ARENA at the Nordic Political Science Congress

ARENA contributed extensively to two workshops under the Nordic Political Science Congress in August. The themes discussed were the EU in the world and expert rule, respectively.

Photo: University of Gothenburg

The 2014 Nordic Political Science Congress was hosted by the University of Gothenburg and the Nordic Political Science Association (NoPSA) in Gothenburg on 12-15 August 2014. The Congress composed of a total of 37 workshops organised along different areas of research within political science, political theory and international relations.

The EU in the world

The role for the EU in the world is increasingly being challenged from multiple sources and positions. We witness changes in the world’s constellations of power, notably with the rise of ‘emerging powers’, coupled with financial and economic uncertainty. There is possibly even an ideational lack of confidence in the European project itself.

The workshop The European Union in the World aimed to address how these fluctuating circumstances are affecting the external dimension of EU policy and ‘actorness’, integration in foreign and security policy and perceptions of the EU in the international arena. ARENA's Prof. Helene Sjursen was co-sponsor of this workshop.

Helene Sjursen discussed Norway's EU affiliation in the field of foreign and security policy (Photo: Anke Schmidt-Felzmann)

Questions such as how these changes are affecting the EU’s capacity to act, its ability to address problems of coherence and legitimacy and the EU’s use of normative justification and ability to act as a normative power, were all central to the discussion. The workshop was attended by both junior and senior scholars working with EU foreign policy and the external dimension of the EU. ARENA’s research group on the EU’s foreign and security policy contributed with several papers.

Helene Sjursen addressed Norway’s close affiliation to the EU in the field of foreign and security policy and questioned whether or not this is problematic from a democratic perspective. Through a study of the EU Maritime Security Strategy and the Atalanta mission, Marianne Riddervold addressed if, and if so how, the European Commission de facto influences EU foreign and security policies beyond its delegated powers. Johanna Strikwerda discussed the role of the European Commission in the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and why member states accepted the Defence and Security Procurement Directive when there is seemingly no role for supranational governance in this field. Finally, Tine Brøgger focused on the Lancaster House Treaties between the UK and France, seeking to explain why these treaties were established outside, as opposed to inside, the EU framework.

Should the experts rule?

Another workshop addressed the tensions between epistocratic considerations and democratic norms, the epistemic dimension of democracy, and expert accountability and legitimacy in policy-making. The workshop Was Plato right? Should the experts rule? was chaired by ARENA’s Cathrine Holst together with Prof. Bo Rothstein from the University of Gothenburg.

Whereas some contributions focused on the theoretical and/or normative aspects related to expert rule, others were more empirically oriented and focused on existing expertise arrangements. While many of the empirical contributions focused on the EU, some contributions also addressed expert-driven policy-making in Italy, Finland and Norway. The workshop setting allowed for and facilitated discussions that both addressed the larger questions related to the topics at hand, but also allowed for detailed discussions on the particularities of each paper presented.

ARENA's research group on the EPISTO project, lead by Cathrine Holst, was well represented. Holst discussed the accountability of economists and economic expertise in EU policy-making in light of the economic crises in the EU and the potential development of institutional mechanism that promote epistemic diversity as a mechanism for controlling experts. Holst was also the co-author of a paper with Anders Molander examining the conditions for legitimate expert arrangements within a democratic order and distinctions between epistemic democracy and epistocracy.

The Expert Group on Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion is one of the groups consulted by the European Commission (Photo: European Commission)

John Moodie argued that the European Commission has reinterpreted external criticism and demands in a way that can both satisfy their critics, while maintaining the existing internal culture and structures built on widespread consultation of experts and evidence-based policy-making through the existing Community Method. Silje H. Tørnblad analysed the role of the European Commission expert groups. She argued that as many of the groups seem to be filling other roles than instrumental, problem-solving functions, there is a need for a more suitable institutional framework for these groups. In addition, Guri Rosén contributed a co-authored paper with Anne Elizabeth Stie (University of Agder) discussing elite accountability in the field of EU foreign policy.

The workshop was to some extent a continuation of the international workshop ‘Epistemic Democracy in Practice’ at Yale University, organized by the Yale Program on Democracy and the Research Programme Democracy as Idea and Practice at the University of Oslo in October 2011.

Published Sep. 17, 2014 3:28 PM - Last modified Sep. 18, 2014 11:04 AM