In a year in which revolutions and large-scale street protests seem to spread across the world as E.Coli bacteria spread through the European Union recently, it’s fun to find a research article titled “Protest Actions against the European Union, 1992-2007” (full article behind paywall) in the 2nd issue of 2011 of “West European Politics” [Disclosure: My supervisor is an editor to this academic journal.].
For this article, Katrin Uba and Fredrik Uggla have screened >150,000 news reports (based on Factiva) and found that between January 1992 and December 2007 there were 1925 protest events targeted either directly at EU institutions or at national institutions over EU policies.
Skipping a debate on the obvious problems in trying to get information on all such events based on a news database even if it also includes local newspapers – problems which the authors raise themselves – they find that there is no clear upward trend in this phenomenon, with peaks in 1993 and 2002 (~180 events) and years like 1994, 1996 or 2006 with only about 50% of these peaks. 2005 was a smaller peak with ~140 events.
The authors note that these peaks are related to major events such as the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s, the Nice Treaty and the introduction of the Euro in the early 2000s and the Constitutional Treaty referenda in 2005.
Most of the protests over the whole period (for the ‘old’ member states) were in France (~350), the UK (~250) and Belgium (~220). It’s also interesting to see that the number of transnational protests remains fairly low. Except for the years 2001-2003, the figures are below 20 events per year.
Now it’s a pity that the data set ends with 2007 – it would be very interesting to see the further development until today. My guess would be that 2010 or 2011 may constitute a new highest peak – but that’s just a subjective guess and future generations of EU protest researchers will have to show whether this feeling is also empirically true.