Mar 30 2015

Subterranean Politics in Europe after the Greek Elections

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Professor Mary Kaldor discusses activism, Europe and the aftermath of the Greek elections with Ludovica Rogers and Hara Kouki in a conversation organised by LSE’s Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit in collaboration with Euro Crisis in the Press and with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).

Note: This post gives the views of the speakers, 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:

Who wanted what? An aftermath of the Public debate on Greek Elections

Modalities of solidarity in Greece: a civil society at the cross-roads

The winds are changing: a new left populism for Europe

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Mar 25 2015

Greece must put aside divisive rhetoric if a solution to the country’s crisis is to be found

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By Lambros Fatsis


imagesWe need to talk about Syriza. But it would be unwise to do so without perspective, or without history. We need perspective in order to gain perspective, thereby allowing us to triangulate rather than simply divide complex issues into neat bundles of meaning. And we need history in order to contextualise rather than distance ourselves from the origins of the events we seek to discuss.

In the meantime, it is imperative that we resist much of the noise that surrounds discussions about the new kid on the European bloc, namely Greece’s newly formed government which was borne out of a peculiar coalition between the self-styled radical left-wing Syriza party and the populist right-wing ANEL (Independent Greeks). What is interesting about much of this “noise” is the eerie silence that has hushed up any coherent explanation of how to make sense of this odd couple, especially in the non-Greek media coverage and public discourse alike. Behind that silence lurks a complex tangle of polarities, dualisms, enclosures and paradoxes that informs both the electoral result per se, as well as the very rationale that brought it forward. This is where history becomes useful.

Syriza’s rise in historical context

Emerging out of the shadows of its previous existence as a province of the Ottoman Empire, Greece was born as a nation in the mid-19th century and grew up in various stages of turmoil, beginning with the country’s War of Independence from the Ottomans (1821-1832) and the intermediate civil wars of 1823- 1825 (Filikoi vs. Kotzabasides between 1823-4 and Ydraioi vs. Moraites between 1824-5), succeeded by a disastrous sequence of events that include World War I, the Balkan Wars, the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, the turbulent inter-war period of 1923-1940, the Italian and German Occupation during World War II, the Greek civil war of 1946-1949, and the military junta of 1967-1974.

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Mar 19 2015

Corporate Social Responsibility in an Era of Economic Crisis: Empty Gesture or Tool for Corporate Learning?

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By Alvise Favotto and Kelly Kollman


corporate-social-responsibility-powerpoint-ppt-slides-1-728The social legitimacy of business actors in EU member states has waxed and waned over the past two decades.  Levels of trust in business, as recorded in public opinion polls, tend to increase in good economic times and decrease during recessions. After the financial crisis began in 2007 and mushroomed into the Euro crisis in 2009 and a double-dip recession in 2012, the European public’s confidence in business plummeted.

These recent fluctuations in public trust of market actors have occurred against the backdrop of growing scepticism about the rise of large transnational corporations (TNCs) in our current era of economic globalisation.  To counter or at least ‘socialise’ the increased power of TNCs, the EU has sought to develop and implement a robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy since the early 2000s.  In its original formulation, published in Green Paper in 2001, the Commission defined CSR as a “concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis”.

This definition and its emphasis on the voluntary nature of CSR were in keeping with international developments of the time.  In 2000, the United Nations launched its Global Compact initiative that encourages corporations voluntarily to sign up to 10 principles that cover environmental sustainability, human rights and anti-corruption pledges.  Many global environmental NGOs and private standards bodies have also created voluntary CSR codes such as Forest Stewardship Council’s sustainable forestry label and the ISO 26000 CSR management system certificate.  These initiatives encourage companies to go beyond compliance with binding regulations and often reward them with the use of a participation label if the company meets the code’s requirements.

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Mar 12 2015

Germany, the giant with the feet of clay


By Terence Tse and Mark Esposito


untitledOn the surface, it stands to reason to think that, as Europe’s largest economy, Germany’s position in Europe can act as the saviour to pull the Eurozone out of its current plight. By many counts, the country’s economy is doing very well. Many people argue that Germany’s model could be the key to strengthening other economies in the EU: Just think the need for Greece to go through the austerity measures demanded by Germany. However, a deeper look into the German economy reveals that it is far more vulnerable than appears on first look.

This is not obvious because seemingly economically and politically strong country is gradually going in decline. There are a number of reasons for this:

Excessive dependency on Exports. Germany’s GDP relies rather heavily on exports of primarily industrial manufacturing goods – its service sector remains far less developed and its share of the total economy has not grown since 1995. A further implication is that Germany has been falling behind in both private and public investments. The country’s current investment levels represent only 17% of its GDP, less than either France or Italy. Public spending on infrastructure and other similar projects, on the other hand, equals a meagre 1.5% of the country’s GDP. Education spending is also only 5.3% of GDP, which is lower than both the average of 15 European countries and the OECD average of 6.2%. In short, Germany has not been spending enough to invest in its future.

The changing nature of (un)employment. The average hours worked per person has continually fallen in the last twenty years. Since 1991, although an ever increasing percentage of the population is employed, there has also been an increase in volunteering and/or part time work as well: 22% of German labour are without full-time contracts or in temporary full-time positions. Germany is moving from problems of unemployment to underemployment, when workers do not get the hours they want or hold down jobs that are not in line with their education levels.

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Mar 9 2015

Would the United Kingdom survive an exit from the EU?

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By Sionaidh Douglas-Scott


Brexit[2]In September 2014, the UK survived one of the most serious threats to its constitutional existence – the very closely run Scottish referendum on independence.

That this was indeed perceived as a huge risk to the continuance of the UK is illustrated by the almost desperate nature of the last minute ‘Vow’ made by all three party leaders to accord greater powers to Scotland if necessary to maintain the Union.

Therefore, the risk of such further constitutional instability should be taken seriously. Yet this is not happening, given the neglect of the impact on the devolution settlement of any future UK exit from the EU. The consequences on devolution tend to be the least discussed aspect of any ‘Brexit’.

Different approaches to the EU

The first thing is to consider some highly relevant facts. The devolved nations tend to be less eurosceptic than most of England (although we should not forget London, which bucks England’s eurosceptic trend). How each constituent part of the UK would vote is not certain, but according to 2013 House of Commons figures, 53% of Scots said they would vote to stay in the EU, compared with a third who said they would vote to leave.

This was in contrast to attitudes in England, where 50% said they would vote to leave the EU compared with 42% who would vote to stay in. At the last European Parliament elections in May 2014, UKIP gained the largest percentage of votes in the UK overall, with 27.5%, but in Scotland only 10.46% of the vote.

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Mar 2 2015

Why participatory governance offers a realistic route to addressing the EU’s legitimacy crisis

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By Karl-Oskar Lindgren

How can EU decision-making be brought closer to Europe’s citizens? Based on a case study of the ‘REACH’ regulation governing the production and use of chemical substances, this posts argues for the potential of a participatory governance approach to increase the EU’s legitimacy by enhancing the capacity for stakeholders and civil society actors to play an active role in decisions. The author argues that while participatory governance alone cannot solve the EU’s current legitimacy crisis, it nevertheless offers a realistic option for increasing the responsiveness of EU decision-making to the demands of citizens.

The EU is often accused of suffering from a democratic deficit, and there has been a long search for ways to remedy this situation. Acknowledging the weakness of traditional representative channels in the EU, and the difficult road ahead before any form of ‘parliamentarisation’ could be accomplished, many observers have recently shifted their attention to the direct involvement of civil society in the European political system. Letting stakeholders and civil society take an active part in policy-making is considered by many to offer a promising complement to more traditional forms of democracy. In EU circles this strategy is known as the participatory governance approach.

Participatory governance in the EU

The European Commission has been a leading proponent of this participatory turn, and in the last decade it has introduced a range of instruments for improved consultation and dialogue with civil-society representatives, including ad hoc and online consultations, public hearings, and institutionalised consultations in advisory committees and business test panels.

According to the Commission, introducing these new forums for interest-group participation and deliberation at the EU level will help create a more democratic and effective Union. However, critics of the participatory governance approach warn that strengthening the interest-based channel within the Union will mainly serve to give further advantages to already privileged groups. The danger here is that, as E.E Schattschneider famously noted half a century ago in his critique of interest-group pluralism, ‘the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper class accent’.

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Feb 26 2015

Who wanted what? An aftermath of the Public debate on Greek Elections

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By Vasileios Bougioukos and Bernard H Casey

One of the possible surprises of the elections in Greece last month, was that SYRIZA didn’t poll particularly well amongst pensioners. After all, these people had suffered pretty draconian cuts, with the 2010 Memorandum and its successors reducing pensioners’ incomes – in some cases by up to 40%– and making benefits harder to claim. We looked at the data in detail using findings from Kapa Research[1]. The voting behaviour depicted by these data could offer useful insights.

Greek flag (4816414232)We started by dividing the parties according to whether they were Pro-Memorandum (Pro-M) or Anti-Memorandum (Anti-M).[2].

Pensioners went strongly for New Democracy (ND), the major party of the former Pro-Memorandum coalition government – 34% of them voted for it, rather more than did for SYRIZA (32%). When we calculate the votes attributed by Pensioners to Pro-M and Anti-M parties, the picture is the same – the Pro-Ms lead the Anti-Ms by two percentage points. Continue reading

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Feb 23 2015

Modalities of solidarity in Greece: a civil society at the cross-roads


By Giota Alevizou

As Greece has yet again become the epicentre of the European debt crisis, with collective negotiations for a fairer deal culminating before the end of February, its plight for survival has reached a new sense of moral urgency about the future of democracy in Europe. It would seem that a fresh air of political creativity may be blowing from Greece.


Graffiti #Athens #Greece #Metaxourgeio #crisis #graffiti by @jorjito73 on instagram

Certainly statistics about rising unemployment, falling GDP, and the corrosion of the social state and democratic practices which have plighted Greece over the last years, neither capture people’s experiences of contemporary realities nor the psychological pressures that had been exerted by elite politicians and mainstream media domestically and abroad, competing to dictate the urgency of austerity measures. What has been less reported, until more recently, is that these very measures have also ushered new ecologies of (alternative) political creativity and civic agency. These have been channelled by larger, but also smaller-scale mobilisations, local assemblies as well as grass-roots and solidarity initiatives, nurturing a culture that desires social change.

Many have attempted to map these initiatives: Synathina, a digital platform that is instigated by the vice mayor for Civil Society in Athens, seeks to represent small scale networked action and to network participants in local, cultural initiatives and to open up possibilities for new relationships among citizens, and between citizens and public institutions. Others, like the Solidarity for all Network (supported by the recently elected Syriza), have documented solidarity initiatives across Greece and seek to provide networking tools for decentralized organizing practices, and the development of solidarity among participants in these initiatives, as well as set up a new agenda for collective action. Others like Omikron Project, started by Mehran Khalili, (a British-Iranian political communications specialist who lives in Athens) and a group of Greek journalists, designers and film-makers, as an ad campaign. They created short films to counter the image of Greeks as lazy victims of the economic crisis and to challenge stereotypes, questioning the ways the crisis is portrayed in the international media. More so, they documented the rise of the grassroots groups in Greece and produced an annual list and infographic. Continue reading

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Feb 19 2015

Using Entrepreneurial Innovation to Stabilize Europe: Introducing EDIE

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By Olaf Groth, Mark Esposito, Terence Tse

Entrepreneurship is vital to growing markets. And across most of Europe, entrepreneurship is lacking. In 2013, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that early stage entrepreneurial activity was less than 6% of the population between the working ages of 18-64 in Greece as well as in the four largest economies in Europe—Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. By contrast, BRIC countries and the United States each ranged between 10%-17% in early state entrepreneurial activity. Early stage activity is defined as either actively setting up a new business or owning and managing a new business for less than 42 months. The paucity of entrepreneurship and substantial investment in innovation among countries in Europe highlights the urgent need for European businesses and governments to work together to develop a new entrepreneurial innovation model to tackle financial deficits, create financial stability, and pull Europe through future crises. This new system can be thought of as an “Entrepreneur-Driven Innovation Ecosystem (EDIE).”

Fort-Model TIn order to create a greater push of innovation within Europe, the EU needs to shift its core understanding of entrepreneurship away from a profit-driven model and toward a model of dynamic and systemic intervention led by value-seeking entrepreneurs as disruptive change agents. In this ecosystem, entrepreneurs convert ideas into innovations that break open and redefine entire spaces in the economy, enabling existing blue chip corporations to follow into these new and enlarged markets with greater growth expectations. Entrepreneurs as disruptive change agents are different from small business entrepreneurs because they have a different modus operandi: rather than seek merely profit, they actively seek to identify market failures and create value that establishes a new market and overturns existing networks and structures in large enterprises. One classic example is of Henry Ford and his Model T automobile. It was the lower cost, mass-produced version of the automobile, not the invention of the automobile, that upturned the standard mode of transportation of the time, the horse-drawn carriage Europe needs this special breed of entrepreneurs because they help create disruptive innovation and economic resilience by offering new growth potential where old growth has slowed.

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Feb 16 2015

The winds are changing: a new left populism for Europe

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By Marina Prentoulis and Lasse Thomassen

The unprecedented presence of international media, solidarity delegations and representatives of socialist and leftish parties in Athens signalled that Syriza’s triumph was something more than just another electoral victory.

A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of populism. This time it is not the far right populism of Haider, Le Pen and Farage, but a new left populism challenging not just the parties of the right but also the social-democratic parties and the traditional parties on the left.

Tsipras-IglesiasWhile the victory of Syriza has turned everybody’s attention to Greece these days, the new radical populist left is on the rise elsewhere as well, above all in Spain with local and national elections coming up in 2015. Even beyond the radical left, social-democrats have started to be more outspoken against European austerity and neoliberal policies.

It seems that the policies they had supported so far have brought them at odds with their own people and this realization starts slowly to sink in. Are we then witnessing the birth of a new populist discourse in Europe? Are the winds changing for the peoples of Europe?

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