Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science

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BMBF - Friends and Foes of the European Union: The consequences of the increasing gap in and for Europe (ProConEU)


ProConEU seeks to investigate the consequences of an increasing gap in and for Europe in terms of party politics, citizen politics and social media communication. The project is funded by the funding line Sticking together in tough times by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

During the last decades, the divisions between friends and foes of the European Union (EU) have been becoming more passionate and acute. We need not to restrict our attention here to the political drama following the Brexit referendum in the UK in June 2016. No less dramatic are the controversies between EU member states as well as clashes between EU authorities and mostly right-wing populist governments of EU member countries. These events signal a far-reaching alienation between some governments of EU member countries and institutions and the norms governing them, of the Union itself. Based on the assumption that the current conflicts described above are based on a structural cleavage between friends and foes of the EU, the general aim of our project is to study empirically the main political actors: the EU citizenry and political elites. ProConEU explores how the new transnational cleavage between supporters and opponents of the EU and European integration is mirrored in party competition, citizen politics (such as political attitudes and behaviour) and reflects itself in the communication between elites and citizens. Accordingly, drawing on a systematic analysis of different data sources – election programs, social media data and public opinion surveys, ProConEU investigates systematically the division between supporters and opponents of the EU. Is such a division increasing over time, are elites and electorate increasingly alienated from one another, and finally is a real threat to the EU and democracy in Europe? Such a comprehensive study of the division of society in the EU member states is essential for research on cohesion in Europe. Essential factors that have favoured a split in the past and will continue to favour it in the future are to be systematically identified and examined in the course of ProConEU. In this way we will be able to formulate very concrete instructions for politics and society in order to strengthen cohesion in Europe.