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Research Themes

The Robert Schuman Centre focuses on three research themes and aims to address key questions about the functioning of the European Union and its role in the 21st century.

Integration, Governance and Democracy

The European Union is the world’s most developed case of transnational integration. Research on European institutions, governance and democracy has long been at the core of the Robert Schuman Centre’s mission.

The Centre aims to understand the interaction of different dimensions of integration and evaluate the dominant characteristics and the tensions in the Union’s emerging legal, political and economic order. In addition, the Union provides a rich laboratory for the study of multileveled governance, new modes of governance and the governance tool kit the EU has at its disposal to address societal challenges.

EU governance is highly innovative and continually develops both additional modes and new fields in response to problems such as migration or economic governance. A governance lens enables us to raise important questions regarding the functioning across time and policy fields of governance modes, the power of different actors in different institutional settings, and the role of law, national courts and the European Court of Justice in regulating and adjudicating on the resultant regimes. 

The challenges and opportunities for democracy in Europe both within member states and in the EU is a central focus of the Centre’s research agenda. Legitimacy and accountability are at the heart of democratic politics. Developing mechanisms to assure legitimacy and accountability of EU level policies is difficult because of the complexity of a system that stretches from the member states to Brussels. The EU consists of democratic states that have voluntarily agreed to pool their sovereignty but in so doing wish to preserve the democratic character of their domestic political systems. The intrusion of the EU into the member states and the manner in which integration has privileged executive and expert power over parliamentary power challenges national democracy. There is no easily identifiable institutional or procedural fix. While institutions and procedures matter, the key challenge lies in the nature of politics in the multilevel system. There are many research questions concerning public opinion, politicisation and contestation about Europe, a European public space, elites and citizens, political parties and party systems, identities and loyalties in this strand.

The legacy of the Eurozone and migration crises in addition to Brexit compel us to revisit the big questions of Integration. Just what kind of polity is emerging in the EU and how does it ensure a balanced relationship between the whole and the member states? Just how much differentiation can the EU tolerate within the Union and with neighbouring states, including the United Kingdom, in the future? How can the EU retain its core values against creeping illiberalism and authoritarianism in a number of member states? 

The Robert Schuman Centre has a number of institutional nodes that underpin this research theme, notably, the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom and the European Governance and Politics Programme (EGPP) launched in autumn 2017.  

The Robert Schuman Centre also analyses the EU as a testing ground for governance beyond national borders and as a highly developed form of transnational integration, with its project Borderlands.

Regulating Markets and Governing Money

The single market is one of the essential pillars of integration. The ‘1992’ programme which built on an extensive legislative programme represented a step-change in integration and much of what it created is now taken for granted. Regulation became one of the primary sources of public power in the European Union as the Commission and European Court of Justice became centrally involved in enforcing the new regulatory regimes. Regulating networked industries, creating a digital single market and building up the physical infrastructure to foster a deeper single market is a major preoccupation of the Union as it seeks a return to growth. As the single market developed, many more diverse interests, notably environmental and social actors, became involved and market integration generated some of the intense contestation about Europe. There are many complex questions about competition policy, the four freedoms, regulatory agencies, the balance between economic, social and environmental interests and the complexities of regulation in a multi-mode and multi-level context.

The Florence School of Regulation (FSR) is the foremost institutional node at the Schuman Centre addressing the big questions of European regulation. The Eurozone was designed around the twin goals of stable money and sound finances enshrined in the Treaty on European Union and the Growth and Stability Pact. Underpinning the single currency was a strong policy consensus that privileged low inflation. The initial successful launch of the single currency disguised the design faults in the system. However, the unprecedented globalisation of financial markets which culminated in the 2008 financial crisis generated considerable strain within the Eurozone. The seriousness of the crisis raised many important research questions concerning the creation of a Euro Mark 2, the pressures for further centralisation in banking, finance and the fiscal area, the consequences of the crisis for the real economy, structural reform processes within member states and the serious core-periphery divergence that has emerged. Further integration within the euro area, in addition, raises acute questions concerning relations between the ‘ins’, the ‘pre-ins’ and ‘outs’ and the unity of the EU itself. 

Research at the Robert Schuman Centre on these critical issues is undertaken under the auspices of the Pierre Werner Chair and the Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa Chair. In September 2015, the Centre launched the Florence School of Banking and Finance, a major initiative that matches the Europeanisation of banking supervision and resolution in the Union. 

Finally, the research project the Memory of Financial Crises aims to to understand not only the causes and consequences of financial crises, but more generally how the financial system in which we live has been shaped.

21st Century World Politics and Europe

The contemporary international system is characterised by a number of shifts and shocks that profoundly affect Europe and its future evolution. The rise of China and the other newly emerging economies have opened markets for Europe but also increased global competition. Globalisation has increased pressures on all parts of the world. The re-emergence of hard geo-politics in Europe with the Russian annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine has brought the question of defence back on the European agenda. The de-stabilisation of the European neighbourhood to the south as the Arab Spring failed to deliver democracy and stability has exacerbated external pressures on Europe. The election of Donald Trump as US president in autumn 2016 undermined the stability of the Transatlantic relationship and made Europeans aware of the rapid changes in global politics.

Europe is a significant player in this emergent 21st century world politics, its political realities, institutions, and networks of global governance. Europe’s capacity to shape global forces and the emerging systems of global governance will be influenced by its power resources, the manner in which it deploys its power, and its coherence on international issues. The international challenges facing Europe go beyond questions of governance to critical issues of defence and security. This poses pressing challenges to EU member states both domestically and externally. The future prosperity and stability of the EU will be determined in part by its ability to act in concert, to be strategic, to influence its neighbourhood and to shape the pattern and substance of global governance — in brief, by Europe’s ability to find its role and place in the world of 21st century global politics. 

The Global Governance Programme established in 2009 is designed to address the major international and global issues confronting Europe. It consists of four research areas: Global Economics: Trade, Investment and Development, Europe in the World, GLOBALCIT, and Cultural Pluralism. The Migration Policy Centre has a strong focus on migration into the EU. In October 2015, the Schuman Centre began the process of re-designing Its Mediterranean Programme which has been re-named the Middle East Directions Programme with a focus on the 'big questions' of Europe's southern neighbourhood. Past projects have also focused on cultural diversity and the role of religion in Europe, such as in the case of Accept Pluralism and ReligioWest.

Page last updated on 06 December 2017