Graduate Students Present Research on the European Union

Graduate Students Present Research on the European Union

From left: Professor Simon Hix and doctoral students Sven-Oliver Proksch, Julie J. Won, and Jonathan Slapin.

Doctoral students from seven California universities offer papers on the EU's institutional framework, economy, international role, and citizenship policies.

Nineteen graduate students in political science, economics, sociology, and women's studies met at the UCLA Faculty Center February 11 and 12 to present papers on many aspects of today's European Union. They came from UCLA, Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, San Diego State University, the University of Southern California, and UC Davis. Over the two days of the statewide conference six panels were held, each including a faculty discussant who reviewed the student presentations and made suggestions for sharpening their focus. The conference was sponsored by the UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies. Brief introductins were made by International Institute Vice Provost Geoffrey Garrett and Ivan Berend, director of the Center for European and Eurasian Studies.

Simon Hix on Democracy in the European Union

The conference opened with a keynote address by Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Hix delivered a sharp critique of the work of Giandomenico Majone and Andrew Moravcsik, two defenders of the quality of democratic safeguards in the present-day European Union. Hix also served as discussant on the first student panel.

Hix defended the thesis that there is a "democratic deficit" in the structure of the European Union, pointing to sharp declines in support for the EU among the citizenry of its member states. "Less that half of EU citizens think membership is a good thing, and this is less than 30% in the UK. There has been an enormous decline in the UK, from 60% support in 1991 to 30% support in 2003."

Simon Hix posited a growing remoteness of the decision-making process in the EU from the citizens of the member states. National executive branches have become dominant in the EU with little input from national parliaments, and most critical decisions occur in the Commission, and in the Council, which votes on proposals of the Commission. The European Parliament plays an increasingly lesser role and in most countries "citizens are not as well connected to the MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] as they are to their MPs."

The European Parliament is too weak, he said. "The Council still dominates the EP in legislative and budget, while national elections are fought on domestic issues, not European-level issues. Citizens cannot vote on EU policies or EU leaders."

Where there has been a falling turnout for EU elections in the original 15 member states, the new East and Central European members of the EU have entered the union with traditionally extremely low voter participation, as low as 16% in Slovakia.

Hix offered a critique of two scholars who defend the current European Union structure as adequately democratic. Andrew Moravcsik, professor of politics at Princeton University, Hix said, "proposes that the European Union is not undemocratic because national governments still run the EU and they are the most directly accountable politicians in Europe." Continuing his summary of Moravcsik's views, "EU technocrats must listen to multiple social interests and there is extensive judicial review, increasing scrutiny. EU checks and balances ensure that a broad consensus is required for policies to be enacted, and there is little room for undemocratic imposition."

The other scholar to come in for criticism was Giandomenico Majone, a professor at the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy. Majone, Hix said, maintains that "the European Union is not undemocratic because the EU is a regulatory state, and that EU policy makers should be independent from dominance by majoritarian institutions. Like other regulatory agencies, they should not be manipulated by current majorities."

Hix accused Moravcsik and Majone of being "modern Weberian apologists, they love bureaucracy. Both want to keep politicians out of it and give it to experts, enlightened bureaucrats."

The speaker gave an example to show why he considers the EU structure to be "a form of enlightened despotism." He example hit on the difference between a bureaucratic agency offering people a poll to determine if they will accept its policies, and what people really do when offered an actual choice. Hix's example was the September 2000 directive of the European Parliament and Council forcing car makers and member states to pay for recycling "end of life" automobiles to protect the environment. The directive, which took effect in April 2002, if enforced would have raised car prices by about 5%.

"How do we know this is what the public wants?" Hix asked. Well, the Commission did surveys. "People in the survey said they would pay a bit more to protect the environment. The outcome looked like what the public said they wanted, but no member state has been able to implement the directive because of public protest at higher costs."

The EU leadership has focused on improving outcomes, Hix said, but not on "making choices between winners and losers." Democracy, he insisted, "is about sanctioning winners and losers." The advantage of democratic choices, Simon Hix said, is that "electoral contests force elites to develop rival ideas, feedback changes on citizens' preferences, whereas polls fix opinion at a certain point."

The EU's Institutional Framework

The first student panel heard papers from Jonathan Slapin (Political Science, UCLA), Julie J. Won (Political Science, Stanford), and Sven-Oliver Proksch (Political Science, UCLA), who was also the principal organizer of the conference.

Jonathan Slapin examined a dataset of votes from the Intergovernmental Conference leading to the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, correlating outcomes to the previously expressed goals of the participating parties, as indicated by their general campaign literature on several hundred issues. His dependent variable was how many of the issues parties campaigned for in their home countries were supported in the 1997 negotiations. Simon Hix served as discussant for this panel, and suggested here that the study would benefit from giving relatively greater weight to particularly important issues in place of looking mainly at the sheer number of positions the EU was induced to support.

Julie Won delivered a paper examining the dynamics of European Parliament influence over the EU decision-making process by focusing on the legislative organization and the tracking of EU policies. If the European Parliament has indeed been getting more powerful over time, she said, this should be reflected in growing institutionalization of the legislative structure and in the types of policies decided in the European Union. Her theory was that as the EP becomes more influential it will have generated a more complex set of legislative committees, procedures, and staff. Her preliminary findings on committee composition in the European Parliament during the 1999-2000 legislative session suggest that EP committees play only an informational role.

Sven-Oliver Proksch (Political Science, UCLA) sought to examine the sincerity of governmental votes in the Council of Ministers of the EU by comparing interviews and governmental positions outside of the EU with their votes in the Council on 66 legislative issues. He showed that typically Council decisions were carried by a 95% majority with only token opposition. Simon Hix in his comments noted that a large majority of Council business is conducted in private without announced votes and that this will skew the voting pattern, since public votes are more commonly taken when there is broad agreement or where government representatives want a public record of their votes to impress their constituents that they supported or opposed an issues that had resonance in their home countries.

EU Federalism

Panel 2 heard presentations from Stephanie Lee Mudge (Sociology, UC Berkeley), Sonal R. Desai (Political Science, UC San Diego), Jana Kolarikova (Political Science, San Diego State University), and Christian B. Jensen (Political Science, UCLA). The faculty discussant was Political Science Professor Kathleen Bawn (UCLA).

Stephanie Mudge presented a paper on the evolution of EU social policy between 1997 and 2004, asking whether North European-style welfare state policies are being replaced by American-style workfare. Drawing on European Commission reports and panels, press releases, speeches, and stakeholder groups, Mudge concluded that the new "European Social Model" draws heavily on the so-called Lisbon strategy of the Portuguese leadership, which "successfully entrenched four defining principles of an EU-level ESM: education and training (human capital) investment, active employment policy (workfare), 'modernized' pension and health care systems, and targeted (means-tested) antipoverty programs."

This has amounted, she said, to a shift to an Anglo model, "signaled by a general dismissal of public spending except for human capital investment, a de-emphasis on poverty reduction via means other than employment and private-sector job creation, and a near-complete replacement of the concept of 'cohesion' with competition."

Sonal R. Desai examined why some policies in the EU are decided at the national level while others are bumped up to the bodies of the EU. She concluded that governments that want to insulate a favored policy from opposition at home or fear that they may be voted out of office and replaced with a regime that does not share specific goals seek to "shift authority to levels other than the nation state."

Jana Kolarikova's paper asked what the effects would be of the adoption of the European Constitution in January 2005. The new document, she said, "streamlines decision-making in the European Union, ending vetoes in almost 50 new policy areas, including judicial and police cooperation, education, and economic policy. But veto rights remain in sensitive areas such as foreign affairs, defense, social security, taxation, and culture. Also, the Constitution gives the EU simpler voting rules ensuring that decisions are adopted if at least 65 percent of the member states are in agreement and they represent at least 55 percent of the EU population of 455 million people." It is widely believed that the new constitution will consolidate a true unitary state at the pan-Europe level. The debate over the document, Kolarikova said, is between those who think this is a good idea and those who fear that "it is going to reduce existing member countries to regions and provinces, in which the formal agreement of subordination to the superior entity will lead to an abandonment of national democracy, sovereignty, and political independence." Kolarikova's research aims to evaluate the potential for the creation of a European super-state and its effects on participatory democracy.

Christian B. Jensen is researching the causes of widespread failures of member states to implement allegedly agreed on labor policies, and why this varies widely from country to country. Some 29% of disputed labor cases in France and Luxembourg have been appealed to the European Court of Justice, while barely 6 percent or less of cases against Greece and the Netherlands required ECJ action. Jensen argued that strong states with "oversight mechanisms that centralize authority in the hands of the Member States' governments facilitate resolution of infringement cases." In contrast, "national oversight mechanisms that depend on cooperation between the government and interest groups hinder resolution of infringement cases, allowing them to drag on until referred to the ECJ."

Europe's Role in International Affairs

The conference's second day began with a panel on Europe's role in international affairs. Here there were just two panelists, Nukhet Sandal (Politics and International Relations, USC) and Stanislav Rosenberg (Political Science, UCLA). The faculty discussant was Professor Ron Rogowski (Political Science, UCLA).

Nukhet A. Sandal presented a paper on the EU's Middle East policy, particularly as it relates to terrorism. "While the United States emphasizes preemption and has declared a perpetual war against terrorism that will not end until 'every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated,' the European Union, instead of taking terrorism as a 'given,' prefers longer-term and constructive efforts which aim at eliminating the factors that make the emergence and maturation of radical groups possible." Her research is to compare EU and U.S. policies toward high-profile Middle East states in the post-9/11 period, as well as to look at Middle East policies of some of the individual EU nations.

Stanislav Rosenberg's paper reviewed the EU's potential as a military alliance in contrast to NATO. "The collapse of the Soviet Union has stirred the foundations of the trans-Atlantic alliance, particularly in the wake of the recent war in Iraq, and the 1990s witnessed the European Union developing its own security mechanism, exemplified by the Common Security and Defense Policy and the Franco-German initiative that culminated in the European Corps." Rosenberg concluded that "NATO's side-payments ensured its dominance during the Cold War, but more importantly, it has continued to successfully partake in side-payments after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Europe, meanwhile, has not developed any serious challenge to NATO."

European Macroeconomic Policies

The conference's fourth panel heard papers from Florence Bouvet (Economics, UC Davis), Grigor Sukiassyan (Economics, USC), and Julia Gray (Political Science, UCLA). The faculty discussant was UCLA Political Science Professor Miriam Golden.

Florence Bouvet's paper analyzed the effects of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) on regional living standards. She worked with data on 111 regions from 8 EU countries, over the period from 1975 to 1999. Bouvet reported that "even though regions with lower incomes per capita level and structural weaknesses tend to receive relatively more funds, the ERDF has had a negative effect on regional growth." She explained: "We compute the impulse responses of regional growth rate, investment rate, TFP and employment rate to an ERDF innovation, using linear local projections to obtain impulse responses. We find that EU regional policy has been more efficient in poorer regions, while the overall effect is negative for our whole sample of regions."

Grigor Sukiassyan reported on a study of the effects of income inequality on future economic growth. He based his research on the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, created in December 1991 in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The CIS comprised Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. "One attractive feature of this group of countries," Sukiassyan said, "is that their starting points were remarkably similar. They initiated their transitions almost simultaneously, with inherited low levels of income inequality, similar levels of per capita GDP and GDP growth rates, many common policies, and similar objectives."

Despite their similar initial conditions, they subsequently demonstrated "enormous changes in growth rates and income inequality both within and across these countries." Sukiassyan concluded that "econometric estimations indicate that the effect of inequality on growth is negative and strong. This result is rather robust to the use of the different specifications and estimation methods that have been applied in the relevant literature."

Julia Gray is studying the economic risks in the transition from communism in Eastern Europe. Her measuring stick is the risk premium imposed on government debt by lenders to seventeen Eastern European countries at various stages of their transition. She is particularly interested in how reforms associated with accession to the EU were viewed in contrast to domestic reform agendas in the immediate post-Soviet period. "With no preexisting theory of transition, conflicting advice from economists, and impatient voting publics, reform governments in the post-communist countries undertook vastly different paths of stabilization, privatization, and liberalization." Her conclusion was that economic reforms were not looked on as a safe bet by lenders. "If anything, policy reform seemed to increase investment risk. Reform taken as part of European Union accession, however, decreased perceptions of risk."

European Citizenship, Immigration and Asylum Policies

The fifth panel took up the relation of individuals to the EU. Here there were four panelists: Deniz Cakirer (Politics and International Relations, USC), Betsy Carter (Political Science, UC Berkeley), Bob Tamaddon (Political Science, UC Berkeley), and Pinar K. Tremblay (Political Science, UCLA). The faculty discussant was UCLA Sociology Associate Professor Adrian Favell.

Deniz Cakirer's paper was on Maghrebi immigration into European Union countries and EU-Maghreb relations. "Although an EU regime for controlling the immigration flows is well under way, formulation of common policies for the incorporation of existing immigrants has been slow," she said. The study will pay special attention to the social networks that connect the home and host states, which  "have profound impacts on the lives of the immigrants as well as on the relations between the EU and Maghreb. Therefore an analysis of social networks makes it possible to link international and supranational processes with the experiences of the individual immigrants. In this level of analysis, one is also able to reflect the gendered nature of integration policies and immigration laws. The promotion of gender equality among Maghrebi immigrant women is crucial if they are to integrate successfully into the host societies."

Betsy Carter presented a paper on EU policies toward asylum seekers. In November of 2004 the European Commission "unanimously approved the Hague Programme, reaffirming their choice to proceed with the establishment of a Common Asylum System by 2010." The pressure to adopt a common standard, she said, arose from a convergence of an increase in asylum seekers to the EU-15 and "the rise of the populist anti-immigration extreme right groups." In the past, "asylum policy had been closely linked with security, border controls, and minimizing 'bogus asylum-seekers.'" Carter noted that the jurisdiction of various police, security, and border-control agencies over this question rather than the more "human-rights friendly institutions" such as the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice "has generally conceded power to the intergovernmental Council of Ministers."

Bob Tamaddon's paper was on European Muslims. While the European Union, he said "has come to represent the most sophisticated attempt at forming new governance structures in the modern world," the new institutions have evaded dealing with issues of identity. "Yet it is widely accepted that demographic changes affecting the composition of existing European societies, as well as the extension of membership to new societies, demand a fresh look at the question of European identity. The urgency of such examination becomes most clear when we consider the case of European Muslims who already comprise a significant portion of Europe's population, and are forecast to continue their growth in the first half of this century."

Tamaddon is undertaking a comparative case study of Canada alongside Britain, Germany, and France in order to highlight differences and similarities between immigration, multiculturalism, and integration policies pursued. "My data show that among European states studied, Britain has been most able to integrate its Muslim populations, followed by Germany and France. However the general comparative framework used in my study shows that all three fall terribly short of the Canadian immigration and assimilation efforts." Canada, he said, "has created a multicultural framework that would allow for emerging populations to build and assert their identity without endangering the western liberal ideals that the nation was built upon, a goal that is congruent with those of most European nations studied."

Pinar K. Tremblay's paper looked at dual nationality in the European Union countries. How does a multistate entity deal with the growing incidence of dual citizenship? Tremblay has collected data on the treatment of dual citizenship in the 15 old members and is currently working on the 10 new member states "which currently do not have access to the EU passport." In the post 9/11 era "management of identity becomes even more important particularly for 'non-European' residents of the EU on various levels of life, such as international travel," and access to certain rights such as voting or duties such as military service.

European Identity and Changing Policies in the Member States

The final panel, late on Saturday afternoon, took up the touchy subject of identity politics and right-wing efforts to conserve a fixed traditional identity in face of immigrants bringing with them a different ethnicity, culture, and religion.

The panelists were Veronica Hoyo (Political Science, UC San Diego), Asaf Kedar (Political Science, UC Berkeley), and Jennifer Musto (Women's Studies, UCLA). The faculty discussant was Associate Professor of Sociology Adrian Favell (UCLA).

Veronica Hoyo's paper was provocatively entitled "A New Fuhrer on the Rise?" and concerned the French voters who support Jean Marie Le Pen. Hoyo said, "The latest French Presidential elections -- May 2002 -- brought about one of the most unexpected results ever. After the first round of voting, Jean Marie Le Pen, charismatic leader and founder of the extreme right wing Front National (FN), was able to oust the incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin from the second tour of the ballot, thus effectively denying him the possibility of obtaining the coveted post of President of the French Republic. However, it was the circumstances in which Le Pen's victory took place and not the magnitude of the Lepenist vote that shocked the specialists of the French political system. Ever since the 1988 presidential election, Jean Marie Le Pen has been consistently obtaining a solid 14-15% of the vote in the first electoral round. Till 2002, the leader of the French extreme right had been perceived more as a nuisance and as a somewhat undesirable byproduct of the prevalent freedom of his country's democratic system rather than as a truly competitive candidate. Yet the mere existence of Le Pen and of his party, coupled with the alleged xenophobic and intolerant nature of a large portion of the French electorate, calls for a more detailed analysis of the electoral results in this Western European country."

Hoyo's project is "to understand who are those French individuals who cast a ballot for Jean Marie Le Pen and his Front National as well as which factors motivate their voting decisions. More specifically, by analyzing post-electoral survey data for the 1995 presidential election and the 1997 parliamentary election, I seek to provide an answer to the following research question: Which factors constitute the main determinants of the Lepenist vote? My main hypothesis is that the Lepenist vote is almost exclusively candidate-driven (as opposed to party-identified or party-driven) and that it is indeed the charismatic personality and leadership of Jean Marie Le Pen that explains his electoral successes."

Asaf Kedar proposed in his paper to view European culture as emergent and in process of construction rather than fixed. He contrasted "the civilizational collapse experienced by Europe in the first half of the twentieth century" with "the present-day multicultural challenge to the European nation-states' traditional self-understanding as relatively homogeneous cultural entities." Asaf Kedar's basic theoretical argument "is that the European project needs to be conceived as a metacultural project. By 'metaculture' I mean that dimension of politico-cultural activity where the very categories constituting the foundations of the cultural sphere are defined, negotiated, and contested." Kedar specified the essence of a needed new European culture as liberal and de-essentializing, saying that "It would be liberal in that the autonomy and liberties of the individual would constitute its legal and normative foundation, because individuals are the only irreducible loci of human life and consciousness. It would be de-essentializing in insisting that a cultural group demanding recognition for itself must at the same time be willing to recognize diversity within itself; otherwise its demands would be disingenuous and untenable in the long run."

Jennifer Lynne Musto presented a paper that attempted to disentangle EU and Dutch government policies on prostitution from those on human trafficking. "This research," she said, "endeavors to explore recent conflations of the terms prostitution and trafficking as it appears and is resuscitated in debates and policies adopted by the Dutch government, the European Union and nongovernmental organizations in the Netherlands working around issues of trafficking and prostitution." She argued that current debates over whether legalized, regulated, and decriminalized sex worker systems serve to stimulate or curb forced prostitution and trafficking are highly colored by each government's sexual ideologies.
Musto pointed to the Netherlands "as a center of tolerance and pragmatism in its regulation of prostitution," citing the October 2000 lifting of the Dutch ban on brothels. She reviewed how Dutch policy has been received, challenged, and negotiated by neighboring EU member-states and the United States. She said there has been an unwarranted "conflation of the terms prostitution and trafficking" amounting to "the haphazard merging of two distinctly different phenomenon." Musto then outlined the Draft Report that the European Experts Group on Trafficking in Human Beings presented at the EU Forum for the Prevention of Organised Crime in Brussels on October 26, 2004, to assess how the European Union is seeking to streamline trafficking policies between member-states.

Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2005