Populism and the Question of EU Reform

John Erik Fossum, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo

Abstract of the talk for the international Conference Constitutionalism in the Age of Populism, March 7th, University of Victoria

The rise of populism corresponds with a debate on the future design and direction of the EU – the world’s most prominent attempt at developing some form of transnational or supranational democracy. One of the main characteristics of European-style populism is Euroscepticism or even Europhobia (the former seeking major reforms, the latter seeking to abolish/dismantle the EU). The first part of this  paper seeks to provide a short overview of the populists’ main problems or qualms with the EU. The overview will focus on three lines of investigation: questions pertaining to lack of or inadequate representation; questions pertaining to identity and recognition; and questions pertaining to fairness and economic redistribution. The first part of this paper thus focuses on the ‘demand’ side. The second part focuses on the ‘supply’ side and has two portions. The first is a brief assessment aimed at providing a sense of how fitting (or not) these criticisms are for the EU. The second section focuses on how the EU will have to be reformed to  address current challenges -both those raised by populists and the challenges posed by populists.

Short Bio

John Erik Fossum is Professor at ARENA Centre for European Studies. He has been professor at the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen and holds a PhD in political science from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

John Eric Fossum’s expertise is in political theory, democracy, constitutionalism in the EU and Canada, as well as the Europeanisation and transformation of the nation state. Over the last 20 years, he has contributed extensively to the field of developing and applying federal and democratic theory to the EU as a distinct political system, and comparing the EU with Canada. He is currently the scientific coordinator for the H2020-funded project, ‘EU Differentiation, Dominance, and Democracy (EU3D)’ that runs for 4 years and has ten partner universities and think tanks throughout Europe.

You can read more about John Erik Fossum’s current research here.