Significance of Contribution

Our project adds to the study of the consequences of the politicization of the European Union (EU): the increasing salience and polarization of European integration among an expanding range of actors. The literature has offered plentiful evidence for growing EU politicization in public debates, and the electoral and protest arenas since the negotiations surrounding the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s (which led to the introduction of the Euro currency and saw the first national referendums rejecting deeper integration). Yet, our knowledge of the political consequences of EU politicization for the work and output of the EU institutions remains limited. We address this gap by analysing the impact of EU politicization on the transformation of the identities (preferences and priorities), internal cohesiveness, procedural rules, and, consequently, the positions of EU institutions and their responsiveness and authority in defining the level of supranational policy competences across policy areas.

In this project, we unpack the relationship between the politicization of the EU political sphere, the growing salience of EU integration for the European public, and the processes of policy-making in the Union. The EU has gone through an unprecedented period of transition through the rise of populist parties in domestic arenas and increasing preference incongruences among EU decision-makers. We emphasize that these developments inevitably re-shaped institutional positions and responsiveness to national constituents and potentially led to the diminished authority of EU institutions, threatening not only their capacity to assert policy positions, but also the feasibility of deeper integration and the sustainability of current integration levels. By doing so, we address the urgent need to uncover and explain the detailed mechanics of the current decision-making and competence transfer processes, and propose, accordingly, solutions for the EU to overcome the gridlock posed by increased EU politicization and to deliver sustainable policy solutions that respond to democratic public demands across and within member states.

Theoretical and Empirical Innovations

This project incorporates several innovative contributions to the current study of EU decision-making. Firstly, we aim to coin a new theoretical framework on the causal mechanisms linking EU politicization to levels of integration and responsiveness of Union’s policies, as pursued by EU institutions. This novel theoretical framework will contribute to the advancement of research focused on the effects of EU politicization on policy-making dynamics and degree of responsiveness within the EU. Secondly, we intend to create original datasets on the preferences of constituents within and across member states (citizens, parties, and governments) and positions of legislative proposals, along with institutional amendments and adopted acts on the EU dimension across policy areas during the post-Lisbon period. Thirdly, we introduce innovative tools for automated analysis of multi-lingual political and legal texts. Ultimately, our findings should increase understanding of why the EU is more active in some policy areas and less in other areas within the scope of its competences (based on EU treaties). Lastly, this project will yield relevant results for both practitioners concerned with increasing policy and institutional responsiveness in the EU, and academics interested in the impact of public opinion and domestic party politics on policy-making processes.