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WG Nationalism, populism and the economy Subgroup 2: The future of the EU project – Oxford-22 Working Group Terms of Reference

If the EU delivers satisfactory solutions in terms of growth, prosperity and equality, economic populism will be kept at bay

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Fide 2nd international congress at Jesus College Oxford will take place next April, on the 4th, 5th, and 6th.

The overarching topic of the congress is Nationalism, populism, and identities: contemporary challenges. In the global context, the growth of nationalism and populism is one of the greatest challenges facing not only Europe but also North and South America and the Asia Pacific. This can be a destructive force if it means that states retreat into an isolationist mindset and away from effective multilateral solutions to perceived cross-border problems.

The congress will analyze Nationalism and populism from a legal and economic perspective. We will cover aspects of the iimpact of nationalist/ populist policies on the funding of South American pension schemes where there have been unexpected calls on funds to deal with the effects of COVID-19

The Congress will also cover other cross-cutting issues, using free-standing panels on EU refugee externalization policies, climate change issues (with specific reference to the outcome of the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 in November 2021 in Glasgow), and misinformation and free speech in modern democratic societies.

Summary

This Subgroup will discuss the extent to which the European Union is equipped to provide, and is indeed providing, an appropriate response to the economic issues that have amounted to the rise of economic nationalism/populism. It will be argued that if the EU delivers satisfactory solutions in terms of growth, prosperity and equality, economic populism will be kept at bay. A relationship will be acknowledged between the criticisms from economic populism and certain economic policies and performances from the EU in the current context. The situation of such stances will be analyzed in turn, in order to identify any possible design or implementation flaws and propose workable solutions in the quest of an ever more prosperous, egalitarian EU.

  1. Nationalism, populism, and the economic context in Europe
  2. Characterization of a distinct economically “nationalist-populist” stances
  3. The merits of the nationalist-populist economic case against the EU
  4. Has the EU become exhausted in contributing to growth and prosperity?
  5. How the EU is approaching the economic issues underlying the nationalist/populist stance
  6. Whether the fundamental tenets underpinning European integration are bound to be (or are indeed being) redefined
  7. The current situation: momentum and instruments
  8. How the new Post-Brexit situation allows for new contending episodes, based on economic nationalism dogmas, to the integrity of the current EU

Terms of Reference

  1. Nationalism, populism, and the economic context in Europe. The upsurge of populist and nationalist stances stems, at least partially, from certain economic contexts which have been tensioning societies throughout the past few years – not least in Europe. Namely, and in no particular order: the consolidation of economic globalization and comparative losses in competitiveness and productivity as a consequence thereof; the reverberations of the world financial crisis from its subsequent iterations starting on the late 2000s; the potential exhaustion of some local industries and services; an increasing importance of digital and platform economies endorsing disruptive models in asymmetrically regulated markets; demographic shifts; the difficulties of some job markets to adapt to such a situation; to loss of social welfare; a wider inequality divides. In this context, competing interpretations of the economic reality and alternative economic policies consequently deal with these issues in turn are prone to flourishing and being confronted against the EU´s foundations of economic integration.
  1. From an eminently economic orientation, the Subgroup is invited to consider whether the nationalist-populist economic theses stem from the same/different underlying issues from economic reality than the integrationist proposal -ie, what aspects are weighted in within each stance; and, if at all, what is different between the competing perceptions of such reality. From that, a characterization of a distinct economically “nationalist-populist” stance is to be provided, whose traits can be clearly confronted against the economic principles the EU has traditionally endorsed.
  1. The merits of the nationalist-populist economic case against the EU. Under the rhetoric “Europe is no longer able to defend the (economic) interest of our people” there is an identifiable narrative aimed at not only providing a competing vision but ultimately challenging -as Brexit has vividly exemplified- the EU´s main economic tenets , on the grounds of, for instance, lesser economic integration of domestic markets, a greater degree of national monetary sovereignty, a deeper budgetary leeway often desired to implement expansionist policies or a more bilateral vision of international trade.
  1. The Subgroup is invited to identify some possible reasons why the EU might, if at all, have become exhausted in contributing to growth and prosperity and provide examples of shortcomings in that respect from recent years. The Subgroup is also invited to point out any possible accelerating factors adding power/momentum to the appeal of the populist economic stance under the Covid-19 circumstance. It is also pertinent to assess the scope for scenarios that might ultimately bring about further disintegration proposals beyond Brexit- drawing from some countries where near populist themes are arguably a tangible part of their Government's stance- and what mechanisms and economic indicators can be used to detect potential risks leading to consolidating economic populism.
  1. How the EU is approaching the economic issues underlying the nationalist/populist stance. While the situation depicted above can spark some additional edge to the populist claims, at the same time the EU institutions are starred with the role of providing for alleviating solutions. They are bound to do so drawing from its economic foundations, ie the continuum free markets-economic and monetary integration- more efficiency and productivity – greater growth. The EU's landmark thematic policies have likewise constantly played a considerable role in shaping the economic prosperity in Europe. There is thus a distinct, recognizable toolbox that the EU can draw from to position her path towards the future.
  1. The Subgroup is welcome to consider whether the fundamental tenets underpinning European integration are bound to be (or are indeed being) redefined in order to tackle the current economic issues in a solvent fashion, thus undermining the possible impact of nationalism/populism and maintaining a sufficient , broad degree of common support across member States' citizens and economic agents. The Subgroup is also invited to consider whether the possible role of the EU in the defining economic milestones for the future's economy can be relevant to counter the populist claims. For instance: Digital Markets and Digital Services Act; Competition Policy and Enforcement; the New Green Deal; the Artificial Intelligence package; Tax policy and tax convergence.
  1. The current situation: momentum and instruments. The current moment introduces several distinct elements that the EU will have to deal with, hopefully to her advantage, in providing a successful element to overcome the economic challenges that economic populism aims to deal with. On the one hand, the scenario after the Brexit precedent, which the European project can hardly afford to be repeated; on the other hand, the current pandemic contingency and pre-crisis sentiment, which is further stressing European societies.
  1. The Subgroup is invited to consider the extent to which the new Post-Brexit situation allows for new contending episodes, based on economic nationalism dogmas, to the integrity of the current EU or, conversely, can be harnessed to reframing the EU´s role and place in catering for their foundational objectives of growth and prosperity, eschewing further disintegration scenarios. The Subgroup may equally analyze the potential within the European response to the pandemic as a catalyst to foster implement changes and solutions aligned with a sound economic policy towards the future, as led by the Next Generation Europe instruments (the potential and real impact of funds; the margin for structural reforms) or the European Central Bank's policies.

Juan Espinosa for FIDE Foundation

WG Members:

Leader:

Juan Espinosa

Partner at Silverback Advocacy (Leader of the subgroup)

Constructive Friend:

Frederic Jenny

Emeritus Professor, Economics Department, ESSEC Business School. Co-Director of the European Center for Law and Economics. Member of Fide's International Academic Council.(Constructive friend of the WG E and of this subgroup)

Maria Pilar Canedo

Member of the Board of the Spanish National Commission of the Markets and of the Competition.

Sonsoles Centeno Orchard

Lawyer at Perez Llorca Abogados, and Former Head of the Legal Service before the Court of Justice of the European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Spain.  

Amanda cohen

Specialist senior judge by the General Council of the Judiciary in commercial matters. Advisor in the Ministry of Justice on commercial matters at national and international level. Member of Fide's Academic Council

Michael of the Hand

Lecturer and Researcher in International Law, Adjunct Professor, Executive Vice President in Compass Lexecon's Brussels office

Martin Martinez Navarro

Référendaire (law clerk) at the General Court of the European Union

* Important note: All members of the Working Groups and panels participate in an individual, non-institutional capacity, although we reflect each participant with their current position in the different working documents to better identify them.

Oxford Conference /22:

Nationalism, populism and identities: contemporary challenges

Oxford /22: Nationalism, populism and identities: contemporary challenges

Full info on our 2nd international congress at Oxford

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Oxford/22 Next Steps

In the next phase, the Working Groups and Panels continue to work to prepare and present their final conclusions and proposals papers, taking in all the feedback and work carried out during the discussion sessions in Oxford.

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