Interdisciplinary Marie Curie Workshop

The first international and interdisciplinary Marie Curie Workshop took place in Liverpool with the theme ‘Post-financial Crisis Governance in Europe: Legitimacy, Democracy and Competition’ on 13 June 2014. The workshop was well attended by students and staff. The speakers and abstracts of papers were as follows:  

Angela Wigger (Roudbound University Nijmegen), ‘The Role of Capitalist Competition and its Regulation in the Economic and Financial Crisis. A Critical Political Economy Perspective on EU Competition Control’ 

Abstract: the global financial and economic crisis is only seldom linked to capitalist competition and its regulation; yet there is a connection. In her presentation, Angela Wigger will focus first, on the role of capitalist competition as a potential root cause of the current crisis. She will link – what will be outlined as overcompetition – to financialisation processes and the historically unprecedented record of mergers and acquisitions prior to the outbreak of the crisis, which have increasingly been undertaken also by short-term oriented financial market actors, including private equity houses, hedge funds and other institutional investors. Second, she will explain how the adoption and ensuing adaptations of the supranational merger control at the level of the European Union (EU) have facilitated not only economic concentration, but also the role of financial market players therein. Third, she will seek to explain there are no signs of a wider paradigm shift in the neoliberal type of competition regulation that has prevailed ever since the mid-1980s.

Nikos Skoutaris (University Of East Anglia And London School Of Economics), ‘On Sovereign Debt Crisis And Sovereignty: A Constitutional Law Perspective On The Greek Crisis’

Abstract: The Financial Assistance Packages (or ‘Memoranda’ as are commonly referred to in Greece) have triggered a debate among lawyers, public intellectuals, politicians and judges on the threat that they pose to the Greek sovereignty. The present paper is situated within this debate. It argues, first, that while ratifying and implementing the Financial Assistance Packages has been nothing more than a voluntary act made by a sovereign state that failed to effectively meet its economic obligations by reference to the markets, still, such ratification and implementation of the ‘Memoranda’ impedes the very foundations of popular sovereignty as described in the Greek constitution. The reason being that the ratification and implementation procedure of the ‘Memoranda’ has showed flagrant disrespect of Articles 28 and 36 of the Greek Constitution and thus of popular sovereignty. Second, it focuses on how the growing practice of the Greek governments to issue acts of legislative content instead of laws in order to avoid parliamentary scrutiny further deconstructs rule of law by shedding light on the legal procedure that led to the closure of the public broadcaster. Finally, the paper assesses the impact of the austerity measures on social rights by analyzing relevant decisions of the Social Rights’ Committee of the Council of Europe.

Firat Cengiz (Liverpool University), EU’s Democratic Deficit and Competition Policy: What Role for Citizens?

Abstract: with the sovereign debt crisis, the EU’s notoriously grave democratic deficit has reached a new climax. Before the crisis, the proponents of the European regulatory state relied on output legitimacy arguments – i.e. superior economic policies would win over the politically alienated citizens. It appears more difficult now than ever to convince EU citizens with this argument, as they face the daunting implications of myopic economic policies and austerity measures in their everyday lives. This paper argues that the EU is obliged to fix its relationship with citizens to survive the crisis as a polity capable of accomplishing the objectives set for it in the founding Treaties. The paper further argues that the institutional solutions to the democratic deficit, such as the citizens’ initiative, have failed to serve this aim so far. Instead, citizens should be anchored firmly to the making of policies they benefit from, such as the EU competition policy. After analysing the recent reform of EU competition policy, the paper finds the contribution of citizens to the reform process unsatisfactory. Thus, the EU institutions’ approach to reform process appears self-defeating not only for EU competition policy alone but the EU as an economic integration in general.

Diego Muro (Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals) “Unemployment – Democracy’s Worst Enemy? – Political Disaffection and the Economic Crisis in Southern Europe”

Abstract: The Southern periphery of the European Union experienced a profound transformation since 2008. The rapid economic deterioration of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain was accompanied by a substantial increase in citizens’ mistrust towards national political institutions. Using quantitative data for eleven EU member states from 2003 to 2013, this paper evaluates the fitness of competing theories in explaining this shift in political attitudes in Southern European countries. On the one hand, we hypothesise that political disaffection changes according to institutional performance. On the other hand, we hypothesise that political disaffection is explained by citizen’s rationalist evaluations of changing macroeconomic performance. The paper argues that the economic crisis acts as an external shock that puts politics, politicians and institutions in the spotlight indistinctively due to citizen’s sociotropic evaluations of the national economy. The findings suggest that unemployment is the key variable in understanding short-term changes in political disaffection whereas institutional performance variations are notably less significant.