New Constellations in European Research and Higher Education Governance
New Horizons in European Politics series
Edited by Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka
Chapter 2: The evolution of the European Research Area as an idea in European integration
'Research and innovation' has recently been moved closer to the top of the political and legislative agenda of the European Union (EU) - the most advanced form of existing supranational cooperation. At the heart of these developments is the completion of the European Research Area (ERA) by 2014. According to Article 179 of the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December 2009, the ERA would be an area within which 'researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely' (Official Journal of the European Union 2010, p. C 83/128). Yet this notion of a common scientific space where the mobility of knowledge is unhindered is as old as the EU itself. How can we account for its emergence, evolution and survival? This chapter sets out to address this question and is structured as follows. First, I discuss briefly the idea of the ERA and the 'fifth freedom'. Next, I develop an analytical framework based on insights from studies that identify ways through which ideas affect political interactions. In this section I will also address a common methodological question faced by those proposed to use an ideational approach to study political life: is an idea epiphenomenal to interest or are its effects autonomous? I argue for adopting a dynamic approach, whereby ideas and interests are conceptualized as factors that interact to provide opportunities for actors seeking to reform sensitive policy sectors.
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