Mar 15 2018

The crisis in Catalonia: How did we get here and how do we get out?

Leave a comment

By Javier Carbonell and Luis Cornago Bonal

This post summarises the second debate of the conference cycle about the crisis in Catalonia, titled Spain and Catalonia: Is There a Way Out of the Impasse?, catalan crisis debatetook place on February 8 at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This debate analysed the political causes of the conflict, the current crisis, and the possible means of resolution. Jonathan Hopkin, Sandra León and Toni Rodon, three academics whose research has addressed the Spanish political system from different perspectives, were the speakers responsible for discussing these issues. In this post we collect the main ideas that emerged throughout the conference.

The causes of the conflict: How much does the economic crisis explain?

The moderator of the session, Antonio Barroso, opened the debate by asking Hopkin to what extent the Catalan case is unique in Europe or if it is comparable with that of other regions. In addition to referring to the dynamics of party competition in Catalonia -particularly the struggle for hegemony between the independence parties- the English political scientist defended the need to place Catalonia in the context of comparative politics. For him, the secessionist movement must be framed within the many anti-establishment movements that have emerged in recent years in many advanced democracies, such as Brexit, Trump’s victory, or the triumph of Syriza. All these phenomena share the fact that they emerged after the Great Recession that began in 2008. According to Hopkin, high levels of unemployment and the increase in inequality tend to provoke the radicalisation of political positions. In addition, in adverse economic circumstances identity politics prove to be an especially powerful weapon. Therefore, even if each of these anti-establishment movements is presented as unique, in reality, all originate in the important deterioration of the economic situation.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , , ,

Mar 14 2018

Could the Current Reform Plan Make the Eurozone Sustainable?

1 Comment

By Konstantinos Myrodias

The Eurozone is recovering from a long crisis; growth rates are turning positive across the Eurozone after a decade, business confidence is rising. Current accounts are balanced after the brutal adjustment in the periphery. The overall unemployment in the Euro area reached its pre-crisis level in 2017. This has been seen as a triumph.

This current euphoria emerges paradoxically from the dust and rubble of the broken social and political contract within and between countries across the Eurozone. The break-up of the convergence illusion in the periphery and the backlash against the bailouts in the North raised diverse voices against the Euro project in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

But the European Commission has recently set up a ‘grand reform’ agenda for a European Minister of Finance, a European Monetary Fund, and new Budgetary Instruments to win the hearts and minds of EU citizens for ‘a more integrated and performing Euro area to bring further stability and prosperity to all in the EU’. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , ,

Mar 12 2018

Remain to Reform: The ‘Corbyn Moment’ for Europe?


By Mary Kaldor

In twenty years’ time, we will look back on Brexit as a moment of terrifying global irresponsibility. We live in a world of creeping fascism in Russia, Turkey, China, Trump’s America not to mention the tendencies inside Britain, especially among the hard Brexiteers. The European Union currently represents a beacon for democracy and human rights. Of course, it is dominated by a neo-liberal ideology that threatens to undermine the eurozone and with it the democratic values for which it stands; developments in Central Europe and the recent elections in Italy are a painful reminder of the dangerous possibilities.

Nevertheless, there are tendencies for reform inside the European Union and if a Corbyn-led Labour Party were to win the next election, there is a unique – indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity – to reform the European Union and this means an opportunity to save us, Europe and perhaps the world.

But we are so obsessed with the domestic British debate despite all the talk of a global Britain that nobody seems to be discussing or trying to diagnose the frightening scenario of everything going wrong and our role in that scenario. The current nostalgia for Britain’s role in WWII seems to neglect the fact that this was a struggle for democracy, human rights and decency and not just about nationalism. If we care about those values now, we should be worrying about the future of Europe and the world and how what happens in the rest of the world will affect us.

A pamphlet published by Another Europe is Possible this week makes the argument that instead of fretting about how bad Brexit will be for Britain, we need to think about what a Corbyn government inside Europe might mean for the future of the European Union. The pamphlet sets out a reform strategy for the European Union that is realistic to achieve if a Corbyn government were to ally with socialists across Europe. Such a reform strategy would enable us to address the big global problems of today, and this in turn may well be a necessary condition for implementing the Corbyn-McDonnell programme. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , ,

Mar 9 2018

Italy’s Election: The Path to Political Radicalisation

1 Comment

By Roberto Orsi

The result of the Italian general election was extraordinary. Even if the most recent polls had anticipated the trend, the actual numbers were surprising, providing the immediate sense of a rather dramatic political shift. Three main and tightly interconnected stories are easily detectible: the irresistible rise of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the decisive victory of the Northern League under Matteo Salvini’s leadership, and the collapse of Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD).

The Five Star Movement became the first party with more than 32% of the votes, up from 24% in 2013, with a margin of 14 points above second place. This was a staggering result. Although the M5S was expected to gain up to 29%, achieving 32% makes it one of the largest political parties in Europe. The (ex-Northern) League achieved well over 17%, by far its highest result ever. While the party started off as the representative of Northern Italy’s interests, grievances, and political positions, Salvini’s bid to transform it into a nation-wide political force on the model of France’s Front National has clearly paid off. The Democratic Party (PD), which has ruled Italy with minor allies over the 2013-2018 period, suffered a crushing defeat, decreasing from 29% in 2013 (and 40% at the 2014 European elections) to a meagre 19%. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Feb 28 2018

Italy’s General Elections: Four Key Issues

Leave a comment

By Roberto Orsi

Italy historical map

Next Sunday (4 March) Italian citizens will elect a new Parliament, after a complete five-year cycle. Much has changed since the last vote on 24-25 February 2013.

It will be argued here that this election is probably the first one in a very long time to address the fundamental reference framework of Italy’s trajectory as a political community, after at least 25 years of political-economic autopilot within the concentric rings of the Euro-Atlantic alliance, the European Union, and the Eurozone. Now the time has come when the position and role of the country within these structures as well as their very nature and purpose, while rarely challenged in toto, is however being more thoroughly questioned. This should not come as a surprise given the severity of the economic crisis of the country in the 2011-2014 period, which is continuing nevertheless in many ways despite the current mild recovery, coupled with a widespread sense that Italy as a political entity finds itself in an appalling spiral of decline.

Unfortunately there are only few instances of clear debate arising from the rather uninteresting noise of electoral squabbling, but some fundamental topics have emerged over the course of the recent past, shaping the orientation of all major political parties. Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , , ,

Jan 19 2018

EU migration opens a whole Brexit can of worms

1 Comment

By Alessio  Colonnelli

britain euPutting a cap on EU immigration was all that mattered for many. But now, what about Belfast and Dublin? No need for a border, they say. Soft Brexit will do, it’s the only sensible way. As long as those speaking in tongues stay out, anything else is peripheral and can go on as it is.

Nothing new. A conspicuous minority of Brits did have previous bouts of strong irritation towards newcomers. The Jamaicans in Brixton in the late ’40s and ’50s; the Italians of Wales, Glasgow and Bedford; and that’s before mentioning the Irish.

 That was a long time ago, and now many sense it’s just got a whole lot worse. Who will ever forget the day Labour MP Jo Cox was assassinated by a man who could not stand foreigners? Egged on by a web mob and, much worse, an atrocious sense of superiority, self-importance and moral impunity. It was shocking. Campaigning to remain in the EU, as Cox was doing, led the murderer to believe he should do his bit to dam the hordes of barbarians. The same attitude has paved the way to a number of gratuitous assaults of a similar nature.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Jan 9 2018

Portugal: Euro Zone’s brightening socio-economic outlook


portuguese prime ministerIn the present post, Lucas Juan Manuel Alonso Alonso analyses some of the more important points contained in the OECD’s 2017 Economic Survey of Portugal. It offers an analysis of the socio-economic position of Portugal once the austerity measures are abandoned, highlighting notable improvement in social and salary, employment/unemployment and fiscal deficit, actions to improve adequate capitalization of banks, and NPLs (Non-Performing Loans) comparative with the situation of other Member States.

In 2016, according to the OECD Economic Survey, Portugal’s labour costs account for 19% of the costs of Portuguese companies, and according to EUROSTAT the average hourly labour cost in Portugal is € 13.7 an hour, while EU average labour costs vary from €50.2 an hour in Norway to € 4.4 an hour in Bulgaria. According to OECD the unit labour costs per hour worked/per employed in Portugal were 2.08% and 2.18%, respectively, higher than in 2015. But, Portugal’s unit labour cost relative to the euro area declined by 1.5% between 2012 and 2015, signalling an improving in the economy’s external competitiveness. According to OECD the labour compensation per hour worked in Portugal was up 2.59% over the previous year 2015. In 2016, of the total of 23 EU countries accounted for in the OECD’s figures, only Greece

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Dec 16 2017

Governing Migration: The Responsibility of European Society and the Limits of Morality

Leave a comment

By Federico Nicolaci

Contemporary mass migration patterns and dynamics pose an entirely new set of questions that European leadership should urgently articulate and answer. It is not easy: the issue is highly contentious and countries have different views as to the measures and methods to address it. However, framing the whole question in moralistic terms—as often happens in political discourse—is not only reductive and arbitrary: it is playing a dangerous game, with potentially disastrous political results.

1. The spectacularisation of tragedy and the temptation of emotional response

Undoubtedly a profound influence in the political response to the European refugee crisis has been exerted by the pivotal role of media in representing the drama of children, men and women tragically drowned in the Mediterranean while seeking to reach Europe’s shores. The spectacularisation of sorrow, along with the spectacularisation of violence, is indeed an inherent feature of today’s “society of spectacle” dominated by mass media and shaped by the possibility of instant sharing of images and videos.

Think of the shocking and highly dramatic image of the lifeless body of a three-year-old Syrian child, washed up along the Greek shore: in the second half of 2015, the sensationalist coverage of that event galvanised the public and hit Europe’s conscious as no piece of writing had been previously able to do. According to research conducted by the Visual Social Media Lab of Sheffield University, that photograph was seen by 20 million people in less than 12 hours after it was first published, creating a powerful frame trough which subsequent coverage on the migration crisis has been positioned, dramatically shifting governments’ policies, as well as public attitudes, towards the issue.

It is, however, difficult to overlook the dangers of emotional responses when it comes to determining governments’ policies, particularly if we take into account the nature and the magnitude of today’s patterns of migration. The last available data suggest that in 2015 a total of 2.7 million people immigrated to the European Union from a variety of foreign (id est, non-member) countries. In 2016, over 1,236,300 new asylum applications have been lodged throughout the EU. While the flow of migrants to Europe in 2015 represented the biggest influx from outside the Continent in Modern history, many experts warn that the mass movement, in the absence of any form of dissuasion, may continue and even increase—possibly for years to come.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , ,

Dec 12 2017

A review of Nathalie Tocci’s ‘Framing the EU Global Strategy’

Leave a comment

By Mary Kaldor

In this post Mary Kaldor reviews Nathalie Tocci’s book: Framing the EU Global Strategy: A Stronger Europe in a Fragile World  Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2017

During the referendum on British membership of the European Union, one of the many charges against the European Union put forward by the leave campaign was fear of a European army. There has also been talk of an emerging European ‘security-industrial complex’ as a range of surveillance systems are introduced as part of EU counter-terror measures and as defence research and defence co-operation are stepped up (see Chris Jones, OpenDemocracy, 31 August 2017). But the situation is much more complex and contradictory than these negative depictions suggest. It is important that those of us who still believe in ‘normative Europe’ – the idea of the European Union as a peace and human rights project – understand these contradictions and the possibilities they open up for a more transformational agenda.

Nathalie Tocci’s book is a useful corrective to the more pessimistic portrayals of current developments within the European Union. Tocci is Director of the Italian Institute for International Affairs and advisor to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission. She was tasked with drafting two documents – an initial statement of the strategic context facing the EU, presented to the European Council in June 2015, entitled ‘The European Union in a Changing Global Environment: A More Connected, Contested and Complex World’ , which paved the way for a European strategy document, presented to the European Council the day after the Brexit vote, entitled ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy’ (EUGS).

The book offers a fascinating insight into how these collective documents are produced, even though both  documents are unusual in that they both involved greater public consultation than normally happens while at the same time, probably owing to the deft steerage of both Mogherini and Tocci, they both manage to be coherent and readable. The book also provides a guide to reading the global strategy and an explanation of some of the concepts developed in the document, and gives some indication of what has happened since in terms of implementation.

Continue reading

Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , ,

Dec 8 2017

A Podcast on the Catalan Crisis


With Jose Javier OlivasMireia Borrell and Michael Cottakis

In this Talking Europe Podcast by the 1989 Generation Initiative our Editor Jose Javier Olivas Osuna discusses the Catalan crisis with Mireia Borrell, in a conversation moderated by Michael Cottakis. They set out the historical background to Catalonia’s independence movement and the Spanish Constitution, before delving into the question why things were allowed to escalate so profoundly. What role did Mariano Rajoy and Carles Puigdemont play in the unfolding crisis? With the upcoming election, they offer valuable insight into what may happen next, how the crisis can be deescalated, and what role, if any, the EU can play. Both agree that the Spanish government misunderstood and miscalculated the severity of the conflict. While Mireia Cottakis puts forward the case for Catalan independence, Jose Olivas Osuna argues that the case for independence is not as strong as it is often made out to be,  and that independence is  desirable neither for Spain nor Catalonia.

Listen to the podcast here

Note: This podcast gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Euro Crisis in the Press blog nor of the London School of Economics.

Related articles on LSE Euro Crisis in the Press:

Four graphs about Catalonia and citizens’ attitudes towards the EU

An Explanation of the Current Political Situation in Catalonia

Does the Catalan Independence Movement Really ‘Love Democracy’?


Posted by: Posted on by Eurocrisis in the Press Tagged with: , ,