Historical Social Research

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Lars Vogel & Juan Rodríguez-TeruelStaying on Course in Turbulent Times: National Political Elites and the Crisis of European Integration [Abstract]

European Integration is currently facing tremendous challenges caused by a series of cumulating crises. Their onset was the global financial and economic crisis in 2008 that rapidly evolved into a sovereign debt crisis, further into a crisis of the Eurozone and led eventually to a political crisis of the entire EU. National political elites have been among the core actors to cope with these challenges. Their behaviour is driven by their Europeanness, i.e. their emotionally and rationally determined attitudes, cognitions and strategies regarding European Integration. Given their pivotal role, the purpose of this introductory article is twofold: Firstly, providing an overview about the elitist approach to European integration by introducing the main concepts, the methodology and the data basis on which the country studies in this HSR Special Issue rely on; secondly, enfolding a comparative perspective on the development of national elites’ Europeanness during the course of the mentioned crises. The article shows that the crises have affected national elites’ Europeanness in complex ways that are determined by the diverging impact they had on the investigated countries and by how elites perceive the efficiency of supranational integration to cope with them. Beyond national differences, the general evaluations of Europeanness remain quite stable pro-European while preferences regarding the concrete organization of integration are rather prone to change. Elites’ Europeanness primarily shifts in countries, in which strong Eurosceptic parties gained ground during the mentioned crisis indicating that there is a challenge of responsiveness for the still overwhelmingly pro-European elites.

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