Nov 26 2014

Five minutes with Timothy Garton Ash: “We’re far more European in the UK than we think we are”

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Contributor Tim Garton Ash of st Antony s college Oxford Pic Rob JudgesIs it possible to create a truly European public sphere? In an interview with our colleague Stuart Brown, editor of EUROPP, Timothy Garton Ash discusses the failure of efforts to reignite the enthusiasm of citizens for European integration, the importance of European identity, and why the UK is far more European than most people believe.

A common argument is that attempts to foster democratic engagement with the EU suffer from the lack of a European public sphere. Is it realistic to think that a European public sphere could ever be created?

My view is that we should try, but we shouldn’t ever kid ourselves that this is going to be like a national public sphere. Apart from anything else, we speak different languages, which is a huge barrier. The key for me, in continuing to make the argument for Europe, is what national politicians, national intellectuals, journalists, academics and opinion formers say in their national debates in their own national languages. That’s where we currently have a problem. Continue reading

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Nov 20 2014

Crisis Discourses in Europe: Media EU-phemisms and Alternative Narratives

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By Tamsin Murray-Leach

It would be catastrophising to claim that euroscepticism won the European elections earlier this year – but it certainly staked a claim. Two years ago, we predicted the capturing of Europe by populist parties in our study of progressive activists in Europe, The ‘Bubbling Up’ of Subterranean Politics in Europe (Kaldor and Selchow 2012). What that report found was that Europe, as a political space, was invisible to the majority of these activists; at worst, it was considered part of the problem in the current moment of crisis.

Pablo Iglesias (Podemos 23-05-2014)In a recent background paper, we set out to explore the dominant discourses around the euro crisis to understand why there appears to be such a mismatch between the concerns of these actors and the way in which the crisis is framed in the dominant discourse.

What we found confirmed what was suggested by our initial report: that these (primarily mediatised) narratives have (mis) represented the crisis as a predominantly economic one, rather than addressing the political concerns of these subterranean actors. It is a framing that discursively rules out alternatives to the prominent executive actors and their prescribed solutions, and which maintains political Europe as a distant ‘other’ to the majority of Europeans. Continue reading

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Nov 18 2014

Too Small, Too Personal


By Sally Broughton Micova 

Media laws in Macedonia and Slovenia are largely in line with international standards. Yet to guarantee a transparent system and independent reporting this is not enough.

Logo of SitelIn April 2014 the Republic of Macedonia held its fourth general parliamentary election in the last 8 years along with a regularly scheduled presidential election. As usual it was monitored thoroughly by the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which this time gave a far from stellar report. One of the main criticisms was that there was a lack of independent reporting and a severe bias in the media, even worse than for previous elections.

This bias can be seen as evidence of problems identified in the latest country report on Macedonia by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI), namely concentrated media ownership tied to politics and increased political pressure on editors and journalists. The challenges to media freedom in Macedonia are, among others, rooted both in the small size of the media market and in the very personal nature of politics in this country of only 2 million. Continue reading

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Nov 11 2014

Time for the 89ers to Defend Europe

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By Henry Radice

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the familiar rituals of remembrance feel particularly poignant in a year marking the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, yet itself scarred by a grim array of conflicts which seem appallingly to celebrate, rather than to mourn, the innovations in inhumanity witnessed a century ago.

BerlinWall-BrandenburgGateIn contrast, our rituals of commemoration of 1989 and its symbolic centrepiece, the fall of the Berlin Wall, remain haphazard and unsettled, despite the far more positive legacy at stake (and the moving celebrations in Berlin on Sunday).

Taking stock of this twenty-five year anniversary in a powerful essay in The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash asks where the 89ers are, contrasting the absence in our culture of such a group with the undoubted resonance of the generations of 1968 or 1939. Garton Ash ponders whether such a generation of 1989 might yet emerge, placing his hopes in those born at or around the end of the Cold War. But, on reflection, I would also like to lay tentative claim to the label, having come of age in an era in which European political consolidation was rapidly taking place through force of will rather than force of arms. For some of us born almost a decade before the fall of the Wall, a political challenge lies ahead, the importance of which directly relates to the events of 1989. Continue reading

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Nov 6 2014

The 1000 Day Agenda: Can Renzi Deliver?

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By Giovanni Puglisi

Source: Governo Italiano

Source: Governo Italiano

The young and dynamic Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is determined to change the way politics is perceived and conducted in Italy. He has promised to deliver an ambitious economic and institutional reform agenda, but his task won’t be an easy one.

Since he came into power, after snubbing his political ally Enrico Letta by ousting the former highly respected (especially among EU leaders) Prime Minister, he has demonstrated a practical and cynical approach in running the government and leading his party. The weekly Espresso has described the 39 year-old Renzi as a sort of Italian Underwood, making reference to House of Cards, the American political television series based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, of which the Italian premier is a declared fan. Unfortunately for Renzi, Italy’s institutional realm is less fictional and more complicated to navigate than it might look from the outside. Indeed, Renzi has the daunting task of dealing on one hand with both Mr Berlusconi and with Mr Grillo, the former PM and a former comedian, and on the other hand with a fragmented minority within his own party led by former PD (Partito Democratico) secretary Pier Luigi Bersani. Moreover, to add additional drama, he’s in a coalition government with junior partner NCD, led by interior minister Angelino Alfano, Berlusconi’s former right-hand man. However, Renzi has vowed to survive with his 1000 day programme through to the end of the parliamentary term in 2017, since he considers his party’s strong performance in the European elections in May to have been sufficient to guarantee his mandate. Continue reading

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Oct 31 2014

EU Membership and the Immigration ‘Problem’ – Fact and fiction in British public discourse


By Max Hänska

As David Cameron attempt to be more royalist than the king, ratcheting up his eurosceptic and anti-immigration rhetoric in an attempt to outgun Nigel Farage, it is obvious that public discourse and popular sentiment are turning sour on migration and membership of the European Union. But what explains the ascent of immigration and the EU as the foremost concerns of the British public?

Assuming - and it is of course a highly problematic assumption – that people are well informed and rational, in the sense that their beliefs are reasonably truth-tracking, we would expect concern over immigration and the EU to correlate with some kind of objective increase in immigration-related problems, and the EU to hamper Britain in addressing these and other problems in any serious way. We would expect foreign workers to displace equally qualified domestic workers, available housing supply to be soaked up by foreigners, and public services to be strained under the increased demand brought about by immigration. We would expect the EU to be obstinate in the face of these problems. In other words, we would expect the echo chamber of concerns  over immigration and the EU to be a direct result of increased immigration, its deleterious effects and the inability/unwillingness of the EU to address these and other problems.

However, public concerns over immigration and the EU do not seem to track the facts, as concerns over immigration are fairly stable and not responsive to changes in net migration. Moreover, those most concerned about immigration are often least exposed to it. By most estimates immigration is cost-neutral, and immigrants are in more likely to be net-contributors than net-beneficiaries. In short, people’s increased concern with immigration is not explained by actual increases in the number of immigrants, nor by the real cost of immigration, or by increased exposure to immigrants.

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Oct 29 2014

Holding Europe to no account: a media question

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By Cristina Marconi and John Lloyd

The European Union occupies a central position in the political and economic life of its twenty-eight members and an important one in much of the rest of the world. Few other institutions of governance have such a controversial role, and its very existence is increasingly called into question by uncompromising critics who wish to see it killed off; and it is much more severely criticised than previously by those who want it radically reformed.

European mediaA debate on the legitimacy of the EU’s action has always existed and has been quite trenchant in the past, but it has never reached the current peak. The EU public has never been so engaged with and opinionated about the EU project as it is now: the news media have had to take this into account.

It is clearly important that citizens from the twenty-eight EU countries understand what effect the EU Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers have on their lives – what policies they discuss and approve, what relationship they have with national governments, what assistance they offer to member states, how much they pay to them, what power they have and what powers they seek to have.

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Oct 23 2014

Explaining the Riddle of Turkish Foreign Policy in Syria: Dilemmas, Risks and Limitations

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By Athanasios Manis

Since the humanitarian crisis in Kobani made its way to world media outlets, the Turkish government has been under constant international and domestic pressure to either intervene militarily in saving Kobani and/or actively assist the overall anti-Islamic State US-led coalition. So far, Turkey has not engaged actively in this coalition. Policy-makers and analysts have been trying to present ideas from a normative rather than analytical perspective. They focus more on why and how Turkey should become more active. The Turkish government is dragging its feet. They find it difficult to engage in actions of micromanagement of the Syrian Civil War if they do not reflect Turkey’s wider strategic interests in Syria. For Turkish policy-makers Kobani is not primarily a case of humanitarian intervention. As a consequence, Turkey observes a ‘wait-and-see’ policy which at best can turn into a ‘step-by-step’ policy. However, Turkey risks the possibility of becoming a passive actor that could lead to it not having a strong voice in a post-war Syria.

So far, the Turkish Government has been resisting participation and even denied the International Coalition the use of Incirlik Air Base against the Islamic State. On top of that, there have even been allegations from founding members of the AKP party, such as Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, that Turkey has supported “extreme religious groups”. Against the backdrop of inaction in Kobani, one cannot fail to notice that there have been examples of promising activism which, however, are not necessarily related to the war against IS. Initially, the Turkish Parliament with the support of AKP and MHP deputies passed a bill on 2 October renewing the permission given previously to the Turkish government to define the fundamentals for military operations in Syria and Iraq. Turkey has also recently agreed to train and equip the “moderate Syrian opposition” and the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, pledged Turkey’s support to the population of Kobani. He publicly stated that “In the way we took care of oppressed people in every part of the world, we are determined to reach out to all; Syrian Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Christians. Kobani is a historical heritage. We share the fate of our brothers who live there.” In a sense, the Turkish Government did not exclude the possibility of intervention. It seems that they are preparing the ground for that possibility. The two questions that arise at this point are why Turkey oscillates between ‘wait-and-see’ policies and ‘step-by-step’ policies and under which circumstances the Turkish Government would support more action on the ground?

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Oct 21 2014

“Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue…”. On the twenty-eight separate European elections of 2014

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By Lorenzo De Sio, Vincenzo Emanuele and Nicola Maggini

Together with “a sixpence in her shoe”, there are various items that are recommended as part of a bridal outfit, according to an old English rhyme. Humour might hardly be allowed as regards the recent European Parliament elections, given the success of Eurosceptic parties. However, we might comment that the 2014 EP election (expected by many commentators to be the first truly European election) was to some extent blessed by the presence of all such auspicious elements. That this has happened in times of economic crisis and rising Euroscepticism, would – again – not make it different from many weddings celebrated in difficult times, yet leading to long-lasting, successful marriages. But let’s go one step at a time.

First, why did many declare these first “truly European” elections? Before the election there were two principal reasons. First, the increasing centralization of economic policies in the Eurozone following the economic crisis, lead to the reasonable expectation that citizens would better understand the importance of Brussels politics for their everyday lives. Second, the new provision (under the Lisbon Treaty) that the President of the European Commission would be selected by “taking into account” the electoral results. This has led the main EP groups to appoint official presidential candidates, resulting in higher visibility for the EP election campaign.

It is precisely in light of such expectations that, a few weeks before the elections, we decided – at CISE (Italian Centre for Electoral Studies, jointly established between LUISS Rome and the University of Florence) – to build and coordinate a 40-strong team of researchers across Europe, who would prepare concise country reports for all the 28 EU countries, along with in-depth analyses of specific aspects of the EP vote. Such reports were first published on the CISE website several days after the election, and then collected into a unique instant e-book published by CISE. Our overarching interpretation of individual country reports and overall analyses in the book, together with the findings of more recent studies, highlights the four elements, which were hinted at in the title of this blog post. Continue reading

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Oct 16 2014

From the idea of Europe to a Europe of ideas

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By Anya Topolski

Contrary to the maxim popularised by political scientists that there is no political community without a political identity, what Europe most needs is a political community without identity. The project of the EU should be to create a space for the clash of ideas, a Europe of different visions, different voices, different languages that are continuously in discourse. A reply to Etienne Balibar.

Let me begin with a personal anecdote that speaks to the political crisis Europe is facing today. Having recently become a Belgian citizen, I – along with 11 million other Belgians, have been overwhelmed by the lack of time to study and scrutinize the different European parties and platforms, one of whom I will have had to (voting is compulsory) select on Sunday, May 25.

In Belgium, as in other European countries, several elections are running concurrently. While I understand the financial advantages of having as many elections as possible on one day, the price paid for such profit is democracy itself. Much like the unfolding of the European project, this is a case where economics trumps politics. When voters are not able to take the time to make a considered choice, possibly to get involved, hear a debate, ask questions etc., the absolute minimum requirement for any democracy – the vote itself  - becomes futile.

It should come as no surprise that so many people don’t even bother to vote. This is the first issue we, the people of Europe (regardless of our citizenship), must address: how can we make Europe more about politics than profit and in so doing return solidarity and prosperity to a continent divided by austerity?

The second issue arose when I finally managed to make time to study the many European parties and platforms. Impressed with their ideas about Europe ‘to come’ as one that fights neoliberalism, austerity and poverty in order to create solidarity and prosperity, I had made up my mind to vote for the European Left party. I then proceeded to click on the map of Europe to discover what the party’s name was in Flanders, where I am to vote.

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