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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsWhen observing the popular protests against the European Union's handling of the recent financial and sovereign debt crises, whether in Portugal, Ireland, or Greece, what many people in the streets objected to was not only the EU's perceived lack of democracy that manifested in them feeling as if having no impact on their own faith. They also often opposed the European Union's neoliberal character, whether real or perceived. What, then, is this idea of a European neoliberal governmentality, and is the EU really a neoliberal project? Furthermore, how has this transformed the nation state on top of those changes discussed in previous videos?

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsAs I am sure you remember from earlier this week, the European integration project was a political one in essence, though the mechanism of building an ever closer union was an economic one. Thus, the origins of the EU's neoliberalism go back to the global economic crisis in the 1970s. The global response to this was to open up and deepen markets around the globe, which increasingly came to shape also European integration, particularly from the 1980s onwards. Both the completion of a single European market and the introduction of the economic and monetary union which saw the introduction of the Euro were informed by the neoliberal logic of market competition.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 secondsOver time, the EU's financial markets were integrated, and the individual nation states were left to increasingly compete for investment by large, transnational, industrial corporations. Among the many ways for those nation states to ensure that they would be at the winning side of this competition was to cut labour costs, decrease corporate taxes, or compromise on standards such as safety or environmental ones. However, according to opponents of this neoliberal character of the European Union, the real winner of this competition was transnational capital, as it managed to transform itself from an economic force to a political one. In essence, a relatively coherent and well-organized transnational corporate elite began to set the European agenda and shape European policy-making.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 secondsBy doing so, neoliberalism is often seen as posing a threat to the traditional understanding of nation states as it impacts national values and institutions. Though this neoliberalism of the European integration project is seen as troublesome by many Europeans, has been clear long before the more recent protests in the countries worst hit by the Euro crisis. It is argued that neoliberalism's potential to further erode the remaining powers of the nation state to provide its population with security, welfare, and decent living conditions stood behind the French rejecting the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe in 2005.

Is the EU a neoliberal project?

In this video, Dr Marek Neuman explains the economic character of EU integration and why some Europeans see liberalisation of economy as troublesome.

When observing the popular protests against the European Union’s handling of the recent financial and sovereign debt crises, many people objected to two things. Firstly, they responded negatively to the feeling that the EU was undemocratically organised, which resulted in them feeling as if they have no impact on or control over their own fate.

Secondly, they also often opposed the European Union’s neoliberal character, whether real or perceived. Neoliberal economics and politics emerged in the 1980s. Central tenets are a strong belief in market forces and a small government. Many people perceive the EU’s policies to only be about money, profit and austerity, without taking into account the social fabric of societies.

Dr Marek Neuman explains the consequences of European economic integration on the economic and political powers of member states and why some scholars, practitioners, and citizens have been criticising the EU as a neoliberal project.

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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