Analysing the legitimacy of the EU in the context of multilevel governance


Promotrice : Virginie Van Ingelgom
Chercheuse : Soetkin Verhaegen
Financement : Postdoctoral fellowship FNRS
To make governance operate effectively requires citizens to perceive it as legitimate. Perceived legitimacy, is “the belief 38 that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society” (Lipset 1983: 64). Questions about legitimacy arise for all governance levels citizens are subject to: national, subnational and supranational levels. Hence, a growing literature studies perceived legitimacy, mostly of the national or EU level. However, theories on multilevel governance stress complex relationships between governance levels. This is in contrast to the currently dominant practice of studying these governance levels in isolation, or as a simple trade-off between two levels. The absence of a deep understanding of the relationship between citizens’ attitudes about the various governance levels they are subject to is problematic, as the multilevel setting has a profound impact on legitimation dynamics (Scharpf 2007). For these reasons, the proposed project integrates the literatures on perceived legitimacy and multilevel governance to answer its guiding research question ‘to what extent and how do perceptions of legitimacy of European, national and subnational governance levels interact?’. The project places the EU, national and the most relevant subnational level in EU member states at the centre, as questions about legitimacy are most apparent for these levels. A mixed-methods approach combining focus groups in Belgium and the Netherlands, the collection of original survey data in Belgium (in cooperation with the EOS project) and the analysis of quantitative survey data on all EU member states will be used to answer this question. It will be explored what citizens regard as relevant traits of legitimate governance and how this varies across governance levels, the linkages between perceptions of legitimacy of these levels will be shown and variation in citizens’ perceptions of legitimacy of each level, and their linkages will be explained.