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The European Union in Crisis


Admission requirements

Registration for the Minor European Union Studies or admission to the pre-master European Union Studies


“Crisis” has dominated the public and academic discussions about the European Union in the last decade. In particular, the EU’s response to the migration flows across the Mediterranean and the consequences of the global financial crisis on the Eurozone, not to mention Britain’s decision to leave the EU, have put into question not only the effectiveness of the EU, but also its viability. Yet there seems to be little agreement on what the “crisis” means and how it affects the EU as a whole. Some observers believe that the EU is disintegrating or doomed to fail. Others think that the EU is muddling through, and becoming stronger. Still others believe that the EU is operating normally. Can all these positions be true at the same time, or are they mutually exclusive? Is there one view that best captures what is going on in the EU? Is it one structural crisis, or a combination of successive crises that the EU is confronted with?

These are some of the basic questions that we explore in this course. We seek to make sense of conflicting narratives about both the origin of the crisis and its effects on the operation of the EU. We adopt a broad perspective and assess the manifold social, political, economic, historical and philosophical elements of narratives about the crisis, against a backdrop of national and global developments, in order to paint a meaningful picture of the state and the direction of European integration. We concentrate on salient cases - ranging from the crisis of technocracy, democratic politics, democratic capitalism to the crisis of solidarity and hospitality – to analyse and connect disparate perspectives on the diagnoses and consequences of the crisis as well as the EU’s response to it.

Our approach is threefold. First, we identify and theorise the character and scope of the crisis as can be observed in specific cases and explore connections with broader domestic and global transformations. Second, we examine the strategies that the EU member states and institutions have deployed to respond to the crisis and the outcomes that have flowed from them. Finally, we consider the extent to which the crisis can be resolved at all and what that means for the operation and the viability of the EU.

Course objectives

The overarching goal of this course is to explore the relations among manifold manifestations of the crisis and different levels in order to assess their significance for the operation and the viability of the EU. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand how to identify the causes, manifestations and relations of various forms of the crisis that the EU has been confronted with;

  • Understand how to dissect and critically assess the interrelationship of various forms of the crisis and their effects;

  • Understand how to make sense of the EU’s overall response to the crisis and its short, medium and long-term implications.


See Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • Critical commentary on the discussion question of three sessions (250 words each) (10%)

  • Presentation on a topic related to the week's theme (1 presentation, 10 minutes) (10%)

  • In-class participation (weekly) (10%)

  • Outline of the research problem (1,000 words, part of the final essay) (10%)

  • Outline of the research design (2,000 words, part of the final essay) (20%)

  • Final essay (5,000 in total) (40%)


A retake will be possible for the final essay and for the presentation. Details on this will be communicated in due course.

Reading list



Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website


Contact information

Dr. E.E.A. van Gils