Robert Schuman Initiative for European Affairs 

The Robert Schuman Initiative for European Affairs is a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (JMCE) for the study of European integration and the European Union. It functions as a source of ideas and concepts for the development of policies of relevance to Luxembourgish and broader European society. The RSI builds upon the excellent work undertaken during our first JMCE funded over the 2015-2018 period. This previous JMCE funding enabled the creation of RSI, a sui generis interfaculty and interdisciplinary institution at the University of Luxembourg. The new JMCE continues our focus on cross-cutting issues linking matters such as economic integration, constitutional and institutional evolution, the conceptual understanding of historical processes, the national and international dimensions of integration and the interaction of the various public and private actors involved in shaping the integration process. The RSI contributes to our continued efforts to initiate and advance policy debates that bridge disciplinary divides with the aim of developing policy relevant ideas to shape the development of the EU. It ensures the ongoing development of a vibrant academic community to conduct critical research and scholarly discourse at the highest level, with the publication of results in leading peer-reviewed publications and the maintenance of a strong online presence. The JMCE reinforces the position of the University of Luxembourg’s Robert Schuman Initiative as an important and internationally recognized research community engaged in the ongoing exploration of the possibilities and challenges to the future of European integration.

The members of the RSI are Prof. David Howarth (coordinator), Prof. Andreas Fickers, Prof. Robert HarmsenProf. Herwig HofmannProf. Anna-Lena Högenauer, Prof. Benoit Majerus, Prof. Joana Mendes, Prof. Eleftheria Neframi, Prof, Valérie Schafer and Frédéric Allemand (Technical coordinator).


UNESCO Chair in Human Rights

Prof. Robert Harmsen holds the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights at the University of Luxembourg. He started his mandate with a ceremony on 28 November 2019 at the Cercle Cité, in the presence of His Royal Highness the Grand Duke. The programme of activities envisaged for his mandate builds upon the strong foundations laid for the Chair by Prof. Jean-Paul Lehners during the previous eight years. Teaching and research activities continue to be actively developed within the University, as is an ambitious agenda for wider public engagement in terms consistent with the University of Luxembourg’s unique role and responsibilities as the sole university in the country. Reflecting both Prof. Harmsen’s own academic background and the privileged position of Luxembourg as one of the main sites of the institutions of European governance, greater emphasis is also placed on the roles assumed by differing European institutions in the protection of human rights and the reciprocal processes of learning that may be engaged on this basis with other global regions. In keeping with the mandate of the UNESCO Chair, the ongoing development of international links further assumes a prominent place in the Chair’s activities. This builds on the Chair’s existing, extensive participation in networks such as the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation/Global Campus on Human Rights and the Association of Human Rights Institutes, as well as through utilizing the distinctive opportunities offered by the UNESCO Chairs/UNITWIN programme.


ELWar - Electoral Legacies of War: Political Competition in Postwar Southeast Europe

Electoral Legacies of War: Political Competition in Postwar Southeast Europe (ELWar) is a project financed by the €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant for the period 2017-2022. ELWar aims to fill the gap in our understanding of electoral legacies of war by analyzing the evolution of political competition over the course of more than two decades in the six postwar states of Southeast Europe: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Organized around three thematic areas/levels of analysis – voters, parties, communities – the project aims to make a series of important contributions. Through a combination of public opinion research, archival research, and tools of natural language processing, the project answers to which extent postwar elections are decided by voters’ experiences and perceptions of the ended conflict, as opposed to their considerations of the parties’ peacetime economic platforms and performance in office. It also sheds light on the influence of war on electoral strategies, policy preferences, and recruitment methods of postwar political parties. And it helps expose the mechanisms through which war becomes embedded into postwar political competition on the community level and thus continues to exert its influence even decades after the violence has ended.

The project team consists of the principal investigator Prof. Josip Glaurdić, two postdoctoral researchers Dr. Christophe Lesschaeve and Dr. Michal Mochtak, and the project assistant Ms. Daniela Janeva.


PROactive Policymaking for Equal Lives (PROPEL)

The PROPEL (PROactive Policymaking for Equal Lives) project examines the role that housing policies and housing markets play in alleviating or exacerbating economic, social, and political inequalities. PROPEL adopts an interdisciplinary and multi-method approach to identify the political inputs that shape housing markets and housing policies, trace the ways in which housing generates economic, social, and political inequalities in high-income OECD countries, and propose policy-relevant and evidence-informed solutions to address contemporary inequalities. In doing so it draws from a wide body of research spanning political economy, social policy, and inequality.

The social science on inequality and the welfare state is widely dispersed across disciplines, and in response, inequality scholars regularly adopt interdisciplinary methods and lenses. This interdisciplinary tradition enables a deep look into the causes and consequences of inequality, but simultaneously runs the risk of omitting key explanatory variables. The politics and the policies of the housing market are one set of commonly omitted variables. Yet housing deeply affects life chances by shaping people’s wealth accumulation, personal safety, educational and job opportunities, and even the ease with which they can start a family. Scholars often assume unequal access to housing and housing finance is inherent to a capitalist economy. In that paradigm, governments can try to mitigate market-derived inequalities. If explicit government policy contributes to these housing inequalities, however, the response shifts to lessening policy-derived inequalities. The PROPEL projects adopts the latter view and is designed to sketch the explanatory framework needed to address those inequalities.

Prof. Lindsay Flynn is the principal investigator for PROPEL, which is funded by an FNR ATTRACT Consolidator grant of €2 million over five years (2021-2025). The project benefits from formal collaborations with the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research and the LIS Cross-National Data Center.


Banking on Europe

This research project, which is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Luxembourg's National Research Council (FNR) INTER scheme aims to generate new knowledge among academics and policymakers about the evolution and accountability of pan-European public financial institutions. Institutions with the authority to raise funds on financial markets to provide grants, loans or guarantees were present at the outset of the European Communities and were part of European responses to the economic crises of the 1970s, the reuniting of Europe in the 1990s and the euro crisis in the 2010s. They are now pivotal to the EU’s COVID-19 response. As pan-European public financial institutions grow in importance, they face calls for greater accountability to governments, parliaments and NGOs. And yet, there is limited political science research on either the evolution or accountability of these bodies. The project’s findings will generate new knowledge on: (1) the evolution and accountability of pan-European public financial institutions since 1950; (2) who is driving these developments and what this means for accountability; and (3) how accountable these bodies are in practice and how their accountability can be strengthened.

The project, led by Prof. David Howarth and Professor Dermot Hodson, Birkbeck College, University of London, runs from 2022 to 2025. It involves the publication of a monograph with a leading university press, a number of journal articles, working papers and policy briefs.


Building Effective European Banking Supervision (BEEBS)

The post-2007 financial and sovereign debt crises highlighted the vulnerabilities of European banking systems and the intrinsic value of its stability. In order to achieve the objective of banking system stability under the constraint of financial globalization, a new system of supranational banking supervision has been established. This new institutional framework is characterized by distinct roles for the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Central Bank (ECB) in relation to National Competent Authorities (NCs), with the aim of fostering convergence in supervisory practice. Indeed, despite the European Union (EU) regulatory framework for credit institutions, considerable divergence in national supervisory practice remains – which could be detrimental to the stability of European banking systems.

The BEEBS research project, which is funded under the FNR CORE scheme, seeks to investigate the issue of divergence in national supervisory practice and to assess the on-going efforts to harmonize these practices. In particular, the project examines the pressures encouraging supervisory convergence created by the operation of the three European supervisory jurisdictions and asks if whether the EBA and ECB have sufficient institutional capacity to ensure a supervisory level playing field.

The team for this project, which is running from 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2023, is composed of Prof. David Howarth, doctoral researcher Laura Pierret, doctoral researcher Farida Valieva, and associated advisor Jakub Gren.


The Governance of Monetary Policy: The EMU’s Legitimacy Conundrum (EMULEG)

The role of European Central Bank (ECB) in monetary policy and in European Union (EU) law and politics has changed fundamentally in the past decade. Just as during the sovereign debt crisis, in 2020 it is again at the forefront of economic responses that are essential to preserve the Eurozone, and, many claim, the EU itself. While it has so far been successful, the evolution of the ECB remains deeply problematic, both in terms of legality and legitimacy. It faces a conundrum of independence and democracy that remains unsolved. EU legal and political science scholarship has hitherto avoided addressing the problems that the ECB’s redistributive policies pose to democratic legitimacy in the EU, not least because of how they fundamentally constrain Member States economic policies.

EMULEG proposes to re-define the institutional framework of the EMU. It analyses whether the ECB’s independence is too high in light of the increasing polarization of opinions on its policies and the growing importance of its decisions, and whether there are better alternatives that allow for a rebalancing of independence and democratic legitimacy. For this purpose, team members are comparing the legal framework of the independence of the ECB to three other central banks, as well as the institutional reality of accountability towards political institutions and the public. The aim is to formulate advice on possible reforms including both changes to the ECB’s legal framework and the institutional practice of central bank accountability in the EU, with the aim of finding a better balance between effective policies in the pursuance of collective goals and democratic legitimacy.

Prof. Anna-Lena Högenauer and Prof. Joana Mendes are the principal investigators for this project, funded by a grant from the Institute of Advanced Studies. Dimitrios Argyroulis and Nikolaos Vagdoutis work as postdoctoral researchers on the project which is running from 1 June 2021 to 31 May 2024.


Avoiding the Inappropriate – The European Commission and Sanctions under EU Fiscal Policy Coordination

Since the beginning of the European Economic and Monetary Union, fiscal non-compliance was subject to the potential imposition of sanctions. However, the extent to which punitive action should be automatic – rather than political – is a point of constant discussion among European Union decision-makers. The most recent reform of the Stability and Growth Pact in the aftermath of the European Sovereign Debt Crisis has attempted to make sanctions more automatic and has created the possibility to trigger them at earlier stages of the surveillance procedure. With this in mind, the reform has enhanced the powers and autonomy of the Commission in applying the new rules. Despite the reinforcement of punitive provisions, the Commission has so far refrained from proposing the imposition of sanctions. This project aims to answer the question of how we can best explain that the European Commission does not propose financial sanctions because of Member State non-compliance with the Pact’s fiscal objectives. It draws upon four post-crisis cases in which sanctions for fiscal non-compliance might have been imposed: Belgium in 2013, France in 2015, Portugal and Spain in 2016 and Italy in 2018. The project uses theory-testing process-tracing methods and applies an adaptation of normative institutionalism that takes into account strategic actor behaviour. Based on this theoretical and methodological framework, it is argued that the normative-strategic minimum enforcement mechanism explains the Commission’s behaviour. Given that the imposition of sanctions is perceived as inappropriate in the cases at hand, Commission actors strategically refrain from applying the enforcement provisions to their full extent. 

The project is carried out by the doctoral researcher Martin Sacher under the supervision of Prof. David Howarth. It is funded by the AFR scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).


Establishment of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly (FRA-GER-PARL)

This project puts into focus the creation of an ambitious interparliamentary assembly between Germany and France in 2019. Consisting of 50 representatives from the French Assemblée and 50 from the German Bundestag, the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly (FGPA) aims to control and give new impetus to bilateral intergovernmental relations. Furthermore, the young assembly claims to be a watchdog for the implementation of the Franco-German Treaties. Through personal interviews and content analysis of various protocols, resolutions, and speeches, this project traces the negotiations of the Franco-German working group that elaborated the parliamentary agreement as they were experienced by the members of the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée. The project also has a policy dimension that goes beyond the FGPA, as it aims to provide insights into the processes of interparliamentary cooperation and recommendations for their institutionalization.

The project is carried out by the doctoral researcher Henriette Heimbach under the supervision of Prof. Anna-Lena Högenauer. It is funded by the AFR scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).


The (Un)intentional Collapse of Europeanization: The EU and the Rise of Authoritarianism in Southeast Europe (UCEuro)

The rise of right-wing populism in Southeast Europe (SEE) - ruled by unstable and fragile regimes where politicians use social polarization to maintain power - has been intensified by the state of de facto collapse of the process of Europeanization and the decreased interest of the EU in the region, as well as the entry of outside players like Russia and China into regional politics. This state of affairs in SEE is the direct product of policies implemented by different EU-level political actors over the past three decades, as well as of the rational calculations by the regional politicians on how to solidify their hold on power. The central question of this project is: How and why has the EU (un)intentionally contributed to the collapse of Europeanization and to the democratic backsliding in Southeast Europe? The project will lift the veil of policymaking and political negotiations within the EU and between the EU and SEE countries, and expose how and why EU policies toward SEE are failing to promote democracy, but are instead encouraging authoritarianism. Lessons learned and recommendations made will be portable across regions and will serve the EU in the process of future European Neighborhood Policy evaluation and making.

The project is carried out by the doctoral researcher Anđela Mićanović under the supervision of Prof. Josip Glaurdić. It is funded by the AFR scheme of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).


e/i-Voting: Political and Legal Aspects in the Cyber Era (e/i-V:PLACE)

When technological progress heralded the possibility of electronic or internet voting (e/i-voting), many countries desired to introduce this novelty into electoral legislation. Over the years, the excitement has faded, and many nations with long democratic traditions have de facto blocked such innovations due to their seemingly insurmountable technological failure to reconcile demands of high assurance of the accuracy of the election result along with vote privacy while ensuring that the system is usable and understandable. Meanwhile, the world is dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the digitalization of society and opened opportunities for a step forward in the sphere of voting technology. This project brings together political science, law, and computing science to find practical, political, and technological solutions firmly rooted in legal theory that may enable broader implementation of e/i-voting in Europe. This interdisciplinary project will expose both positive and negative experiences of e/i-voting, provide an overview of current technological developments and their possible correspondence with legal norms, as well as provide guidelines to decision-makers on reforming electoral systems in line with technological progress.

The project is carried out by the doctoral researcher Leo Fel under the supervision of Prof. Josip Glaurdić and Prof. Peter Y.A. Ryan from the Department of Computer Science. It is funded by the Young Academics scheme of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS).