Political Support and Legitimacy in the New Europe

Research question/goal: 

There is a danger of a severe erosion of political support in the European Union. Past research has portrayed political support for EU government to be fragile already now. On one hand, there is a widespread and slowly growing identification with the Union as a political community, and citizens ideally wanted it to become responsible for more rather than less policy domains. On the other hand, EU democracy is perceived to work worse than democracy "at home", and specific EU policies - if realised at all - are bureaucratic monsters for many (Schmitt and Thomassen 1999). This precarious picture will become further complicated by the forthcoming Eastern enlargement of the Union. This will, first, affect the communitarian basis of legitimacy beliefs of EU citizens. Today, citizens' conception of a European "political community" concentrates much on the West of Europe. Many of the candidate countries from farther East are not perceived to belong to it. Second, the enlarging Union will have to redesign its political institutions and decision-making procedures. This as well cannot leave political support unaffected. Last not least, the policies of Eastern integration - in particular the expected costs of integration of new members - are likely to put the output-legitimay of the European Union (Scharpf 1999) at risk. Overall, this process might challenge the legitimacy of the multi-tiered political system of government in general - that is to say that political support for national polities might also be affected. This is all the more severe as the means and structures for the molding and formation of political attitudes, opinions and orientations (politische Willensbildung, top down) are underdeveloped at EU level. Upon this background, the research agenda of the proposed TMR network is to assess the structure of and dynamics in political support and government legitimacy in different political arenas (mainly national and European) and in different places (old and new member states and membership candidate states) in view of the established trias of support objects - policies, institutions and procedures, and the political community.

Fact sheet

2004 to 2005