Europe’s triangular challenge: Differentiation, dominance and democracy

EU3D Research Papers, No. 1, December 2019 (SSRN)

John Erik Fossum


Present-day EU is facing strong internal and external centrifugal pulls, clearly exacerbated by Brexit. A key question is what ties the EU together and whether EU member states will continue on the same integrationist track. A change from dif­ferent speeds of integration to a more open-ended situation with forces driving dis-integration (in a uniform or a differentiated manner) raises questions not only of cohesion and governing ability, but of social support, not the least since some forms of post-crises differentiation are associated with dominance. At the same time, there is no doubt that differentiation (in policy, legal and institutional terms) has been an important means for managing conflict and for containing (and localising) disagreement. In this circumstance, it is not clear if differentiation is part of the problem or part of the solution. EU3D’s main purpose is to clarify the conditions under which differentiation is supportive of democracy and the conditions under which differentiation is associated with dominance. To address that, EU3D under­takes conceptual clarification, causal analysis and normative evaluation. Conceptual clarification specifies the three core terms – differentiation, dominance and democracy – and how they are related, and spells out criteria and mechanisms for guiding the empirical analysis. EU3D provides an overview assessment of EU polity differentiation and discusses the implications for dominance and democracy. That is complemented with a causal analysis of the specific mechanisms that we may associate with post-crises differentiation-engendered dominance and the mechanisms that we may associate with forms of democratic push-back. In the last section, the focus is on normative evaluation. We outline and assess a range of constitutional models that we consider in relation to our assessment of the EU and proposals for EU reform and assess their empirical veracity and normative viability. These assessments are summed up in a theory of democratic differentiation.


Crises, Democracy, Differentiated integration, Differentiation, Dominance, European Union

Published Dec. 19, 2019 3:42 PM - Last modified Dec. 19, 2019 3:42 PM