This presentation focuses on how the ‘populist turn’ of recent years has affected EU institutions and the non-state actors interacting with them. On the basis of a set of in-depth interviews and text analyses, it argues that the success of populist parties has affected the composition, agendas, and political culture of European institutional actors. It reviews this impact on the European Parliament, the European Commission and a set of EU-level civil society organizations. It argues that, as a consequence of the impact of populist formations, a fragmented reaction has occurred in each of the institutional domains considered.
In particular, it documents and explains the difficulty and lateness of the Commission in realizing the significance of the impact of the ‘populist turn’ in European politics and at EU level. It shows the contrast between attempts to institutionalize the ‘populist turn’ in the European Parliament and attempts to polarize the conflict and organize anti-populist mobilizations. It argues that the success of populist forces in several member states and at EU level has specifically affected inclusionary antidiscrimination organizations and produced a polarised reaction, whereby some civil society organizations in Member States are increasingly disengaging from the EU political process, while at the EU level organizations tend to redefine their goals and strategies to face a partial decline of legitimacy.
Carlo Ruzza (MA SUNY, PhD Harvard) is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Trento where he teaches courses on European Studies and Political Sociology. He has previously taught at the University of Leicester, the University of Essex and the University of Surrey, and was a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. He has written broadly on EU politics, social movements, civil society organizations, human rights, populism and right-wing parties. His research interests focus upon social movements, populism and right-wing parties. He is also interested in advocacy processes at European level, which include a focus on the efforts of civil society groups to affect policy-making in areas such as EU anti-discrimination policy and environmental policy.
His book publications include (with Stefano Fella) Reinventing the Italian Right: Populism, Post-Fascism and Territorial Identity (London, Routledge, 2009) and Europe and Civil Society (Manchester University Press, 2007). His edited books include Europe’s prolonged crisis (London, Palgrave, 2015, with H. Trenz and V. Guiraudon) and several volumes on EU politics. His journal publications include articles in the Journal of European Integration, Innovation, Theory and Society, Telos, West European Politics, the International Journal of Sociology, European Political Science, the Journal of Political Ideologies, the Journal of Civil Society, Social Science and Medicine, the Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, and Policy and Society and several other books and articles in English and Italian. His main interests are in advocacy processes at European level and in radical right Eurosceptic parties. He is currently working on a project on the impact of populist parties on European institutions and organized civil-society groups at EU level.