Research focus – University of Copenhagen

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Research focus at CEP

Research at CEP encompasses all the sub-disciplines within political science and often involves cross-disciplinary work. Research at CEP is not bound to a specific methodological or theoretical approach, and great emphasis is put on advancing interdisciplinary research. Consequently CEP is taking part in the interdisciplinary research programme EURECO (European Research at the University of Copenhagen), which was started in 2009 in collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Law.

The starting point for research at CEP is the high quality scholarship focused on Europe that has been carried out at the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen throughout the years. The Department was a hub for several large research projects in the 1990s, including the Copenhagen Research Project on European Integration (CORE). The Department was also a key player in the University’s priority research area: ‘Europe in Transition’ (2004-2008).

Research at CEP can be divided into four broad research areas, which together constitutes the framework for the centre’s cutting-edge research on the EU and Europe.  Europe is understood as a social, economic, legal and political space in which identities, cultures, norms and institutions play a role.


1. EU’s political system and institutional development

In order to understand EU’s political system and institutional development it is important to study the development of European integration and the dynamics in the European integration process, both historically and presently. A central focus here is to clarify the character of the EU as a political system. Studies conducted under this heading can operate at a general level of analysis as well as being targeted at more specific topics with the inclusion of work on the EU’s decision-making processes, interest representation in the EU, conditions regarding central EU institutions and the relation between politics and law in European development.

Within the research area some of the studies focus on single actors – especially states – and different policy areas. Furthermore attention is put on projects that focus on recent developments in the EU, amongst others the evolution of Economic and Monetary Union, the effects of the latest EU enlargement as well as developments in justice and home affairs.

2. The external role of the EU

The external role of the EU is developing fast and is attracting much scholarly and policy debate. In particular after the Lisbon Treaty with the establishment of a special External Action Service. Within this field of research emphasis is placed upon general interpretations dealing with the important basic question of the extent to which the EU has developed into an international actor. Work under this heading also deals with more specific studies of the EU’s actual external policies within different fields, such as EU’s role as an international economic actor, the EU’s role with regard to development aid and the evolution of the EU’s common foreign and security policy.

In more specific work emphasis is placed upon the EU’s policies relation to other international actors and international organisations. Moreover, research is conducted on the EU’s policy towards certain conflicts or regions, such as EU’s role in the Middle East and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Another central discussion deals with how the EU’s foreign policy is to be understood in relation to the EU’s own member states and their own foreign policy traditions and priorities. Here it becomes important to study the tension between EU and member-states’ foreign policies and how such tensions or conflicts affect the EU’s capacity as an international actor. At the same time research explores the kind of influence the institutionalization of EU’s foreign policy has on each member-state.

3. Europeanization, implementation and states’ – especially Denmark’s – relationship with the EU

In order to understand the EU fully, it is necessary to look into the interplay between European integration and the individual member states. For this reason, CEP studies how dynamic decision-making processes (and court cases) in the EU induce changes in domestic political systems and policy-making processes. The shorthand for this process is the “Europeanization of politics”. This is seen not only in the way that national policy areas are being influenced by developments at the European level but also in the complex ways in which power and democracy in national political systems are being affected.

This field of study is closely related to the question about implementation of EU policies. Comparative studies of Europeanization and implementation shed light upon this area. The studies of Europeanization and implementation processes in Denmark are thus of particular interest to CEP, particularly in fields where the collision between the EU and national circumstances could potentially lead to new kinds of administration and possibly to new kinds of policies.

Correspondingly, CEP studies the possibilities for domestic political institutions influencing the EU’s political processes. With this in mind, Denmark’s participation in the EU and more specifically Danish EU policy is studied in detail. The Danish EU decision-making process is of particular interest, especially with regard to administration, the interplay between the Danish Parliament and the government as well as the position and functioning of the European Committee.

Attention is also given to Danish public opinion about the EU and the complex interplay between Danish and European identities. This feeds into work on Danish referendums about EU questions, the position of EU issues in relation to other politicized issues within the Danish polity and the importance of the Danish opt-outs. A special area of research in this regard is the relation between national identities and tendencies towards creating a common European culture based on standardized rights and shared European values.

 4. Fundamental problems of political science in the understanding of Europe’s development and the European integration

Europe’s development and European integration is also interesting in relation to more fundamental political science questions about power, legitimacy and democracy. European development can be understood in relation to the development of reflective, modern societies influenced by globalization, new forms of governance and de-nationalization and de-territorialization. Such a perspective by itself raises a number of questions about transformations of sovereignty, democracy, borders and identities (including political identities) as well as very profound questions about the survival of states.

The development of the EU can be seen as an example of the development of new kinds of governance that are facing problems with establishing democratic legitimacy. These important normative questions are central to any interpretation of how Europeanization influences the politics of member-states and how policy change can influence the different forms and possibilities of Europeanization.