Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy: Governing by Rules and Ruling by Numbers in the Eurozone

vivienlectureThis morning I gave a keynote lecture on “Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy: Governing by Rules and Ruling by Numbers in the Eurozone” for the EU Horizon 2020 research network RECONNECT at the Norwegian Embassy’s Norway House in Brussels.

Although ‘Brexit’ and the refugee crisis have grabbed today’s headlines, the European Union’s sovereign debt crisis continues. The Eurozone’s comparatively poor economic performance and continued political divisiveness have combined with processes focused on ‘governing by rules and ruling by numbers’ to generate an on-going crisis not just of economics and politics but also of democratic legitimacy. I argue that the EU’s (euro) crisis of legitimacy centers on problems related to (a lack of) policy effectiveness, political responsiveness, and procedural quality. But she also contends that in pursuit of legitimacy as much as in response to deteriorating economics and increasing political volatility, EU institutional actors—ECB, Council, Commission, and EP—incrementally reinterpreted the rules and recalibrated the numbers ‘by stealth,’ that is, without admitting it in their public discourse. To theorize about such processes of ideational innovation and discursive legitimation during the Eurozone crisis, I use the neo-institutionalist framework of discursive institutionalism.