Addressing Legitimacy Challenges for the European Union

Authors: Ivana Skazlic and Tiffany Williams

The financial crisis 2008 posed a huge challenge to the European Union, its consequences being still noticeable today. The legitimacy of the EU’s responses to that crises is at the core of a research initiative that the IHS was a part of for the last three years.

PLATO, which stands for ‘The Post-crisis Legitimacy of the European Union’, is an Innovative Training Network funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. Over the last three years, the network has brought together 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESR) at nine partner universities and research institutes with the aim of investigating the legitimacy of the EU’s responses to the financial crisis. In addition to the joint research aim, PLATO provided an intense training programme for the PhDs. PhD schools, organised inter alia by Katrin Auel and Guido Tieman from the IHS, focused on legitimacy theory, research design and methods, and were complemented by several additional training courses on skills such as academic writing, presenting research, public engagement or writing policy recommendations.

As a member of PLATO, the IHS hosts two of the ESRs, both in the research group ‘Governance and Public Finance’. Ivana Skazlic works on parliamentary involvement in the European Semester and is supervised by Katrin Auel; Tiffany Williams‘ research focuses on the perception of the EU’s legitimacy in the South Caucasus under the supervision of Guido Tiemann. In addition to their stay at the IHS, both also had opportunities to spend time as visiting researchers at PLATO partner universities and think tanks within the network. In this blog post they both look back at their experiences of the past years.

PLATO - IHS Experiences

Ivana Skazlic

Within the larger PLATO research on the legitimacy of the EU´s responses to the financial crisis, I investigate how well national parliaments contribute to key standards of legitimacy in following the European Semester - a central procedure of the EU economic governance system.  My research project develops scores of parliamentary European Semester scrutiny activities and transparency of these activities to examine the extent to which national parliaments are involved in the European Semester, and to test the factors explaining the variation in their involvement across 36 parliamentary chambers in the EU over four years. This was a challenging but also very rewarding task.

I appreciate the network´s excellent academic programme and training in a range of professional skills.

Overall, my experience during my PhD studies as a PLATO Early Stage Researcher (ESR) has been extremely positive. Thanks to the PLATO network, I had a privilege to work closely with a number of renowned scholars from different European universities and institutes that I admire and respect. I also truly enjoyed working with my other PLATO PhD peers, thanks to whom conducting my doctoral research has never been a lonely experience. Moreover, the mobility dimension of the PLATO network has provided me with the great opportunity to carry out two research stays as a Visiting PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge and the Sciences Po Paris and gain practical experience within the policy advice sector at the Jacques Delors Centre in Berlin. I appreciate the network´s excellent academic programme and training in a range of professional skills I have received throughout the PLATO project, which prepared me for my future career as an independent researcher in the best possible way. 

As a host institution, the Institute for Advanced Studies – IHS was a perfect place for me to conduct my doctoral research. As a part of the IHS research team, I greatly benefited from the excellent mentorship of Dr. Katrin Auel, and I´m very grateful for her constant support, interest, time and patience throughout this journey. I really enjoyed working with other colleagues at the IHS, who were always helpful, supportive and approachable. The IHS has really provided me with an amazing environment to conduct my research.

Tiffany Williams

Contributing to international relations scholarship and EU studies, my PhD analyzes the European Union (EU)’s evolving political strategy in the South Caucasus. It demonstrates how the perception of extant Eastern Partnership agreements as exclusionary and dogmatic rather than fair and pragmatic limits their attractiveness to Eastern Partners, and impacts the EU’s political effectiveness in the region.

Thanks to our participation with the PLATO network, I have an extensive group of scholars, research institutes, and resources available to further support my doctoral research.

At the IHS and with the EUGOFIN team, I have had the benefit of dedicated and supportive colleagues who are well versed in EU governance and political affairs. Thanks to our participation with the PLATO network, I have an extensive group of scholars, research institutes, and resources available to further support my doctoral research. I have been able to continue my collaboration with scholars at the Sciences Po Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics, and had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with other researchers who also examine my project’s policies and region of focus at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin and Brussels. Additionally, I have participated in many valuable conferences and workshops that may have otherwise been beyond my reach without the financial support from the PLATO fellowship at the IHS. The EUGOFIN team has also lent a helping hand during the process of getting settled as a migrant researcher in Vienna. Each country has its own rules for this (even within the EU!) and Austria makes for my fourth immigration experience. Support from sympathetic colleagues helps during this tense experience!

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 722581.