How the EU copes with Globalisation: the Global Influences on the Internal Dynamics and Legitimacy of the European Union

Europa flag and EU building

Utrecht University (UU) has a strong research profile with regard to European integration and the Europeanisation of national policy-making. UU scholars from a large variety of disciplines – public administration, history, law, social sciences, geo-sciences and economics – engage in research and participate in public and policy debates on almost every salient aspect of European affairs. Yet, while the UU has thus carved out an important position in the academic and public debate, many UU scholars study EU affairs from an internal EU perspective focussing on internal decision- and policy-making, the modes and content of EU regulation and the history, finalité and legitimacy of the European integration project.

The internal affairs of the European Union, however, are not just propelled forward by endogenous dynamics, they are also heavily influenced by broader global developments. Today, this is evidenced by the Euro and refugee crises that have their origins in global rather than internal EU developments. The same can be said of other key issues that the EU has faced in the past and is facing today like (in)equality, environmental degradation, energy dependence and the rise of populism. Both their origins and their effects have reached far beyond the borders of the European Union.

Broader global frame

Kleine versie How the EU copes with globalization

Developing a better eye for the global aspects of EU politics and policy-making is particularly relevant because dealing with these kinds of issues has raised important questions about the effectiveness and democratic legitimacy of the EU. First, the ability of the EU to address cross-border issues such as migration, environmental issues, and global inequality impacts its output legitimacy. Moreover, as Luuk van Middelaar argues, externally driven crises like the euro and refugee crisis constitute a form of ‘events politics’ that cannot be dealt with by relying exclusively on decision-making through regulation (Middelaar, 2017). As such, more effective ways to address such crises need to be explored. Finally, the rise of global agendas and actors, and the intricate entanglement of national, supranational and global governance, which emerged in the 20th century, requires that we look at the EU in a broader global frame; they have affected ideas and practices of democratic legitimacy and public participation in the EU (input legitimacy). In fact, today’s global challenges may yet again require Europe to rethink some of its presumptions, models, norms and values that lie at the foundation of the European project.

The inclusion of a global dimension also has great societal relevance. As opinion polls indicate, global issues, such as terrorism, migration, and climate change, concern European citizens most; moreover, they feel that the EU bears a responsibility to protect them against such global challenges (Eurobarometer, 87).




On 11 October 2018, from 12 to 17 hrs, we will organise an expert-meeting on the external challenges facing the EU, past and present. This meeting will bring together a group of leading international policy-experts and academics to discuss how global developments and challenges impact on the politics, policies and legitimacy of the EU, and have done so in the past. Among the policy fields that we will address are international trade, migration, and energy and environmental policies.

The keynote lecture ‘Provincialising European Union’ will be delivered by Kiran Klaus Patel, Jean Monnet Professor of European and Global History at Maastricht University. Patel has published extensively about topics ranging from international organisations and the Common Agricultural Policy to the global dimensions of the American New Deal.

For more information, please contact one of the organisers: