Redefining Political Space in Post-Crisis Europe: Is There Hope for EU Democracy?

Lecture | October 29 | 12-1 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 Ludvig Norman, Stockholm University

 Institute of European Studies

In recent years, the European Union has found itself in a state of seemingly chronic crisis, including the economic and financial crisis unleashed on Europe in 2008, the political crisis with the rise of populist and extremist parties across the continent, the migration crisis as well as Brexit. It is widely held that the response to these crises has led to a considerable strengthening of executive powers and further weakening of the EU’s mechanisms of democratic representation and accountability.
In light of this, efforts by the EU’s institutions to create a common European political space appear puzzling. The best-known example of this has been efforts to tie the results of the European elections to the elections of the European Commission’s president. Other steps in this direction include new rules that strengthen the role of European political parties. Taken together these changes provide a stark contrast to the notion of the EU as proceeding exclusively according to a technocratic logic. So, how should we understand these seemingly contradictory developments?
This talk addresses these questions through a recent study on the role of the EU’s institutions in creating new rules for Europarties. It shows how the political crisis engendered by the rise of the populist radical right in Europe, as well as other perceived threats to the political order of the EU, has shaped this effort to create a democratic European political space in fundamental ways. While, to some extent, strengthening prospects for democratic representation and accountability, it simultaneously reproduces the EUs tendency to institutionalize mechanisms that work to constrain democracy rather than to enhance it.

Ludvig Norman is Associate Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Stockholm University as well as Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at UC Berkeley. He earned his PhD in Political Science at Uppsala University. His research interests include European politics, populism and extremism, the European Union and its institutions and, more broadly, the dynamics of international governance institutions.
In a current project, Norman considers the political reactions to populism at the European level, with a specific focus on the European Parliament. Relatedly, Norman studies recent efforts to strengthen EU democracy through regulations of European political parties. The study ties into questions regarding the limits of democratic political orders and theories of militant democracy, engaging with these questions in the context of an international political order like the EU. Norman’s recent publications on this topic have appeared in Political Studies and European Journal of Social Theory.
Norman’s work also includes research on the institutional and policy aspects of the European Union. Studying substantive policy areas such as the EUs foreign and security policies and European judicial cooperation, he has authored the book The Mechanisms of Institutional Conflict in the European Union (Routledge, 2017). Other work on these and related issues have appeared in the European Journal of International Relations, Journal of European Public Policy, and Cooperation and Conflict.