Skip to main content

EU Integration and Differentiation for Effectiveness and Accountability

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EU IDEA (EU Integration and Differentiation for Effectiveness and Accountability)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2022-04-30

Differentiation has become the new normal in the European Union (EU) and one of the most crucial matters in defining its future. As differentiation is already producing a direct impact on the European citizens’ lives – which might increase in the coming years – information and awareness on these issues are essential for the development of any fruitful public debate at national and EU level. Due to its high level of complexity and technicality, differentiated integration is not always an easy subject to describe, but its understanding has to be considered as a matter of outmost importance for the democratic life in the European public space – as the EU with all its Member States should be treated. Also, it should not be overlooked that any decision taken by citizens and their political representatives may lead to relevant political implications for the EU as a whole.

EU IDEA’s key goal is to address whether, how much and what form of differentiation is not only compatible with, but is also conducive to a more effective, cohesive and democratic EU.

In line with this key goal, EU IDEA's overall objectives are:
1. analysing the causes and effects of differentiation and the conditions under which it facilitates policy-making, problem-solving and policy implementation by combining theoretical and empirical analyses;
2. situating differentiation in its historical context and draw on previous experiences with differentiated governance within the EU and in its relationship with external partners, including in-depth explorations of the philosophical foundations of integration and differentiation;
3. conducting a reappraisal of existing models of differentiation and contribute to the development of novel theories of differentiation with regard to governance and accountability;
4. unpacking the narratives on European constitutionalism and identity, including an analysis of the effects that these may have for relations with candidate countries, potential accession countries and associated third countries;
5. assessing opportunities, benefits and risks of more or less differentiation in key policy areas, in normative, institutional, political and societal terms, with a special focus on the Economic and Monetary Union and the single market, the foreign, security and defence policy, and the area of freedom, security and justice, including migration.
The points below summarise progress to date:

1. EU IDEA has worked to develop a multi-disciplinary – historical, philosophical, legal and political – investigation of the relationship between differentiation and the fundamental constitutional, institutional, political and ideational features of EU integration (WPs 1-2-3). Moreover, this work has been combined with an empirical analysis of the drivers, practice and implications of differentiation in key policy fields (in WPs 4-5-6) and regulatory agencies (D.2.4; D.2.5; D.6.4) as well as in relation to the special case of Brexit (WP 7). Also, it has been accompanied by an evaluation of national approaches towards EU integration and differentiation through the mapping of preferences among governments, political forces and citizens within and outside the EU (WP 8);

2. WP1 has conducted historical and philosophical investigations that traced visions of integration and differentiation to the history of political ideas, and identified theoretical and normative questions to be addressed further. In addition, it has taken a comparative regionalism perspective to analyse the characteristics and evolution of EU differentiation compared to differentiation in other regional integration experiences such as ASEAN, MERCOSUR and the African Union;

3. EU IDEA explored how to break down the concept and practice of differentiation according to different modes, sites, levels and stages of governance (D 2.1). The investigation on differentiation has been enriched by an assessment of mechanisms for democratic scrutiny and participation (D.2.2) and innovative forms of differentiation beyond governments, involving local and regional authorities, and transnational networks (D.2.3) as well as participation into EU regulatory agencies (D.2.4; D.2.5; D.6.4). The Observatory on Brexit (WP 7) has closely followed the Brexit process and output with a focus on the potential economic, political, institutional and social implications;

4. EU IDEA analysed how the EU narrative of political unity changes during times of increasing political differentiation and consequent differentiated integration (D 3.1). EU IDEA has worked on unpacking the narratives on legal uniformity (D.3.2) and identity (D.3.3) with a view to understanding the possible impact on candidate countries, potential accession countries and associated third countries;

5. WPs 4-5-6 assessed opportunities, benefits and risks of more or less differentiation in key policy areas. On the basis of these findings, EU IDEA has elaborated future scenarios (D.9.1) and flesh out different approaches to differentiated integration and their implications for the effectiveness, legitimacy and overall political cohesion of the EU over the medium term (D.9.3). The assessment of these implications helped, in turn, to develop policy recommendations for EU and national decision makers on how to approach differentiation in order to ensure democratic and effective EU governance (D.9.2).
EU IDEA’s ambition is threefold, as it aims at breaking new ground on differentiated integration in terms of scientific, public and policy impact. EU IDEA pursued mainly three types of expected impact, namely scientific, public, policy impact:

1) Scientific impact: in order to advance the knowledge of the phenomenon of differentiation in EU integration and disseminate the research findings, in the its second reporting period EU IDEA has delivered 13 Research Papers, organised sixteen public event and workshops, and promoted the participation of the project’s researchers in academic international conference panels. In addition, IAI has also coordinated and co-edited a special issue of The International Spectator.

2) Policy impact: EU IDEA has conducted empirical research on case studies, aimed at assessing whether different forms of differentiation are necessary or even desirable with a view to facilitating policy making, problem solving and policy implementation. Policy recommendations has been delivered mainly through EU IDEA’s publications. During the second reporting period, the project has produced 20 Policy Papers and 6 Policy Briefs and spread through the events and dissemination products and communication activities

3) Public impact: in order to raise the number of well-informed people and avoid unexpected consequences in democratic processes connected to increased differentiation in the EU, EU IDEA has devoted much effort to guaranteeing the widest impact of the project’s outcome among Europeans. This impact has been ensured primarily through different communication activities. Examples of these activities include: a project website and different social media platforms – including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, the project’s quarterly newsletter, videos, infographic, podcast, public events and workshops.
Generally speaking, EU IDEA will diversify the audience targeted, and open its community to all those that will show interest.
EU IDEA logo