Differentiated integration and disintegration are considered key processes of the European project’s dynamics. Opt-outs and disintegration pressures are typically associated with laggards or proponents of ‘less Europe’ who do not wish to integrate further, but prefer to maintain status quo or take a step back. However, differentiation also serves the needs of champions of ‘more Europe’ who wish to move forward despite lack of unanimous support to do so. Both types of claims are constantly justified and contested as they constitute a deviation from a more traditional and uniform way of ‘doing integration’ in Europe. This article aims to deal with the differentiation/legitimation nexus in the EU and shed light on the politics of differentiation, while empirically examining legitimating and de-legitimating practices of differentiation as revealed in technocratic and populist narratives produced by major political actors in France, Poland and the United Kingdom. The article highlights flexible and complementary usages of both populist and technocratic narratives that allow to (de-)legitimate differentiation in line with domestic political agendas.
European Union, Differentiation, Legitimation, Narrative, Populism, Technocracy
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