The project deals with the causes, the extent and the consequences of the politicization of the European integration process. This new key concept shows that integration research needs to focus more on the ‘politics of European integration’. Institutional and policy-oriented approaches are no longer sufficient to understand the dynamics of the contemporary integration process. Our main thesis is that the increasing politicization of Europe can not merely be interpreted as simple opposition to (national) elites. By contrast, we assume that the politicization is rooted in fundamental structural conflicts. More specifically, we expect a new political cleavage to be on the rise between the winners and losers of European integration.
Contrary to other research projects, we focus on the national level which is still regarded as the central place where political mobilization takes place. As V. Schmidt observed in ‘Democracy in Europe’, “the real problem of democracy in the EU” is not to be found on the European but on the national level. This is why we study the politicization of European cross-nationally and focus on different forms of political participation and mobilization, respectively. The project covers six West European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) and the period from the early 1970s up to 2010. We study national election campaigns, protest events as well as debates taking place around major steps of European integration (e.g., enlargements, Maastricht, European Constitution process). We mainly rely on quantitative content analyses as well as survey data to grasp how Europe is politicized.