What can the EU do to protect democracy in Hungary and Poland?

demonstracja_komitetu_obrony_demokracji_04Accession to the EU is conditional upon the Copenhagen criteria, including respect for democracy and rule of law – but once a country has become EU member state, what can actually be done against national democratic backsliding? In Hungary, Viktor Orbán is implementing his vision of an “illiberal democracy” and the Polish “Law and Justice” (PiS) government is imitating Orbán’s reforms, e.g. by undermining the independence of the judiciary. JEPP’s second debate section (for the first debate on Brexit, see here; another debate on TTIP is forthcoming) draws on different strands of political science research to discuss the political feasibility and the (un)intended consequences of EU safeguards against member states’ democratic backsliding. Michael Blauberger and R. Daniel Kelemen adopt a compliance perspective and focus on judicial instruments. They argue that existing judicial instruments could be deployed more aggressively to resist democratic backsliding, but many innovative proposals run the risk of unduly politicizing European and national courts. Ulrich Sedelmeier explores the potential of political safeguards, drawing on insights from research on EU party politics, on the domestic impact of international institutions, and on EU accession conditionality. He concludes that the application of material sanctions is very unlikely for party-political reasons and the added value of facilitating their use is questionable, but social pressure can be effective under favorable conditions. Bernd Schlipphak and Oliver Treib approach the topic from a public opinion perspective and discuss the risk that EU intervention may produce unintended nationalist backlashes. They identify conditions under which such a rally-around-the-flag effect can be avoided, i.e. if EU safeguards build on domestic allies, clearly target governments rather than countries, and are based on an independent assessment of potential infringements against EU fundamental values.

Explaining the Brexit vote

Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)
Sara Hobolt (London School of Economics)

While the British political elites are puzzling over a political strategy for Brexit, we are still left wondering about what drove 51.9 percent of British voters to end the UK’s membership in the EU. Professor Sara Hobolt from the London School of Economics has answers for us. Drawing on the rich data of the 7th British Election Study conducted prior to the referendum, she explores various hypotheses explaining British voters’ attitudes towards Brexit. In her article “The Brexit Vote: A Divided Nation, a Divided Continent” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, she finds a strong propensity of those who felt left behind by the forces of globalization – the less educated and less well-off – to vote Leave, while the winners of globalization – the younger and highly educated professionals – had a strong tendency to vote Remain. Notwithstanding evidence that the UK has been by far the most Eurosceptic member state for the past few years, there is more to worry about for supporters of the EU project. The divide between losers and winners of globalization reflects the same sentiments behind the recent surge in support for populist Eurosceptic parties across Europe. The future of the Union appears to depend more than ever on public support for the European integration project. Sara argues that the challenge facing the EU at present is to address the concerns of a growing share of voters across Europe, who see the EU “as part of the problem rather than the solution when it comes to protecting ordinary citizens from the challenges of an ever more globalized and integrated world”.

The European Parliament oversight of EU agencies through written questions

Nuria Font (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) & Ixchel Pérez Durán (Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals)
Nuria Font (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) & Ixchel Pérez Durán (Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals)

The European Parliament has recently joined the European Commission in monitoring the activities of the European Union’s sprawling army of regulatory agencies. While we may welcome that elected representatives increasingly assume the role of agency watchdogs, we know little about the factors that drive parliamentarians’ use of their oversight powers. Drawing on original data from the European Parliament’s past term, Nuria Font and Ixchel Pérez Durán find that MEPs from national opposition parties are more likely to ask questions about regulatory agencies than their colleagues from governing parties. Read their article “The European Parliament oversight of EU agencies through written questions” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how some members of the European Parliament use their oversight powers to make up for their information disadvantages.

Who is in control? The shifting balance of power between the Commission and the Council in EU bilateral trade negotiations

Markus Gastinger (Dresden University of Technology)
Markus Gastinger (Dresden University of Technology)

While the European Commission conducts the EU’s bilateral trade negotiations, its room for manoeuvre is circumscribed by the Council. Analysing a series of EU-India trade agreements, Markus Gastinger argues that until the early 1990s the Commission had been able to acquire an information advantage vis-à-vis the Council during informal pre-negotiation phases, which enabled the Commission to move the substance of the ensuing official negotiations closer to its own preferences. Read his article “The tables have turned on the European Commission: the changing nature of the pre-negotiation phase in EU bilateral trade agreements” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how EU member states have subsequently dried up the Commission’s access to exclusive information by shifting the institutional arenas for pre-negotiations. Have a look at Markus’s homepage and see what else his research has in store here.

An inflection point in European Union studies?

Alasdair Young (Georgia Tech & Chair of the European Union Studies Association)
Alasdair Young (Georgia Tech & Chair of the European Union Studies Association)

Alasdair Young, professor of International Affairs at Georgia Tech and Chair of the European Union Studies Association (EUSA), introduces a selection of the best papers from the EUSA 2015 Biennial Conference published in the Journal of European Public Policy (JEPP). You can find Alasdair’s recently published contribution to JEPP introducing the selection of papers and reflecting on the state of EU studies here.


By Alasdair Young

The European Union Studies Association (EUSA) is delighted to announce the publication of a collection of some of best papers from its 2015 biennial conference in Boston in the Journal of European Public Policy (JEPP). The contributions went through a rigorous selection process.  They had to be nominated by the discussant of the panel on which they were presented.  Each nominated paper that was not already published or committed elsewhere was then reviewed by two members of EUSA’s current and out-going Executive Committee. The authors of the papers on the resulting short-list were provided with feedback and given a few months to revise their papers before they were submitted to JEPP’s standard, double-blind review process. Given this bottom-up selection process, the articles in this special issue do not even aspire to coherence.  Their (inadvertent) similarities as well as their differences, however, provide a fruitful springboard for reflection on the state of European Union studies, which seems particularly appropriate in the spring of 2016 as the EU confronts multi-dimensional challenges – the lingering Eurozone crisis, the referendum on British membership, the migrant/refugee crisis, and a wave of terrorist attacks. (more…)

JEPP and EUSA collaboration on the road to Miami 2017

EUSA_JEPPJEPP and the European Union Studies Association (EUSA) continue their collaboration to publish the best conference papers of the biennial EUSA conferences in a special issue, guest edited by EUSA. As the third special issue of this exciting collaboration is now available through the JEPP website (read the intro here and Alasdair Young’s blog post here), EUSA has issued the call for papers for the next biennial conference to be held in Miami from May 4-6, 2017. Abraham Newman will act as the guest editor of Miami-issue. If you want to be in it, make sure you are on the programme!

Journal Citation Reports available for 2015

JEPP_citationThomson & Reuters has just released the new impact factor scores for 2015. JEPP’s 2015 two-year impact factor score once again rose to new heights and now stands at 1.964, the highest score JEPP has ever received. Adding to that, JEPP clinched an unprecedented spot among the top twenty on the Political Science list, now ranking at 19/163. In the Public Administration list, JEPP stands at 7/47.

Uncovering the influence of international bureaucracies

Helge Jörgens, Nina Kolleck & Barbara Saerbeck (all Freie Universität Berlin)
Helge Jörgens, Nina Kolleck & Barbara Saerbeck (all Freie Universität Berlin)

Assessing the influence of political actors on policy outputs is a thorny enterprise for every political scientist. What renders this task even trickier is when the agent of interest is concerned with maintaining an image of impartiality. Students of international public administrations’ role in intergovernmental negotiations are no strangers to this intricacy, and traditional methods of inferring influence are typically not suited to gauge the impact of international bureaucracies on negotiation outcomes. Help may be at hand and it comes in the form of analysing Twitter feeds. Helge Jörgens, Nina Kolleck and Barbara Saerbeck operationalize influence using techniques of social network analysis and Twitter data covering the three days of United Nations climate negotiations in 2014 in Peru. Read their article “Exploring the hidden influence of international treaty secretariats: using social network analysis to analyse the Twitter debate on the ‘Lima Work Programme on Gender’” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, and learn how social media helped them to uncover how the United Nations climate secretariat brokered a strengthening of gender concerns in international climate policy.

The performance of international organizations

Jonas Tallberg, Thomas Sommerer, Magnus Lundgren (all Stockholm University) & Theresa Squatrito
Clockwise: Jonas Tallberg, Thomas Sommerer, Magnus Lundgren (all Stockholm University) & Theresa Squatrito (University of Oslo)

Few would dispute that many of the most pressing policy problems — ranging from climate change to the instability of financial markets and institutions — are transnational in character and require a joint response. Consequently, we have increasingly witnessed attempts to solve these issue through cooperation in international organizations. Considering the central role international organizations occupy in addressing societies’ most acute concerns, students of international organizations have surprisingly little tools to compare their performance in achieving these tasks. Jonas Tallberg, Thomas Sommerer, Theresa Squatrito and Magnus Lundgren recognize this shortcoming and propose a conceptualization of performance amenable to comparative, large-N analysis. Read their article “The performance of international organizations: a policy output approach” published in the Journal of European Public Policy and learn how a taxonomy of policy output comprising volume, orientation, type, instrument and target provides a more fine-grained measure of international organisations’ performances.

Public-private resistance to reform

Danieal Gabor (UWE Bristol), photo courtesy of Charles Kinoo
Daniela Gabor (UWE Bristol), photo courtesy of Charles Kinoo

Although the European Commission along with French and German officials had identified sale and repurchase agreements – in short, repos – as speculative instruments that may threaten financial stability, attempts to include repo markets in EU Member States’ plans for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) were short-lived. Finance lobbyists quickly orchestrated resistance against the repo-FTT, which eventually saw plans to tax repo markets dropped. Daniela Gabor, however, argues that this was not just another episode of narrow finance interests outweighing public demands. She argues that “the repo lobby successfully exploited the embeddedess of public actors in repo markets, drawing attention to the common interest that ECB and governments had in a repo market free of tax, and the costs otherwise”. Read her article “A step too far? The European financial transactions tax on shadow banking” published in the Journal of European Public Policy to learn how finance lobbyists can draw on converging public and private interests to build coalitions with actors such as the ECB and garner support against reform.