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Democratic Backsliding and Decision-Making in the European Union: Eurosceptic Contestation?

July 27, 2022
Thomas Winzen

Working Paper

In this working paper, Thomas Winzen of Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf describes his research into democratic backsliding and Eurosceptic positions in the European Union.


Do governments engaged in democratic backsliding adopt Eurosceptic positions in decision-making in the European Union (EU)? This study argues that policy context is crucial to answering this question. Backsliding governments do not necessarily oppose greater integration but are likely to resist decisions that could interfere with their domestic repression, co-optation, and legitimation strategies. Backsliding governments adopt Eurosceptic positions if and when the EU exercises or develops backsliding-inhibiting competences—that is, competences that could constrain their autocratic ambitions. Thomas Winzen further shows that backsliding does not affect EU legislative outcomes and that backsliding governments might even incur a backsliding penalty. These findings indicate that the main challenge of democratic backsliding for EU decision-making might lie in the long-term, corrosive effects that could result from the contestation of decisions and political norms. The results also enhance our understanding of the choice between incrementalism, aggression, and indulgence as the EU’s response to backsliding.

This working paper is part of an IGCC series on authoritarian regimes and international organizations, which was made possible in part by generous support from the Smith Richardson Foundation.

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