CERiM’s research agenda Reshaping Europe in a Globalising World  focuses on how Europe is responding to and is having an effect on developments at the global level, be they of political, legal or social nature. CERiM researchers examine how global conditions and internal dynamics have been changing Europe, past and present, and assess whether and how Europe may continue to be a salient actor in the international arena. In both respects, the preservation and development of European values and achievements – such as the welfare state, fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and last but not least the European integration process itself – are an important focus of CERiM research.

The relevance of CERiM’s research agenda lies firstly in its contribution to academic and societal debates in a time marked by ongoing uncertainties and various crises, such as security challenges, refugees and migration issues and the ongoing economic and financial crisis. Secondly, CERiM is one of the few EU research centres that aim to address these pertinent issues from multi- and interdisciplinary angles bringing together prominent scholars from the fields of law, political science and history. The distinctive approach of CERiM may also be seen in its research methods combing historical and empirical inquiry, legal analysis, normative evaluation, and theoretical and conceptual development. Thirdly, CERiM brings together more than one hundred researchers from PhD candidate to distinguished professor, thus enabling CERiM to make contributions to various ongoing issues at the same time.

At CERiM, we strongly believe in the relevance of both conducting cutting-edge academic research and contributing to public debates. CERiM members contribute to scholarship in European studies by means of high quality scientific publications. Public events, blogs, op-eds and a series of Jean Monnet lectures open to the general public help to translate that research into society. In both these ways, CERiM research matters.

Under the umbrella of the overall theme, CERiM’s research agenda is focused on four main research themes:


1 – Differentiation and Flexible Integration

The study of European integration has traditionally started from the idea that the EU institutions and the decision-making procedures as laid down by the Treaties are the most significant forum of regional governance. Over the last decades however, Member States have increasingly resorted to more flexible arrangements such as partial memberships, governance in parallel structures or loose commitments to intensified cooperation among a select group of countries. In some cases, these formats of cooperation are governed by EU law, in others by international treaties or other forms of cross-border collaboration – the latter two taking up historically significant 19th and 20th century formats of European and international cooperation. Whether it concerns economic and monetary policy (the European Monetary Union), freedom of movement (Schengen) or specific areas of regulation governing the internal market (such as in the case of genetically modified organisms), increasingly one needs to look beyond the EU institutions. Moreover, in times of growing Euro-scepticism and seemingly irreconcilable political interests the prospect of a European Union at different speeds or levels seems to be both a logical and also normatively attractive outcome. In light of these developments, CERiM researchers address the following aspects of differentiation and flexible integration:

  • The contextualisation of flexible and differentiated integration: The observation of this phenomenon is not entirely new and innate to the European Union. Through a comparison with the governance structures in other world regions and within other international organizations we can better understand the specificity of the EU’s own experience. Historical research plays a crucial role to facilitate such a comparison across time.
  • The political and legal conditions of flexible and differentiated integration: Why and under which conditions may and do the Member States deviate from the ‘traditional’ manner of integration, i.e. a significant transfer of competences and regulatory harmonisation? What are the motivations for Member States to opt-in or out of a specific arrangement? The role of Euro-scepticism, national interests, politicization and potential mechanisms of control over delegated powers are but a few of the issues addressed.
  • The apprehension of the consequences of flexible and differentiated integration: In terms of the future integration project, the nature of the EU political and legal order may become increasingly fuzzy. Here fundamental questions arise as to the ‘core’ of the European Union, its legal order, and its membership. Likewise, the flexible arrangements will also affect the institutional structures and policy outcomes we observe and ultimately have an impact on the perceived input and output legitimacy of EU decision-making.

Meet the CERiM Members working on this theme, take a look at the contributions published on our blog or read about the different events we have organized on this subject and the past and ongoing projects.


2 – Constitutionalising Europe

The process of constitutionalisation of the European Union is a complex development and one of major significance for the process of integration in the European Union. A more inclusive definition of constitutionalisation goes beyond the phenomenon of European legal integration and relates to various processes and core principles of significance in the legal order of the European Union, as well as the political processes and legitimating ideas driving this development. The process of constitutionalisation tends to confer a constitutional status to the legal framework of the EU. In this regard, it also gives increasing salience to principles enshrined in (national) constitutions, such as representative democracy, separation of powers, fundamental political and social rights and a liberal economic order. In this regard, CERiM researchers examine more closely how such a process of constitutionalisation unfolds and probe into the legal, democratic and societal ramifications of this development.

There are two areas in which these general issues are studied specifically by CERiM researchers: First, we examine the relation between national constitutions and European integration. National constitutions stipulate limits to supranational integration as well as postulate national values and identities that are to be reflected in the process of EU integration. CERiM researchers address the issues of democratic accountability and living practices in how written constitutional principles are given shape in the EU context both through the examination of law and legal changes but also practices both at the EU institutional level as well as the national (constitutional) courts. Hereby the study of fundamental rights is of key importance. Second, CERiM researchers look into specific fields of law and policy where the process of constitutionalisation has a growing relevance such as that of security, economic or health policies. Policy-making in these fields is studied in relation to constitutional values or political principles such as accountability, protection of fundamental rights and openness and transparency. This discussion is also relevant regarding the way in which the EU is responding to the various crises facing Europe, often under conditions of high uncertainty and extreme time pressure. Think about the refugee crisis or the economic and financial crisis in which values such as transparency, fundamental rights, solidarity and democratic legitimacy are put to the test. Similarly, questions of citizens (lack of) trust in the ‘European project’ are addressed, also in a historical perspective.

Meet the CERiM Members working on this theme, take a look at the contributions published on our blog or read about the different events we have organized on this subject and the past and ongoing projects.


3 – European Governance and Market Integration

European governance is in a continuous state of flux. The demand for effective policy solutions along with pressures for transparency and greater legitimacy has triggered a period of reflection and internal re-structuring. To combat overregulation, an ambitious agenda on ‘better regulation’ was launched which not only seeks to reduce the amount of red tape, but also promotes the involvement of various stakeholders and the use of expertise in an ever more complex regulatory setting.

Against this background, research at CERiM aims to improve the understanding of EU regulation and the processes through which it is created. Covering a great variety of policy domains from banking to economic policy and from migration to risk regulation, research at the Centre explores historical path dependencies, the regulatory challenges in these areas, the variation in governance arrangements, and the conditions under which particular actors and groups have or have not been able to influence the decision-making process and its outcomes. Due attention is given to the formal and informal politics and administrative law and procedures through which the European institutions, its many agencies and consultative bodies negotiate and coordinate.

The Centre also weighs in on the recurrent normative criticisms of European governance, for instance regarding its capacity to safeguard social equality and solidarity, and to effectively solve problems. Moreover, we explore criticisms regarding a lack of legitimacy and accountability in EU decision-making. One focus in this respect is on the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments, which both have been empowered by consecutive treaty reforms. CERiM researchers are probing into both the functioning of the EP and the role of national parliaments as scrutinizers of EU policy, and also examine the ways in which experts and bureaucrats interact with these democratically legitimated bodies. Moreover, questions of transparency of the EU policy process get into the focus of CERiM research.

Meet the CERiM Members working on this theme, take a look at the contributions published on our blog or read about the different events we have organized on this subject and the past and ongoing projects.


4 – Europe and the World

CERiM research integrates theoretical and conceptual insights from a wide range of perspectives in international relations, the social sciences, history, and international law to address EU external relations. The European Union aims to strengthen its international role and identity in a variety of international fields: trade, development aid, energy, diplomacy, military and civilian missions.

CERiM researchers employ their expertise on a wide range of these topics to study the making of the EU’s foreign policy, and understand its drivers, its (lack of) coherence and its (potential) outcomes at the global level. At the same time, the distribution of competencies between the Member States and the European Union varies significantly across these domains, giving rise to tricky legal and political questions. We also explore how the EU’s actions deviate depending on the partner with whom and the forum in which it conducts its foreign policy. Its agenda in the European Neighbourhood differs from that in North-America or South-East Asia. While this calls for specialised regional expertise with a strong historical component, it also opens up the prospect for comparative research. Likewise, the behaviour of the EU in various international organisations is a topic of research.

Apart from the broader geographical and policy focus, CERiM seeks to further exploit the expertise developed on European Administrative Governance. The Lisbon Treaty marks many significant changes including the emergence of an EU Diplomatic System. Research within CERiM seeks to understand the repercussions of this internal re-structuring not only on the EU’s external representation but also on its effectiveness in the international arena.  The international action of the EU is founded on the values of respect for freedom, democracy, and human rights. CERiM researchers inquire whether and to what extent the EU is able to promote these values through a variety of mechanisms and whether it may be deemed as a successful ‘soft’ or  ‘normative’ power.

The external dimension of security policies and the EU’s international role as a security actor is also scrutinized, particularly in the contexts of transnational terrorism and geopolitical developments at its Eastern and Southern borders. In both of these areas, there are important intra-EU ramifications of security measures. Surveillance and privacy protection as well as EU energy policy are two preeminent examples.

Meet the CERiM Members working on this theme, take a look at the contributions published on our blog or read about the different events we have organized on this subject and the past and ongoing projects.