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Article

Higher Education Policy in the European Union  

Dorota Dakowska

Whether higher education (HE) can be defined as a European Union (EU) policy has been matter of debate. Formally, education is still a domestic prerogative, and in principle, the EU can only support and supplement national governments’ initiatives in the sector. Yet, this official division of tasks has been challenged in many ways over the last decades. First, the history of European integration shows that the European community took an early interest in educational matters. The Treaty of Rome established a community competency on vocational training. Subsequently, the European Commission framed HE and vocational training as two entangled policies. Second, the EU institutions, the member states, and noninstitutional actors have coordinated in innovative ways, through soft governance processes promoted by the Bologna Process and the EU Lisbon—and later Europe 2020—strategy, to impose a European HE governance based on standards and comparison. Third, the study of HE requires going beyond an EU-centric perspective, with international organizations such as the OECD and the Council of Europe cooperating closely with the European Commission. HE has been increasingly shaped by global trends, such as the increased competition between universities. The mechanisms of European HE policy change have elicited academic debates. Three main explanations have been put forward: the power of instruments and standards, the impact of the Commission’s funding schemes, and the influence of interconnected experts, stakeholders and networks. Domestic translations of European recommendations are highly diverse and reveal a gap between formal adaptations and local practices. Twenty years after the Bologna declaration, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) presents a mixed picture. On the one hand, increased mobility and the growing interconnectedness of academic schemes facilitate the launch of ambitious projects such as the “European universities.” On the other hand, concerns are periodically raised about the growing bureaucratization of the process and the widening gap between the small world of the Brussels stakeholders and everyday academic practices in EHEA participant countries. Paradoxically, smaller and non-EU countries have been more actively involved in advancing the EHEA than large, older EU member states.

Article

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights in its Foreign Relations  

Markus Thiel

Despite ongoing challenges, the European Union (EU) not only is a major actor on the world stage, but also emphasizes human rights for LGBTI individuals in its internal and external policies, thus setting a powerful example for acceptance and inclusion worldwide. While this establishes the EU as a presumptive normative actor from a liberal human rights perspective, a number of disputes over those rights policies and the way they are promoted have emerged in bilateral relations between the EU and other states in recent years. Given Europe’s colonial history, the fact that the bloc is collectively the world’s largest provider of development assistance, and the volatility of LGBTI human rights defenders, it is important to investigate how the EU and its member states promote LGBTI rights internationally. The EU institutions attempt to jointly formulate and implement guidelines for the external promotion of such rights, though no uniform rights standards exist across the various member states. The compatibility of EU and member states’ conceptions of LGBTI rights and the more general question of how far the EU is, can, or should be a “normative” agenda-setting power on the world stage are central. This heavily contested but also popular ideational concept glosses over the limited consensus that exists in the EU with regard to many of its policies and the role it should assume in international affairs. Such incoherence is particularly evident in normatively contested and geopolitically intertwined areas like sexual rights and equality (ranging from nondiscrimination based on sexual and gender expression to positive rights of partnership recognition and childcare). To the extent that a common approach on LGBTI rights is developed, one can detect promotion attempts in the external policy areas in which rights promotion is formulated and diffused, namely in development and foreign aid, in enlargement and neighborhood policies, and in exchange with other international organizations. However, these come with their own politicizing issues, so that alternatives to the presently emphasized conditionality and visibility policies may provide a better way forward.

Article

Space, Mobility and Legitimacy  

Ettore Recchi

While migration has always existed, and its consequences have always been important, few people have lived a mobile life in the history of mankind. Population immobility has recurrently been part and parcel of political strategies of social control and domination. Since the second half of the 20th century, however, the extent of geographical movements of individuals has expanded enormously. In particular, the size and scope of international travel has increased at an exponential pace. Favored by globalization and technological progress, transnationalism, initially linked to migration, has emerged as a relatively widespread phenomenon that involves a growing portion of the general population, especially, but not only, in developed countries. Mainly on the basis of research carried out in Europe, there is evidence that transnational practices tend to strengthen cosmopolitanism and the legitimacy of supranational polities (particularly the European Union [EU]), while it is less clear whether they entail denationalization. Further research is needed to improve the quality of independent and dependent variables in this area and assess the effect of international mobility and transnationalism outside the European context.

Article

Legitimacy and European Union Politics  

Achim Hurrelmann

Political scientists use the concept of legitimacy to assess the rightfulness of political rule. Their research can approach legitimacy from two perspectives: When taking a normative approach, political scientists develop and justify their own evaluation of the rightfulness of political arrangements. When taking an empirical approach, they study how other people—such as political elites or citizens—evaluate the rightfulness of political rule. Both approaches have been used in research on the European Union. Scholarly discussions that approach the EU’s legitimacy from a normative perspective revolve around the question of which standards of rightfulness are appropriate for the EU. These depend largely on how the EU polity is conceptualized: as a technocratic regulatory agency, an intergovernmental organization, a federation, a demoi-cracy, or a system of multilevel governance. Since the EU is hybrid polity that possesses elements of each of these models, and is therefore difficult to classify, no consensus has emerged in this debate. Scholarship that approaches the EU’s legitimacy as an empirical phenomenon examines political attitudes and discourses in European society, asking whether, and why, societal actors treat the EU as legitimate. A diverse set of research methods—including public opinion surveys, content analysis of different kinds of texts, and qualitative interviews with citizens—have been applied to shed light on this question. While this research has not provided clear evidence of a “legitimacy crisis” of the EU, it does show that many Europeans relate to the EU with a sense of diffuse unease and skepticism, in part because they find it opaque and difficult to understand.