New articles in the European Review

ARENA professors John Erik Fossum and Hans-Jörg Trenz are both represented in the new edition of the European Review

John Erik Fossum: Norway's European Gag Rules

As part of their conflict handling repertoire, political systems possess a range of mechanisms to suppress or avoid conflicts. A closer look across Europe would yield a broad tapestry of mechanisms for handling the thorny issue of European integration, with most governments and political systems relying on some version of conflict avoidance. In this picture, one should expect that a country such as Norway, which has rejected EU membership twice, has an active and vocal anti-membership organization, and where polls consistently show a ‘no’ majority, would stand out as the exception, in the sense that there would be no need for the Norwegian political system to take any measures to suppress the issue. But reality is more complex. Since the early 1990s, when Norway entered into the EEA agreement with the EU, Norway’s relationship to the EU has changed dramatically. Norway’s current arrangement with the EU is perhaps best labelled as ‘tight incorporation without formal membership’. This situation is managed through arrangements not to raise the EU membership issue. In this article, I rely on Stephen Holmes’s notion of ‘gag rules’, as a particular means of issue avoidance. This mechanism speaks of how actors seek to remove debate on a controversial issue that does not go away: it is a matter of stymieing debate on the issue but not stopping to deal with it. If anything, the lid on debate on EU membership helps the political system to keep alive an active process of Norwegian adaptation to the EU, with serious implications for Norwegian democracy.

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Hans-Jörg Trenz: In Search of the Popular Subject: Identity Formation, Constitution-making and the Democratic Consolidation of the EU

This article addresses the critical issue of how constitutional designing of the EU is related to the expression of collective identities. A European collective identity is perceived in terms of the discursive representation of the underlying demos of a European democracy. Against the common view that holds the self-identified political community as prior and independent of constitutional designing, it is claimed that democracy rather operates through the identification of popular subjectness. The demos is signified and recognised as distinct and internally coherent through democratic practice. In the empirical part, it is tested out to what extent public debates on EU-constitution-making were linked to the identification of the popular subject of democracy. By drawing on a comparative media survey of constitutional debates from 2002–2007, the article distinguishes different markers of collective identities (national, European or multiple) that were used for representing and signifying democratic subjects in the EU.

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Published Oct. 19, 2010 4:20 PM - Last modified Dec. 14, 2010 2:52 PM