Europe’s Futures Fellow 2018/19


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© Zsolt Marton
Carnegie Europe
Europe’s Democratic Recession and Its Global Role

Europe’s domestic situation is deeply interconnected with its international standing, and vice versa. This is not merely a reflection of globalization and the trans-nationalization of politics. It is the basis of the EU’s interdependence and the way it has historically developed, pursuing internal integration whilst widening its membership, deepening the internal market whilst expanding trade and relations with the rest of the world, and constitutionalizing universal norms whilst supporting them globally. Any project of EU renewal thus needs to be premised on the assumption of interdependence between the domestic and the international. This is all the more salient when European politics appears increasingly captured by national-populist political forces proposing policies of closure towards the world and when the international context is increasingly hostile to the EU.

Yet the debate on the future of the EU is chained to old modes of thinking about integration – “more or less Europe,” federalism versus intergovernmentalism, “differentiated integration” following Britain’s departure, or a focus on a few policies (banking union, migration, security) hollowed out of any effectiveness. There is surprisingly little deep analysis of the more structural reasons behind the present malaise, which pertain to Europe as a whole and not just the EU per se. This dearth of analysis produces few ideas about what Europe’s futures may look like.

Europe’s current crises are a reflection of its own democratic recession at the local, national and EU levels. The project analyzes the specific ways in which Europe’s democratic recession is taking place, looking at both politics, especially how domestic politics have burst into EU politics and European foreign relations, and policy, by examining how policy fields have transformed into transnational spaces but without sufficiently upgraded decision-making processes to govern them satisfactorily. Through these changes, however, new processes and actors have emerged, potentially game-changers in Europe’s crises: transnational networks, new local and international actors, groupings of citizens, institutions, civil society and governments can increasingly disrupt stale decision-making processes and introduce renewal into Europe’s local, national, EU, and international preferences and politics.

Rosa Balfour is director of Carnegie Europe. She is also an advisor to Women in International Security Brussels and an associate fellow at LSE IDEAS. Since 2021, she is also an honorary patron of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies. Prior to joining Carnegie Europe, she was a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She was also director of the Europe in the World program at the European Policy Centre in Brussels and has worked as a researcher in Rome and London.

Balfour’s fields of expertise include European politics, institutions, and foreign and security policy. She has researched and published on issues relating to European politics and international relations (especially on the Mediterranean region, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans), EU enlargement, international support for civil society, and human rights and democracy. Her current research focuses on the relationship between domestic politics and Europe’s global role.