Politics and Culture in Europe

Research programme director:
prof.dr. Thomas Christiansen

Programme profile

The interdisciplinary research programme Politics and Culture in Europe (PCE) seeks to understand and explain the process of European integration both within and outside of the European Union (EU). It looks at the political, institutional, and ideational aspects and takes the historical and cultural as well as the international and global context of European integration into account. The group brings together political scientists, historians, philosophers and international relations scholars, thus warranting attention to these different contexts.

PCE’s core project: Political and Administrative Challenges for Europe in a Globalizing World
In an attempt to provide a framework for interdisciplinary research and to provide ‘focus and mass’, PCE has developed a central focal point, labelled Political and Administrative Challenges for Europe in a Globalizing World (PACE).

Historical research reminds us that integration has always been contingent upon contextual factors and that disintegration remains a possibility. Research on Europe and on the EU cannot start any longer from the idea that the political and social orders of Europe and its member states is stable and that the biggest challenge is optimising this order. Instead the numerous pressures and challenges developing within and outside of Europe need to be addressed and understood through academic research. Preserving European values and achievements (such as the welfare state, fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and last but not least the European integration processes itself) while at the same time engaging with neighbouring states and contributing to the development of global rules (concerning for example human rights, economic and financial regulation, and asylum and migration) will be a key challenge for the years ahead. Only research that systematically confronts these internal and external challenges will be able to contribute to solving present and future problems of Europe and the EU.
Although the EU and its history are core to the PCE research, PACE also comprises and stimulates research on other trans-, supra-, and international organizations in Europe and on the political representativeness and responsiveness of policy making by these organizations. After all, what unites PCE researchers is an empirical-analytical, historical, and normative interest in the different forms of ‘governance beyond the nation state’, of which the EU is still the most developed instance.

PCE’s central research project encompasses three ‘pillars’: Historicizing European union, Politics and administration beyond the nation state, and Foreign policy beyond the nation state. Each pillar is coordinated by a senior staff member. Together with Research Programme Director Prof. T. Blom they form the management group.

Pillar One: Historicising European Union
Coordinator: Prof. K. Patel
Pillar One focuses on Forms of European Cooperation Since the 19th Century. It starts from the observation that various forms of governance beyond the nation state can already be found in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century international organisations. Contextualising European integration in such a way helps to understand the specifics of modern-day cooperation and to consider contingency and alternative forms and forums of inter- and transnational cooperation across time. Such a historically informed perspective also sheds new light on present-day issues such as the role of European cooperation in global networks and contemporary politics of European identity.

Pillar Two: Politics and Administration beyond the Nation State
Coordinator: Prof. T. Christiansen
Pillar Two focuses on the political and bureaucratic dimensions of established forms of supra- and international governance. This implies attention to the functions and functioning of the bureaucracies which underpin the different forms of ‘governance beyond the nation state’, as well  as to normative considerations such as the transparency, accountability and public responsiveness of supra- and international policy making. A specific focus is on the way policy relevant information and expertise is accessed, channeled, and processed by these bureaucracies. Pillar Two also advances comparisons of the EU’s administrative system with that of other regional or international organisations, with the aim of identifying similarities and differences in the behaviour and performance of trans-, supra-, and international bureaucracies.

Pillar Three: Foreign Policy beyond the Nation State
Coordinator: Prof. T. Conzelmann
Pillar Three departs from the observation that the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a multipolar world system have given new impetus to the EU’s international role. The EU has developed into an important diplomatic actor and crisis manager. Against that background three areas are singled out as being of particular interest: the development of an EU diplomatic system, the normative and allegedly ‘soft power’ aspects of EU foreign politics, and the material and operational dimensions of EU foreign politics as for example exemplified by civilian and military crisis management missions the EU has undertaken since 2003.

Centre for European Research in Maastricht
Recently established (2015), the Centre for European Research in Maastricht (CERiM) provides a platform for research collaboration that brings together more than one hundred researchers from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) and the Faculty of Law (FL) of Maastricht University. It seeks to establish synergies, joint projects and events in the fields of European law, governance, and their respective history. CERiM is acknowledged as a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. As CERiM focuses on the interactions between Europe and global developments and explores the legal, political, social, and historical aspects thereof, it is an interdisciplinary expansion of the research interests that have been central to PCE, now including also different legal disciplines and perspectives.

You can access the website of the programme here.