Since its origins, the European Union (EU) has increasingly relied on prizes to highlight the values and principles channelling European integration. In the last two decades, such symbolic tools of governance have shifted away from the kind of distinctions granted by elites to elites and aiming to honour prominent figures offered as role models mainly in the field of identity, memory and cultural policies. In an increasingly market-oriented Europe, prizes are used as incentives and disciplining instruments to enhance self-compliance of economic and social actors with an ethos of competitiveness and innovation. They work as a magnifying glass of the evolution of the EU towards a government at distance through policy instruments.
The focus is on four areas where prizes have multiplied since the 2000s: research and innovation, economic governance, territorial and environmental policies, and communication policies. The article draws on a qualitative analysis of a corpus of ninety-one prizes, institutional documentation, parliamentary debates and media controversies related to prizes.
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