A Center-Periphery Europe? Perspectives from Southern Europe Study Group

Co-Chairs: Jose Manuel Martinez Sierra (Director of the RCC, Jean Monet ad personam Professor in EU Law and Government); Sofia Perez (Political Scientist, Boston University); Sebastian Royo (Vice Provost and Professor of Government at Suffolk University); Serenella Sferza (co-director of the MIT-Italy Program).

South Europe

The economic crisis of the Eurozone has become a watershed in the process of European integration. It has sparked efforts at institutional change and innovation (both in the Eurozone and in its member states). Yet it has also revealed strong new fissures in the EU, including - very prominently - that that between debtor and creditor states in the Eurozone.  This has led to new talk of Center-Periphery dynamics within the Eurozone and the EU at large. In debtor states, subjected to both formal and informal forms of conditionality from the troika, the experience has had numerous effects: exceptionally high unemployment given demands for fast-paced and pro-cyclical austerity measures, changes in the politics of economic reforms, a dramatic crisis of legitimacy (reflected in the decline of trust in the EU and in national governments and traditional mainstream parties, as well as the intensification of territorial tensions within member states). It has also led to new political debates and polemics (such as that on the role of political elites and of political leadership in the economic crisis and on the need for renewal within political parties), and to the rise of new forms of populism (as reflected, for instance, in the Italian Five Star movement).

This study group pursues two purposes:  1) to bring perspectives from Southern European/debtor countries (in particular, but not only, Italy, Spain and Portugal) to debates about the future of Europe to the Center for European Studies; and 2) to explore the political, social, and economic consequences that the economic crisis has had on the debtor countries and debates surrounding these consequences (two good examples are the current debate on the causes of poor labor market performance and that on the factors affecting competitiveness/low growth in some Southern countries). We approach the idea of a new Center-Periphery dynamics in the Eurozone as an open question, one that will no doubt be affected by developments over the coming two years.