CFP: The new politics of EU trade policy: (potential) consequences of parliamentarisation and politicisation

Call for papers for workshop to be held at the Centre for European Research at the University of Gothenburg (CERGU) in December 2016. The deadline for abstract submission is 15 August.

Demonstrations against TTIP (photo: Jakob Huber/Stop TTIP/Flickr)

Date: 1-2 December 2016

Venue: Centre for European Research, University of Gothenburg

The Lisbon Treaty triggered a small revolution in the field of trade by introducing codecision and requiring the European Parliament’s (EP) consent to trade agreements. While emerging powers are changing the global playing field and trade policy is seen as crucial to resuscitate the EU economy after the financial crisis, the EU is facing increasing pressure from within. In addition, there is increasing pressure from outside: several of the EU’s trade negotiations, and in particular the talks with the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have caused major contestation and mobilization among civil society organizations as well as the public at large. This workshop aims to answer the question of how these processes of parliamentarisation and politicisation affect the EU's trade policies.

Workshop themes

Trade policy used to be dominated by the EU’s executive powers, and the Council was very unwilling to let the EP interfere (Vanhoonacker 2011). Now it has no choice. Currently under negotiation, an agreement such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is too big to fail, and to avoid the chance of a veto the EP gets to impact on the EU–US talks. Yet, despite the EP’s increase in decision-­making capacity and power, little is known about how it influences trade policy or how its new role has been accommodated by the usual suspects in the field, such as Directorate General (DG) for Trade and the Trade Policy Committee. For decades, the EP has had a profile of defending and promoting a principled foreign policy, thus one could expect that it would use its new powers to demand more focus on a principled foreign policy. But trade policy may also trigger concerns of particular national importance – as was the case with Italian and German car manufacturers regarding the EU–South Korea Free Trade Agreement. This might result in situations where national interests conflict with a more principled approach.

Thus, we invite papers that focus on if and how the EP has contributed to shape the EU’s trade policy.

Moreover, previous studies have argued convincingly that given the chance to make a real impact, the EP opts for a conciliatory approach where it forfeits its preferences and instead aims to show itself as a responsible actor (Ripoll-­Servent 2013). In addition, the EP is a newcomer to the field, and other actors such as the Commission may try to coopt the Parliament using superior expertise and experience. To what extent is the lack of expert knowledge for instance a hurdle for the EP to be able to make substantial changes? Does it have sufficient resources to challenge technical aspects of trade files, or does it, in general, resort to more cosmetic changes? Although the EP has gained substantial new powers, there is no guarantee that it will be able – or willing – to translate its powers into influence.

Thus, we would also invite papers that explore the mechanisms and conditions for the EP’s ability to make an impact on trade policy.

Finally, one of the big fears among member states when there was talk of extending the EP’s powers in the field of trade was that Members of European Parliament (MEPs) would contribute to politicize debates on trade agreements and legislation, making it an even more unruly policy field. A current challenge for the EU is the rising conflict about some of its trade negotiations, particularly that with the US on TTIP. One question is what characterises the public mobilization over EU trade policy. Does it have implications for the policy-­making process, and does it get intertwined with the debate about the EU at large? Contested policy issues also challenge the responsiveness of MEPs. As elected representatives, their job is to be sensitive to the considerations of their citizens. At the same time, it is reasonable to expect that MEPs will also try to steer the public debate to further their own agendas. Thus, another question is if and how the processes of parliamentarization and politicization interact? How does the EP respond to mobilization among civil society and the public, and are there some topics that MEPs are keen to engage with, and some they shy away from?

We welcome papers that focus on the broader implications of politicising EU trade policy. In addition, papers that address how processes of politicisation affect, and are affected by, activities within the European Parliament are encouraged to apply.

The aim of the workshop is to produce an application for a special issue in a major European journal that will include a selected number of papers.

Abstract submission

Those interested should submit an abstract of no more than 300 words to Guri Rosén by 15 August 2016

Workshop convener

  • Guri Rosén, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo and CERGU, University of Gothenburg
Published July 11, 2016 11:20 AM - Last modified July 11, 2016 11:26 AM