The Rise of the Fringe: A Threat to Democracy?


See my comments in Kaitlin Lavinder’s article on The Cipher Brief on the rise of Euro-skepticism and the growing popularity of candidates who are political outsiders:

“Euro-skepticism has been increasing more generally across Europe, along with disenchantment with national political elites,” explains Boston University professor Vivien Schmidt, who is also the founding director of BU’s Center for the Study of Europe.

The Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis, and the security crisis (that is the heightened threat of terrorist attacks on the continent) all contribute to a loss of trust in mainstream parties and the “steady rise” of populist parties across Europe, says Schmidt.

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Photo: Anna Omelchenko

European Democracy in a Parlous State


See my op-ed at The Cipher Brief on the state of European Democracy after Brexit:

Democracy in Europe is in a parlous state at the moment. The British vote for exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU) has highlighted deep-seated problems with democracy at both the EU and national levels. But it would be a mistake to think that this means the EU is undemocratic, or that Brexit spells the break-up of the EU. Rather, it shows that in the EU, even more so than in the U.S., politics has become increasingly volatile as citizens punish political elites for gridlocked governing processes and policies that don’t work.

The Brexit referendum was dominated by a populist campaign focused on immigration in order to “take back control” from the EU, which was depicted as an over-regulated, undemocratic superstate.

The same kinds of complaints voiced about the EU in the Brexit campaign are mirrored in most European countries, by the likes of, for example, Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who have also called for referenda on the EU. Euro-skepticism has been increasing more generally across Europe, along with disenchantment with national political elites. This is evidenced by the loss of trust in mainstream parties, the steady rise of populist parties on both the extreme-left and the extreme-right, and the rapid turnover of incumbent governments. The EU’s other crises have also played their part, including the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis, and the security crisis. The EU’s poor management of all of these crises has been another reason why dissatisfied citizens across Europe, not just the British, may be asking why they should belong to such a Union.

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Photo: European Parliament

The New EU Governance: New Intergovernmentalism, New Supranationalism, and New Parliamentarism


I was was in Brussels on June 16 to give a talk at a seminar hosted by the Open Society European Policy Institute and the Istituto degli Affari Internazionali based on my contribution to the IAI’s essay collection Govering Europe: How to Make the EU more Efficient and Democratic.

In the piece, entitled “The New EU Governance: New Intergovernmentalism, New Supranationalism, and New Parliamentarism,” I explain how governance in the EU has changed in recent years, what its problems are, and how it could be governed in the future.

I argue that only by by considering the  actions  and  interactions  of  all  three  main  actors  together  can we  fully  understand  the  “new”  EU  governance  and  its  problems. I use, by way of illustration, EU’s  crises  of  money,  borders  and  security, suggesting that it is best to think about the future of EU governance not in terms of any hard core but rather as a “soft core” of  member-states  clustered  in  overlapping  policy  communities. Finally I propose ways of reinforcing EU-level capacity for policy  coordination  with  national-level  decentralisation to address problems of democracy and legitimacy.

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

I was in Mannheim on June 6 to give a talk entitled: “Europe’s Crisis of Legitimacy: Governing by Rules and Ruling by Numbers in the Eurozone” at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), in their political science seminar series. I argue that the Eurozone’s economic crisis has generated a crisis of democratic legitimacy, as deteriorating economics and increasingly volatile politics have combined with restrictive governance processes focused on ‘governing by the rules and ruling by the numbers’. I analyze this legitimacy crisis in terms of problems with the ‘output’ policies, ‘input’ politics, and ‘throughput’ processes, arguing that in response to such problems, EU institutional actors—ECB, Council, Commission, and EP—all sought to reinterpret the rules and recalibrate the numbers ‘by stealth,’ that is without admitting it in their public discourse. My talk addressed not only issues of democratic theory but also neo-institutionalist theory, by analyzing on-going processes of ideational innovation and discursive legitimation during the Eurozone crisis using discursive institutionalism.

Vivien Schmidt in El Español on “The Seven Challenges Facing Europe”


Spanish readers: Here is the link to an article on “The Seven Challenges Facing Europe,” for which I was interviewed along with Christopher Bickerton, published yesterday in El Español: I gave this interview in conjunction with a talk on the impact of European integration on national democracies for the BBVA Foundation in Madrid on May 5, 2016.

Download the book  La búsqueda de Europa (kindle, epub y pdf)

British Journal of Politics and International Relations Prize

I was awarded a prize for best paper published in BJPIR (the British Journal of Politics and International Relations) 2013, for my paper entitled, “Speaking to the Markets or to the People? A Discursive Institutionalist Analysis of the EU’s Sovereign Debt Crisis.”   The prize was announced at the Political Studies Association Annual International Conference, at the conference dinner on the evening of March 31st, 2015 in Sheffield, UK.

The paper argues that the EU’s sovereign debt crisis is not just economic; it is also political, resulting from the failure of EU leaders to offer solutions that calm the markets and convince the people. These failures stem from problems with EU leaders’ ideas about how to solve the crisis as well as their communication about them. That communication encompasses not just EU leaders talking to one another in negotiations of crisis solutions but also speaking to “the markets’ and to ‘the people’ about those solutions, all of which may interact in perverse ways. My article uses the analytic framework of “discursive institutionalism” to consider the different forms, types, levels, rates and mechanisms of change in ideas followed by the EU leaders’ discursive interactions in the “coordinative” discourse and their “communicative discourse” to the global markets and European publics. It uses a range of country cases, but in particular Germany and France, in illustration.