Department of Political Science


European Politics and Policy

The euro crisis, the migration crisis and Brexit highlight the increasing importance of the European Union for political life in the UK, across the EU's Member States and beyond the region. Understanding preference formation and contestation in the Member States, decision-making processes at the European level, and the normative foundations of the EU is therefore increasingly important for any student of domestic and global politics and policy in the 21st century.

Our Department engages in cutting-edge research on European politics and policy. We address key empirical puzzles from a theoretical perspective employing state-of-the-art methods. We also produce original research on pressing normative questions faced by the EU and its Member States. Drawing on various disciplinary, theoretical and methodological approaches, our research focuses on three aspects in particular: 

  1. The European polity and its normative foundations;

  2. Regulation, pressure groups and policy learning;

  3. EU decision-making, (De-)Europeanisation and EU politicisation in the Member States.

Our research on European politics is horizontal, cutting across and pooling the Department's expertise in the fields of Comparative PoliticsInternational RelationsLegal and Political Theory, and Public Policy

Members of the research team have received funding from both EU and UK research foundations for their work, and all are involved in European and international research networks. Prof. Richard Bellamy and Prof. David Coen have also written reports for, and given invited presentations to, Commission bodies and the European Parliament. 

These core team members interact closely with a number of colleagues in the Department, whose work on democracy and democratisation (Dr Jeff Howard, Dr. Sherrill Stroschein), political representation (Dr. Jack Blumenau), political parties (Tom O’Grady), intrastate conflicts (Prof. Kristin M. Bakke), and global governance and ethics (Dr Tom Pegram, Dr Avia Pasternak)  focuses on related research questions. 

Current Themes of Research

European Polity and its Normative Foundations

Talk of the EU’s alleged democratic deficit has long characterized discussions of the reform of the EU’s political system. This debate has become increasingly salient with the impact of both the euro crisis and the migration crisis, Brexit and the rise of Euroscepticism more generally. Meanwhile, it has intersected with a growing and parallel debate over what has been termed the EU’s justice deficit. Both debates, and the crises that have given rise to them, pose questions about the legitimacy and future of the integration process. They also link to broader empirical and normative questions about the nature of global governance and its relationship to democracy within and between states. Our research addresses these issues in various ways:

  • Richard Bellamy has a long-standing interest in applying normative theory to the understanding of constitutionalism, democracy and citizenship in modern societies. One of the leading authorities in normative EU scholarship, he has co-edited three volumes on Citizenship and Governance in the European Union, Lineages of European Citizenship, and Making European Citizens that arise from major Leverhulme, EU and ESRC projects respectively. With Dario Castiglione and others he has also written extensively on both the constitutional process within the EU and its democratic deficit. He has developed a distinctive republican approach to these issues. He is currently part of an H2020 project exploring the fairness of different schemes for differentiated integration.
  • Albert Weale has written extensively on both EU environmental policy and on questions of normative legitimacy and citizenship.  Building on his own distinctive social contract theory, he is currently exploring contractarian approaches to issues of constitutional political economy, on which he has published a number of papers. He has a particular interest in understanding how different traditions of thought in political economy, especially ordo-liberalism, might or might not be compatible with requirements of public reason. He has also written on Brexit and democratic theory, including his popular book The Will of the People: A Modern Myth.
  • Christopher Wratil is interested in what aspects of the EU’s polity and its politics make people believe more strongly in the legitimacy of its rule. To this end, he conducts multinational survey experiments in which he exogenously varies different aspects of EU decisions and decision-making to isolate the causal effect of design features and representation on legitimacy beliefs.
  • David Coen is interested in how EU institutions have attempted to legitimize policy-making through interest group representation. Improving policy deliberation is a central objective for the European Union's institutions. Focusing on the European Parliament's committee hearings and committees (see Journal of Public Administration 2019) and variance across European Commission Directorates (see Journal of European Public Policy 2013, Business Lobbying in the EU, OUP 2021) these studies aim to understand the capacity to improve the EU procedural legitimacy.
  • Nicholas Wright is interested in how the EU’s foreign policy space, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, has evolved, particularly since the reforms under the Lisbon Treaty. His work considers the profound impact the CFSP has had on EU member states, both a means for them to develop collective foreign policy decisions but also to manage their own relationships. In particular, he examines the impact of long-term cooperation on how they identify and pursue their national interests and the institutions they have created at national and EU level to facilitate this. He is also researching the foreign policy consequences of Brexit for the UK and EU.
Regulation, Pressure Groups and Policy Learning

Our second area of research addresses pertinent questions of European governance, in particular the role played by regulation and pressure groups in Europe, and the theoretical/empirical dimension of learning in the EU. We address these questions in these projects: 

  • David Coen’s research is embedded in the development of models and processes of EU Public Policy. More specifically, his research models and maps over 30 years the EU Business-Government Relations. This research addresses how far firms have developed distinct Brussels lobbying strategies and the consequences for domestic business-government systems and EU institutional development. The project considers the formal effects of EU forum politics, the Commission and EP as  policy entrepreneurs, and implications for insider and outsider interests in the EU policy process, revolving doors in Brussels, and lobbying best practices. This ongoing study has resulted in the 2021 monograph “Business Lobbying in the EU”, Oxford University Press.
  • David Coen’s research on EU regulatory reform, studies the emergence of EU regulatory agencies and European Regulatory Network governance in the Financial Service, Telecommunications and Energy sectors, and the convergence and continued differences in the regulatory regimes in Germany and the UK – see Business and Politics 2020, Journal of Public Policy 2008 & West European Politics 2008. The project also explores business regulatory strategy in a multilevel regulatory regime – see Public Policy and Administration 2020.
  • David Coen is currently exploring climate governance and regulation as part of a large H2020 grant on Global Governance. This project explores Climate Politics, Multi-level Governance, and Public-Private Governance, the role of the EU in Climate Politics, EU climate law and emergence of national independent climate agencies. See Governance of Climate Change“, Cambridge University Press 2021.
  • David Coen is also exploring Business and Brexit. This new study looks at the voice and representation of business in the lead up to the referendum and during the exit negotiations. The study explores the level of uncertainty in the exit policy across a number of issues and industrial sectors. The study explores how business has made representation at various UK ministries, at the EU, and its voice in the media. 
  • Claudio Radaelli, upon completion of his first advanced ERC grant Analysis of Learning in Regulatory Governance (ALREG), researched Brexit as a dysfunctional learning process for the UK government and public admin (Journal of European Public Policy 2019). On Regulation, Claudio co-edited with Professor Claire Dunlop the Handbook of Regulatory Impact Assessment, a major volume written by university-based researchers and practitioners. Claudio is currently principal investigator in a four-year ERC project on procedural tools for effective governance (PROTEGO), collecting original data on administrative procedure acts, consultation, freedom of information, judicial review of regulation, the Ombudsman and regulatory impact assessment in the 28 EU member states.
EU decision-making, (De-)Europeanisation and EU politicisation in the Member States

Our third area of research focuses on decision-making in the EU institutions and links inter- and intra-institutional conflicts to public opinion, electoral and party politics in the Member States. We address these issues in multiple ways:

  • Christopher Wratil is interested in how domestic public opinion in the Member States impacts on governments’ behaviour in the Council of the European Union. He has studied how governments use opposition votes to EU legislation in the Council to send signals to Eurosceptic domestic audiences. Moreover, his research shows how approaching national elections make governments pay more attention to domestic public opinion when taking policy positions in the Council. He is also interested in how the representation of public preferences in the EU institutions influences policy outcomes, which may reflect particular territorial bargains between Member States (American Journal of Political Science 2019).
  • Christopher Wratil is also currently collecting the first dataset of video footage of public deliberations between national ministers in the Council of the European Union. This dataset covers hundreds of hours of negotiations over controversial pieces of EU legislation. This dataset can be used for a variety of questions about the impact of domestic factors on supranational decision-making in the EU’s multilevel system.
  • Claudio Radaelli carries out research on processes of Europeanization and de-Europeanization. “Europeanization in Reverse Gear?” is featured in Radaelli and John Paul Salter’s chapter in Differentiated Integration and Disintegration in a Post-Brexit Era.
  • Nicholas Wright is currently researching the impact of the Lisbon Treaty reforms on the Political and Security Committee, the EU’s most senior ambassadorial-level body dealing specifically with foreign and security policy, in collaboration with Dr Heidi Maurer (University of Oxford). They have conducted interviews with officials and diplomats across national capitals, permanent representations and key EU institutions (including European Council, European External Action Service and European Commission), looking at how the foreign policy-making environment has changed as a consequence of the major institutional changes Lisbon introduced.

Recently Completed Projects 

Richard Bellamy
  • Richard Bellamy had a Leverhulme Fellowship 2012-14 to develop a republican theory of legitimacy for the EU, which culminated in a monograph published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. With Sandra Kröger of the Unioversity of Exeter, he also had funding from the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Delmenhorst to work on the role of national parliaments in EU decision-making. Their joint article on this topic was awarded the PADEMIA (the Erasmus Academic Network on Parliamentary Democracy in Europe) 2016 Research Award (journal article category) for ‘Outstanding Research on Parliamentary Democracy in Europe’ that has ‘contributed substantially to the state of the art of research on Parliamentary Democracy in Europe, and/or has influenced academic and political debates on the topic’. They are currently work package co-leads within the H2020 InDivEU project, coordinated by the EUI, which will run until 2021.
David Coen
  • David Coen’s 30 year study of business lobbying in the EU charted the rise of direct lobbying in Brussels and the emergence of a distinct European public policy style. The studies published in journals such as European Union Politics (2003), Journal of European Public Policy (1997)and Journal of Public Policy (1998) redefined EU interest studies by shifting the intellectual debate from a discussion on Corporatism to Elite Pluralism. In addition to the empirical research, his work has developed formal models of EU interest politics and explored how European institutions encourage Europeanisation (see Journal of European Public Policy 2007). This body of work is further enhanced by two major books:  Coen and Jeremy Richardson (OUP 2009)  Lobbying the European Union: Institutions, Actors and Policy, and  Coen & Katsaitis, Vannoni (OUP 2021) Business Lobbying in the EU and an EP Policy Report, Coen and Katsaitis (2015) “Institutional and Constitutional Aspects of Special Interest Representation, European Parliament.”
  • In terms of regulatory institutional design, Prof. Coen co-directed an Anglo-German project (1999-2002) with Adrienne Héritier (then Max Planck Institute, Bonn) on comparative business/regulator relationships. This research resulted in a co-authored research monograph called Refining Regulatory Regimes: Utilities in Europe (Edward Elgar, 2005) and Governance 2005 papers. This research lead to the FP 6 NEWGOV project (2004-2007), in collaboration with the LSE, which looked at networks of national regulatory authorities. This project has resulted in papers in West European Politics (2008) and the Journal of Public Policy (2008). From 2010-2015 this project evolved into a 7th Framework project with Adrienne Héritier (European University Institute Florence) on EU Business and Regulation that resulted in Journal of Public Policy and Administration 2020 and Business and Politics 2020 papers.
Albert Weale
  • Albert Weale has published with a group convened at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin on the intellectual origins and policy implications of the ordo-liberal tradition of thinking about political economy. In 2020 he published Modern Social Contract Theory (OUP), which set out the basis of his theoretical approach to contractarian thinking about the EU and other political associations.
Nicholas Wright

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Claudio Radaelli

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Christopher Wratil

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Invited PhD Applications

The Department invites PhD applications in any of the above areas and welcomes students with a background in Political Science, Public Policy, International Relations, Political Theory, or a related discipline such as History, Law, Sociology or Economics. For further details see our MPhil/PhD programme.

Related Research on European Integration at UCL 

Beyond the School of Public Policy, UCL contains a number of interdisciplinary centres for research on European integration and wider Europe. For further information see UCL's European Institute. There are also Centre's in different departments across UCL, including the Centre for European Studies and the undergraduate programme European Social and Political Studies, the Centre for Law and Governance in Europe in the Faculty of Laws, and the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies. The School also hosts the offices of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES), who publish the Journal of Common Market Studies (JCMS), organise conferences and coordinate a network of researchers (including graduate students) working on European issues. The Department is also affiliated to the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), of which Richard Bellamy is a past Academic Director.