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Governance and Democracy in the European Union

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. Our research examines how institutional rules, national politics and legislative dynamics are interacting to shape policy outcomes and institutional developments in Brussels and in the member states.

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.

Examples of 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
Governance and Democracy in the EU - Highlights


                                                  Prime Ministers in Greece book cover

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.

Building on an unprecedented range of interviews and archival material, Featherstone and Papadimitriou set out to explore how this paradox has been sustained. They conclude with the Greek system meeting its 'nemesis': the arrival of the close supervision of its government by the 'Troika' - the representatives of Greece's creditors. The debt crisis challenged taboos and forced a self-reflection. It remains unclear, however, whether either the external strategy or the domestic response is likely to be sufficient to make the Greek system of governance 'fit for purpose'.

                                                  EU Under Stress

Democratic Politics in a European Union Under Stress 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.  

Selected Recent Publications

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

Glendinning, Simon, (2014) ‘Settled-there: Heidegger on the work of art as the cultivation of place’. Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, 1(1). 7-32

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

Hobolt, Sara (2015) ‘The 2014 European Parliament elections: divided in unity?’. Journal of Common Market Studies. 53(S1). 6-21

Hobolt, Sara B. and Wratil, Christopher (2015) ‘Public opinion and the crisis: the dynamics of support for the euro’ Journal of European Public Policy, 22 (2). 238-256

Hobolt, Sara and de Vries, Catherine E. (2015) ‘Issue entrepreneurship and multiparty competition’. Comparative Political Studies, 48 (9). 1159-1185.

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, ‘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.



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        Staff in the European Institute
             working in this area include:

         Doctoral Students:

  • Eva Heims

  • Julian Hoerner 

  • Giulia Pastorella

  • Christopher Wratil

         Recent Past Doctorates:

  • Justyna Andrzejewicz

  • Stijn Billiet

  • Mariana Chaves

  • Emylene Cheney

  • Carlo Chiattelli  

  • Katjana Gattermann

  • Mogens Hobolth

  • Raya Kardasheva

  • Matthias M. Mayer

  • Niclas Meyer

  • Ronan McCrea

  • Lukas Obholzer