Claudia Wiesner shortly wrapped up the conference discussion. She said that the participants had heard about different challenges the EU and democracy are facing in these days and argued that theses challenges are interrelated: the actions of the European Central Bank during the sovereign debt crisis for instance, are related to an increase of populism.
Moreover she resumed that the conference had not only been discussing the EU, but also representative democracy in a larger perspective. Most speakers agreed that crisis talk is omnipresent yet often not adequate, as the challenges or problems the EU faces are not necessarily a crisis, but rather critical moments. It is not that life and death of the European Union is at stake. However, the presentations indicated a number of problem fields and a number of sources of democratic deconsolidation, growing inequality, the downsides of economic liberalism, populist protest, problems of representative democracy and participation. All of these phenomena are interrelated facets of what is discussed as “the EU´s crisis”. Moreover, the EU as such furthers on the one hand de-democratisation by enhancing expert governance and by bypassing democratic procedures, which increases the problems discussed at the conference. On the other hand, the EU generated new forms of citizen participation, yet the question is in how far they remedy the legitimacy problems.
Finally, Claudia Wiesner asked the panel discussants to each present a short statement on the question whether politicisation could be a solution or an obstacle to the discussed problems?
The next discussant Luis Bouza opened his statement with the prophecy that politicisation is here to stay within the European Union. Yet, he claimed that we need to differentiate between different forms of politicisation as well as different forms of crisis. Politicisation on the EU-level means something different than politicisation on the national level. He confirmed that politicisation is not automatic, but a result of political initiatives, it can be driven by national or transnational actors. Bouza described Emmanuel Macron as an interesting figure: on the one hand, he is a neoliberal, on the other hand, he counteracts the tendency of neoliberals to depoliticise the EU and politicises EU affairs. Politicisation and technocratisation are not the only alternatives. We can observe politicisation (ex. Spitzenkandidaten procedure), but we can also observe a shift in technocracy, technopopulism and politicisations which trust in technocratic solutions.
The last discussant Meike Schmidt-Gleim, continued the discussion by claiming that politicisation is neither negative nor positive by itself. She confirmed the position of the precedent discussant that politicisation is about opening up alternatives, about making the fundamental contingency of the present status quo visible, and she claimed that the outcome of politicisation depends on how something is politicised, on what is the hegemonic discourse of politicisation. Therefore, she proposed to ask why the reputation of politicisation within the EU is so negatively connotated in many contributions? She claimed that low voter turn-outs of the EU election are not due to politicisation, but due to a too ‘depoliticised public’ – depoliticized not in the sense that the subject matters are not politically discussed within the EU context, but in a sense that the EU did not generate sufficient identification of its subjects as EU-citizens: EU-sceptical politicisation is due to the failed construction of a European demos, of a common public, of a common interest. Instead of becoming a part of the ‘us’, the EU became the other of these citizens, ‘us’, the people against ‘them’ the EU.
After her intervention, Schmidt-Gleim noted that during the previous two days there had been a lot of talk about the ambiguous fact that the concept of crisis was being used in an inflationary way and at the same time that something actually was at stake. She said it would be interesting to find out how the two perspectives mentioned are related to each other and how the inflationary crisis tries to blind society from the real crisis or whether the inflationary crisis is part of the “real” crisis.