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Policy Crisis and Crisis Politics, Sovereignty, Solidarity and Identity in the Eu post 2008

The last decade has been a decennium horribile for the EU. Since 2008, the European Union has faced a series of unprecedented shocks: the Great Recession, the sovereign debt crisis and its dramatic social consequences, security threats linked to terrorism and conflicts in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), the refugee crisis and, eventually, Brexit. Supranational decision making was severely tested. From today’s vantage point, we observe that policy performance has not lived up to its promises and potential, damaging public trust in the efficacy and transparency of the EU. And yet, despite “existential threats”, we observe resilience. The EU and the euro have not fallen apart. At the apex of the crisis, EU leaders managed to agree on strategies for recovery. It is true that extremely vocal Eurosceptic formations have scored increasing success in a number of countries.  But data show that in all member states – save the UK – there are still significant majorities supporting EU and integration.

SOLID aims at understanding how and why “doom” and “elation” can go together. The EU is still fragile and its durability remains an open question. New capacities were created during the long crisis. But it is not clear how robust they are and whether developing them further will encounter insurmountable obstacles, including resentment by citizens. We argue that the aforementioned sequence of sectoral/policy crises produced a “deep” political crisis which unsettled fundamental assumptions and practices regarding the exercise of authority and its legitimation. Over time, tensions and disagreements unleashed three foundational conflicts: conflicts over sovereignty (who decides), solidarity (who gets what when and why) and identity (who we are). The “crisis politics” that was deployed to deal with such tensions has constrained policy responses in their scope and effectiveness. Against all odds, however, the destructive spiral stopped short of driving the Union into self-destruction: a circumstance that still calls for an explanation. Only a thorough retrospective analysis of the political crisis can cast light on the nature of this unexpected resilience.

We shall thus address the following research questions:

1. what made foundational conflicts emerge and escalate during the crisis?

2. which political dynamics were activated by each shock and lead to crisis policy making and crisis politics?

3. what coalitional dynamics operated during the euro area crisis, the social crisis, the refugee crisis, the

membership crisis (Brexit and intra-EU separatism)?

4. how can we account for key episodes and decisions which underpinned resilience?

A key aim of the project will be to envisage scenarios and perspectives allowing for a durable and politically SOLID European Union.

SOLID is the result of the synergies which brought together prof. Maurizio Ferrera, Professor of Political Science at Università degli Studi di Milano, Hanspeter Kriesi, Professor of Political Science at the European University Institute and Prof. Waltraud Schelkle, Professor in Political Economy at the London School of Economics.

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This project is funded with a Synergy Grant by the European Research Council under Grant Agreement n. 810356. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.