While long present in studies of the Court of Justice of the EU, ‘activism’ has rarely been examined systematically in the context of analyses of other supranational institutions. This research project, which I coordinated with Prof. David Howarth (Luxembourg University), brought together scholars from the areas of political science, legal studies and history, who traced in a series of case studies the activism of a wide range of EU supranational institutions in the past and present. Based on our combined research results, we developed a concise definition of ‘supranational institutional activism’, examining its analytical usefulness in relation to other concepts such as ‘entrepreneurship’, and through the lens of a number of political science and EU integration theories and analytical approaches. This new conceptualisation of supranational-level activism can contribute to a more systematic and comprehensive understanding of the contribution of the involved actors to EU policy making and European integration.

With this research project, we did not seek to join the choir of those predicting an unstoppable process of ever closer integration, nor did we aim to depict the development of supranational institutions as an eternal teleological gain of power. The aim here is to offer a correction to the increased academic focus of late on the important role of member state governments in EU policy making, especially in tackling the recent financial, sovereign debt and migration crises, and other difficulties facing the EU. The rise in anti-EU populism, the Brexit vote and the impending UK departure from the EU create a direct challenge to European integration and the role and influence of supranational institutions. However, none of these developments necessarily undermines the reality of ongoing supranational institutional activism. This research project seeks to familiarise scholars with a range of approaches and conceptual tools with which to explore the role of supranational institutions in the EU policy making process.

Connected publications

Pushing the Boundaries. New research on the Activism of EU Supranational Institutions (co-authored with David Howarth). Journal of Contemporary European Research, 3:2 (2017), pp. 1007-1024.

Far Beyond the Treaties’ Clauses: The European Parliament’s Gain in Power, 1952-1979. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 3:2 (2017), pp. 1055-1075.