The emotional appeal of “green” and “social” Europe myths

Kennet Lynggaard (Roskilde University)

In the aftermath of the financial crisis and in the wake of the UK’s nearing exit from the EU, the future trajectory of European integration has seen its fair share of debate. Amid a myriad of differing views, it appears that Commission officials share the sentiment that any mid- and long-term strategy not only requires political support across European capitals but needs to resonate with society in the EU at large. Despite their crucial role in fostering societal ownership of the Commission’s initiatives, we know surprisingly little about how civil society organizations receive and respond to the latter’s visions for European integration. In his article “Exploring the emotional appeal of green and social Europe myths among pan-European Union organizations” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Kennet Lynggaard explores how pan-European Union non-governmental organizations perceive and reproduce political myths advanced in the European Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy. Drawing on an analysis of documents published by key “green” and “social” pan-EU NGOs, Kennet shows that civil society organizations are receptive to political myths advanced in the Commission’s Europe 2020 initiative and observes that most are “strategically using political myths to justify their policy positions.”

The European Parliament’s empowerment in EU external trade policy

Guri Rosén (University of Oslo)

External trade policy is among national and European technocrats’ most carefully guarded portfolios, routinely resisting every attempt to transfer powers in concluding international trade agreements to the European Parliament. The Lisbon Treaty, however, opened a door to the European Parliament on external trade, granting it legislative powers over the EU’s trade policy and the right to veto international trade agreements. In her article “The impact of norms on political decision-making: how to account for the European Parliament’s empowerment in EU external trade policy” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Guri Rosén seizes on this puzzle and shows how the debate surrounding the empowerment of the European Parliament in external trade “became embedded in the general discussion about its legislative role in a more democratic EU.” Guri argues that during negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty, uncertainty and disagreement regarding the principles guiding reform placed a higher demand on actors to explain their positions. This environment favoured proponents of empowering the European Parliament in trade policy, and allowed the European Commission and the European Parliament to convince Member State governments “that extending the EP’s trade powers was reasonable because there were no valid arguments for exempting trade from the general rule of linking QMV and codecision.”

Explaining social democratic austerity

Jonas Kraft (Aarhus University)

The balancing of budgets and spending cuts have been focal points of fiscal policies across Europe over the past years. Blurring the lines of traditional partisan divides, austerity measures have often been passed with the votes of left-wing parties. In his article “Social democratic austerity: the conditional role of agenda dynamics and issue ownership” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Jonas Kraft explores this puzzle, and explains why social democratic governments appear to abandon their key constituencies. Jonas argues that left-wing governments are traditionally plagued by a poor fiscal reputation. As concerns about balanced budgets top the political agenda, social democrats are drawn to favour austerity to covet electoral support from swing voters. His analysis of fiscal policy-making in 21 OECD countries between 1980 and 2006 offers support for this argument, yet also reveals that it is an electoral strategy seemingly doomed to fail. As left and right wing parties’ fiscal reputation has remained relatively stable, swing voters appear unimpressed by social democratic governments’ enthusiasm for austerity while core left-wing voters may turn to more radical left-wing alternatives, suggesting that “increasing attention to austerity is likely a lose–lose situation for the Left.”