Project

RECONNECT - Reconciling Europe with its Citizens through Democracy and Rule of Law

Goal: RECONNECT's goal is to provide a comprehensive diagnosis of the EU's democracy and rule of law deficits. We will make recommendations on how to address them in order to strengthen the EU’s legitimacy and reconnect the EU with its citizens.

Date: 1 May 2018 - 30 April 2022

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Project log

Pieter de Wilde
added 4 research items
The narratives that the EU exists to create peace or prosperity are losing force. The first one does not resonate so much with younger generations. The second has suffered a major blow during the Euro crisis. In response, key actors in the EU - including notably French President Emmanuel Macron - have pushed a new narrative: A Europe that Protects. Does this narrative resonate across Europe's public spheres? This paper analyzes over 5000 claims made in newspapers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Poland on migration, EMU, trade and counter-terrorism between 2012 and 2018. The results show that a great many justifications are used by various actors to justify all kinds of demands. The EU thus faces a 'justification jungle' in which it is hard to push any single narrative on European integration. The protection narrative does not travel much beyond France and the far right. If anything, solidarity comes out as the most likely candidate to rebuild an integration supporting narrative around.
This handbook outlines the logistical plan and coding guide for the execution of the Representative Claims Analysis (RCA) of media discourse on democracy and the rule of law in the European Union for the RECONNECT project. The proposed analysis will produce a dataset informing a greater understanding of existing perceptions of democracy and the rule of law, and the character of debates about them in the EU and its member states, particularly with respect to identifying who are the key actors in these debates and whose interests they represent.
Carlos Closa
added a research item
Despite the EP´s growing role, its influence and scrutiny capacity remain considerably weaker than the role traditionally reserved for parliaments in economic and fiscal policy decision-making at the national level. The EP has exploited any opportunity to enhance these powers: in particular, the European Parliament has a record of using crisis and extraordinary situations to expand its role beyond the formal prerogatives given to the institution. Following this literature, this paper examines the role and influence of the European Parliament on economic and fiscal policy, focusing on the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Negotiation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) presents an auspicious area to analyse the strategies implemented by the EP to influence the outcome and reinforce its position in EU economic governance. The paper will look specifically at the formal and informal mechanisms used by the European Parliament during the crisis to expand its powers. Moreover, it utilises a research design that combines the content analysis of several official/public documents and statements from key MEPs involved in economic policy.
Constantin Schäfer
added a research item
The EU is confronted with a serious challenge to its political legitimacy. More and more citizens have come to support Eurosceptic politicians who put the EU’s authority into question, and one country has even turned its back on the EU altogether after a majority of citizens voted to leave the Union. The EU is thus in need of reforms that could mitigate its legitimacy crisis. Against this backdrop, the present paper explores the ideal setting of the EU in the mind of European citizens. It addresses four aspects: 1. How do Europeancitizens think about a further transfer of political authority to the EU level? 2. In how far do citizens support the redistribution of wealth from richer to poorer member states? 3. In which policy areas do citizens want the EU to take political decisions? 4. Which institutional characteristics of the EU affect citizens’ support for EU decisions? Moreover, we are interested in the extent to which people’s views on these topics are shaped by the new line of conflict between winners and losers of recent societal transformations such as modernization and globalization. We thus investigate to what extent citizens’ views on the “ideal EU” may be shaped by two objective variables – age and education – and two subjective perceptions – regarding citizens’ socioeconomic background and perceived societal marginalization. The paper presents novel data from the RECONNECT Citizen Survey, an online survey of 12,000 citizens in six EU member states: Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Spain. The questionnaire includes a range of questions that shed light on the first three aspects of interest and an innovative conjoint experiment that yields particular insights into the fourth question.
Julien Navarro
added a research item
Over the last decades, transparency has featured prominently among the European Union's (EU) efforts to democratize and legitimize its governance. This shift toward transparency has taken many forms and, as the contributions to this thematic issue show, these different forms have evolved significantly over time. Yet, initiatives to enhance transparency have often been blamed for limiting the efficiency of the decision-making process or leading to suboptimal policy outcomes. Consequently, the debate has shifted to whether transparency would be excessive in that it would undermine the EU's capacity to deliver through political arrangements. This editorial presents this transparency-efficiency dilemma, which the different contributions to this thematic issue analyse further.
Oliver Treib
added a research item
Does the rise of populism in Europe reinvigorate democratic politics or does it pose a threat to liberal democracy? While populist parties can increase democratic representation and electoral participation, they often violate a fundamental principle of the liberal democratic order: pluralism. Hence, if anti-pluralism represented a major characteristic of a populist party, this party would need to be seen as a threat to liberal democracy – and other parties would be well advised to safeguard democracy by isolating this party or employing repressive measures. In this paper, we analyse the case of the German populist radical right party ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) and the reactions of the other German parties and public security authorities towards it. Based on a conceptualisation of anti-pluralism that encompasses four sub-dimensions, we conduct a systematic content analysis of the AfD’s 2017 federal election manifesto and AfD MP speeches in the 2019 budget debate in the Bundestag. This analysis shows that the AfD displays a noticeable amount of anti-pluralism in its political communication. The party’s anti-pluralist rhetoric predominantly targets the institutions of pluralist democracy, in particular with a view to calling into question fundamental rights of religious and other minorities. The rest of the German party system reacted to the rise of the AfD with a strategy of isolation. In addition, security authorities targeted the most extremist branches of the party with a strategy of repression. At the time of writing, it is too early to tell whether these strategies can be defended normatively. It all depends on how the internal struggle within the party between more moderate forces in the Western German branches and more radical forces in the Eastern branches will play out.
Constantin Schäfer
added a research item
Despite the stark voter turnout increase in 2019, the participation level in European Parliament elections is still considerably lower than in national elections. How can we explain this persistent 'Euro gap'? This article analyzes the motivations of citizens who participate in national but not in European electoral contests, so-called 'EU-only abstainers'. The empirical analysis based on the EES 2019 voter study reveals that EU-only abstention is driven by low levels of general political interest and EU-specific political sophistication, as well as by distrust towards EU institutions. Therefore, the Euro gap results from the widespread perception that there is 'less at stake' during EP elections, but it is also an aggregate-level consequence of individual Eurosceptic attitudes. These findings have important implications for our understanding of present-day European elections and the debate between the two most common theoretical approaches in EP election research.
Nicola Lupo
added a research item
This working paper is based on the observation of the close intertwining between the Italian 'form of government' and the institutional dynamics of the European Union (EU). It is an intertwining that is often denied by the same political forces and public debate, but which is directly derived from how the EU institutions are designed and their close and inescapable connection with the institutions of each Member State. In the light of this assumption, the working paper analyzes the events that took place at EU level in the aftermath of the elections for the European Parliament held between 23 and 26 May 2019 and those that gave rise to the crisis of the Italian government, which occurred in August 2019, with the handover between the Conte I and the Conte II cabinet. It is argued that the events of the latter government crisis are fully understandable only in the light of the intertwining of the Italian and European 'forms of government'. The crisis was indeed determined by the different European policies of the two parties composing the yellow-green majority and the stalemate in which the League found itself: a clear winner in the European Parliament elections in Italy, but a loser at the European level. As a conclusion, again from an institutional viewpoint, the strengthening of the Italian President of the Council deriving from its 'European role' is highlighted and confirmed, in this case, even with reference to a technocratic figure and a newcomer in Italian politics.
Kari Otteburn
added an update
We’re excited to announce the new RECONNECT MOOC on Democracy and the Rule of Law in the European Union.
Rule of law and democracy are two fundamental values for the EU – but lately they seem to be under pressure from all sides. What does this mean and how can we address it?
Join us for an eight-week introductory course on these topics with leading experts and scholars from a variety of fields.
The course is open to all and is free to join. Starts 30 November 2020.
 
Alex Andrione-Moylan
added a research item
This report is aimed at comparing some of the key findings that have been highlighted in the research carried out thus far regarding the global context of democracy and the rule of law, with the research which is primarily focused on unravelling trends within the European Union (EU or Union) and its Member States. In doing so, it seeks to compare developments observed within the EU, with global trajectories of democracy and rule of law, as part of the aims of Work Package 3 in the RECONNECT project, which is specifically devoted to analysing and explaining the interactions between the crisis of European governance and the broader regional and global context. It also brings into focus the challenges of measuring and comparing such trends through the aggregation of relevant indexes, showing how conceptual, historical and qualitative forms of research bring a level of nuance to this bird’s eye view, which is essential. It focuses in a first instance, on the area of democracy, which includes the more formal dimension of institutional and procedural features, as well as the more substantive dimension of fundamental rights. It reconsiders the evidence presented in the analysis conducted by Asif Efrat, Sivan Hirsch-Hoefler and Amichai Magen on ‘Global Democracy & Rule of Law Conditions and Trajectories’ (Deliverable 3.1) which brings together and compares indices on democracy and the rule of law, both globally and in the EU. It compares findings at a conceptual level, as well as looking at empirical findings from RECONNECT research, also exploring avenues for deeper research into comparing trends at an EU and global level. A similar exercise is carried out for research relating specifically to the rule of law. Secondly, it re-examines the impact of global pressures on the EU, from deliberate disruptors to transnational crises, relating them for instance to shifts in voter expectations or changing conceptions of legitimacy. In doing so, it reassess the RECONNECT research conducted by Asif Efrat, Sivan Hirsch, Amichai Magen and Moran Stav in their working paper on ‘Structural Factors, Actors, and Dynamics Strengthening or Undermining intra-EU Commitment to Democratic Governance’ (Deliverable 3.2). In that context, some reflections are devoted to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was still unfolding at the time of writing.
Lise Rye
added a research item
This Article revisits the EU’s foundational decade with the view to explain the idea of legitimacy as legality that made its mark on the Treaties of Paris (1951) and Rome (1957). To the architects of these Treaties, it was the Member States’ decision to create a common market that justified the creation of supranational institutions in general and the powers of the European Commission in particular. While the mechanisms for legitimacy through democratic rule in the Treaty of Rome were weak, this Treaty nevertheless included the seeds for such rule, leading to the conclusion that the legacy of the Treaty of Rome in this matter is mixed
Julien Navarro
added a research item
The report analyses the democratic delegation of power from voters to national and European leaders through the analysis of the contemporary functioning of electoral linkage chains in the European Union (EU) multi-level system. The first section of the present report investigates trends in electoral participation at the aggregate level both for national and European elections. The main findings of this section can be summarized as follows: • In the last decades, electoral turnout has declined at both the national and supranational levels. The trend, however, is far from being uniform as there are small downward and upward variations as well as cross-country differences. • The lower turnout level for European elections than for national parliamentary ones is a multi-factorial phenomenon resulting from a combination of individual and institutional determinants. • Such short-term changes suggest that turnout is not only linked to long-term socio-economic conditions, but also to institutional conditions shaping the structure of opportunities provided to the EU citizens. • The empirical analysis covering all European contests since 1979 brings important results regarding the relationship between institutional conditions and turnout levels. Compulsory voting and holding concurrent national elections are the two factors that affect turnout the most strongly. Yet, turnout is negatively affected by the proximity and multiplication of preceding national elections. • Such factors, as well as the voting days or the number of constituencies, represent potential action points to invigorate voters’ participation. The second section of the report studies the potential impact of party reforms designed to strengthen the links between citizens, political parties and political institutions. We explore the interactions between citizens’ attitudes and democratic innovations practices by focusing on two different levels, namely: the national and intra-party levels. The section explores first the organizational democratization practices of political actors at national level and their consequences on citizens’ attitudes and specifically on their satisfaction with the way democracy works. Its key take-away points are the following: • There is an increasing disconnect between citizens and institutions at various levels (European and national). We discuss in this deliverable several different issues regarding this disconnect • There are two main issues that complicate the electoral linkage between the EU and its citizens: first, the lack of electoral connection and second the policy drift away from citizens’ preferences. We assessed these two issues thoroughly and empirically by first mapping practices of democracy across Europe and then by assessing their consequences on citizens’ attitudes and by trying to offer a first glimpse into their impact on citizens’ behaviour. • The mapping of democratic innovations at national level, especially by political actors such as parties, showed a complex picture of significant variation of the use of such participatory tools. Participatory innovations such as party primaries are used more and more often even if their institutionalization process is advancing slowly across European party systems. An overall general pattern of increasing democratization of party organizations across the EU member states seems to emerge. • In addition, political parties at the European level seem to try and tentatively test various democratic innovations and participatory democracy processes within their organizational settings. • Our findings show that party primaries will increase citizens’ satisfaction with democracy because they increase citizens’ political efficacy. We find that the higher the proportion of parties that hold primaries, the more citizens are satisfied with democracy in their home country. This correlation seems to interact with party polarization. The last sub-section of the report studies the relative competitiveness of intra-party selection processes at national level and the internal party ‘machine’ and participatory venues within political parties. It shows that: • When evaluating the democratic potential of primaries at both European and member state levels the aspect of intraparty competition is vital as no matter how inclusive the selectorate (who can vote), the use of restrictive candidate requirements can provide a small (elite) group with full control over the final results. • The competiveness of intraparty competitions, be it when selecting candidates for national party lists or for the Spitzenkandidaten system, starts with deciding who can run in the first place affecting competition in all subsequent stages of the elections process and ultimately, democracy at the national level. • Lower candidacy requirements seem to encourage more candidates to participate in intraparty races. In contrast, higher candidacy requirements are conducive to more competitive races in terms of margin of the vote share between the top two candidates. • Overall, formal candidacy requirements provide the impression to have an overall positive effect on intraparty competition, but apparently in opposite and conflicting directions.
Ben Crum
added 3 research items
This paper examines the democratic legitimacy of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) since the international financial crisis hit the euro area. From its inception, EMU has been marked by an asymmetry as its monetary pillar relied on output legitimacy while its economic pillar relied essentially on input legitimacy at the national level. The crisis severely challenged EMU’s output legitimacy, which led to the establishment of new European-level institutions. We analyse the European Stability Mechanism, the European Semester, and Banking Union to take stock of their powers and the ways that these are balanced by mechanisms of legitimacy. Our main finding is that the intergovernmental and output-oriented approach that originally informed the legitimacy of EMU has remained prevalent after the crisis. However, as the three domains – in varying degrees – address questions that are essentially political, we argue that the channels for input legitimacy at the European level remain deficient.
Amidst mounting attention for populist parties and widespread concerns that pluralist democracy is under threat, this article departs from the premise that there is variation in the extent to which populist parties pose a threat to democracy. Indeed, populist parties may well enrich democratic pluralism, as they raise new voices, challenge cartel practices, and reanimate political debate. Hence, our central question is: When do populist parties turn anti-pluralist and when do they remain loyal to the pluralist system? This article lays out a framework for analysis that helps to identify anti-pluralist streaks in populist parties and to examine systematically the conditions that may be conducive to such tendencies, and the sequence of events and causal mechanisms that lead to certain outcomes. We first develop our understanding of populist parties’ impact on democracy and how to identify it. Moving to potentially conditioning factors, we distinguish three clusters of conditions: the responses of established parties, the institutional conditions, and the media and political culture. Lastly, the article lays out possible ways forward for applying the framework empirically. Ultimately, the framework operates at two levels. At the level of parties, it should help to focus on those specific actions that violate the premises of democratic pluralism. At the level of democratic systems, it aims to distinguish conditions under which populist parties are successfully incorporated in the broader democratic game from those under which they are enabled to undermine democratic pluralism.
Oliver Treib
added a research item
In the 2019 European Parliament elections, Eurosceptic parties were able to consolidate their strong results from 2014. Based on a specified conceptualization of Euroscepticism, this article provides an overview of the Eurosceptic vote and argues that Eurosceptic parties have by now established themselves as a fixed part of the EU party system. It interprets Euroscepticism as the upshot of an emerging centre–periphery cleavage in EU politics. In analogy to the emergence of opposition to processes of administrative centralization and cultural homogenization during nation-building, this perspective sees Euroscepticism as a reaction to the process of centre-formation at the European level, as a way of defending the specific cultural, economic and regulatory traditions of member states against the process of centralization of authority at the European level since the 1950s. The article concludes by discussing the implications of this argument for both EU scholars and practitioners.
Kari Otteburn
added an update
Download our second working paper by R. Daniel Kelemen (Rutgers University) and Laurent Pech (Middlesex University London)
Working Paper No. 2 — September 2018
 
Anna-Luise Chané
added an update
Find out more about this new Horizon2020 project by reading our brief summary.
 
Anna-Luise Chané
added a project goal
RECONNECT's goal is to provide a comprehensive diagnosis of the EU's democracy and rule of law deficits. We will make recommendations on how to address them in order to strengthen the EU’s legitimacy and reconnect the EU with its citizens.