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Elsa Karlsson Gustafsson
Published: 2024-01-11

Winner of the Parliaments essay Award 2023

PROFILE A day at work of Elsa Karlsson Gustafsson - Winner of the Parliaments essay Award 2023 on her essay ”Oppositions as A Dialogue”

Image: Hans Karlsson
Elsa Karlsson Gustafsson

What was your essay about?

Within opposition research, there has long been an accepted thesis that the opposition is decreasing in national EU politics. This notion of a decreasing opposition in national EU politics has however been questioned during the last few years and scholars have started to research domestic parliamentary opposition in EU politics. However, the results from the recent studies have not painted a coherent picture of opposition in domestic EU politics. My thesis point of departure is situated in this interesting puzzle and thus investigates opposition in domestic EU politics, more specifically in Sweden.

The thesis aims to investigate if and how opposition takes place in the Swedish European Affairs Committee [EAC], based on a perspective of European integration. I did this by analysing debates from two separate policy areas, namely migration and asylum policies and environmental policies. Furthermore, previous research that studied opposition in domestic EU politics has also been conducted through a lens of quantitative methodology, where researchers measure the amount of opposition that exists within EAC debates. One of my goals was therefore also to study the opposition from a qualitative perspective where opposition can be viewed as a dialogue that can take various forms, to add another nuance to the research field of opposition.  

Why were you interested in this subject?

Opposition as a research area is rather interesting since it is one of the cornerstones of a democracy. Opposition fills an important role for a democracy since it offers citizens political alternatives, an electoral choice and represents the interests of citizens in parliament. In the absence of real opposition, presenting alternatives, especially focused on policy, citizens may lose their voice in our democracies. Opposition is therefore extremely important for a democracy to function well. The research of opposition becomes more intricate when studying EU politics since the EU introduces policy procedures and channels, which can be complicated for national parliaments to navigate. This intricate puzzle was one of the reasons which made me interested in the research field, and which motivated me to write my thesis on the subject of opposition in domestic EU politics.

How did you know about this contest?

I actually did not know that much about the essay contest while writing my paper. I only read that it existed and a few things about it on the university’s Canvas page. It was actually my supervisor, Torbjörn Bergman, who told me about the contest after I finished my thesis. He asked if it would be okay for me to nominate the thesis for the contest.

How did you receive the news?

It was the week before Christmas when the speaker of parliament, Andreas Norlén called me. It was a surreal moment when he told me that my thesis was one out of two theses winning the contest. During the phone call, we spoke about the subject of opposition and Norlén explained to me that they will hold an award ceremony in April this year (2024). During the ceremony, I will get the chance to talk about my research together with researchers working for parliament. 

After your master's you are now a Ph.D. student in our department. How do your PDH studies relate to your essay?

My master’s thesis helped me pinpoint what I want to do during my PhD since I am planning to continue researching opposition in domestic EU politics. However, the aim of my PhD dissertation, thus far, is to study domestic opposition in EU politics from a comparative perspective, comparing member states and different arenas where opposition may take form.


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More information

Link to the Essay in Diva: ”Oppositions as A Dialogue”

Link to the Pressrelease