Thomas Diez discusses European Union Politics

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    • 00:00


    • 00:10

      THOMAS DIEZ: I am Thomas Diez.I'm a professor of international relationsand political science at the University of Tubingenin southwest Germany.EU politics is, of course, first of allabout the study of the institutions of the European

    • 00:31

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Union.So you can ask how certain decisions are being made,you can ask what the legitimacy problems of these institutionsare.So there's all sorts of questionsyou can ask the involvement about the European--of the European Parliament in the process of decision making,

    • 00:52

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the role of the nation states, their representatives,and the Council of Ministers, the roleof the heads of government and the European Council.You can ask about the role of nongovernmental actorsin the decision making process.So to some extent, that's the core or one core

    • 01:13

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: aspect of what people would studywhen they study EU politics.Secondly, it is about the question of howthe European Union came about.States, we normally assume, don't give away sovereigntyeasily.So how come that's in Europe, and starting in Western Europe

    • 01:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: after the Second World War, stateswere willing to do so, to transfer sovereignty.And we know, of course, that thisis a problem still for many states,including the United Kingdom.And that some states, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and others,are trying to opt out of certain areas of EU policies.

    • 01:58

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: So why did the other states agree to do that?Who were the driving forces?What were the incentives for the states?And to what extent did the context, the historical,the discursive, the cultural context play a role here?So that's a second set of questions,

    • 02:20

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: which EU politics is about, explaining the developmentof the European Union.And of course, more recently peoplehave also asked about the rise of resistances,of euro skepticism.That would also fall under that subcategory, if you will.I've always been interested though

    • 02:41

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: also in a third aspect of EU politics.Personality, I always found the study of EU institutionsin a narrow sense rather boring.As a student, I remember that was the worst part of it,in a sense.I think it's very important, of course,that we understand the logic of these institutions.But I think there is another fascinating question in EU

    • 03:07

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: politics, and that is about the changingnature of international-- what we call international society.So a society of states.Which, if you look at it from that perspective,can make little sense of this entity called the EuropeanUnion.And so at least since the 1990s, if not before,

    • 03:30

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: scholars have also asked, what is this entity, the EuropeanUnion?There's a famous piece by Thomas Risse wherehe asked what the nature of this beastwas, a beast that we don't understand in termsof our classic understandings of polities organized in states.And therefore, I think one of the core aspects

    • 03:54

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of European Union politics is alsoto ask, what is the nature of European governance?How does it challenge the international state system?To what extent is there something that Hedley Bull oncecalled neo-medievalism, an area of overlapping powersand competencies that is difficult to understand

    • 04:18

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: if we look at it simply from the angle of states?And so there have been quite a few disputes over this,people who have thought about this in terms of complete--a completely new kind of postmodern polity,as [INAUDIBLE] once called it, or others

    • 04:40

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: who thought about it simply as an extension of stateinterests.And they're all struggling with this questionof what the nature of the European Union is.What makes the EU unique?

    • 05:00

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: One of the things that is unique about EU,if we compare it to the classical polities in the statesystem, or for that matter, into other internationalorganizations, it is a partial transfer of sovereignty.

    • 05:21

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: The defining nature of a supranational institution--we called the EU a supranational institutional--is that decisions can be taken above the level of the nationstate.Without, though, there being a new state.

    • 05:45

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: So there is something that is happening inbetween these levels.And therefore, the European Uniondoes not look like a state.And this, of course, explains all thestruggles in European politics where someone who comes perhaps

    • 06:07

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: from a more intergovernmentalist perspective, and that'sperhaps a British politician who says, well,but is this all only about our interests?And others who would see this as a completely new kindof polity.We can see this in a number of aspects.

    • 06:29

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: We can see this in the way that bordersare no longer contiguous.They are no longer congruent across different policy areas.We see this, for instance, if we look at the Schengen Agreement,we have countries in Schengen that are not members of the EU,

    • 06:53

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: and we have member states of the EUthat are not part of Schengen. Yet at the same time,Schengen is a core EU policy.We see this in the way that the decision making works,where of course a lot of it by nowresembles the decision making within states.

    • 07:15

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Yet at the same time, there is no real government.And even though many people alwaysthink about the administrative apparatus in Brusselsas being huge, et cetera, it's actually relatively smallcompared to the administrative apparatus of member states.And therefore, both in terms of formulating policies,

    • 07:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: there's a lot of reliance on committees in whichnon-state actors are involved.In terms of implementation, there'sa nearly complete reliance on the member states.And again, it becomes more blurry,

    • 08:00

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: because after the discipline treatyand basically since the 1990s, therehave been more efforts of streamliningand of centralization.And so it's becoming to look more and more like whatwe might call a federal state.And of course, in federal states very often,

    • 08:22

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: policies taken on the federal levelare actually implemented by the constituent unitsof the federal states.But still, there is a lot more-- there's a little more variationbetween policy areas.There's a lot more confusion, if you will,

    • 08:45

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: about the way in which European Union politics works,which makes the EU stand out.And it's certainly not an international organizationor alliance, such as the UN or NATOwhere the principal mechanism is that statesretain their sovereignty, and therefore

    • 09:07

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: also retain veto powers.In the EU, the veto powers are largely gone nowin most of the policy areas.There are policy areas-- and again, that's interesting.I mean, there are policy areas thatare supranationally organized.And there are policy areas which are stillintergovernmentally organized, such as foreign policy,

    • 09:28

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: for instance.And of course, in those areas you stillhave to realize that just like asin the intergovernmental organization,a traditional international organization,on the consent of all member states.But in those areas that are supranationally organized,you don't do this anymore.That doesn't mean that members states don't have an influence.

    • 09:50

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Like in a federal system, the member statesto constituent states will, of course,be involved in the decision making processon the European level.But they're not in control of it,and I think that's a core aspect.

    • 10:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: What has been the impact of the Lisbon Treaty?I think that many people were concerned when the LisbonTreaty was in the making.And of course, that's a long storybecause it started off with the ideaof a constitutional treaty.And let me say perhaps that one of the bizarre aspects

    • 10:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of the history of European integrationis that the basics of the European Union,what one may call a de facto constitutional if the EuropeanUnion, is a set of treaties, a set of treaties that startedoff with the treaty about the European coal and steel

    • 10:58

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: community, and then since the 1950s has gradually extended.So we've added treaties.And so rather than being a founding act of agreeingon a constitution, the European, quote unquote,"constitution" is the complex set

    • 11:19

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of treaties that has been amassed over time.And of course, now the core in many ways in retrospectwould be the treaties of Rome and in particular, the treatyon European economic community.But it's just one aspect of many.

    • 11:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And then we had Maastricht in the beginning of to 1990sto try and consolidate it into one single treaty.But what Maastricht did was simplyto create so-called pillars where it very basically merged.This previous treaty takes and added, again, other treatytext, and basically separated them

    • 12:01

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: into different pillars of what was then becoming the EuropeanUnion.And so it's a very complex kind of thing.And everybody is always saying, oh, Idon't understand European politics.It's all too complex.But any attempt to try and streamline it and simplify itis always in vain, because then the same people screamand say, oh, but we don't want to give away

    • 12:22

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: these competencies, or what have you.And so it's sort of a very difficult situation,being caught between a rock and a hard place, if you will.Either you're being accused of this very complex thingthat no one understands-- although one also

    • 12:43

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: has to perhaps ask whether people understandtheir own national constitutions.But they don't think about this because this is not somethingthat they consider new.That's what they are raised with,and so they don't question this.In European Union politics, we alwaysask about the complex nature of this thing.Or you're being accused of trying

    • 13:04

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: to take away powers of states.And so the prediction is that this will continue.Now Lisbon or the Constitution was one of these attempts.The constitution treaty was an attemptto bring it all together and try to turn itinto what one might call sort of on the way to a more

    • 13:25

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: federal constitution.And of course, there were resistances.The referendums, and the Netherlands and Francesaid no, and let the British off the hook in many waysso they didn't have to then say no themselves.And the treaty that came out of this, therefore,

    • 13:48

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: while taking on a lot of the aspects of the constitution,continued the previous, if you will, mess.It does change bits here and there,but it does not necessarily come upwith a new central constitution.The one thing therefore-- so it's not about-- in my view,

    • 14:12

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the Lisbon Treaty is not about the changesso much that it does in terms of internal policymaking.But if you look at it, if does a lot of thingsto the area of European foreign policy,which of course is still intergovernmentally organized.But one of the crucial things, for instance,is that it changes the position of the high representative

    • 14:35

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: for foreign and security policy into also the vice presidentof the European Commission.And therefore links-- even though foreign policy is stillorganized intergovernmentally, linksforeign policy much more into the daily decisionmaking process.And so rather than the thinking of Lisbon

    • 14:57

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: as this huge threat to national sovereignty,it actually, if you look at it, hasdone more significant things to the areaof European foreign policy.Many people have raised the question

    • 15:20

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of whether the eurozone crisis will actuallybe the end of the EU.Let me, perhaps, put a counter perspective to thisand say firstly that there have been so many crises of the EUwhere commentators and news reporters have quickly

    • 15:43

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: announced the death of the EU.Let's remember in the context of the Iraq warwhen Europe was split between what was thenseen as old and new Europe, and that the new Europe, largelythe central Eastern European member states,were now siding with the US.And old Europe, largely Germany and France-- of course

    • 16:03

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: it didn't quite work that way, because what is to UK then?Is it all the new Europe?But of course, it was then seen as new Europe.But Germany and France were against the interventionin Iraq.And many people thought that this was a split thatwould make the EU fall apart.And that's just one example of so manythat the European Union has moved from, if you will, crisis

    • 16:27

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: to crisis.And every time there's a crisis-- so basicallyconstantly-- now people think it's the end of the EU.I tend to think of this rather differently.I think here we see, to some extent,the process of federalization.So even though the EU is not a classic state, or at leastnot yet, we do see processes of federalization.

    • 16:50

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: It's a specific kind of federalizationthat doesn't necessarily result in a kind of federal statethat is as neatly organized as we know it.But there are processes of federalization in the waythat politics are being conducted.Now I come from Germany, which is a federal state.

    • 17:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And routinely, the states within Germanyare fighting over money, over certain policies.And there are different alliances, even across partylines, in that game.In fact, some states are thinkingabout taking the others to court over the distribution of money.

    • 17:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And so to some extent, a lot of what is then often made upto be the end of the EU is in facta normal aspect of a federal polity where the memberstates are fighting over particular policies,

    • 17:57

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: particular distributions of goods including, in this case,also money.This is both about money and it is about a policy decision.It's about what kind of economic policyyou should pursue in the future.

    • 18:18

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And it's, of course, an important strugglebecause the EU has shifted from a more social democratic policytowards a more liberal policy whenit comes to economic policies.And therefore, this is an important struggle,

    • 18:40

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: because this has partly happened sort of on a slippery slope.There's been more and more liberalization,and then increasingly, this has become an aspect of the EU.But it's not an inherent aspect of the EU.You can add a lot more social policies to the EU

    • 19:00

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: if the member states so want.But of course, this is contested.And we need to somewhat get away from the ideathat just because a policy is contested that thatis naturally the end of the EU.It can't of course be because the nature of the EUis such that it's not as centralized.

    • 19:21

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And the identification of the peopleis not such that they would like in the nation state,even though one has disagreements over policies,immediately say, well, this is the end of the nation state.And so we need to disentangle, I think,or in the political debate, we ought to increasinglydisentangle questions about policy from questions about

    • 19:46

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: whether or not we support the idea of European integrationand the EU.One of the frustrating things is that most peopledon't see it that way.And of course, this also means that if you have majoritiesagainst you, even if in your own statethe majority is different, you have to at some point

    • 20:09

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: accept the majority.In Germany, people in Bavaria routinely think otherwisethan the rest of Germany.That doesn't mean that the ordinary Bavarian continuouslythinks about separating from Germany.There may be some, but not as a standard.

    • 20:31

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And this is the way that I think we willhave to look at this as well.So my prediction would be that in 10 years time,we will see this as a struggle within the federal polity.And even though there may be integrating or disintegrating

    • 20:52

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: effects, and truly it will have some impact on the structures--which impact, I don't know.Because I think this is-- I mean,that even the policymakers don't know,that there are differences suggestions there.And some people think about further centralizationof economic policies.Some people think about more control of what states do.

    • 21:13

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Others want to rather minimize the control.But that's also part of the struggle over the development.So in such a collective, the individual partsalways struggle over what it's going to be like.And I think what we've seen so farI think rather confirms my view that this is not

    • 21:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the end of the EU, but it's a continuing strugglethat will not go away.But it's also not necessarily the end of to EU.The idea that the EU is coming to an end and is a problemis not new.

    • 22:00

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: It's something that creeps up continuously.The reason why it has never been as strong as it is perhapsnow-- and with strong, I mean not in individual memberstates, but I think the defining featurehere is that it is across member states.So even in member states that have been traditionally

    • 22:21

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: seen as rather europhile, there is increasing skepticismand questioning.And let me say that this increasing questioning mayactually not be a bad thing per se.Again, this is not necessarily the end of the European Union.It is also perhaps a good thing that the ordinary citizen

    • 22:44

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: is increasingly asking questions about the EUin classical europhile states such as Germany or Italy.Very often, this wasn't even raised as an issue.European integration was dead, itwas a defining feature of even the states.It had become part of the identity of the states,and therefore it was beyond the political debate.

    • 23:05

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: So what we see is a politicizationof European integration.So rather than calling it a backlash,I would call it a politicization of European integration.And I think there's a lot of colleagues whotalk about it in those ways.And one clear aspect of this is that over time

    • 23:26

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: as the EU has acquired more and more competenciesfrom the members states, it has alsoinfiltrated ordinary life a lot more,and people have become more aware of the impact of to EU.And therefore, the EU has become partof their daily political engagement.

    • 23:51

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: It intervenes in your daily life,so you need to also raise questions about it.One of the bizarre things about thisis that people haven't quite thought about it in this way,because they still treat the EU as something alien.But if we look at some of the criticisms which

    • 24:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: have to do with over-regulation, thisis part of the daily, normal life of a polity,a particular actor.And very often, these are either industry lobbyists or intereststhat come from the industry, or actually it

    • 24:32

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: is consumer protection.So they raise issues.They go to their own governments or directly to the commissionand say, but we need to sort this out on a European levelbecause we need to protect our interests,or we need to protect the interestsof the consumers, et cetera.And in the end, there is a regulation.And then everyone screams, oh, but that's over-regulation.

    • 24:56

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But we have to consider that we've got an internal market.And the internal market brings with it goods can thereforebe sold in each other member state.And therefore, there's got to be some rules.And the question therefore is, whereis the boundary of these rules?And I have little sympathy for those who then always scream,but the EU would have to regulate this and that,

    • 25:17

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: and at the same scream, but it's over-regulation.So that's certainly one aspect that we need to bear in mind.The other aspect of the current politicization,though, has to do, I think, with the factthat European integration has transformed identities

    • 25:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: much less than some of us had hoped or thought it to do.The transformation of identities has, to some extent,been an elite process.So there are certain elites.

    • 25:59

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Academic elite, to some extent.There's been a political elite for whomoperating on the European level has become normal.And therefore, that changes their identity.There's also certainly been a redefinitionof what state identities are, so that I

    • 26:22

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: do believe that the members of the EUall are so into intermeshed within the EUthat talking about this as independent identitiesdoesn't really make that much sense.And if you look at the ways in which the states act--for instance, also in foreign policy,even though this is intergovernmentally organized--

    • 26:44

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: you will see they that Europe plays a core role in this.But there is a discrepancy between this eliteand, if you will, state identity level,which is a more abstract discursive level.And the everyday discourse of many peoplewho, in one way or another, have not been involved

    • 27:06

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: in these European processes.And this is becoming more and more, I think, an issue.It's becoming an issue to the extentthat the perception of crisis is more and more now portrayedin the newspapers, to some extent because, as I

    • 27:28

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: said earlier, EU is more and more infiltrating daily lives.And I think the onus here is partly on the mediato make clear that this is a struggle over the futureof the European Union.And it's not necessarily about questioning integration

    • 27:50

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: as such.And I think if we were able to separate the, perhaps over timewe would find it easier to talk about differences in opinionwithout always seeing a backlash.At the moment, it does look like a backlash.

    • 28:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But as I said, I think it's an aspect of the politicizationof the European Union, which is not that easy,and which is very contentious.You asked whether the German response to the debt crisiswas appropriate, and what we can make of it.

    • 28:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: I think it's a very difficult question.Let me say that I'm not a political economist,and therefore I take, perhaps, a slightly differentview than lots of my political economy friends.Not being a political economist, to some extent,I have an agnostic view on the substance of the policy.

    • 28:58

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: My political view, if you will, is that clearly thereought to be a debt card.I cannot see how one would not-- how one would be able to avoidthat.And I also see that the euro and Germany

    • 29:25

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: have some responsibility in the waythat the Greek crisis unfolded, hadsome responsibility in the way in which the debt has accrued,to start with.The euro made it much easier for Greece to obtain for the money

    • 29:46

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: by making debts.The other member states had turned a blind eyeto some of the problems within Greece.I talk about problems within Greecebecause I do also believe that thereare substantial issues in the setup

    • 30:07

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of certain Greek institutions.And so I'm not entirely against certain conditionsthat are being put into this.But of course, not being an economist,it seems persuasive to me that simply giving Greece moneyin order to cover the interest that it has to pay,it seems to be nonsensical.

    • 30:29

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: At some point, you've got to get out of that circle.But I think there is another interesting questionabout this.Let's remember that the EU is not a traditional state.And this raises questions about legitimacy and democracythat is involved in such decisions.

    • 30:53

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Many people have praised the-- many people, especiallyfrom the critical political economyside have praised the referendum in Greece over the Troikaand the conditions set to the debt.

    • 31:13

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But the question is, of course, if youcome-- if you're asking about German policy,the question is, of course, what would a referendum havelooked like in Germany?And would a referendum in Germanyhave been more or less democraticthan the referendum in Greece?And what if everyone did now referendums

    • 31:33

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: on all of these questions?What would that mean?Should we then just abolish the whole project and say, OK.We're going to return to nation states?Or maybe economically, some peoplewould say that makes sense.Because you regain sovereignty and youcan devalue your currencies, and so on.It doesn't quite correspond to my political ideal

    • 31:56

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of transforming state borders and giving peoplefreedom to move, et cetera, which there's alsolots of problems in the EU at the moment.But if you think that such a process of transformingstate borders, and therefore integration,is something to strive for, then I

    • 32:17

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: think you've got to think a little bit harderabout the role that such referendums can play,and the level on which you conduct such referendums.So I politically may think that Germany's policyhas been problematic.But the broader question here is, do Ithink that it has been more or less legitimate or democratic?

    • 32:42

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And I think I have to separate thatfrom my own political views.And again, I would like to emphasize that these should bedifferent, as different levels.And so I don't think that Merkel in the current politicalsituation and debate was able to completely give in to Tsipras.

    • 33:07

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: I think she could have taken a stronger stance.I think she could have-- she should have advocated probablya debt card.But of course, I have to emphasize, again,I'm not an economist.But I also see-- I can see lots of reasons why she didn'tdo that, both for domestic-political reasons,and because the fear that this may sort of create

    • 33:29

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: a knock-on effect on other debtor states.The pressure of some of these that actuallyhad done policy changes, fundamental policychanges, what they would say [INAUDIBLE].So I think that the whole thing is a lot more complicated.And this goes back to the nature of EU policymaking.

    • 33:50

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: It's a struggle between different views, and in the endyou have to come up with a few thatwill not be shared by everyone.And no matter what you do, there will, of course,be heavy criticism, as in any other polity.But that criticism ought not to be directed necessarilyagainst the EU as such.

    • 34:17

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: You ask what is your response to the refugee crisis?Should we-- and if I had an answer to that,I would probably now not be sitting here, but in Brussels.And in fact, I may leave academia and becomea famous policy advisor.

    • 34:40

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Again, I think there are different levels to this.On the first level, I think it's outrageousthat one still hasn't got an agreement,a fundamental agreement, to how EU member states oughtto deal with migrants that come in, refugees that come in.

    • 35:06

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And therefore, even though one has found nowa limited solution, the distribution of refugeesin Greece and Italy, one needs to havean even split of the-- or not an even, but an appropriate splitof the refugee numbers.

    • 35:26

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: The other thing that I think is very clearis that there are certain member states who have notstuck to the norms of EU in termsof human treatments of people.And it's also clear that this is part of an unacceptable

    • 35:49

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: shifting blame mechanisms.So you basically-- and shifting bodies, as it were.So you don't want them, so you move them onto the next state,or you move them back, as it were.You don't want them to come in, so you justleave the problem with your neighbor.

    • 36:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: This cannot be a part of European politics.Having said that, I also believe that thisis true for all member states and to various degrees.But it is true to all member states.Currently, Germany does take up a lot of refugees.

    • 36:31

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But of course, in the past, Germanyhad a relatively easy position within the Dublin Agreementthat it could actually send refugeesback to where they entered the EU, because it was therethat they had to claim asylum.But that doesn't-- changing that system doesn't solve the basicproblem.

    • 36:51

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But it would perhaps shift our blame,as it were, and not exclude some of the member states,such as Germany or France.It would not free them of any responsibility in this.Because of course, the bordering states

    • 37:13

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: are much more under pressure than the states whodon't have external borders.The number of refugees that are currently seeking entryto the EU is largely dependent onpolitical and military crisis in the EU's neighborhood.

    • 37:34

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And unless these are solved, thereis not going to be a very neat solution to the challenges thatare raised.I should say that talking about refugee crises and refugeeproblems and so on, it's also very problematic in many ways,and everyone has to be perhaps a bit careful about using

    • 37:56

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: those terms.So these are the challenges that areto do with certain forms of migrationas a result of atrocities in the contextof civil political crisis and civil war, and so on.And in particular, in relation to Syria,again, if one had a solution to this,

    • 38:18

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: then one would have already pursued this.But there is no easy solution to Syria.And things may change again.But over the past five years, it hasn't become easier.This would take too far now to discussthe emergence of the Islamic state,et cetera, in this context.But you can see, therefore, that the problem of EU politics

    • 38:43

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: cannot be confined to things that the EU can do, say,internally or vis-a-vis the refugees.This is one aspect where a humanitarian policy hasto be developed that distributes the burden in a waythat all member states can cope with it.

    • 39:04

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But the numbers that you will haveto accommodate in this context are determined elsewhere.And as elsewhere, the EU doesn't haveto power to impose a solution.I mean, we all know, we all have our views what

    • 39:25

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: a solution might look like.But there's too many other actorsthat may not agree with this, and some of themmay be very powerful and have their own interests.So this is a very difficult one.But I can only hope that on the question of a reform of Dublinand on a reform of the way in which

    • 39:48

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the allocation of refugees takes place,that the EU is able to do that.The question about the impact that European integration hason democracy is intimately related

    • 40:10

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: to the question of the transformational, the challengeof the EU to our understanding of politics and the statesystem.If you think about democracy in termsof a state that is tied to a particular nation identifiedby a particular identity, and those

    • 40:32

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: being able to determine themselvesand therefore developing democratic polity,then your answer to the EU can onlybe it that we would have to developa European identity that is corresponding to the bordersof the EU.

    • 40:52

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Or you will ultimately always have to tie back democracyto the member states.So any decision has to be tied backto the member states, which if you do this consequently,actually means that you would have to reintroduceveto powers even in areas that are now supranationally

    • 41:15

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: organized.Neither of these options is feasible.I'm not even sure whether, dependingon what your ethical standing here is, it would be desirable.The problem is, of course, that a lotof us dealing with such questions as integration

    • 41:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: have also celebrated the underminingof these national identities.Because national identities have always been exclusionary.They have constructed borders and torn apart people.

    • 41:59

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: They have limited people's freedoms to move.And if I may say one word about the refugee crisisin this question, of course what we see hereis a return of this boundary drawing, intriguingly,on different levels.So there is a demand for the EU to develop

    • 42:20

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: more of an external border and strengthen that.And there's a return of national borders,where borders are closed, where fences are erected, er cetera.And it seems to me that's the flip side of democracy.Because democracy, in the classic understanding,is tied to a particular territory

    • 42:43

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: and a particular national identity confinedto that territory.I don't think that, therefore, thatcan be-- that image of democracy can be the only one thatis ethically defensible.

    • 43:05

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: It's also not necessarily something that is still true.Nation states are under so many influencesthat the idea that there is completeself-determination beyond the legal sense,but in the sense that it is commonlyunderstood in public discourse, is in many ways an illusion.

    • 43:28

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Even if the EU didn't exist, de facto policies would largelybe made elsewhere and not within the nation state,and they would be presented as if one had full control.And I think that's a real problemthat we have the illusion, a romantic illusionthat the nation state is or indeed

    • 43:49

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: has ever been capable of controlling these policies.What to do is-- this is a diagnosis that I thinkis-- diagnosis that is, I think, very-- thatis shared across many analysts.The more difficult question is, of course, what to do about it?

    • 44:11

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And of course in the development of the treaties,the European Parliament has been strengthened.That would be the classic state solution.You strengthen the Parliament.But we know that there are strong problemswith the Parliament.EP elections are often conducted on national platforms.

    • 44:35

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: There is limited engagement with the Parliament.Or indeed, in the elections, the turnout is limited, et cetera.On that front, it's perhaps helpful to seethat the European Parliament, even though it's stillnot the main actor in the policy process,is more present in the debates.And I think for the European Parliament to work,

    • 44:56

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: it would also have to create a kind of European discursivespace where the debates are no longer simply national.And it seems to me, from my limited view living in Germanyand then reading the newspaper, that there is an increasingreporting about others.So European politics has become--

    • 45:17

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: and this is part of the politicization of the EU,of course-- has become sort of a normal entryon the first pages.And indeed, there are actors both from the European level,from the EU level, and from other member states, whichnow are being asked, they are being interviewed,they are being reported.And this is, I think, different from even 20 years ago

    • 45:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: when there was something happening in Europe,but was what in the newspaper was largely German politiciansthat are being asked.And then, of course-- so this is helpful in termsof creating a discursive space.That will not ever be a discursive spacethat is singular.It will be very-- still be a dispersed discursive space.

    • 46:03

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: But it breaks up the national boundaries of these debates,and therefore is a better foundationfor democratic processes.And then I think, of course, that thereare attempts to bring in different actorsin the various committees of decision

    • 46:24

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: making on the EU level.There were people who were very optimistic about thisin the 1990s who thought that in these informal committees,playing in different NGOs and those interestedin particular policy areas, that that wouldsolve the democratic problem.I don't quite believe it does because there are biases,

    • 46:46

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: and some actors have more easy accessto the policy process than others.But it's still an element of what democracy perhapsis beyond the formal voting procedures.And again, I want to alert you to the fact

    • 47:08

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: that these same problems can, of course, besaid in the nation state.There we have processes of diminishing voter turnout thereas well.We have questions about who has access, and so on.So it's true that big industry, perhaps,

    • 47:29

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: has a privileged access to EU decision making.But so it does in many nation states.And the fact that, for instance, the Women's Lobbyhas been, over time, very successful at influencingEuropean policies is an example whereit doesn't have to be that way.And so I don't think that in the foreseeable future

    • 47:53

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: we will have a situation which EU politics is organizeddemocratically in the same way as it is in the member states.But we have to bear in mind that theremay be alternative routes of democratization.And we have to bear in mind that what we oftenthink about democracy in the member

    • 48:14

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: states is a romantic illusion of what is actuallyor has been going on.The question of how important theory is to European politics,I have to put my cards on the tableand say that my main contributions have

    • 48:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: been in the area of European integration theory.So I cannot possibly say that theory is not important.In fact, I would say theory is, of course, incredibly importantto the study of EU politics.When I think about the core questions thatanimate to field of EU politics, it becomes very clear

    • 48:57

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: that theory's important, theory'simportant to help us explain the development of the EuropeanUnion.But theory is also incredibly importantto make us understand what the EU actually is.None of this can be done without having a look at theory.And indeed, not only in a narrowly conceptualized field

    • 49:21

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of European integration theory or EU theory or whathave you, but in the very substantial senseof the theory of the state and the theoryof international relations.Even the question of how EU institutions work has to,of course, go back to general theories

    • 49:42

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: about political decision making to political theory.And so I think theory plays an important partin trying to make us understand what the EU isand explain how it is moving on.Now I come from a tradition that is notso much interested in explaining concrete policy outcomes.

    • 50:05

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: I tend to raise questions over the largerdevelopment of the European Union as a political entity.And as such, I have been influenceda lot more by general international relations authorsthan I have been by authors that look at concrete decision

    • 50:27

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: making.One is, of course, always to some extent influencedby one's supervisors.And I was fortunate to have a supervisor when I oncedid my PhD at the University of Mannheim whowas quite influential in EU studies,Beate Kohler-Koch, who combined these fields of IR,

    • 50:50

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: International Relations, and European integration,and whose interests are partly in this question of howthe EU has changed, the ways in which we thinkabout the state and polities.So as the broader debate in international relations

    • 51:12

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: at the time with James Rosenau and [INAUDIBLE]and others thinking about this idea of governancewithout government, Kohler-Koch tended to think about the EUas a form of governance without government, [INAUDIBLE]most recently I think has been veryinfluential in this thinking as well.These were sort of a crowd of people

    • 51:33

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: who all thought about this.[NON-ENGLISH] about different ideas of how one couldcharacterize this new polity that is the EU.But I should also say that I've been recently more influencedby general IR theories of the older type, if you will.

    • 51:53

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And I do find very inspiring Hedley Bull who,even though he dismissed the idea ultimatelythat the EU is something like the new medieval kindof polity, who brought this up in the first instance.And so you don't have to always agree with these people,

    • 52:14

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: but I think looking at those texts, thosewho, in international relations have thought fundamentallyabout different versions or different varietiesof the organization of international society,I found very inspiring in looking at the EU.And also then comparing the way in which

    • 52:34

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the EU has developed as a particular formof international society in comparison to others,in comparison to other regional international societies.Say, in Southeast Asia where, on a symbolic level,ASEAN is very present.But of course, it's organized very differently from the EU.

    • 52:55

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Why is that?How can we characterize these differences?I think there are thinkers out therethat don't give us an answer, but are inspiring in tryingto capture that.The question about the major debates in the field

    • 53:19

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: is a difficult one in the sense thatlike any other sub-field of internationalizationrelations in political science, and as the whole disciplinesthemselves, there is an increasing dispersionof different questions that is increasing compartmentalization

    • 53:39

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: also.And more and more niches are coming outthat people want to engage in.And so to some extent, a normal thing because in the beginningthere's a handful of people studying the EU.And now there are, whatever.Thousands of people out there.And of course, everyone wants to leave their mark.And as the EU develops more and more into different policy

    • 54:04

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: areas, everyone is trying to investigate little things.Now this is a problem, because there is notthat much of an overall debate anymore.Indeed, we all-- and including publishers--have some responsibility for this because since the 1990s,we have increased the numbers of journals.

    • 54:26

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And there's been two kinds of increases.One is-- I mean, more journals thatwould take different analytical perspectives.So one of the big splits, I think,

    • 54:46

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: in EU politics was having a journal called European UnionPolitics.And they ask very different questionsfrom perhaps other journals.And then, of course, there are more and morepolicy field journals that look at not European politics,but whatever.

    • 55:06

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Specific aspects of economic policy or what have you.This is a problem, because there'snot that much of an overall debate anymore.Nonetheless, I think some of the defining questionsare still, who are the actors that drive European politics?

    • 55:31

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: There are still these methodological questions.How do we approach and analyze European politics?And there is an increasing analysis,there's increasing numbers-- there'san increasing number of analyses of European foreign policy,the whole debate about the extent

    • 55:51

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: to which the EU is a normative power, et cetera,has been quite important.So these are things-- some of the core questionsthat animate the field today.In terms of the methods that we ought to perhaps

    • 56:15

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: use and analyze in European integration, I have to,again, put my cards on the table and saythat even though I was trained at the University of Mannheimwhich is the center of quantitativeand rigorous formal statistical analysis of politics,

    • 56:36

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to methods.I think the important point here isthat the methods that you use depend on your questions.And therefore, you cannot say from the start that certainmethods are more appropriate and more rigorous than others.

    • 56:57

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: They all have their place.And if, of course, you want to explainthe outcome of parliamentary decisions,you have to employ other theories.And in this case, formal models that you may test.Then if you're interested in the changing nature of polities

    • 57:21

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: in the context of European integration,then your form a modeling, will not, I don't think,get you very far.It makes a difference whether youwant to explain the occurrence of the Lisbon Treatyor whether you want to critically question

    • 57:42

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: the core terms around which the Lisbon Treaty is built.So I think that what we need to dois always to justify and defend and reflexively thinkabout the methods that we use.

    • 58:02

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: In fact, I believe that it is not a problem,depending on the question that I ask,to use different methods, and alsodifferent sets of theories.And I don't think that one question is legitimateand the other one isn't.I think they all have their place.And I would caution against doing research only

    • 58:26

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: for the sake of methods.Sometimes the more important researchhas had very bad methods, but it hasput out a question that was so fascinating for othersthat they could take it up.And then maybe take aspects of it,and then use more rigorous methods to do on with it.

    • 58:49

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: Sometimes there are pieces that you readand review that have a perfect methodology.They're so boring or so obvious whatthey write that they're just not interesting.And what is the point, I did say in a panel recently,what is the point in testing hypothesesif in the end after complex methodological testing,

    • 59:12

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: it simply confirms what everyone knows anyway?It's not that it doesn't have the place.But of course, in terms of the impact this will haveon the academic community but alsoon society at large, the political responsibilitythat we may perhaps bear as academics,it's not very-- that's not going to help us a lot.

    • 59:34

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: I would also caution against what I seeas an overmethodologization.It's a very difficult word that I can't even pronounce.I think that I come from a field of discourse analysis.I've been interested in how European

    • 59:55

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: integration, how European governanceis represented in discourses.And I have to say that I've alwaysbeen in favor of doing this in a veryreflective, methodological way.In fact, I was very much in favorof introducing a more rigorous methodological

    • 01:00:19

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: reflection into such an analysis, whichdoesn't lend itself so easily to the classic, whatever,statistical methods.You can't do this.But recently, I think there's alsobeen a problem in the sense that some colleagues have producedvery vigorous formal discourse analysis

    • 01:00:42

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: of various aspects of international relationsand European policies.And you think, OK, you've put a lot of work into this.And you think that, OK.You've coded all these speeches and so on.But is what you get in the end really worth all this effort?

    • 01:01:03

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And don't you forget in doing so whatyour initial question actually is or perhaps ought to be?And therefore I think, yes.We need rigorous methods.But I would just want to emphasizethat I don't think that it helps us if, in the end,

    • 01:01:23

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: our focus is only on the methods.The methods are a tool.The classic positivist study talks about operationalization.You can only operationalize somethingthat you previously have put into a kind of argument,

    • 01:01:45

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: or if you will, hypothesis.And therefore, there is a priority.And the priority, therefore, is get yourself an argument,make it clear what your question is, and then be reflective.And if you were rigorous about your method.But what method you choose will depend on your question.

    • 01:02:10

      THOMAS DIEZ [continued]: And it cannot be, in my view, that the field,the analysis that we do, is driven by the method.It's the question.It's the theoretical engagement.It's the message that we want to give that is at the center.

Thomas Diez discusses European Union Politics

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Professor Thomas Diez discusses the complexities of running the European Union government and the challenges its representatives face. He also highlights how to approach researching the politics of the EU and the fundamental importance of asking the right questions in a research project.

SAGE Video Experts
Thomas Diez discusses European Union Politics

Professor Thomas Diez discusses the complexities of running the European Union government and the challenges its representatives face. He also highlights how to approach researching the politics of the EU and the fundamental importance of asking the right questions in a research project.

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