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Governance and Democracy in the European Union

Our research themes

Governance in the European Union is continuously in flux: powers are transferred from member states to EU institutions while traditional assumptions about the nature and scope of European integration are subjected to a greater degree of scrutiny and public criticism than at any time in its history. 

As the inter-institutional dynamics of the Union shift in response to the euro crisis, the very legitimacy of the EU is being challenged as never before.

As the EU enters uncharted waters, the European Institute research cluster on Governance and Democracy in the European Union examines the politics, processes, institutions and norms of the European Union as well as the relationship between the EU, its member states and domestic politics.

We also address long-standing and unresolved debates on the democratic dimension of European politics and governance. This research includes work on: the public’s perception of and reactions to EU politics; transparency and accountability in EU policy-making; and the responsiveness of EU decision-makers to public opinion. In the context of the euro crisis in Europe and beyond, we look specifically at how the crisis is shaping EU governance, domestic politics and public attitudes towards the Union.


Prime Ministers in Greece: The Paradox of Power

by Kevin Featherstone and Dimitris Papadimitriou 

Prime ministers in greece

Prime Ministers in Greece: The Paradox of Power is concerned with a large question in one small, but highly problematic case: how can a prime minister establish control and coordination across his or her government?

The Greek system of government sustains a 'paradox of power' at its very core. The Constitution provides the prime minister with extensive and often unchecked powers. Yet, the operational structures, processes and resources around the prime minister undermine their power to manage the government. Through a study of all main premierships between 1974 and 2009, Prime Ministers in Greece argues that the Greek prime minister has been 'an emperor without clothes'. The costs of this paradox included the inability to achieve key policy objectives under successive governments and a fragmented system of governance that provided the backdrop to Greece's economic meltdown in 2010.

The Meaning of Partisanship

by Jonathan White and Lea Ypi

The meanings of partisanship

For a century at least, parties have been central to the study of politics. Yet their typical conceptual reduction to a network of power-seeking elites has left many to wonder why parties were ever thought crucial to democracy. This book seeks to retrieve a richer conception of partisanship, drawing on modern political thought and extending it in the light of contemporary democratic theory and practice. Looking beyond the party as organization, the book develops an original account of what it is to be a partisan. It examines the ideas, orientations, obligations, and practices constitutive of partisanship properly understood, and how these intersect with the core features of democratic life. Such an account serves to underline in distinctive fashion why democracy needs its partisans, and puts in relief some of the key trends of contemporary politics.

Democratic Politics in a European Union Under Stress

Edited by Olaf Cramme and Sara Hobolt

European Union under stress

This book offers the first comprehensive political analysis of the Euro crisis that erupted in Greece in 2010 and subsequently threatened the very survival of the Euro area. It has left a profound mark on democratic politics all over Europe, changing public attitudes and voting preferences, institutional and societal norms, and deeply anchored political traditions.  


Key Research Themes

  • EU institutional Politics and Governance
  • Crisis Politics in the European Union
  • Brexit
  • Democratic Deficit of the EU
  • Public Opinion, Elections and Politicization of the EU
  • Law, Politics and European Courts
  • The Politics of Europeanisation
  • Mobility, Migration and Integration
  • The Role of National Parliaments in the EU

Selected publications

Featherstone, Kevin (2016) 'Conditionality, democracy and institutional weakness: the Euro-crisis trilemma'. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 54 (S1). pp. 48-64. ISSN 0021-9886

Featherstone, Kevin (2015) ‘External conditionality and the debt crisis: the ‘Troika’ and public administration reform in Greece’. Journal of European Public Policy, 22 (3)

Høyland , Bjørn and Hobolt, Sara and Hix, Simon (2016) 'Career ambitions and legislative participation: the moderating effect of electoral institutions' British Journal of Political Science. In press.

Hobolt, Sara B. (2016) 'The Brexit Vote: A Divided Nation, A Divided Continent' Journal of European Public Policy, 23 (9). 1259-127

Hobolt, Sara B. and de Vries, Catherine E. (2016) 'Public Support for European Integration' Annual Review of Political Science, 19: 413-432

Hobolt, Sara B. and de Vries, Catherine E. (2016) 'Turning against the Union? The impact of the crisis on the Eurosceptic vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections' Electoral Studies. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2016.05.006

Hobolt, Sara and Tilley, James (2016) 'Fleeing the centre: the rise of challenger parties in the aftermath of the Euro crisis'. West European Politics, 39 (5). 971-991.

Hagemann, Sara and Hobolt, Sara B. and Wratil, Christopher (2016) 'Government responsiveness in the European Union: evidence from council voting Comparative Political Studies'. doi: 10.1177/0010414015621077

Hagemann, Sara (2015) ‘How to Study Bargaining in the European Union’ in K. Lynggaard et al. (eds) (2015) Research Methods in European Union Studies London: Palgrave Macmillan

Komárek, Jan: ‘Constitutional revolutions and the constituent power: A reply to Mark Tushnet’ (2015) 13 International Journal of Constitutional Law 1054-1058;

Komárek, Jan: ‘Europe’s democratic imaginary: Government by the people, for the people and of the people?’ (2015) 22 Maastricht Journal of European & Comparative Law 784-787 (guest editorial);

Komárek, Jan: The Struggle for Legal Reform after Communism’ (2015) 63 American Journal of Comparative Law 601-612 (review article);

Komárek, Jan: ‘The EU is More Than a Constraint on Populist Democracy’ in Maxmilian Steinbeis, Alexandra Kemmerer and Christoph Möllers (eds), Gebändighte Macht: Verfassung im europäischen Nationalstaat (Baden-Baden, Nomos 2015), 247-252;

Komárek, Jan: ‘Playing with Matches: The Czech Constitutional Court’s Ultra Vires Revolution’ in Maxmilian Steinbeis, Alexandra Kemmerer and Christoph Möllers (eds), Krise and Konstitutionalisieriung in Europa (Baden-Baden, Nomos 2015), 101-107;

Komárek, Jan (2015) ‘Why National Constitutional Courts Should Not Embrace EU Fundamental Rights’, Sybe de Vries, Ulf Bernitz and Stephen Weatherill (eds), The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as a Binding Instrument: Five Years Old and Growing (Hart 2015);

Komárek, Jan (2015) 'Legal Reasoning in EU Law' in A. Arnull and D. Chalmers (eds), The Oxford Handbook of EU Law (Oxford University Press 2015)

Komárek, Jan (2015) ‘The Struggle for Legal Reform after Communism’, American Journal of Comparative Law (2015) American Journal of Comparative Law 63(1). 285-296

White, Jonathan and Lea Ypi (2016), The Meaning of Partisanship, Oxford: Oxford University Press

White, Jonathan (2016), ‘Archiving for the Future: The Party Constitution’, in Axel Gosseries & Iñigo González (eds.) Institutions for Future Generations (Oxford: OUP).

White, Jonathan, ‘Authority after Emergency Rule’ (2015), Modern Law Review 78 (4). 585-610.

White, Jonathan, ‘Emergency Europe’ (2015), Political Studies 63 (2), 300-18.

White, Jonathan, ‘When Parties make Peoples’ (2015), Global Policy 6 (S1), 106-114.

Academic staff working in this area 

  • Kevin Featherstone, Eleftherios Venizelos Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Professor of European Politics
  • Sara Hagemann, Assistant Professor
  • Sara Hobolt, Sutherland Chair in European Institutions
  • Mareike Kleine, Associate Professor of EU and International Politics
  • Jan Komarek, Associate Professor of EU Law
  • Eiko Thielemann, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy
  • Jonathan White, Professor of Politics