsidered in the light of the crisis. In Member States the crisis has highlighted the limits of the current systems of parliamentary democracy. The reconciliation of finding appropriate solutions to the crisis with re-gaining trust and accountability in democratic practices, institutions and politicians is one of the big challenges for Europe.
Scope: The research to address this challenge should in particular focus on the following key dimensions (proposals do not need to cover all dimensions and may include additional aspects which are relevant to the specific challenge):
1) The future of European integration - 'More Europe – less Europe?'
Research should include the evaluation of the costs of no further European integration as well as a critical assessment of the effectiveness and legitimacy of European integration. It should also investigate the link between the crisis and EU discourses at national level and the impact of that for defining and pursuing EU politics. The potential vertical and horizontal power shifts and the dynamics (e.g. in terms of competition, coordination) between EU-level and national institutions should be analysed, including an assessment of the appropriate level of and instruments for decision-making. Research should examine the perceptions of European integration by citizens as well as the role of constitutional courts, national parliaments, and other actors. Research should address the pros and cons of various integration modes, including differentiated integration, study how primary-law and secondary-law differentiation have interacted, unveil the effects of differentiation on policy-making and problem-solving, and elaborate the role of differentiated integration in the EU's external dimension.
2) Challenges to democratic practices and parties in Europe in the context of the crisis
Research should address the extent to which democratic practices are constrained, the impact of economic imbalances across Europe on democracy, new ways of citizens' participation and mobilisation, and the impact of the crisis on national parliaments and party systems, including the extent to which and the reasons why eurosceptical parties benefit from the crisis. The way private actors exercise power on governments should also be investigated. Besides, research should assess the legitimacy of political decision-making and of 'technocratic', non-elected, actors (e.g. ECB, ESM, IMF or other bodies at national level) in crises situations, including the relationship between the growing lack of legitimacy of political decisions, political trust and nationalism. It should look at the options for the democratisation of EU institutions and the relationship between the EU's 'democratic deficit' and the crisis, including the impact of reinforced euroscepticism. Structural obstacles that hinder the development of successful alternatives to democratic stagnation should also be identified as well as actions to overcome those.
3) Political leadership in times of economic, political and social crisis
Research should analyse how political leaders diagnose problems, prescribe solutions, and mobilize followers. Proposals should take into account the barriers to crisis recognition, the communication of crisis situations, decision-making under uncertainty, and the development of the relationship between leaders and followers. Given the importance of cultural, political, socio-economic, and legal structures globally and within states, research should investigate the role political leaders actually play and how causally significant their contributions in bringing about political outcomes are. There is also a need to analyse the beliefs, values, power relations, and ethical/unethical attitudes and actions of leaders. The analysis should consider the gender dimension, the historical-cultural traditions of leadership, and the historical contexts of different crisis situations.
The research is expected to comprehensively address one, or possibly a combination of, the above-mentioned dimensions. In so doing, proposals may also cover other issues relevant for addressing political challenges in Europe.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1.5 and 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected impact: Research under this Topic is expected to generate in-depth insights into the political, institutional and ideational roots of the crisis and its behavioural effects as well as on the impacts of the crisis on democratic practices, systems, and institutions. It will critically assess the effectiveness and legitimacy of European integration in terms of process, actors, instruments and results as well as in terms of the concepts and theories of European integration and their practical implications. These activities will contribute to a better understanding of the challenges for the future of European integration and the EU's political system and will have a learning effect for future policy-making and crisis management. In exploring different possible solutions and scenarios, research is expected to develop a comprehensive and coherent forward-looking view on how to build an EU political and governance system attractive for the European citizen and how to formulate political strategies and actions for a strong European democracy.
Type of action: Research and innovation actions