The ECSA-C research groups offer the opportunity for collaboration based on fields of research. Our network participants are invited to organize special panels at ECSA-C Biennials, support the collaboration with young scholars, organize online meetings on current issues, and pursue joint initiatives in terms of research, publications, and public outreach. These groups are open to all ECSA-C members.
Democracy: Lead by Oliver Schmidtke
The widespread claim that liberal democracy faces a crisis seems paradoxical at first sight: When Soviet Communism imploded some 30 years ago, the institutions and practices of liberal democracy were greatly expanded around the world and heralded as the only legitimate form of government. Yet, at the same time, a profound sense of uncertainty and frustration has become palpable with respect to the proper scope and form of democratic rule. The rise of populism and a new popular appetite for authoritarian leaders in Europe and beyond is an expression of this development. The global pandemic has accentuated the fundamental challenges that liberal democracies are facing. Democratically elected governments have used emergency measures to suspend democratic processes and liberal rights. At the same time, the socio-ecological crisis has sparked new grass-roots movements reinvigorating practices of democratic engagement. Similarly, the COVID 19 crisis has the potential for strengthening community based democratic institutions and a renewed concern for the common good from a democratic perspective.
Environment, Climate Change and Energy: Lead by Joan DeBardeleben
Despite widespread acknowledgement of the economic, health, and ecosystem risks that climate change presents, only halting progress has been made in mitigating its progression. Addressing climate change requires transformation in technological practices, economic incentives, and societal values and behaviour, as well as extensive global cooperation. In Europe, as elsewhere, transformation of the energy sector represents a key concern due the high emissions burden of fossil fuel usage and concerns about the risks of nuclear power in some European countries. The European Union has been a leader in instituting policies and mechanisms to promote the transition to a green economy, including the promotion of renewal energy and of low carbon production but faces challenges in realizing its policy objectives. While burden-sharing has been a relatively successful approach, the EU’s multilevel governance structure also presents obstacles as member state priorities and commitments vary. The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for climate change and other environmental policies also remains unclear; while the response to the pandemic has brought a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and has demonstrated the capacity of governments to respond quickly to an critical threat, the associated economic downtown may generate pressures to reduce the commitment of resources to addressing this and other environmental issues. This thematic group will also address concrete policy issues, policy instruments, political processes, and challenges of a multilevel governance context in addressing climate change, the energy transition, and other environmental issues. The group will also highlight comparative research involving the EU and Canada.
Foreign Policy and Security: Lead by Frédéric Merand
A self-proclaimed “geopolitical Europe” faces daunting challenges. The global pandemic has catalyzed international trends that were already problematic for a European Union based on the promotion of international norms and cooperation. As power shifts to the East and globalization is challenged from left and right, while some of its own Member States seem attracted to nationalism, will the European Union be able to implement a common and effective foreign policy? This group will analyze how the European Union tackles climate change, international security, global trade and migration in the age of populism, multipolarity, accelerated technological development, terrorism, environmental degradation, and the return of interstate rivalry.
Migration: Lead by Ruben Zaiotti
Issues related to migration, mobility and borders have acquired a prominent role in contemporary political agendas in Europe, as movements of populations and the debates they have engendered have increasingly come to shape economic, social and political dynamics both within the continent and in its relations with the outside world.
The ‘refugee crisis’ that reached its peak in 2015 highlighted the profound effect that migratory flows have on the Old Continent, further raising the political profile of a phenomenon that had affected the region for some time. In the political arena, opportunist political movements have used migration and the fear of the ‘other’ to foment discontent among citizens and increase electoral support. Indeed, anti-immigration sentiments have come to define the populistic wave that has spread across Europe in the last decade.
Migration has raised issues about integration and the meaning of the European ‘social model’. Approaches to integration vary across the continent, but all of them face challenges in adapting to growing demands and budgetary squeezes. European societies also have witnessed a rise in racism directed against migrants and visible minorities.
Mobility, and in particular the ability to move freely within the continent, is at the core of the Schengen border regime, one of the pillars of the European integration project. The regime, however, has come under pressure because of security concerns, and, more recently, the Covid 19 pandemic. One of the main measures adopted to stop its spread has, in fact, been the closure of Europe’s external and internal borders, putting into question the future viability of freedom of movement in the continent.
Migration has also become an item on Europe’s foreign policy agendas, especially with regards to the region’s ‘neighbourhood’. European governments have engaged international partners in an attempt to prevent would-be migrants from leaving (through financial incentives and political pressure) or to manage them before they reach Europe, as in the case of the EU-Turkey agreement.
The ECSA-C research group on migration and mobility seeks to tackle these themes from an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective, relying on relevant examples taken from the North American context.
Political Economy: Lead by Kurt Hübner
We already know today that The Great Lockdown will come with more severe economic costs than the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, and - depending from the further dynamic - may also be more damaging than the Great Depression. Central banks and national governments are forced to provide quick liquidity, and do so. It is safe to assume that governments, private households and the business sector on average will experience significant losses that reduces their net worth tremendously. Distribution struggles will become prominent. Like in all economic crises there will be losers and winners. The fight about ‘Coronabonds’ in the EU indicates the kind of struggles we will experience. Moreover, it seems that the balance between ’state’ and ‘markets’ is shifting. In timers of emergency, the state is becoming indispensable to save capitalism; at the same time, emergency rule undermines democratic control. Across Europe, we see examples of an authoritarian turn. The research group will investigate those trends.