Europe in Question Round Table: Democratic Backsliding in Europe

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University of Warwick, Social Sciences, S0.18

Social Sciences

Coventry

CV4 7AL

United Kingdom

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What explains the phenomenon of democratic backsliding in Europe?

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A key feature of the evolving European order in recent years has been the phenomenon of ‘democratic backsliding’ – that is, the erosion of democratic institutions and practices and the undermining of democracy in a more general sense, as an idea and as an ideal. Whilst this phenomenon has been particularly notable in central and eastern Europe, especially in some countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007, it has not been absent in the longer-established democracies of northern and western Europe, particularly where populist parties of the Right have gained a share of power. Closely allied to Euroscepticism of the Right and the Left, the pressures leading to ‘democratic backsliding’ have implications not only at the national level but also within the institutions of the European Union. Not only this, but the phenomenon of ‘transnational nationalism’ and the impact of the Trump Administration’s policies have implications at the transatlantic level.

The origins of this process can be seen at least partly in the economic crisis of the past decade, the resulting inequalities and the challenges of social exclusion that have been associated with neo-liberal economic policies. The consequent de-legitimisation of at least some forms of government – or EU intervention, and the lack of capacity or willingness to invest in social transformations, have only strengthened the inclination of populations and politicians to look for strong (if not authoritarian) leadership and demand action against (for example) minorities and immigrant communities. Processes of ‘democratic backsliding’ and the idea of ‘illiberal democracy’ have also been closely linked to the growth of ‘post-truth politics and the growth of social media as a means of political communication. There are thus important questions to be asked about the forces leading to ‘democratic backsliding’, about the ways in which it has been expressed in different contexts, and the potential for its future development in Europe as a whole.

In this round table, we focus on both the overall discussion about the origins, nature and implications of ‘democratic backsliding’, and on a number of key examples. Speakers will present a range of views and assess a number of scenarios, with the aim of generating discussion around the questions outlined above.

Speakers:

Daniele Albertazzi (University of Birmingham)

James Dawson (Coventry University)

Eli Gateva (University of Nottingham)

Paul Taggart (University of Sussex)

Chair:

Ozlem Atikcan, PAIS

Date and Time

Location

University of Warwick, Social Sciences, S0.18

Social Sciences

Coventry

CV4 7AL

United Kingdom

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