Vertical vs. Horizontal Modes of European Integration. A Pivotal Distinction that Helps Identifying Drivers for Transnational Collective Action

05.12.2019 - 12:00 to 13:30
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB A-Kolloquium
Prof. Roland Erne
Lecturer affiliation: 
University College Dublin

European trade unions play a major role in democratic interest intermediation. This role is currently threatened by the increasingly authoritarian strain in EU’s new economic governance (NEG). Roland Erne’s current ERC research project therefore aims to explore the challenges and possibilities that the NEG poses to labour politics. Until recently, European labour politics has mainly been shaped by horizontal market integration through the free movement of goods, capital, services and people. After the financial crisis, the latter has been complemented by vertical integration effected through the direct surveillance of member states.

The resulting NEG opens contradictory possibilities for labour movements in Europe. On the one hand, the reliance of the NEG on vertical surveillance makes decisions taken in its name more tangible, offering concrete targets for contentious transnational collective action (Erne 2018). On the other hand, however, the NEG mimics the governance structures of multinational firms, by using key performance indicators that put countries in competition with one another (Erne 2015). This constitutes a deterrent to transnational collective action. The NEG’s interventionist and competitive strains also pose the threat of nationalist counter-movements, thus making European collective action ever more vital for the future of EU integration and democracy.

In his MZES presentation, Roland Erne will present first findings of his ERC Project “Labour Politics and the EU’s New Economic Goverance Regime” ( which aims

  • To understand the interrelation between NEG and existing ‘horizontal’ EU economic governance; and the shifts in labour politics triggered by NEG;
  • To open up novel analytical approaches that are able to capture both national and transnational social processes at work;
  • To analyse the responses of established unions and new social movements to NEG in different areas of labour politics (namely wage and industrial relations policy as well as the provision of public services in the water, health, and urban transport sectors).

Erne, R. (2019) 'How To Analyse A Supranational Regime That Nationalises Social Conflict? The European Crisis, Labour Politics and Methodological Nationalism', in: Nanopoulos, E. and Vergis, F. (eds.) The Crisis Behind the Euro-Crisis: The Euro-Crisis as Systemic Multi-Dimensional Crisis of the EU. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 346-368. Full text available here.

Erne, R. (2018) 'Labour Politics and the EU's New Economic Governance Regime (European Unions): A new European Research Council project', Transfer, 24(2): 237-247. Full text available here.

Erne, R. (2015) 'A supranational regime that nationalizes social conflict. Explaining European trade unions' difficulties in polticizing European economic governance'. Labor History, 56 (3): 345-368. Full text available here.