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This year's Annual Conference is organised around the topic of differentiated integration. The conference will examine the development of differentiated integration within the EU, focusing on both its promises and its pitfalls. Speakers will cover internal and external dimensions of differentiation, including Brexit, linking academic research to current political debates about the future of European integration. The Annual Conference is part of ACES's programme as a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence.

Event details of Differentiated Integration and the Future of Europe: Promises, Pitfalls, Pathways
Start date 30 September 2020
End date 1 October 2020
Time 10:30

Differentiated integration, understood as rules and policies that apply to some but not all member states, has become increasingly central to academic and political debate on the future of the EU. Established divisions between groups of member states, such as the Eurozone and the Schengen Area, show no signs of disappearing, while new ones such as Banking Union and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defense have recently been introduced. Non-member states such as Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey likewise participate in key EU policies like the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Some EU leaders, such as President Macron of France, see closer cooperation among a hard core of countries as the most promising pathway to deeper European integration, while others, like Commission President von der Leyen, appear more concerned with ensuring that member states move forward together within a common policy framework. Differentiated integration has also been proposed as a means of accommodating national diversity within an increasingly heterogeneous Union and reducing public discontent with European integration by allowing member states to opt out of specific EU policies. 

This conference brings together researchers from three Horizon2020 projects

Differentiation: Clustering Excellence (DiCE) network.

The conference will examine the development of differentiated integration within the EU from an empirical and a normative perspective, focusing on both its promises and its pitfalls.  Speakers will cover internal and external dimensions of differentiation, including Brexit, linking academic research to current political debates about the future of European integration. The conference will also consider alternative pathways to accommodating national diversity within the EU such as experimentalist governance.


The sessions are now available on our YouTube channel. 

You can either watch the whole playlist or click per event to the specific panel. 

Watch the playlist



Wednesday 30 September

This opening panel will explore rival theoretical approaches to understanding differentiated integration and review the findings of the latest empirical research on its incidence and impact within the EU.

Speakers: Frank Schimmelfennig (ETH Zurich/InDivEU), Sandra Lavenex (Geneva/EUIDEA), John Erik Fossum (ARENA Oslo/EU3D)

Moderator Jonathan Zeitlin (UvA/InDivEU)

Do voters and governments support or oppose differentiated integration? And how do such patterns of support and opposition vary across EU member states and policy issues? This panel will discuss these important but understudied issues based on new survey and documentary research conducted within the three H2020 projects.

Speakers: Catherine De Vries (Bocconi/VU/InDivEU), Dirk Leuffen (Konstanz/EU3D), Stefan Telle/Brigid Laffan (EUI/InDivEU)

Moderator/Discussant: Theresa Kuhn (UvA/InDivEU)

 As an EU member state, the UK was among the strongest supporters of differentiated integration. Now that it has left the Union, the UK continues to demand tailor-made access to the Single Market and other EU policies and programmes. How will this tension between uniform rules and national exceptions play out in the future EU-UK relationship, and what are its implications for differentiated integration within and beyond the EU?

Speakers: Michael Keating (Aberdeen/InDivEU), Eulalia Rubio (Jacques Delors Institute/EUIDEA), Chris Lord (ARENA, Oslo/EU3D), Jochem Wiers (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs Brexit Task Force)

Moderator Christina Eckes (UvA/ACES)

Thursday 1 October

The debate about differentiated integration typically assumes that EU governance involves top-down imposition of rigid, uniform rules, which some member states may be unwilling or unable to accept. Based on new research conducted within the InDivEU project on three regulatory policy fields (electricity, banking, and GMOs), this panel examines how far experimentalist governance, based on flexible, revisable rulemaking, may represent an alternative or complementary approach to that of differentiated integration in responding to diversity among EU member states.

Speakers: Bernardo Rangoni (UvA/InDivEU), Maria Weimer (UvA/InDivEU),  Jonathan Zeitlin (UvA/InDivEU)

Moderator/Discussant: Sandra Lavenex (Geneva/EUIDEA)

Does differentiated integration advance democracy by allowing the EU’s multiple demoi or peoples greater scope to chose the extent to which they are willing to pool their sovereignty with others across different policy domains? Or does it lead instead to an increase in domination, as the choices of some member states are effectively subordinated to those of their larger and more powerful neighbours? In this panel, two prominent political theorists will debate the normative implications of differentiated integration for European democracy.

Speakers: Richard Bellamy (UCL/Exeter/InDivEU), John Erik Fossum (ARENA Oslo/EU3D)

Moderator: Ben Crum (VU Amsterdam)

This concluding panel, comprising both academics and practitioners, will discuss the political and policy implications of current research on differentiated integration for the future of Europe and the EU.

Speakers: Brigid Laffan (EUI/InDivEU), Sabine Saurugger (Grenoble/EU3D), Ceta Noland (Strategic Policy Advisor, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Moderator: Jonathan Zeitlin (UvA/InDivEU)