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Time to go beyond interstate federalism - or something different? The response of new pro-European think tanks to the EU integration crisis

Dieter Plehwe, Werner Krämer, Moritz Neujeffski, Alexander Meland and Ulrike Guérot

Discussion Papers, Inequality and Social Policy from WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Abstract: The European financial and economic crisis has shaken traditional beliefs and confidence in a one-directional move towards an ever closer union. Discussions regarding "Grexit" and the public vote in favor of "Brexit" have signaled strong anti-EU sentiment far beyond previous instances of dissatisfaction expressed by popular votes in France and the Netherlands opposing the European constitution, for example. Mainstream European integration scholars have started to seriously address disintegration theory; once a preserve of Marxist critiques of mainstream integration scholarship. European right-wing parties, foundations and think tanks openly advocate (partial) disintegration and, in particular, aim to interrupt centrist Social Democratic, Green, Liberal and Conservative cooperation in the European Parliament. What has been the response to these conceptual and political challenges from the pro-European political forces in European politics? In the shadow of Syriza's anti-austerity campaign from Greece and Podemos' grassroots mobilization in Spain, a range of new pro-European think tanks of different political-philosophical leanings have been founded after the crisis, or developed new activities in response to the crisis. The paper will examine the publications of organizations like European Alternatives, Project for a Democratic Europe and EuropaNova in order to observe if and how a new cross-cutting network of pro-European intellectuals, think tanks and ideas address the present crisis, and if and in which ways we can speak of new conceptual and political approaches to European integration that promise innovation and progressive (in the sense of pro-European integration) learning. Do they look beyond neoliberal restrictions to Europe's "sui generis" Union (Hayek's version of interstate federalism), something closer to real (fiscal) federalism - or something different? We will also examine if and how they differ from more centrist institutional efforts to envision the future, such as those uttered by Commission officials, MEPs of the Spinelli-Group, or experts like those assembled in the Glienicker Group. Last, but not least, we will try to establish if and to what extent new conceptual efforts reverberate in pro-European integration debating platforms like Publixphere, OneEurope or Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), which are considered more likely echo chambers for pro-European integration think tanks than mainstream media.

Date: 2016
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