Research project

EU Integration and Differentiation for Effectiveness and Accountability (EU IDEA)

2019 - 2021 (Ongoing)

EU IDEA has a threefold aim, notably to break new ground on differentiated integration in terms of conceptual approach, policies and networks.

The evolution of the EU’s politics and policies has demonstrated that differentiation can no longer be treated as an anomaly in the integration process, posing a key set of questions to academic and policy-makers alike: whether, how much and what form of differentiation is not only compatible with but also conducive to a more effective, cohesive and democratic EU.

The basic claim underpinning our proposal is that differentiation is not only necessary to address current challenges more effectively by making the Union more resilient and responsive to citizens. Differentiation is also desirable, by introducing a useful degree of flexibility in the complex EU machinery, so long as such flexibility is compatible with the core principles of the EU’s constitutionalism and identity, sustainable in terms of governance, and acceptable to EU citizens, Member States and affected third partners.

EU IDEA has a threefold aim, notably to break new ground on differentiated integration in terms of i) conceptual approach, ii) policies and iii) networks.

  • Visit the project's main web page here.

In terms of concepts (i), EU IDEA proposes an approach to differentiation in the EU that goes beyond the current state-of-the-art, for instance by addressing differentiation at the level of both legal commitments and organisational involvement in EU governance; bridging the divide between the conceptual debate and the reality of differentiation as a policy practice and choice through an inter-disciplinary and policy-oriented analytical framework; and finally, by mitigating the State-centric logic of differentiation in scholarship and political debate. Regarding policy design (ii), EU IDEA proposes an approach that takes into greater consideration the different dimensions involved. Finally (iii), EU IDEA will foster a community of practice involving experts, policy-makers, citizens (youth specifically) and the media, thus breaking the silo mentality connected with the debate on the future of the EU, reaching out to people and integrating different views in the elaboration of new narratives on constitutionalism, integration and differentiation.

In line with these premises and objectives, EU IDEA will organise research and output in 9 different work packages (WPs). It will conduct an historical and philosophical investigation of the origins of differentiation, within and outside the EU (WP 1); analyse differentiation – in relation to issues of governance and accountability (WP 2) and narratives on EU constitutionalism and identity (WP 3); investigate the practice of differentiation in key policy areas (WPs 4-5-6) and in light of the prospects for Brexit (WP 7); and assess the political and public preferences at national level (WP 8). The findings of our analysis will be instrumental to defining the criteria – at institutional, policy and societal levels – to assess future scenarios of differentiation as a tool of integration (or disintegration) and to develop policy recommendations for EU and national policy-makers with an aim to a more effective and accountable union (WP9).

Watch the work packages explained on EU IDEA's YouTube channel:



EU IDEA has partners from 15 different institutions and think tanks across Europe and is lead by the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI).

Nina Græger coordinates the project at NUPI.

Follow the project on Facebook here and on Twitter @IdeaEu

PS! Check out EU IDEA's podcast:

Listen to "EuIdea #1 - Brexit, where are we?" on Spreaker.

Funding program

The project is funded by EU's H2020-SC6-GOVERNANCE-2018-2019