Crisis and democracy. The impact of economy on political European life

March 14, 2017
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March 25, 2017 marked 60 years since the Treaties that established the birth of the European Economic Community, which became the European Union that we know today, with the anniversary celebrated in Rome. On this occasion, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, presented to the Heads of State of all member states a white paper on the future of the EU, highlighting the Union’s weaknesses, and suggesting five possible scenarios for solving them .

The paper presented by Juncker reflects the moment of great difficulty the Union is going through in a year that will see delicate elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. The economic crisis has had strong political consequences on the UE’s member states, alienating sympathies and consensus and promoting the growth of sovereignist parties and movements, which are hostile to the single currency and the overall European project.

In the article What is the impact of the economic crisis on democracy? Evidence from Europe, Leonardo Morlino and Mario Quaranta highlight the lack of a systematic analysis on how the crisis has changed European democracies, an analysis able to identify those aspects that have been affected the most. In order to bridge this gap, Morlino and Quaranta evaluate how the “quality of democracy” index in Europe changed throughout the crisis.

The research shows that every economic recession, with the decrease of public and private resources, triggers three major reactions: (1) A deteriorating rule of law; (2) A greater attention to the achievements of governments by their citizens; (3) A detachment from institutional representative channels, resulting in the emergence of alternative protest forms.

The economic crisis has altered some aspects of our society; However, while, at least in the short term this can lead to a general decline in the democratic process, the crisis itself can also trigger a revival movement, if the problems it has cause will be exploited as the opportunity for a political relaunch and for institutional reforms. Furthermore, the changes initiated by the crisis have a scope that goes beyond national boundaries; After all it is no coincidence if the scenarios outlined by Juncker concern the level of (or the absence of) European integration.

"What is the impact of the economic crisis on democracy? Evidence from Europe"

The author

Leonardo Morlino is professor of Political Science and Comparative Politics at LUISS


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