ECPR Standing Group on Parliaments

1-2 July 2021.

Game-Changer or Old Wine in a New Bottle?
The Impact of the Pandemic on Democracy in the EU

Panel Chair: Eric Miklin
Discussant: Aleksandra Maatsch

Panel abstract:

Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic generated an unprecedented global crisis that not only affected our health, but also many other aspects of our lives. In March 2021 it has been exactly one year since the WHO recognized the coronavirus as a pandemic. While the crisis is not over yet, it is therefore time to take stock of its impact so far: To what extent has the COVID-19 crisis affected representative democracy at the national and supranational level? Has it triggered parliamentary decline, empowerment or perhaps no change at all? Do we observe one dominant or perhaps various trends and how can we make sense of such patterns?

While a pandemic in a globalized world is a new phenomenon, representative democracy in ‘crisis-mode’ is by no means new. In fact, ten years ago the Eurozone has been destabilized by a very profound economic crisis. The EU and its member states’ responses to this crisis have received a significant amount of scholarly attention, which has provided important insights. Responses to the Eurozone crisis have entailed a trade-off between efficiency and democratic legitimacy. On one hand, a crisis requires that decision-makers react quickly in order to cope with the challenge. Usually, a crisis-situation cannot be foreseen and hence the decision-makers lack clear-cut instructions. On the other hand, ad-hoc decisions by the executive usually undermine democratic legitimacy as extraordinary measures escape democratic control and scrutiny. As a result, responding to the financial crisis resulted in an empowerment of executive actors vis-à-vis to national and European parliamentary actors in the short but also in the longer run (see e.g. the limited role of the European Parliament in the European Semester). With crisis-mode increasingly becoming the ‘new normal’ within the EU, we therefore also raise the question about potential differences in the impact of both economic crisis on representative democracy on the national and European level: Is the Covid-19 crisis simply ‘old wine in new bottles’ or do we observe different patterns when comparing it to the Eurozone crisis? If the latter, how can we explain these differences?

We welcome case-studies and comparative papers examining the politics of the crisis/crises (Under which circumstances did representative democracy prove so far prove to be more or less resilient?), but also papers looking at the impact that respective differences across member states and/or crises have had on the (efficiency of the) measures adopted to respond to the challenges posed.

The Role of the European Parliament in the Establishment of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF): A Rebound Opportunity?
Ermela Gianna (University of Salzburg, Salzburg Centre of European Union Studies)

Democracy in Lockdown: Concentration of Powers in the European Parliament under COVID-19.
Ariadna Ripoll Servent (Salzburg University, Salzburg Centre of European Union Studies)

A Hamiltonian moment for European Solidarity? Domestic Ratifications of the European Financial Stability Facility and the Own Resources Decision.
Carlos Closa Montero (Spanish National Research Council, CSIC and European University Institute, EUI) and Aleksandra Maatsch (Willy Brandt Centre for German and European Studies, University of Wrocław)

Toward a new form of representative democracy? Introducing a comparative database on parliamentary democracy during the pandemic.
Edgars Eihmanis (European University Institute & University of Wrocław)

Parliamentary outreach and the pandemic.
Alex Prior (University of East Anglia).