After World War II, with the founding of the Council of Europe and the institutions that would later become the European Union, Europe embarked on an uncertain path toward what some intended to be a form of pan-European cooperation in economic and human rights matters and what others desired to be the first step toward a "United States of Europe." The result has been a sweeping transfer of power from national capitols to EU institutions and significant EU regulatory and legal oversight on issues once clearly a matter of exclusive national concern. Along the way, treaty amendments and the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union and European Court of Human Rights have given rise to robust objections from "euro-skeptics," who are insisting that their national governments should "claw back" powers from the entire range of European institutions. This section examines recent developments in this debate, particularly on the subjects of human rights, law and justice, finance and trade, and the democratic impacts of the expanding authority of the European institutions.
The unprecedented expansion of the European Union and institutions created under the European Convention on Human Rights have led politicians, journalists, scholars, and others to warn of the erosion of democracy, based on the concept of the traditional nation-state, in favor of a new form of government by supranational bureaucracy. In response, many of these commentators have called for the broad repatriation of powers from the European institutions to national governments, or for countries’ withdrawal from these institutions altogether, as they seek to avoid the gradual shift of control from citizens to elite, distant politicians and experts. This focus area observes trends in the broad balance of power between the European institutions and the national governments and contains current developments in the debate between those who wish for more centralization of power in supranational institutions and those who advocate for less.