Notes on the ‘Politics’ of EU Politicisation

ARENA Working Paper 1/2021 (pdf)

Niilo Kauppi and Hans-Jörg Trenz

Image may contain: Terrestrial plant, Font, Pattern, Circle.This paper proposes an understanding of politicisation as the field of contestation about the political. Applied to the contested field of EU governance, the argument is that EU politicisation cannot be understood without analysis of its synergy with EU depoliticised governance. We will start with a discussion of some of the dimensions and modalities of (de)politicisation and follow with analysis of EU (de)politicisation in relation to the political field and public sphere. To understand the ‘politics of politicisation’, we demarcate the field of political struggle and locate the wider public and societal resonances of such a struggle over the political. The research programme for the analysis of the ‘politics of EU-politicisation’ then refers to the wider processes of how political conflicts are selectively amplified to create public visibility, how attention among relevant publics is unequally distributed, how opinions of these publics are formed and, ultimately as well, how legitimacy (or de-legitimation) is generated. After delineating possible research directions, we finish with some comments on EU (de)politicisation as a rupture from national politics and the competitive and multi-level merging of political fields and public spheres through the transnational encounter of agents and publics. This chaotic process has unpredictable outcomes for EU-legitimacy, but nevertheless opens a European field where political contestation meets with societal resonance with possibilities of reflexivity and democratic learning for both institutional agents and publics involved. This working paper thus contributes with insights into the conditions for EU democratisation, which is a core concern for EU3D (in particular in Work package 4, which focuses on public opinions, debates and reforms).


This paper was first published as EU3D Research Papers, No. 5 at SSRN. Available at:

Tags: European Integration, European Public Sphere, Europscepticism, Politicisation
Published Mar. 2, 2021 11:14 AM - Last modified Nov. 3, 2021 11:47 AM