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International Workshop Citizens, Parties and Leaders in European Uncertainty Claims for the National Sovereignty

10 November 2017 - 11 November 2017

These are difficult times for supranational institutions. The refugee, financial and security crises are putting Western political systems under strain. In light of such critical junctures, citizens, as well as parties and political leaders, are increasingly seduced by those movements and policy agendas promoting the defence of national borders as the best remedy to tackle challenges and overcome the fear. Presented under different labels – nationalism, regionalism, populism, protectionism, Euroscepticism – the claims “national sovereignty” seems to increasingly influence public opinion, as well as parties’ and leaders’ responses to the multiple challenges Western Europe is currently facing.
Whilst the victory of Trump in the U.S. is playing a role in boosting protectionist policies, parties and leaders promoting a Eurosceptic agenda are arising in Europe. Facing this backdrop, the following questions arise:
– Whether and to what extent parties and political leaders are responding the European current challenges/critical junctures by claiming for restoration or defence of national sovereignty (for instance as border closure, strict immigration policy, economic protectionism)?
– Whether and to what extent citizens’ claims for more national sovereignty are addressed by parties and leaders? Are the latter likely to dismiss, oppose or accommodate them?

In order to grasp this twofold issue, this workshop tries to critically cope with the following sub-fields of the research in political science:
1) Literature on economic and cultural policy which increasingly is focusing on the right-wing populist parties in Europe (e.g. Zalsove 2008; Ennser-Jedenastik 2016).

2) The research around emerging political cleavage between “openness” and “national way” devoted some scholars working on voting behaviour in European political system (e.g. Kriesi et al. 2008).

3) The literature on how and to what extent European mainstream parties under competitive pressure by populist parties are adapting their agenda onto the claims for national sovereignty, for instance in terms of restrictive border
migrant flow (e.g. Bale et al. 2008).

4) The growing literature addressing Euroscepticism of parties and citizens (e.g. Brexit);

5) The research on regionalist mobilisation and minority nationalism in Europe in an era of increasing state-based nationalism (e.g. Tronconi 2015).

6) The empirical efforts applying the general idea of a decline of party politics, in the direction of a strong political personalization (Blondel/Thiebault, Karvonen), a strong centralization of chief executive power (Poguntke/Webb) and a stronger role of leadership (Bennet, Garzia).

7) The crisis of representative democracy (Tormey 2015).

The ambition of the workshop is to develop a dialogue between the mentioned subfields in order to verify the heuristic interest to adopt a concept of “claims for national sovereignty”, which currently remains relatively vague and its prevalent use rather impressionistic. In particular, it will aim at shed a light on the existence of a new political cleavage (Hooghe and Marks, 2017), orthogonal to the classic socio-economic one, based on the sovereignist reaction to the challenges from outside the state borders. Reflecting the possibility to develop a set of analytical dimensions and indicators able to grasp this phenomenon in public opinion, party agenda and leaders’ strategies, three related domains will be considered: economy, identity and political institutions:
1) around socio-economic issues related to regulation of labour market and capital flows and access to welfare state, etc.;
2) as politics of identity, focusing immigrations and/or cultural/religious ‘purity’ of the national community against foreign influence;
3) in institutional terms, stressing the independence vs. antagonism toward any supranational institutional empowerment (EU).


The workshop aims at developing a consistent theoretical framework and operational definitions of key concepts, such as those of national sovereignty, national closeness and openness. It will seek to provide conceptual bases for the advancement of scientific literature.


10 November 2017
11 November 2017


Bâtiment Géopolis (Dorigny) University of Lausanne
Lausanne, CH-1015 Switzerland + Google Map
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