Research College: The Transformative Power of Europe

Research directors:
Participating scholars:
Funding: DFG
Duration 4 years (until 2016)


Grant proposal

Object of Research

The diffusion of ideas has become a central research theme in political science, sociology, law, history, and economics. Scholars have focused on how ideas are spread across time and space, as can be observed especially in the European Union in various sociopolitical fields. The European Union (EU) serves as an almost ideal laboratory for investigating processes and outcomes of diffusion.

Until now, the diffusion of ideas has mainly been studied from a structuralist perspective. However, the process evolves differently, depending on how diffusion is initiated. Existing studies on diffusion furthermore show that it is not a process free of conflict. Focusing on the EU, the Research College seeks to study the influence of actors, their interests and their power, on the diffusion of ideas.

Research Questions

What kind of diffusion mechanisms does the EU employ and which diffusion mechanisms are particularly conducive to transformational changes inside the EU and its member states?

Under which conditions do processes of diffusion result in convergence of divergence?

Research Approach

The Research College will study the role of the EU as the promoter and recipient of ideas, analyzing the mechanisms and effects of internal and external diffusion processes in the three research areas. Each research area will extend over a period of two years in order to allow for thorough analysis and theory development.

Diffusion works as a bridge between various meta-theoretical orientations and connects different methodologies to each other. By concentrating on five mechanisms of diffusion, the Research College attends to diverging approaches.

Research Areas

Identity and the Public Sphere

This research area will explore how the diffusion of ideas through and by the European Union affects collective identities and their Europeanization. In what way do transnational public discourses contribute to the diffusion of ideas? Can we observe a socialization process by which new member states incorporate Europe and the EU into their collective identity narratives? And how can we explain these diffusion processes and their differential effects on the Europeanization of collective identities?

Compliance, Conditionality, and Beyond

How and to what extent have European ideas transformed the political-administrative, economic, social, and cultural institutions of nation-states within and outside the EU? To what degree does the diffusion of European ideas result in institutional convergence, and what explains the persisting differences? Which conditions foster and retract the diffusion of European ideas? Most importantly, how do the different diffusion mechanisms interact?

Comparative Regionalism and Europe’s External Relations

The EU perceives itself as a model for effective and legitimate governance to be emulated by other countries and regions. What are the effects of these efforts at diffusing regionalism as a distinctively European idea? How are these efforts perceived by non-European partners? More specifically, how has the EU dealt with challenges to its “normative power” by national, international and transnational actors who reject European ideas and their normative hegemony and its unintended or “nasty” consequences?

Participating scholars

  • Prof. Dr. Verena Blechinger-Talcott (FU Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Marianne Braig (FU Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Calliess (FU Berlin)
  • Prof. Dr. Barbara Fritz (FU Berlin)
  • Prof. Liesbet Hooghe (University of North Carolina)
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfram Kaiser (University of Portsmouth)
  • Prof. Gary Marks (University of North Carolina)
  • Prof. Dr. Kiran Klaus Patel (University of Maastricht)
  • Prof. Dr. Carina Sprungk (FU Berlin)
  • Dr. May-Britt U. Stumbaum (NFG Research Group)


  • Prof. Dr. Tanja A. Börzel
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Risse



Astrid Roos

Freie Universität Berlin
Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften
Berlin Center for European Studies
Ihnestraße 26
14195 Berlin

Tel.: +49-30-838-57033
Fax.: +49-30-838 55 049