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The changing space for EU politics

The changing space for EU politics

Olaf Cramme

11 October 2011


The casualties of the 2007-08 global financial crisis are already numerous, ranging from sustained output losses and far-reaching social aftershocks to dismal public finances. Today, many now fear that democracy and representation will be the next victim.

In the European Union, in particular, the sovereign debt crisis seems to undermine popular perceptions of democratic politics at a time when deeper EU integration is being fast-tracked, driven by the sheer economic necessity of avoiding euro area break-up, or worse still, large-scale disintegration. The outcome will be a new “conditionality regime” pledging to guard Europe from future turmoil.

Against this background, this paper re-visits the debate about the EU’s alleged, perceived or real “democratic deficit”. It does so by looking at the changing space for EU politics and how political parties, both on the left and right, need to adapt in order to provide meaningful choices vis-à-vis European integration. It concludes that on current form politics will struggle to sustain Europe's direction of travel.

Olaf Cramme is director of Policy Network and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics' European Institute. He comments on politics, EU affairs and social democracy on Twitter @olafcramme.


1. Introduction

2. The nature of democratic politics in the European polity

3. Policy conditionality in times of crisis

4. The changing space for EU politics

5. Can there be clear ideological differences in a crisis-driven EU?

Tags: European integration , EU politics , political space , eurozone crisis , Olaf Cramme , democratic deficit

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