Michiel van Meeteren, David Bassens, Nina Haerter

Research Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research

Reconstructing the changing financial geography of the European Union (1985-2007) through narratives, numbers, and networks of European financial elites

At a time when crisis-ridden Europe is devoured by social, political, and economic turmoil, the proposed research project intends to provide a thorough understanding of the financial politics and geographies that led to the financial integration of the European Union before the crisis of 2008. The project will try to explain that integration through the Europe-wide expansion of its primary financial agents (i.e. European banks) and wonders how geographical expansions were enabled by decisions in European policy networks. The main hypothesis is that political and financial elites converged in overlapping “networks” made up by insiders, business economists, academics, consultants, and politicians who utilized “narratives” about the acclaimed benefits of financial Europeanization for all, in spite of factual divergence in the “numbers” that were observable on the ground. The project will study these dynamics in hindsight for the period 1985-2007, by looking at how decisions at European banks were being made and how these dovetailed with the policies that were rolled out across Europe financial space. The main empirical points of entry consist of in-depth case studies of expanding Belgian and Dutch banks and a close scrutiny of elite decision-making networks in Brussels and Amsterdam. The project will involve a close cooperation between financial geographers at VUB and UvA. This research is funded by FWO - Research Grant G019116N.