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Integration at What Price? The Erosion of National Democracy in the Euro Periphery

  • Matthias Matthijs

The euro crisis brought back a widening gap in prosperity between the eurozone’s core and periphery members, but also revealed a divergence in the strength of its national democracies. This article examines the amplified tension between progressively uprooted national markets governed by a supranational technocracy and nationally organized democratic politics in the eurozone’s periphery. Building on Dani Rodrik’s globalization ‘trilemma’, this article explains the weakening of national democratic institutions in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy since 2008. While the periphery states were forced to choose monetary integration at the expense of both democracy and sovereignty, this trade-off was mostly absent in the core. The eurozone’s policy solutions to the crisis did not allow for any democratic input, were implemented through opaque and often-undemocratic throughput processes, and resulted in deteriorating output. The article concludes that the EU crisis response made euro membership in the periphery less compatible with national democratic principles.

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Matthias Matthijs is Assistant Professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Contact email:

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