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BIPR | Forging Consensus in Crisis: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in European Integration
Forging Consensus in Crisis: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in European Integration

April 21, 2023 - 11:30

Matthias Matthijs, Johns Hopkins University SAIS, US

Event Recap

Matthias Matthijs opened the discussion at SAIS by talking about his idea for writing a book. "After Trump's election, I and many others observed that the relationship between the US and Europe was going to be in trouble", stated Matthijs. The European Union (EU) was founded on a set of rules that have run its course. Matthijs stated that in 2017, it was difficult to know what exactly would replace this system.

Matthijs provided a stylized history of European integration, which is often characterized as forged in recurring crises. From the Great Depression and World War II (WWII), all the way to present day War in Ukraine, European integration is described as occurring paradigm shifts during crises. However, even before the war in Ukraine, the Trump administration's disengagement from European security and transatlantic relations began a shift in Europe. A shift that was further hastened by the pandemic and the War in Ukraine. "The pandemic moved Europe toward a next generation EU. The shift in geoeconomic relations has accelerated", said Matthijs.

Matthijs then expressed some frustration at this characterization of European integration. He said a common refrain that is invoked comes from Jean Monnet, that "Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises." Matthijs' objection to this characterization is based on the fact that there are many crises where things do not change. Even some where things get worse. As a scholar his focus is on understanding "under what conditions do crises lead to radical change?" Matthijs stated that many of the theories on European integration "took the rules-based order for granted". Understanding the macro-foundations of paradigm shifts is important.

Matthijs outlined a framework for understanding these paradigm shifts, depending on the polity level (national or supra-national) and the level of socio-political embeddedness. Through this framework, Matthijs explained the European integration of the past as based on these two macro regimes. The first macro regime, which emerged after the Great Depression and WWII, was focused on full employment. "The trauma in the post-war period was mass unemployment. Higher inflation was tolerated to reach full employment," he stated. By the 1970s, the second macro regime emerged focused on low inflation. This brought about "open" markets and deregulation. "By 2008, this [second] regime ran into trouble", said Matthijs.

These macro regimes each came embedded with risks, which are seen today as high inequality and the reemergence of populism. Matthijs argued that there is now a third macro regime emerging, one focused on the economic and financial system serving higher goals. This macro regime, coupled with the crises of the pandemic and the War in Ukraine, have pushed the EU into a growing consensus that it needs to act more autonomously. The views on how to arrive at "open strategic autonomy" differ widely between small and large EU states. However, Matthijs sees the contours of a more radical policy shift in the current moment.

Full Audio:

Forging Consensus in Crisis: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in European Integration

hosted by Professor Thomas Row

Matthias Matthijs
Johns Hopkins University SAIS, US

Matthias Matthijs is Associate Professor of International Political Economy at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS.

His research focuses on the politics of economic crises, the role of economic ideas in economic policymaking, and the politics of regional integration. At SAIS, he teaches courses in international relations and comparative politics, and was twice awarded the Max M. Fisher Prize for Excellence in Teaching, in 2011 and 2015. He is also a Senior Fellow for Europe at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and served as the Chair of the European Union Studies Association (EUSA) from 2019 to 2021.

Matthijs is the editor (with Mark Blyth) of The Future of the Euro, published by Oxford University Press in 2015, and author of Ideas and Economic Crises in Britain from Attlee to Blair (1945-2005), published by Routledge in 2011. Matthijs has authored numerous peer reviewed articles that have been published in academic journals. Among various other research and writing projects, he is currently working on a book-length manuscript that delves into the collapse of national elite consensus around European integration.

He previously taught at American University's School of International Service in Washington, DC from 2008 to 2012, and was a visiting assistant professor of international political economy at SAIS Europe in Bologna, Italy during the spring semester of 2010 and the academic year 2016-17. He has also served as a consultant for the World Bank's Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) from 2005 to 2007 and for the Economist Intelligence Unit from 2009 to 2011.

Dr. Matthijs received his BSc in applied economics from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and his MA and PhD in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
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