Director: Prof.dr. Thomas Christiansen
Since its inception in 2003, Politics and Culture in Europe (PCE) posited itself as an interdisciplinary research programme that seeks to understand and explain the process of European integration and its political, institutional and ideational specifics. The research group meets every four weeks to discuss substantive and methodological topics and questions presented either by PCE members themselves or by colleagues from other universities.
PCE’s core project: Political and Administrative Challenges for Europe in a Globalizing World
In an attempt to provide a framework for interdisciplinary research and to accommodate the maxim of ‘focus and mass’, PCE has developed a central research project, labelled Political and Administrative Challenges for Europe in a Globalizing World (PACE).
Historical research reminds us that integration has always been contingent upon contextual factors and that disintegration remains a possibility. Research on Europe and on the EU cannot start any longer from the idea that we have reached a stable institutional equilibrium, which only needs to be optimised. Instead it has to address and analyse the pressures and constraints caused and enforced by developments in Europe’s internal and external environments. For Europe and for the EU in particular the challenge is to address these pressures while preserving European values and achievements, such as the welfare state, protection of fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and last but not least the European integration processes itself. At the same time Europe has been (and still is) challenged to actively engage with its external environment and to contribute to the development of global regimes concerning for example human rights, economic and financial regulation, and asylum and migration. Only research that systematically confronts the internal and external challenges Europe and the EU cannot but take up will be able to contribute to solving their present and future problems.
Although Europe (past and present) and in particular the EU and its history are core to the PCE research, PCE’s central research project explicitly welcomes also research on the bureaucratic embedding of non-EU forms of trans-, supra-, and international organizations and on the political representativeness and responsiveness of policy making by these organizations. After all, what unites PCE researchers is an empirical-analytical, historical, and normative interest in the different forms of ‘governance beyond the nation state’, of which the EU is still the most developed instance.
PCE’s central research project encompasses three ‘pillars’: Historicizing European union, Politics and Administration beyond the nation state, and Foreign Policy beyond the Nation State. Within the different pillars three subprojects can be discerned. Each pillar is oordinated by a senior staff member. Together with Research Programme Director Prof. T. Blom they form the management group.
Pillar One: Historicising European Union
Coordinator: Prof. Dr. K. Patel.
Thematically speaking Pillar One focuses on Forms of European Cooperation Since the 19th Century. It starts from the observation that innovative forms of governance beyond the nation state can already be found in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century international organisations. The main question here is: What is the place of the EU and its predecessors in the history of cooperation at the inter- and transnational level? Historicising and contextualising European union implies not only an analysis of the predecessors of the EU and the contribution of its member states, but also of transnational actors and alternative forms and forums of cooperation. Approaching European union in these ways opens up new perspectives on topics ranging from the role of European cooperation in global networks and constellations to the place/function of the EU in contemporary politics of European identity.
Against this background three subthemes have been developed.
1.1) Subtheme one, ‘Transnational experts in European and imperial contexts’ zooms in on the simultaneous rise of expertise in its modern form with the expansion of international organizations and transnational platforms since the 19th century. Long seen as a period of rivalry between empires, newer research on high imperialism highlights the forms of cooperation between various empires, and the key role experts have played in them. The League of Nations during the 20th century’s interwar period is another case in point: also here, transnational experts were key in formulating new ideas about governance beyond the nation state for and in Europe.
1.2) Subtheme two, ‘History of the EU amidst other International Organizations’, focuses on the multiplicity of other forums beyond the nation state in which the EU’s predecessors were embedded from the outset. It starts from the assumption that the EU was more often a late-comer than a pioneer at the stage of international cooperation, and that its increasing significance can only be explained when put into context. Cooperation, competition, division of labor –these are but three of several forms of interaction that characterize(d) the relationship of the EU (incl. its predecessors) to a whole host of other organizations, including the Council of Europe, the OECD, and NATO.
1.3) Finally, subtheme three, ‘Role of International Organizations in creating a European sphere of political action’ starts from the assumption that Europe is not an obvious or natural space in which cooperation unfolded. To some extent, “Europe”—as an epistemic, geopolitical, and organizational entity—has only emerged from the intensifying cooperation in this world region. Subtheme three thus looks at very similar issues as subthemes one and two; however, it treats Europe more explicitly as an actor category and relates developments here to processes in other parts of the world.
Pillar Two focuses on the political and bureaucratic dimensions of established forms of supra- and international governance. This implies attention both to the transparency, accountability and public responsiveness of supra- and international policy making, and to the role and functions of the bureaucracies in which the different forms of ‘governance beyond the nation state’ are embedded. The research on supra- and international bureaucracies pays especially attention to the way policy relevant information is accessed, channeled and processed by these bureaucracies (‘politics of information’), and to the way they organize and handle experts and expertise (‘constitutive and operational politics of expertise’). Pillar Two acknowledges in particular the need for comparing the EU’s administrative system with that of other regional or international organisations, with the aim of identifying similarities and differences in the behaviour and performance of trans-, supra-, and international bureaucracies. Again three subthemes can be discerned:
2.1) ‘Administrative governance in the EU and other International Organizations’ concentrates on the role and influence of bureaucracies in multi-layered systems of supra- and international policy-making. While the EU polity, being one of the most advanced examples of multi-level governance, will be a central concern, the research program has a broader focus as it will include also the role of bureaucracies in the emerging system of global governance. Quite naturally, a concern with the influence that administrative actors/units exert on the content, scope and execution of policies formally decided upon by (democratically elected) ‘political’ actors, fuels normative worries about the democratic quality of supra and international politics.
2.2) Democratic and responsive Governance covers qualitative research into the role and functions of the European Parliament (and its bureaucracy!) and its interactions with domestic Parliaments as well as quantitative research into the responsiveness to European citizens of EU policy making. Distinct, but related to problems concerning responsiveness and accountability is research on the European public sphere and on the role in, and the contribution of national newspapers to the development of truly European political debates and deliberation. Finally, under this subtheme also research is done on the democratic inclusion of migrants and national minorities, especially with a focus on the politics of citizenship.
2.3) Risk Governance focuses on European and International policies (and their implementation/enforcement), which are supposed to prevent and address transboundary health-related and environmental, as well as economic-financial disasters. As the implementation and enforcement of these policies are key to the usefulness of these risk prevention policies, again there is a strong emphasis on the bureaucracies responsible for monitoring and improving Member States’ compliance with these policies, the most important examples of such bureaucracies being the European Agencies.
Pillar Three: Foreign Policy beyond the Nation State
Coordinator: T. Conzelmann.
Pillar Three departs from the observation that the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a multipolar world system have given new impetus to the EU’s international role. It has developed into an important diplomatic actor and crisis manager. Against that background three areas are singled out as being of particular interest.
3.1) The subtheme The EU diplomatic system concerns the role and influence of non-elected career diplomats in multilateral foreign policymaking. Special attention is given to the institutional architecture since the Lisbon Treaty. In research related to this theme there is again a particular interest in, and emphasis on the ‘politics of information and expertise’, relating this subtheme directly to themes 1.1) Transnational experts in European and imperial contexts and 2.1)Administrative governance in the EU and other International Organizations. Although here the EU is of central interest, attention is also given to how the EU compares to activities undertaken by other bureaucratic organizations supporting foreign politics and policy making. Such a comparative approach allows a better understanding of the specific qualities of the European foreign policymaking process.
3.2) Exporting norms and values stands for research that investigates the more normative and alleged ‘soft power’ aspects of EU foreign policy. PCE members working on this theme display a strong interest in the European Neighborhood Policy and its conditionality approach. At the same time an interest in EU foreign policy beyond the EU’s direct neighborhood is on the rise, concerning for example EU-Asia relations. Given its concern with normative-political issues, and with ‘good governance’ this subtheme is obviously linked to theme 2.2) Democratic and responsive Governance.
3.3) Compared to subtheme 3.2, subtheme Crisis Management focuses on the more material and operational dimensions of EU foreign policy. Clear instances of research conducted under this label are investigations of the civilian and military crisis management missions the EU has undertaken since 2003, with special attention for recent crises and a comparative approach with the role of other regional organisations in crisis management. Yet also the substantial contributions to PCE by researchers in the field of migration and asylum can be subsumed under this label, if only because migration is often directly related to civilian and military crises, and can turn all too easily in a humanitarian crisis. Moreover, a clear link is discernible between this theme and theme 2.3) Risk Governance.