On 17 December 2013 Fabienne Zwagemakers, a former trainee at the Montesquieu Institute, successfully defended her PhD thesis at the LUISS University in Rome.
Her thesis, “From Policies of Fears to Politics of Values. Human Rights on the Agenda of the European Union”, is greatly inspired by the work of Arco Timmermans. Zwagemakers’ main argument implies that the reference to human rights as constitutive of the founding principles of the EU is not genuine. Rather, the attention to human rights is functional to fundamental EU interests and the EU human rights agenda between 1992 and 2012 was a signifier of fear. The EU has resorted to include human rights on its agenda as an instrument to reinvigorate raison d’être, to mitigate perceived threats to the European internal market and to circumvent threats to the security and safety of EU citizens.
In addition, the EU has allocated attention to human rights as a consequence of normative spill-over processes in order to eliminate the threat of a democratic legitimacy deficit. Furthermore, Zwagemakers argues that the politics of attention to human rights unveils how EU policies determine EU politics. An important contribution of this thesis is the application of critical discourse analysis to unravel the conditions under which issues make it onto political agendas.