Research team

Antwerp Centre for Institutions and Multi-Level Politics (ACIM)

Expertise

The group has an extensive expertise in the field of institutional and organizational theories and is capable to supply expertise and advice to organizations (interest groups, bureaucratic agencies, political parties) that seek to improve their organizational strategies in a multi-layered environment. In the field of trade policy, the group has extensive expertise in the area of EU antidumping policy, non-state actor involvement and WTO dispute settlement cases.

The road to advocacy success: Analyzing the mechanisms shaping issue-specific interactions among interest groups and policymakers. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

Interest groups often play a key role in public policymaking. The lengthy and complex nature of many policy processes, however, means that interest groups typically have to overcome various hurdles to gain influence. Next to agenda-setting success, groups must be effective advocates in several decision-making venues. This project proposes a novel analytical framework connecting interest group literature with social movement studies to (1) analyze intermittent advocacy successes, both in terms of attracting attention for issue priorities and attaining policy positions; and (2) assess the moderating effects of politicization and public opinion on how advocacy shapes the course of policy processes. The project conceptualizes the policy process as a sequence of distinct episodes characterized by whether and how interest groups and policymakers interact among each other and thereby shape the final policy outcome. Empirically, news media and policy content analyses are combined with elite interviews to construct a timeline of interactions between interest groups and policymakers on a medium-N of issues spanning the 2014-2024 Belgian legislative periods. Methodologically, time series and qualitative comparative analysis methods will be used to dissect interaction processes and link them to advocacy successes.

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Who or what do Members of the European Parliament (MEP) represent? Explaining the variation in foci of representation amongst MEPs in their legislative behaviour. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

It is often argued that the European Union (EU) suffers from a 'democratic deficit' and that its representative democracy is not functioning well. Generally, it is expected that the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) should represent the 'citizens' voice in the EU' (see European Parliament's website). Yet, we know little about the representative behaviour of MEPs. Who or what do MEPs actually represent? And how can we explain differences in their so-called 'foci of representation'? Is this just a matter of differences between MEPs or can an MEP represent someone or something different in different contexts? These are the questions guiding this research project. Empirically, we focus on one of the key tasks of MEPs: to legislate. More specifically, the amendments MEPs introduce to legislation proposed by the European Commission (EC) will be analysed. The project will look into whether the amendments refer to, for example, a specific business or industry, to a more general interest like global warming, or to the MEPs member state or local constituency. The innovative contribution is that we start from the assumption that MEPs do not express just one of these foci, but that they can combine multiple foci in one amendment and shift between foci according to policy issue or moment in the electoral cycle. Theoretically, the aim is to explain variation in the focus of representation using a model that integrates EU-level, individual level and country level factors.

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The Post-crisis Legitimacy of the European Union European Training Network (PLATO). 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Is there a crisis in the legitimacy of the European Union? That research question is timely and important. Investigating it is also an ideal way of training research leaders of tomorrow to rethink our assumptions about the study of legitimate political order. Whilst, however, the financial crisis has raised new questions about the legitimacy of the EU, existing theories of legitimacy crises are largely based on single-state political systems. New theory is, therefore, needed to understand what would count as legitimacy crises in the case of a non-state political system such as the EU. PLATO's (The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU) ESRs will work together as a team to build new theory from 15 investigations into different standards and actors with whom the EU may need to be legitimate. ESRs will go well beyond the state-of-the-art by building a theory of legitimacy crisis in the EU from a uniquely interdisciplinary understanding of how democracy, power, law, economies and societies all fit together with institutions within and beyond the state to affect the legitimacy of contemporary political order. By developing the analytical tools needed to understand a core predicament in which the EU may both need to develop legitimate forms of political power beyond the state and find those forms of power hard to achieve, PLATO will train ESRs with the conceptual clarity needed to define new research questions at the very frontiers of their disciplines and the methodological skills needed to research those questions. They will also be prepared for careers in the non-academic sector (policy-advice, consulting, civil society, European institutions and expert bodies). PLATO's ambitious cross-university, crosscountry and cross-sectoral programme of research training, supervision and secondments will pool resources from a unique network of 9 research-intensive universities and 11 non-academic partners who are themselves key users of state-of-the-art social science research. https://www.plato.uio.no/

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Project website

Lobbying for the people: Interest groups and public pressure in EU legislative politics. 01/10/2016 - 15/08/2019

Abstract

Opinion leaders often criticize EU lobbying as a 'disease for democracy' and detrimental to the public interest. The lobbying scandals that make it to the news headlines typically involve business lobbyists that influence or bribe corrupted policymakers in smoky backrooms. The public image of EU lobbying is very negative. This negative image, however, might not be an accurate depiction of what lobbying and interest group politics in Brussels entails. In many instances, interest groups – such as business groups, NGOs and labor unions – serve as key transmission belts between the public and EU policymakers. These organizations can make EU policymakers more responsive by informing them about how much support a specific policy issue enjoys among citizens. The role of interest groups in elucidating public pressure to policymakers remains largely neglected in both responsiveness and interest group studies. Clarifying this role will precisely be the focus of my postdoctoral project. The main research question I aim to answer is: To what extent and under which conditions are EU policy outcomes responsive to public pressures articulated by interest groups? Empirically, the project departs from a stratified sample of policy proposals put forward by the European Commission. For each proposal, I will identify – by triangulating multiple data-sources – the entire set of stakeholders that sought to influence the legislative outcome and the information about public pressure they voiced.

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Antwerp Consortium on the Organization of Rulemaking and Multilevel Governance in Europe (ACTORE). 01/09/2016 - 31/08/2019

Abstract

The core research revolves around the theme of multilevel governance in the EU. The consortium examines how EU multilevel governance impacts upon public policymaking processes in relation to rule-making and rule-implementation, both at the European and the domestic level. Its research program is centered around three interrelated research lines focusing on the complex multilevel governance system of the EU, changing domestic and EU rule-making processes and the legitimacy of the EU multilevel political system. Multilevel governance in the EU has made the organizational and institutional architecture of government and governance institutions much more interdependent and complex, affecting the way national and European societal interests organize themselves, how they secure representation and provide input in order to influence policy outcomes. These developments interact with changing domestic and European processes and outcomes of rule-making. All this ultimately raises questions concerning the legitimacy of how the EU multilevel political system operates and involves citizens and societal groups.

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Francqui research professor "Multi-level governance". 01/09/2015 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This project addresses an unsettled political science problem, namely how does the shifting of policymaking competencies to higher levels of government affect the opportunities of societal interests to seek representation. On this issue two completely different theoretical expectations exist. One the one hand, the Madisonian view entails that shifting competencies upwards is a healthy antidote to the powers of specific interests that may dominate smaller polities. Multi-levelness may also provide political opportunities as it enables actors to make strategic venue shifts when they are unable to attract the necessary attention at one venue. On the other hand, shifting policymaking upwards may seriously restrict the opportunities for diffuse interests, undermine encompassing forms of interest representation, and increase the barriers for local groups to gain attention. Instead of creating opportunities for all, multi-layered systems may decrease opportunities and reproduce or reinforce representational bias. One of the reasons why the implications of multi-layeredness are so poorly understood is the fact that political science has not developed a proper understanding of what representational bias means; some scholars see bias in terms of mobilization, while the others conceive it in terms of the strategic interactions between organized interests and policymakers. This project will integrate theoretically, methodologically and empirically these different aspects of group politics, by taking explicitly into account the nature of multi-layered systems. The innovative character of the project lies in the theoretical combination of mapping interest group community dynamics, with a more nuanced characterization of organizational form and an in-depth investigation of bias in terms of strategies.

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Complexity and fragmentation in global governance. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel. The objective of the FWO's Research projects is to advance fundamental scientific research.

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EUROCORES Networking Activity. 01/12/2014 - 01/02/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Understanding contemporary interest group politics: mobilization and strategies in multi-layered systems (iBias). 01/09/2014 - 28/02/2021

Abstract

This ERC program addresses an unsettled political science problem, namely how does the shifting of policymaking competencies to higher levels of government affect the opportunities of societal interests to seek representation. On this issue two completely different theoretical expectations exist. One the one hand, the Madisonian view entails that shifting competencies upwards is a healthy antidote to the powers of specific interests that may dominate smaller polities. Multi-levelness may also provide political opportunities as it enables actors to make strategic venue shifts when they are unable to attract the necessary attention at one venue. On the other hand, shifting policymaking upwards may seriously restrict the opportunities for diffuse interests, undermine encompassing forms of interest representation, and increase the barriers for local groups to gain attention. Instead of creating opportunities for all, multi-layered systems may decrease opportunities and reproduce or reinforce representational bias. One of the reasons why the implications of multi-layeredness are so poorly understood is the fact that political science has not developed a proper understanding of what representational bias means; some scholars see bias in terms of mobilization, while others conceive it in terms of the strategic interactions between organized interests and policymakers. This ERC program will integrate theoretically, methodologically and empirically these different aspects of group politics, by taking explicitly into account the nature of multi-layered systems. The innovative character of it lies in the theoretical combination of mapping interest group community dynamics, with a more nuanced characterization of organizational form and an in-depth investigation of bias in terms of strategies.

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The organizational development of national interests groups in a European comparative perspective. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This project seeks to explain the ways in which organized interests establish, consolidate and develop within a mutating and volatile institutional and political context. Rather than assessing general patterns across countries, this project compares how individual organized interests cope with environmental challenges in different national contexts.

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Research in the field of political science more specially in the areas of multilevel governance, Europeanization and interest representation. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

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The Constitutional Court caught between its role as guardian of consensus democracy and deliberative expectations. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project aims to offer a systematic empirical understanding of the functioning of the Belgian Constitutional Court within the Belgian consociational system, its role as a venue for legal deliberation and its task to uphold key constitutional principles. This research explores both the performance of the court as guardian of consensus democracy and the deliberative quality of its judgments. It examines the tensions flowing from this dual role, and investigates how the court deals with these tensions.

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So much noise, so little change. Explaining interest group mobilization at the international level. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

The growing number of interest groups that mobilize at the international level intrigues many political scientists, but up to now this has not led to an adequate explanation for this phenomenon. My PhD-project aims to build and empirically test a theoretical framework which explains the development of international interest group populations. This explanatory framework will build upon research in the area of population ecology and resource dependency theory. My key idea is that interest group politics is not solely driven by a logic of political influence. Instead, I will demonstrate that international interest group mobilization is also substantially driven by a combination of contextual incentives and organizational goals regarding organizational survival and maintenance. The idea thereby is that dense populations will 'select' groups that posses a proper balance of organizational capabilities, while other ¿ less versatile ¿ organizations will exit the international scene more often and more rapid. By comparing the interest group populations of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change I investigate empirically the mechanisms that trigger entry, exit and hibernation patterns of interest groups at the international level.

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The role of constitutional courts in emerging democracies: variations in deliberative practices. 01/07/2012 - 30/06/2016

Abstract

Constitutional review by courts is a significant trend in the last decades. Post-authoritarian democracies tend to establish a strong judicial power for rights adjudication. The relationship between democracy and judicial review, however, is contested, for fear of a "government of judges" and might have a substantial impact on transition processes to democracy. Therefore, newly empowered high courts in emerging democracies are reluctant to exercise their powers assertively or do so only in some policy areas, for fear of provoking retaliation by political leaders. A crucial question therefore is how courts exercise their powers, more precisely how they react to and anticipate political pressure. This requires that courts are studied in an integrated framework that combines legal expertise on judicial reasoning with political science knowledge on the broader context and performance of courts as government agencies. According to deliberative democracy, procedural requirements for rational, transparent and inclusive debate give legitimacy to laws. Courts may act as forum for deliberation by giving the public access to constitutional debate and providing for reason-based justifications. Our starting point is that deliberative venues, such as courts, are key ingredients of democracy, and may play an important part in the transition to democracy. Yet, at the same time politicians may constrain courts in the tasks they aim to fulfil or courts might be reluctant to use their powers to the full extent. This research project seeks to explain variation in the deliberative practices courts develop in the transition to democracy. In order to investigate this variation, the project will construct a theoretical framework as a basis for the empirical analysis. The study will focus on three research questions. RQ 1: whether and how the theory of deliberative democracy can explain fundamental tensions between constitutionalism, including constitutional review, and democracy. First, the tensions between legal and political constitutionalism need to be clarified. Next, we need to assess how this tension impacts upon democratic transition processes. What does it mean for a country to be in 'transition to democracy' and what is the role of constitutional review in emerging democracies? How can courts function as a forum for deliberation in transitory democracies? RQ 2: Do constitutional courts shape the furthering of democracy in countries in transition, by protecting and expanding human and socio-economic rights? This requires an analysis of both the legal framework and the historic and socio-political context in which the constitutional courts operate. We need to gather quantitative data about the legal organization and competences of the courts, who has access to the court and who actually lodges a case, which cases fall within the ambit of the courts and how the courts interpret and exercise their powers, what kind of rights are at stake, how and when these cases are settled. RQ 3: What explains the success of failure of constitutional courts as deliberative agents? Legal and socio-political factors will be taken into consideration. Legal factors concern the procedure and competences of the courts, e.g. whether individuals and interest groups have access to the court, whether courts give voice to those who have been affected by a public policy and whether judges give dissenting opinions. Socio-political factors concern the social, economic, political and cultural environment in which the courts function. Here, we will partially rely on indicators which have been developed in doctrine to explain the role played by courts: transparency, public support, political competition and separation of powers.

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Societal interests and transatlantic regulatory policy coordination. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project aims to explain why big trading blocs such as the United States and the European Union sometimes succeed and at other times fail to coordinate their regulatory policies. As regulatory policies generate costs and benefits for economic and social constituencies, our explanatory framework incorporates how societal interests in Europe and the US attempt to influence the coordination of regulatory policies. The theoretical framework we build incorporates approaches of international policy cooperation that emphasize the importance of shared ideas, focal points and policy framing and modifies them to deal with the specificities of regulatory cooperation, its multidimensionality and its all-or-nothing character. Next to the development of an explanatory framework our empirical research will consist of systematically mapping and coding a representative set of transatlantic regulatory policy issues in order to test various theoretical hypotheses.

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INTEREURO - Comparative research on interest group politics in Europe. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The main purpose of this CRP (INTEREURO) is to promote a more comprehensive theoretical and empirical understanding of the role interest groups play in the European polity. Specifically, we will examine interest group mobilization; organizational maintenance and professionalization; strategies for influencing political decision-making; framing processes; and their impact on policy outcomes. The project will link the different aspects of the role of interest groups in the European policy process in an integrated theoretical framework.

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So much noise, so little change. Explaining interest group mobilization at the international level. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

The growing number of interest groups that mobilize at the international level intrigues many political scientists, but up to now this has not led to an adequate explanation for this phenomenon. My PhD-project aims to build and empirically test a theoretical framework which explains the development of international interest group populations. This explanatory framework will build upon research in the area of population ecology and resource dependency theory. My key idea is that interest group politics is not solely driven by a logic of political influence. Instead, I will demonstrate that international interest group mobilization is also substantially driven by a combination of contextual incentives and organizational goals regarding organizational survival and maintenance. The idea thereby is that dense populations will 'select' groups that posses a proper balance of organizational capabilities, while other ¿ less versatile ¿ organizations will exit the international scene more often and more rapid. By comparing the interest group populations of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change I investigate empirically the mechanisms that trigger entry, exit and hibernation patterns of interest groups at the international level.

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Research team(s)

Managing the triangle of regulatory governance. Explaining how regulatory agencies maneuver between political principals and societal interests. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

Regulatory agencies operate in a complex field of political forces. Political demands and societal interests often contradict each other and, in doing so, affect the capacity of regulatory agencies to regulate market behavior. This project is designed to explain regulatory capacity, i.e. the capability of regulatory agencies to effectively control and monitor constituency behavior. It does so by developing an explanatory model of regulatory capacity that includes agency preferences and how these preferences are affected by institutional constraints. The project employs a comparative research design of financial market and competition regulation and combines large-N data with small-N data analysis to test the explanatory potential of the model.

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Managing the triangle of regulatory governance. Explaining how regulatory agencies maneuver between political principals and societal interests. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

This project aims to explain how networks with ministerial departments and parliaments (both at national and EU-level) and stakeholders affect a regulatory agency's capacity to regulate market behavior. It does so by developing and testing an explanatory model that incorporates agency preferences, institutional arrangements governing the relation with its political principals and characteristics of the constituency environment

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So much noise, so little change. A research on interest group behavior at the international level. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

The growing number of interest groups that mobilize at the international level intrigues many political scientists, but up to now this has not led to an adequate explanation for this phenomenon. My PhD-project aims to build and empirically test a theoretical framework which explains the development of international interest group populations. This explanatory framework will build upon research in the area of population ecology and resource dependency theory. My key idea is that interest group politics is not solely driven by a logic of political influence. Instead, I will demonstrate that international interest group mobilization is also substantially driven by a combination of contextual incentives and organizational goals regarding organizational survival and maintenance. The idea thereby is that dense populations will 'select' groups that posses a proper balance of organizational capabilities, while other ¿ less versatile ¿ organizations will exit the international scene more often and more rapid. By comparing the interest group populations of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change I investigate empirically the mechanisms that trigger entry, exit and hibernation patterns of interest groups at the international level.

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Research team(s)

Politics of interest representation and agenda-setting in multi-level political systems. 01/07/2008 - 30/06/2013

Abstract

Political decision-making is increasingly taking place in multi-layered environments, due to macro-processes of European integration and globalization. Territorial interests (such as regional governments, cities or provinces) and functional interests (such as business associations or labor unions) are therefore more and more challenged to represent their interests in these evolving multi-level contexts. The central aim of the proposed project is to answer the following question: how do interest organizations adapt to the opportunities and constraints imposed by multi-level politica) systems? The answer to this question will contribute to a more fine-grained understanding of why some political interests are able to take advantage of the growing transnationalization of politics while other interests are on the loosing side. For this purpose, the proposed project integrates several theoretical approaches including organization theory, different strands of institutionalism, comparative federalism as well as population ecology. It is the combination of these different theoretical frameworks into one systematic research design that will lead to a substantial enrichment of ongoing theoretical debates. This ambitious enterprise is made operational through three interlinked empirical projects that each deal with the organization of political interests in different institutional contexts. The first project aims to establish a grounded understanding of the conditions under which multi-level venue shopping takes place. The second project investigates the development of the WTO transnational interest group system and how this affects the trade policy agenda. Finally, the third project builds an theoretical framework in order to explain varying forms of territorial representation in the EU. This combination of research that compares different institutional contexts will lead to more systematic knowledge on why and how international, supranational and domestic institutions enable or constrain the mobilization of non-state actors within a complex multi-layered environment.

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Interest groups and the WTO. A quantitative study towards the development of a population transnational interest groups. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

This project investigates why and how since 1995 a substantial global interest group population developed which tries to influence WTO policies. More in particular, the project has three sub- goals: 1) measuring the longitudinal development of this population, 2) explaining the unequal growth of this population and 3) explaining the relationship among the nature of the mobilized interest groups and the substance of the Wit policy agenda.

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Interest organizations and agenda-setting in the WTO. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2008

Abstract

The aim of the research program is to measure and explain policy agenda's as well as the development of systems of interest representation in international organizations, in particular the WTO. In preparation of an application for a research grant, this project will conduct 1) a study of how the WTO registers interest organizations, 2) review literature on organizational population ecology and 3) make a state-of-the-art review of the contemporary empirical research in this area.

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