Social movements, the European crisis, and EU political opportunities

Abstract

Social movements in the wake of the financial crisis have shifted from the counter-summits and world social forums of the global justice movement to the camps of the anti-austerity mobilizations, and from a clear focus on building ‘another Europe’ to more domestically embedded issues. Among other reasons, this turn away from the EU can be linked to contracting political opportunities for social justice movements at the European level. This article addresses the closure of opportunities at the EU level for the work of social movement groups campaigning on specific EU policies. We reflect on the complexity of the EU’s political opportunity structure prior to the financial crisis, before examining changes to the EU’s architecture effected through responses to the crises and outlining arguments on how EU-level opportunities around socio-economic issues in particular have shrunk as a result. We then show how the perception of other political opportunities at the EU level is affected by the austerity response by drawing on campaigns that sought to exploit new opportunities included in the Lisbon Treaty and designed to increase citizens’ input. Opportunities introduced by changes made in the Lisbon Treaty are perceived through the prism of contracted opportunities flowing from power shifts caused by the response to the financial crisis.

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Acknowledgments

Donatella della Porta acknowledges the support of the ERC Advanced Scholars’ grant on Mobilizing for Democracy. Both authors thank the reviewers and David Bailey for comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Louisa Parks.

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della Porta, D., Parks, L. Social movements, the European crisis, and EU political opportunities. Comp Eur Polit 16, 85–102 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-016-0074-6

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Keywords

  • social movements
  • European Union
  • political opportunity
  • austerity
  • Anti-counterfeiting trade agreement
  • European citizens’ initiative