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ISSN: 2183-2463

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One Crisis Is not Like Another: Exploring Different Shades of Crisis in the EU

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Abstract:  Against the background of more than a decade of crises in the EU and an increasing inflationary use of the term, this article contributes to the crisis literature in two ways. First, by presenting the state of the art in broader academic research on crises and crisis management, it explores how the more recent EU literature can benefit from this earlier work. At the same time, it also pays attention to the EU specificities and the implications in terms of research, especially with regard to studying actors and perceived threats. Here the unpacking of the well-established crisis definition of Boin et al. (2013), which builds on the work of Rosenthal et al. (1989), serves as a helpful starting point. Second, the contribution argues that one crisis is not like another and that crises can take different gradations. By distinguishing between mild, severe, and existential crises, it makes a first attempt to propose the key analytical dimensions that impact the gradation of a crisis. Building on the findings in EU crisis research, it distils the dimensions of severity, symmetry, and speed as defining characteristics. Depending on the crisis, the gradation of each of these dimensions ranges along a spectrum. In other words, there are different shades of crises. By being more explicit about the gradation, scholars can identify what type of crisis is at stake (i.e., whether the crisis under study is mild, severe, or existential in nature). This in turn has implications for questions such as by whom, how, and when a crisis needs to be addressed. As a final step, the article also identifies a series of avenues for further research.

Keywords:  EU; crisis management; gradations of crisis; multi‐level governance



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© Jan Hupkens, Christine Neuhold, Sophie Vanhoonacker. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.