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Conflicts of sovereignty over EU trade policy: a new constitutional settlement?

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Abstract

This paper investigates whether the politicization of a new generation of trade agreements has led to the transformation of EU trade policy. It provides a qualitative study of multilevel contention based on sources from civil society and the parliamentary archives in Belgium, Germany, and the European Union concerning the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and three subsequent agreements concluded by the EU with Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore. We argue that, far beyond mere institutional disputes, the contention surrounding CETA has epitomized two conflicting visions of sovereignty: on the one hand, a vision where national executives qua states share sovereignty under the auspices of the European Commission, and on the other hand, a claim to reassert popular sovereignty (and the channelling thereof by parliaments) in a multilevel fashion. We demonstrate that the strengthening of the latter vision has been limited as the empowerment of parliaments was not sustained when civil society’s mobilization waned. The EU institutions have successfully curtailed the category of mixed agreements thus limiting the involvement of national and regional parliaments. CETA was a climax in the politicization of trade yet failed to bring about a new constitutional settlement that enhances the popular component of sovereignty in the EU.
Vol:.(1234567890)
Comparative European Politics (2022) 20:314–335
https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-022-00272-x
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Conflicts ofsovereignty overEU trade policy: anew
constitutional settlement?
AmandineCrespy1· JuliaRone2
Accepted: 18 January 2022 / Published online: 28 March 2022
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2022
Abstract
This paper investigates whether the politicization of a new generation of trade agree-
ments has led to the transformation of EU trade policy. It provides a qualitative study
of multilevel contention based on sources from civil society and the parliamentary
archives in Belgium, Germany, and the European Union concerning the EU-Can-
ada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and three subsequent
agreements concluded by the EU with Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore. We argue
that, far beyond mere institutional disputes, the contention surrounding CETA has
epitomized two conflicting visions of sovereignty: on the one hand, a vision where
national executives qua states share sovereignty under the auspices of the European
Commission, and on the other hand, a claim to reassert popular sovereignty (and
the channelling thereof by parliaments) in a multilevel fashion. We demonstrate that
the strengthening of the latter vision has been limited as the empowerment of par-
liaments was not sustained when civil society’s mobilization waned. The EU insti-
tutions have successfully curtailed the category of mixed agreements thus limiting
the involvement of national and regional parliaments. CETA was a climax in the
politicization of trade yet failed to bring about a new constitutional settlement that
enhances the popular component of sovereignty in the EU.
Keywords Sovereignty· Trade· CETA· Politicization· Parliament· People
Introduction
European trade was never uncontentious, and there were always dissenting voices
(della Porta 2007). To a large extent, EU trade policy is known as an area of
intense lobbying as decision makers seek to satisfy demands stemming from key
* Amandine Crespy
Amandine.Crespy@ulb.be
1 Cevipol andInstitut d’Etudes Européennes, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
2 CRASSH, University ofCambridge, Cambridge, England
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... What we can be sure about though is the increasing prominence of frames related to popular sovereignty. This has been already established in other European contexts such as France, Germany and Belgium, as well as the EU in general (Borriello and Brack, 2019;Crespy and Rone, 2022;Gerbaudo and Screti, 2017). The complex politicisation of sovereignty by movements and parties alike is here to stay. ...
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