Dec 17 2014

European Social Immobility and Inequality are Intimately Related

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By Terence Tse and Mark Esposito

Photo: Daniel Mayer. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

One of the most staggering collaterals of the financial crisis, globally but particularly so in Europe, has been the increase of inequality across social fabrics, as we previously outlined in relation to the US.

As attention was being narrowed to a more micro level, bearing in mind the state of mobility and recruitment, we argued that résumés are messing up recruiting. This is because these curricular vitae lead recruiters to put disproportional emphasis on skills, work experience and schools attended, rather than on what truly counts such as the applicants’ behaviour, work ethic or ability to fit into a company’s culture. And these are all arguably more important qualities of good managers. But with HR managers placing too much attention on previous work experience and schooling can come a huge social cost: such common recruitment practices tend to favour those people from well-off families. These families often have strong ties with prestigious employers, making it more likely for their children to be placed there. They are more likely to be able to afford private education, which has often shown itself to be a passport to good jobs. In short, the current employment practices give applicants from wealthy backgrounds some distinct advantages. Continue reading

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Dec 10 2014

The impact of the mass media on the quality of democracy within a state remains a much overlooked area of study

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By Lisa Müller

Media organisations are generally assumed to play an important role in democracies, but how effective are they in performing this function within specific states? Lisa Müller outlines results from an analysis of 47 countries, based on a framework which rates two separate aspects of media performance: the extent to which they perform a ‘watchdog’ role by providing information, and the degree to which they act as a representative forum for the views of citizens. She finds that no country in the analysis scores very highly on both of these dimensions, but that the variations between states match differences in the quality of their democracy.

Modern societies could not be imagined without mass communication. Television, newspapers, the radio and the internet are the main sources of information for citizens all around the globe. But what does this mean for the functioning of political systems and processes? Few would doubt that mass media in authoritarian regimes – which are typically controlled tightly by the state – serve to maintain the existing power structure. One only has to think of the pervasive state propaganda disseminated by North Korean media to keep the country’s citizens in line. There is also broad agreement that mass media contribute to democratisation processes, as seen for example in Eastern Europe during and after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

By contrast, there is a great deal of controversy when it comes to the issue of whether free mass media serve or harm democracy once it has been established. On the one hand, adherents of what is often referred to as the ‘media malaise’ theory claim that because mass media in established democracies mostly operate according to market principles, they disregard their democratic duties. This is alleged to have serious repercussions for democracy, causing apathy, cynicism and ignorance with regard to politics among citizens. Continue reading

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Dec 3 2014

“We have a long history of getting it wrong on Russia” – Interview with David Crouch

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David CrouchEuro Crisis in the Press talks to David Crouch about media coverage of EU-Russia relations and the recent search for Russian submarines off the Swedish coast.

You were covering the recent search for Russian submarines off the Swedish coast. How well do you think the news media in Europe did in their coverage of these (non) events?    

European news media coverage was calm and measured by comparison with some Swedish media, which were – with honourable exceptions – a parody of Cold War hysteria, delivering examples of unfounded speculation and panic-mongering that would have been amusing were relations between east and west Europe not in such a serious state.

Some of the Swedish coverage brings to mind the description of The New York Times newsroom during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq given by the paper’s public editor as part of an apology to readers for its coverage (May 30, 2004): “you could almost sense epaulets sprouting on the shoulders of editors”. In my opinion, the coverage also damaged Russian-Swedish relations.

In the UK, most newspapers gave their coverage a light-hearted tone that played to Hollywood nostalgia for the thrill of the Cold War – “The hunt for reds in October”, “In scenes reminiscent of a Cold War thriller…”, “A mini-submarine hunted by a mini-navy” etc. Only The Telegraph and The Guardian (briefly) sent a correspondent to Stockholm, so coverage relied on official sources, but it was largely balanced and reflected the farcical aspects of some Swedish media coverage. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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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