Pre-Conference PhD Symposium

Wednesday 3 May 2023, 09:00 - 10:30

Panel 1: Impact on EU policy instruments of the growing dissensus over liberal democracy and the rule of law

Chair: Marta Matrakova (Institut d’études européennes-ULB)

Discussant: Gustavo Gayger Müller (KULeuven)

Room: Auditorium (TBC) (Fully in-person Session)


  • Edouard Hardgrove (Institut d’études européennes-ULB & Paris1-La Sorbonne): Conceptualising Dissensus in Relation to Conflicts over the Rule of Law within the European Parliament
  • Sofie Fleerackers (Universiteit van Amsterdam, Université de Genève & KULeuven): Rule of Law & Transparency: Redefining Interest Representation in the European Union
  • Anna Zech (Institut d’études européennes-ULB & Paris1-La Sorbonne): Central Bank Independence and Eurozone Governance: How does the ECB interact with member state publics?
  • Benedetta Arrighini (Institut d’études européennes, ULB, FGV & LUISS-Guido Carli): Legal contestation on the rule of law and its impact on EU cooperation in criminal matters with third parties: EU- MERCOSUR’

Recent crises have challenged key foundations of liberal democracy in Europe, such as the compacts between political and institutional liberalism, democratic and economic liberalism, and majoritarian rule and technocratic expertise. In a difficult post-pandemic context, with a war at its borders and the success of radical and populist parties in many of its member states, Europe’s distinctive liberal democratic foundations are increasingly contested. This is not the first time that liberal democracy has come under strain. Yet, over the past decade illiberal competition has become ever more testing and contestation has heightened, which requires a further understanding of the changing nature of this phenomenon which surrounds liberal democracy and gains more importance each passing day.

This panel seeks to unpack the dissensus facing liberal democratic norms, principles, and values from a distinct disciplinary point of view. The participants in this panel will provide the conceptual clarification of the dissensus needed to understand how it affects EU policy instruments, by analysing what makes present-day dissensus erode institutional trust and challenge existing democratic practices, including deliberative ones. Ultimately, the panel presents four disciplinary theory-building efforts to sketch an interdisciplinary understanding of contemporary dissensus surrounding liberal democracy in Europe. The panel includes four research perspectives – Political Science, Political Economy, Legal and International relations perspectives. This interdisciplinary approach aims to explore the defining traits by providing a comprehensive analysis of contemporary dissensus.

Panel 2: Actor-centred Perspectives on Dissensus in the European Union

Chair: Thomas Christiansen (LUISS)

Discussant: Giulia Tercovich (Brussels School of Governance - VUB) TBC

Room: Auditorium Albert II (Hybrid Session)


  • Vlad Marginas (Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai, Université de Genève & Institut d’études européennes-ULB): The ‘resistance’ social movement: towards a re-politicisation of the European public sphere
  • Larissa Böckmann (Universiteit van Amsterdam & Institut d’études européennes-ULB) – Online: Embracing PRR-Democracy? The Radicalization of Mainstream Parties
  • Katharina Weber (Universiteit van Amsterdam & LUISS-Guido Carli) – Online: Contesting national sovereignty? EU external action against deforestation The EU has set a clear goal for fighting deforestation.
  • Guillaume Larouche (University of Copenhagen, Université Laval & Institut d’études européennes-ULB): The Impact of the Dissensus on the Conduct of the EU Rule of Law External Policy by the EU Technocrats

An important feature of the growing contestation of liberal democracy is the fact that actors of dissensus within the EU and beyond have become ever more institutionally embedded and vocal. While some actors of dissensus openly seek to dismantle liberal democracy itself, others challenge specific principles and practices associated with liberal democracy. Among the actors championing such positions are both governing and opposition parties as well as a wide range of other institutional actors and civil society organisations across different territorial levels. This panel brings together papers analysing the roles played by a range of different actors in the contecxt of contemporary dissensus regarding liberal democracy in the multi-level European polity. The contributions to this panel identify the various challengers seeking to transform democratic governance and the practice of the rule of law, be it either by undermining existing liberal democratic regimes or by recasting them through new forms of participation and deliberation. Each of the four papers will focus on a distinct type of political or judicial actor so that, taken together, the panel will help to map and analyse the legal, political, societal, and technocratic actor networks driving dissensus within the EU institutions and its member states.

Panel 3: Internal contestation and its impact on the EU in times of dissensus

Chair: Frederik Ponjaert (Institut d’études européennes-ULB )

Discussant: Chloé Brière (Institut d’études européennes-ULB )

Room: Auditorium (TBC) (Fully in-person Session)


  • Pedro Cuesta (LUISS-Guido Carli & University of Copenhagen): Dissensus among judges: national constitutional courts, the Court of justice and the concept of national (Constitutional) identity
  • Giulia De La Torre (Université de Genève & Institut d’études européennes-ULB): Genealogy of, and Dissensus surrounding the EU law principle of primacy in the case-law
  • Marija Petrovska (Universiteit van Amsterdam & Institut d’études européennes-ULB): The role of the EU’s main implementing partner in the process of border externalisation
  • Samir El Khanza (LUISS-Guido Carli, Université Laval & Institut d’études européennes-ULB): Parliamentary contestation influence on the EU’s ability to conclude comprehensive trade agreements.

The growing social dissensus of liberal democratic norms within the borders of the European Union, requires the analysis and understanding of the processes by which contestation shapes the EU’s capacity to act. The five panellists adopt a process-centric approach for the analysis of the evolution of institutional mechanisms, and specifically the EU’s regulatory, parliamentary, legal, trade and constitutional instruments. The participants trace the influence of EU’s policy instruments and the way in which internal contestation shapes these controversial policy fields and the corresponding institutional mechanisms. In addition to analysing the implications of dissensus for policy instruments at EU’s and member states’ levels, this panel aims to provide insight on the different ways in which the EU had responded to the growing contestation. Moreover, the panellists will explore any potential unintended consequences of the EU’s response to dissensus, as the potential increase in contestation.

Panel 4: External Competition and its impact on the EU

Chair & Discussant: Olga Burlyuk (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Discussant: Laure Gelhaus (University of Warwick)

Room: Auditorium (TBC) (Fully in-person Session)


  • Debora Del Piano (LUISS-Guido Carli & University of Copenhagen): EU grand strategy in a competitive system: European liberal democracy in a multipolar world
  • Luigi Segarazzi (Institut d’études européennes-ULB & Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai): Externally driven dissensus in foreign societies: The concept, the theory and empirical evidence from the EU’s neighbourhood
  • Jing-syuan Wong (Institut d’études européennes-ULB, Waseda & LUISS-Guido Carli): How have authoritarian turns in the neighbouring countries reshaped EU and Japan’s strategy of democracy support and regional political dynamics?
  • Serafine Dinkel (Institut d’études européennes-ULB, University of Warwick & Universiteit van Amsterdam): The effects of autocratization in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries on the EU’s democratic conditionality and normative power

The panel explores the impact of the external competitors on the EU’s foreign policy instruments and processes. Over the last decade an increasing number of external power centres, such as Russia, China or Turkey have started to contest the EU and to offer alternative governance models and approaches to international relations. These authoritarian norm contesters compel the EU to adopt its foreign and security policy instruments, such as the EU’s conditionality policy or its defence capabilities. The panel aims to bring together a set of papers that will address the challenges posed by these external competitors for the EU across different case studies and regions, including Eastern neighbourhood and East Asia. More specifically, some papers in this panel will analyse the impact of geopolitical competition on EU democracy promotion instruments in third countries and will assess whether EU instruments contribute to a liberal peace model able to resolve crises despite competition from illiberal actors. Other papers will focus on institutional competition at the regional level and will compare the strategic and institutional resources mobilised by two civilian powers - the EU and Japan - to both mediate mounting crises and counter shifts towards authoritarianism within their respective regions. And other papers will focus on competing instruments for the promotion of democracy and will explore how competing understandings of liberal democracy have led to a redefinition of the main tools used in the EU’s external policies in relation to its neighbourhood. Overall, the panel aims to develop a better understanding of how the autocratic regimes’ different and diverging interpretations of the EU’s values and norms of democracy and the rule of law affect the EU’s ability to engage with its neighbours and beyond.

#EUIA23 is jointly organised by the Brussels School of Governance at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (BSoG-VUB), the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), the Institut d’études européennes at the Université libre de Bruxelles (IEE-ULB), Egmont – the Royal Institute for International Relations, and the Department of Politics and International Studies (PAIS) of the University of Warwick.