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Young scholar, Johannes Müller Gómez, on his dissertation in the field of EU studies

Johannes Müller Gómez is the co-president for the Young Researchers Network branch of the European Community Studies Association in Canada (YRN ECSA-C ) and doctoral researcher at the Université de Montréal. In his PhD project, he analyses the implementation of international agreements in multi-level systems. 

What interests many Canadian scholars about the EU in Johannes' field of research is the complex supranational structure of the organisation. Many compare it to the federal systems, such as Canada, while others still consider the EU as a unique political project worthy of its own classification. In terms of the single market, the Union is more integrated than the Canadian provinces. Also the EU member states play a more relevant role in the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements than the Canadian provinces.

What attracted you to the field of European Studies/ fascinated you about the EU? 

The European Union is a political entity that is still ‘in the making’. European integration is an ongoing process, very dynamic and partly full of surprises. Two recent examples: first, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic decline led to initiatives to further develop the EU and to jointly fight the current crisis. The recovery plan the European Council decided on in July 2020 represents a major integration step. For the first time, the Union will borrow several hundreds of billions of Euros in the capital markets to contribute to overcoming the economic crisis. Second, the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the Union triggered a comprehensive debate on the future of the EU. After the Brexit vote in 2016, the remaining EU27 decided to initiate a phase of reflection on the future of the Union and to launch a reform process that seeks to make the EU more efficient, more effective and more democratic. On the one hand, this constant further development of the Union and the recurring debate on how its functioning can be improved make the study of the EU fairly complex. On the other hand, this dynamic nature of European politics makes the EU also highly interesting for academic observers.

The European Union as a research object is also very fascinating in conceptual and theoretical terms. The EU is not a state (yet). At the same time, it is far more than a simple international organisation. Its member states have transferred relevant competences to the EU institutions, whose decisions affect every citizen’s daily life in Europe. The Union’s formal set-up is close to the structure of a confederation, but its daily functioning and legislative processes follow logics of a federal system. And lastly: it has both intergovernmental and supranational features. This theoretical mess and the academic debate on the EU’s nature represent a great challenge for scholars, but also a very alluring research programme.

What is the most important issue to be addressed in your research?

My PhD project is situated at the intersection of comparative federalism and international compliance. I study the effects of multi-level structures on the accomplishment of international commitments. In a first step, I examine how federal and de-central structures favour or hinder the implementation of environmental commitments. I then focus on the two cases of the European Union and Canada to specifically examine how the two diverging institutional set-ups affect the EU’s and Canada’s capacity to fulfil their international climate targets.

In my dissertation, I build on the current academic debate on what European Union studies and the comparative federalism literature can learn from each other. Besides my empirical contribution, I also attempt to further the conceptual and theoretical debate on what the EU actually is and which concepts and approaches are best suited to study it. I thereby follow the argument that the EU is not a full-fledged federal system, but federal theory and European Union studies would both benefit greatly from more dialogue and exchange. I further argue that EU studies should engage more in comparative politics and enhance their tools and approaches to study the EU from a comparative perspective.

From 2014 to 2017, Johannes Müller Gómez was a research associate at the Jean Monnet chair and the Centre for Turkey and EU Studies. He was the programme director for political science and public administration at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul, manager of the Jean Monnet project SUMMIT and project officer for the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence HOMER. Furthermore, at CETEUS, he was commissioned for matters regarding France and Québec. In his research, he focusses on the functioning of multi-level systems, matters of democracy and legitimacy, the European Parliament and the EU's external action.  Johannes Müller Gómez studied political science, Latin American studies and energy economics at the universities of Cologne, Montréal, Guadalajara and Liège as well as at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. 


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