European integration and democratisation went hand in hand for a long time, be it in terms of the stabilisation of democracy after the Second World War or its spread in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But for some years now, the emergence of democratic backsliding has cast a shadow over the process of European integration. The keynote lecture addresses three facets of this new reality: first, it discusses the EU’s inability to adequately respond to processes of democratic regressions in Hungary and Poland. Second, it highlights how the rollback of reforms in the former frontrunners signals the limits of the EU’s policy of “democratisation by integration,” with notable implications for enlargement policy towards the Western Balkans and the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood. Finally, it examines how democratic backsliding affects interactions at the European level and is reshaping the structure of political competition inside the European Parliament.
What are the ideological tenets of contemporary anti-gender campaigns and their political uses in Europe? Images of dissolving families, unraveled gender identities, and alienated, suffering children have served illiberal actors well in various contexts, helping mobilize voters and bring together actors from diverse backgrounds. While this cultural repertoire is suggestive of a conservative worldview, its role in illiberal discourse exceeds the bounds of social conservatism. As I will show, the aim is not to preserve the traditional model of the family but rather to undermine the tenets of liberal democracy such as pluralism, respect for individual and minority rights, and freedom of expression. In my presentation I will argue that “gender” plays a key role in the illiberal project of demonizing liberalism by reducing it to its socio-cultural dimension. Anti-gender campaigns have contributed to the process of culturalization of political cleavages and legitimization of radical-right parties as acceptable political actors. While scholars of illiberalism, including Holmes (1993, 2021) and others, have included gender issues in a wide array of themes employed by anti-liberals, I suggest that it often functions as a master frame rather than just one among many arguments used to discredit liberal actors and liberalism as such
The success of populist radical right parties in Europe is one of the most studied political phenomenon of the last 4 decades. While most research has focused on the national level, populist radical right parties have long been represented in the European Parliament. This has provided them with a platform for their ideas, various resources and legitimacy as well as access to the decision-making process.
However, the influence these parties have on the legislative process remains an open question. Due to the domination of the Grand coalition among mainstream parties in the EP and the cordon sanitaire, this influence is usually assumed to be largely indirect, through a contagion effect or the framing of the debates on particular policy issues .
But is this still the case now that the EP is more polarized than ever and the cordon sanitaire has been challenged ? I will therefore examine to what extent and under what conditions do populist radical right parties influence the legislative process within the EP.
Gender equality is at the heart of political representation, democracy and European integration, and its position as a core value of the European Union (EU) is enshrined in the various treaties. The European Parliament (EP) upholds gender equality as a legitimate value and norm in its public statements and policy positions. Its various gender-related measures suggest that gender equality is a legitimate norm guiding parliamentary work and the achievement of democracy. Nevertheless, in contemporary European politics, gender equality has become highly contested and the Parliament is not isolated from these developments. The aim of this paper is to explore how gender equality is realised in and by the Parliament’s political groups, how this matters for democracy and what role political ideology plays in the process. The paper develops the concept of “democratic practices” within political institutions to explore how democracy is realized in everyday work within political groups. Gender is at the core of democratic practices. Gendered practices – whether discursive or institutional – can sustain inequalities within political institutions and hamper democracy. The paper explores the entanglements of gendered and democratic practices in the political groups and how they matter for democracy. The paper is based on a unique data-set of 150 elite interviews with MEPs and their political staff from all political groups conducted in 2018-2022. The data set is gender balanced and representative of the 27 member states of the EU and the UK and the results cover all of the eight political groups of two legislative terms.
This paper investigates the role played by the main European cooperation mechanism on asylum, the Common European Asylum System, in the making of LGBTI rights in the EU. Based on a one-year qualitative inquiry in Brussels and online, it shows that EU asylum policies were a key arena both of the consolidation of gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights, and of the renegotiation and invention of trans recognition. This pioneer role, far from being fortuitous, was part of the conscious strategy of the LGBTI movement to use asylum as a ‘side door’ to the creation of a de facto right to non-discrimination for trans people. Characterising this phenomenon as a ‘politics of interstices’ – the strategic use of differentials of politicisation cross-policy domains – this article makes the case for an analysis of policymaking that acknowledges the importance of peripheral arenas in the making of equality norms.
Although the European Parliament (EP) has a limited formal role in EU socio-economic governance, it is a key site for democratic debate, where alternative policies and economic ideas can be presented, debated and made visible to citizens. Focusing on EP’s own initiative resolutions on the European Semester, the paper assesses EP positions regarding three dimensions of EU economic governance that have profound impacts on equality: austerity, social/economic relationship and the role of gender equality. The paper assesses the political and ideological alternatives to the status quo proposed by the EP, and the political and institutional factors influencing these outcomes. The paper suggests that the EP takes an ambiguous and contradictory position on EU's socio-economic governance and does not provide a real policy-related or ideational alternative. In the EP’s economic and social affairs committee, even progressive groups remain caught in economized understandings of social issues, see gender equality as a non-economic issue, and do not provide far-reaching alternatives to the economic ideas underpinning austerity. The weak outcomes are shaped by party-political struggles and the EP’s consensus-oriented decision-making process that pushes pro-EU groups towards a compromise. The struggles and hierarchies between social and economic actors with the EP further contribute to the ambiguous outcomes, preventing the EP from speaking with one voice. EP’s participation has been seen as a key requirement for increasing the democratic legitimacy of EU economic governance. While increased EP participation would indeed increase input legitimacy of EU economic governance, it might not make the proposed policies more equal and transform the ideational basis of the EU’s economic governance.
The European Union can be both a driver of and a political bulwark against economic internationalization. Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2009, it appears that EU politics has mostly been responding to external economic shocks, often in a haphazard way. At critical moments, the overarching concern to reassert stability obscured the deeply political nature of the economic questions at stake. Still, in the process, some insights about how to democratize economic governance in an internationalized setting have emerged. In this paper, I aim to identify these insights and to reconstruct the contours of what a democratic order of economic governance may look like in the European Union. I spotlight two critical features of this process – the intertwinement of national and European decision-making and the turn from negative surveillance to funding conditionality – and sketch how around these two features the European Parliament and national parliaments have to coordinate and define their new roles to ensure that economic governance in the European Union remains the object of democratic control.
Gender and politics scholars are increasingly making appeals to ethnographic methodology to bring important contributions to understand the reproduction of gender, gender hierarchies, gendered relations, and their redress in parliamentary settings. In this presentation, I draw upon fieldwork conducted in both the U.K. House of Commons and the European Parliament: one an archetypical ‘debating parliament’ and the other a ‘working parliament’.
In discussing the two fieldworks, I explore how parliamentary ethnography of gender, gender hierarchies and gender relations travels to different parliamentary settings that prioritise different parliamentary functions. I reflect upon the kinds of empirical insights, as well as methodological considerations that can be garnered by reflecting on the type of parliament studied: that is, by putting the ‘parliament’ in parliamentary ethnography.
Finally, whilst parliamentary ethnography is a fruitful innovation to understand gender, gender hierarchies and gender relations, I discuss the drawbacks of this methodology. Furthermore, I provide feminist reflections on ways to make parliamentary ethnography more accessible as well as effective. Whilst these insights may be generalisable to other parliaments, they may also be contingent on the type of parliament and parliamentary context studied.
This is an exciting time in the development of the gendered study of legislatures both theoretically and empirically. Over the last decade we have seen innovative work that employs new theoretical approaches as well as a host of empirical studies examining various aspects of legislatures in both the global North and South, all with much greater sophistication and depth. As a contribution to these debates, this paper brings together and assesses the role and significance of two elements that form a key part of this recent scholarship – one important recent theoretical approach (Feminist Institutionalism) employed in much of this new literature, and one important empirical case (the European parliament) that has been systematically explored over a sustained period, providing us with important new insights into many gendered elements of legislatures. The paper explores how each informs the other and assesses how bringing them together adds to our understanding of legislatures and how they are gendered, before considering how these insights might inform future research agendas.
Since 1989, when Kim Crenshaw wrote about the structural blindspots in anti-discrimination law, the idea of intersectionality has had a significant impact in disrupting dominant discourses in general – it is now an analytical approach used across many disciplines. The concept has spread far beyond equality law and been welcomed as a general methodological approach.
Much less progress has been made in disrupting the dominant narrative of anti-discrimination law – in EU law, intersectionality has been adapted to fit existing legal, cultural and conceptual frameworks rather than changing the frameworks themselves. As a consequence, although a successful methodological approach, intersectionality has been unsuccessful in protecting the group for whom it was designed: black women workers remain marginalized in EU law. In this paper, I will explore how this has happened and then suggest a way to approach intersectionality so that black women are no longer at the margins of anti-discrimination law.
Women elites remain excluded from the “old boys’ networks” that structure access to decision-making power. In response, women politicians form their own networks, which link women in elected office to women in the state and civil society. This paper draws on two decades of research into women’s policy networks in the Americas, highlighting the importance of the informal for feminist organizing. To begin, networks do more than provide women with mentorship and sorority; they allow women to work instrumentally in pursuit of clearly-defined policy goals. Indeed, women’s networks have achieved significant firsts, from winning “gender parity in everything” in Mexico to drafting a feminist constitution in Chile. Moreover, the way women constitute networks and devise methods for working both “inside” (among each other) and “outside” (when meeting with men or other opponents) entails considerable forethought. Unofficial yet clearly-identifiable and often self-designated leaders play critical roles in establishing and enforcing the rules of procedure. Whereas old boys’ networks may emerge “naturally”—in that male political dominance fosters men’s homosociality—women’s networks emerge deliberately. Informal networks among women are rational responses to systematic exclusion and are central strategies for counterbalancing masculinized power structures.
I will present the edited volume entitled "Doing Fieldwork in Centers of Power: the Case of Deliberative Assemblies", which I am preparing with Samuel Shapiro (University of Laval, Canada) and which is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2023 by Routledge. This volume brings together seventeen junior and senior scholars (6 men and 11 women) from eight different nationalities and four academic disciplines around a methodological reflection on the value and challenges of fieldwork in studying political institutions. I will outline the genealogy of this project, its objectives and original features, as well as the contours of the different chapters.
Openness and inclusiveness are central mechanisms for civil society participation in EU governance. Focusing on European Parliament’s intergroups, this contribution explores unofficial participatory venues and their receptiveness towards civil society. Based on a novel data set with 135 intergroup meetings and 435 civil society speakers across four intergroups in the 8th European Parliament (2014-2019), this study delivers the first empirical account of intergroup participants, and thereby provides original insights into the types and functions of intergroups as informal participatory mechanisms. This research adds to the literature on civil society access in EU governance and contributes to the wider political and academic debates on civil society’s contribution to the EU’s democratic legitimacy.
As a qualitative researcher, ethnographer, and an interpretivist scholar, my scholarship prioritizes the voices of Black women political elites, using their experiences as the starting point for my studies. This paper explores the emotional heaviness of doing ethnographic research on Black women political elite as a Black woman researcher.
EU leaders have agreed to reduce the number of individuals living who are at-risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million by 2030, with at least five million of those being children. I will be exploring this ambitious target in the context of the process of European integration and the ability of the EU to deliver on its commitment. In doing so I will be analysing the positioning of the AROPE policy field throughout the EU’s broader governance hierarchy, as well as the governance arrangements within the field. I will argue that throughout such governance arrangements, the AROPE field is largely intergovernmental and thereby a third-order priority for the EU, with economic integration being first-order and employment policy second. Meanwhile, within the field, the EU has recently developed a variety of governance instruments which is resulting in a transformation of the arrangements to ‘complementary hybridisation’ i.e. governance instruments with different incentives which collectively operate to encourage Member States to take action. While this is a significant development, nevertheless, important considerations remain in the context of the EU being able to move the field beyond its third-order status and thereby achieve its stated ambition.
The European Union (EU) was an early adopter of gender mainstreaming and embedded it political strategy to promote gender equality in the EU with the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997). The paper scrutinizes how the strategy was implemented since and pays particular attention to the European Parliament (EP). Despite early advances, gender mainstreaming at the EU level faced several challenges and its impact is rather mixed. Consecutive crises, the predominance of economic issues and reorganizing the responsibilities for gender equality disarmed gender mainstreaming in the European Commission. Simultaneously, the rise of anti-gender movements and radical right populism continuously contest gender equality policy and the very concept of gender. Importantly, the EP strongly supported gender mainstreaming at the supranational level, and it has committed to incorporating this strategy in its own work and organization, making the EP one of the few parliaments worldwide to officially adopt gender mainstreaming. Given the EP’s also expanded legislative powers after the Lisbon Treaty (2007), it seems equipped for the task. The paper engages with the role of the EP’s committees and political groups in advancing or hindering the integration of gender perspectives by deciphering their formal and informal institutions and micro-political strategies. It finds that although the EP’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (the gender-focused parliamentary body) oversees gender mainstreaming, committees and political groups function as gatekeepers and determine the outcomes.
This presentation looks back on a decade of research in and on the European Parliament, discussing the arrival and use of digital technologies in the representative work of MEPs. As highlighted by Daloz, “political representation appears to be deeply rooted in the plural context of which it is merely the outcome” (Daloz, 2010, 287) with two imperatives that may at first appear contradictory: to demonstrate both proximity and eminence. After a quick overview of how the notion of legitimacy is understood, the presentation proposes to address how the technological dimension of parliamentary work challenges the representative work of MEPs and how ethnography can contribute to its exploration. Indeed, “political power is not assembled in the same places as before” (Asdal and Hobaek 2016, 97), or more precisely political power is not only assembled in those places. Technology contributes to fragmenting and distributing the European Parliament space in more than one way and therefore communication technologies can be approached both as a site and a tool in the interest of carrying out a multi-site ethnography which consists of following individuals, groups, organizations across the different settings that make up their everyday social world. Experiences from a field study conducted over ten years in and around the European Parliament illustrate and show the benefits of taking both online and offline activities into account to explore the power structures and actors shaping European democracy and how the deliberative democratic process is thus embodied.
During the summer of 2021, the Czech Senate voted to compensate thousands of Romani women who were forcibly sterilized by the Czech (once Czechoslovak) authorities between 1966 and 2021. According to the newly approved law, survivors are eligible for a compensation of about 12.000€ each. A rather paltry amount for a huge violation of fundamental rights. Yet, this is considered a major victory and applauded as a landmark vote. The new legislation has indeed a profound symbolic significance: it contributes to delegitimizing the historical restrictions on Romani women’s rights recurrently perpetuated all around Europe and remained unpunished for centuries.
Reflecting on the institutional violence and abuse against Romani women (e.g. forced sterilization, segregated maternity wards, child removal, police brutality), this paper unpacks the concept of discrimination from a critical (race) theory and intersectionality perspective. Doing so, it aims to push the boundaries of contemporary European equ(al)ity regimes, “bring[ing] us closer to realizing the emancipatory potential of human rights” (Oprea 2017: 56). In particular, this paper retraces the recent evolution of ‘intersectional discrimination’ from a very embryonic, implicit and often misunderstood notion in European policy making into a key issue in political and policy debates about human rights, anti-discrimination and equ(al)ity. Focusing on the changes occurred in the last ten years (2013-2023), it asks how intersectional discrimination has been incorporated in EU (equality) policies, and whether Romani women activists have played a role in the process.
The crisis of social reproduction has been intensified during the Covid pandemic, leading to a massive shift of unpaid work into the private household. Even though many feminist international political economy studies acknowledge these developments, and have shown how the relation between paid and unpaid work has shifted further towards the private realm, political consequences are dire. Most of the member states within the European Union have invested some increased spending in the caring professions but have not tackled the underlying problem of taking social reproduction in the private realm seriously. This would mean to acknowledge all the unaccounted work of mostly women of different color, class status/household income and the need for social reproduction within the global economy with the amounts of unpaid work done in private households and the nearer community. The presentation seeks to retrace these developments and asks what strategies and policies would be needed to overcome this within economic governance in the EU.