Democracy, identity and culture

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    Conflicting objectives, neglected relationships, and authoritarian backlash: the crisis of EU democracy promotion

Conflicting objectives, neglected relationships, and authoritarian backlash: the crisis of EU democracy promotion

Democracy promotion is an integral component of EU foreign policy, however the EU has not always been successful in its efforts to foster democracy in external countries. Sonja Grimm offers several explanations for these failures, including the absence of a consensus among democracy promoters about policy objectives, and the interference of hidden agendas.

Democracy promotion was and still is an […]

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    Turkey’s Twitter ban is easily bypassed, but there are no easy answers to Erdoğan’s abuse of power

Turkey’s Twitter ban is easily bypassed, but there are no easy answers to Erdoğan’s abuse of power

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced a block on the use of Twitter in the country. Burcu Baykurt writes that while the actual ban on Twitter is largely unworkable from a technical standpoint, the move is aimed at stabilising Erdoğan’s political support base ahead of local elections. More importantly, the fact that the prime minister can implement […]

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    International organisations must take the lead on reducing income inequality

International organisations must take the lead on reducing income inequality

Is income inequality always bad for society? Francesc Trillas writes on the impact of inequality on democracy. Taking issue with the perspectives of economists such as Gregory Mankiw, he argues that a growing income gap between the wealthy and the rest of society can pose a fundamental challenge for a country’s political system. He notes that the effects of […]

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    Labour’s position on a referendum is now pretty clear, but Ed Miliband’s speech is unlikely to buttress his leadership credentials

Labour’s position on a referendum is now pretty clear, but Ed Miliband’s speech is unlikely to buttress his leadership credentials

The leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has stated that his party will not commit to a referendum on Britain’s EU membership unless there is a further transfer of power to Brussels. Eric Shaw ponders the significance of the announcement and whether it does anything to help Labour and Miliband’s leadership credentials. As for its electoral impact, […]

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    Scotland could end up as a kind of post-sovereign polity in a looser union with England

Scotland could end up as a kind of post-sovereign polity in a looser union with England

British politicians are still clinging to antiquated notions of sovereignty, argues Michael Keating. While British governments have in recent decades come to accept the idea of Scottish self-determination, they have not been able to see their way beyond traditional ideas of sovereignty, so that Scotland must be subordinate to Westminster or completely independent. The moderate solution to the problem is […]

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Finding an interim solution in Crimea should be a priority before any long-term decision is made about the region’s future

The Crimean parliament has voted in favour of the region seceding from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation. If Russia agrees to this request, it is expected that a referendum will be held in Crimea on 16 March. Tatyana Malyarenko and Stefan Wolff assess opinion polling data in Crimea and write on the potential options for the region’s future. They […]

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    The situation in Ukraine highlights the need for Estonia and Latvia to promote greater integration among their ethnic Russian populations

The situation in Ukraine highlights the need for Estonia and Latvia to promote greater integration among their ethnic Russian populations

One of the key factors in the Ukraine crisis has been the role of the sizeable ethnic Russian population in the country. David Smith writes on the implications the crisis might have for two other countries with significant Russian populations: Estonia and Latvia. He notes that while citizenship policies in both countries have been unpopular among ethnic Russian communities, the […]

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Not all ethnic Russians in Crimea have a political affinity with Moscow

Throughout the Ukraine crisis, Crimea has been described as a region with strong sympathies toward Russia. Based on her own research in the region, Ellie Knott takes issue with the prevailing view that ethnic Russians in Crimea necessarily have a strong Russian identity. She notes that much of the empirical evidence in this area is outdated, given it derives from […]

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Mainstream French parties have failed to form a coherent response to the wave of right-wing movements sweeping across France

France has seen the rise of a number of groups and associations protesting against the French government. Lise Herman writes that these movements are only loosely connected and have emerged in response to the government’s agenda on LGBT rights, education and family law. She argues that it has been difficult for the mainstream parties to establish a firm response given […]

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The strength of exclusive national identity is the most important indicator of Euroscepticism

Who is most likely to have scepticism toward European integration? Marijn van Klingeren and Hajo Boomgaarden write that in the early years of studies on public Euroscepticism explanations tended to focus on ‘hard’ factors such as citizens’ economic status. Taking issue with this approach, they argue that an individual’s strength of national identity is more important than economic status for determining […]

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Gay rights are the new front line in the culture clash between Russia and the West

The Sochi Winter Olympics, which began on 7 February, have focused attention on Russia’s stance toward homosexuality and gay rights. As Richard Mole writes, the issue has been particularly prominent in the country since the passing of the law against ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ last year. He argues that the subject has become a key part of Vladimir Putin’s […]

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Bosnia’s civil disorder is a consequence of the stranglehold ‘networked’ elites continue to have over the country

Riots and demonstrations have spread across Bosnia and Herzegovina since 4 February, with many protesters calling for the resignation of the country’s government. Denisa Kostovicova writes on the reasons behind the civil disorder, including the delicate ethnic balance between Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Muslims. She argues that the primary cause of the riots is widespread corruption, which privileges […]

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A federal Spain within a federal Europe would offer the best solution for Catalonia

The issue of European integration has played an important role in the debate over Catalan independence. Francesc Trillas writes that an independent Catalonia would have competing motivations in the sense that closer European integration would potentially undermine its independence, but stepping back from European integration would have a damaging effect on its ability to trade with other European states. He […]

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Nation ‘branding’ to promote states in the global market has serious consequences for social diversity within European countries

One largely overlooked consequence of states competing in globalised markets is the incentive for political authorities to use marketing techniques to create a coherent ‘brand’ for individual countries. Melissa Aronczyk writes on this type of nation ‘branding’, noting that it has three largely negative consequences: the involvement of relatively unaccountable marketing experts in decision-making; the downplaying of components of national […]

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Catalan support for the Spanish football team does not illustrate a ‘dual identity’

The question of identity in Catalonia and Spain is contentious and reflects the polarised political climate between Madrid and Barcelona. Jordi Mas writes on the notion that support for the Spanish national football team in Catalonia demonstrates that Catalan and Spanish identities are not necessarily incompatible. He argues that mere support for a football team does not constitute identity, and […]

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Why the world needs more globalisation, not less

The perceived negative effects of globalisation have frequently been the subject of criticism and political opposition. Jason Sorens writes that much of this scepticism toward globalisation is misplaced. He argues that social scientists have a responsibility to tackle the ‘anti-foreign’ and ‘anti-market’ biases that underpin many of these perspectives, and that removing trade restrictions such as agricultural subsidies should be […]

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National identity and party affiliation are set to play a key role in the Scottish referendum, whose result is more uncertain than opinion polls suggest

‘DevoMax’ will not be an option on the ballot paper in the Scottish Independence Referendum next year even though it is more popular among the electorate than independence. Arno van der Zwet and Craig McAngus explore how Scottish attitudes to the two options vary according to national and party identity. They find that perceptions of national identity polarise assessments of […]

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Modern Europe looks little like the 1930s, but we should take note of growing criticism over the way European democracy works

A number of commentators have drawn a parallel between the rise of radical right parties in several European countries and developments in Europe during the 1930s. Duncan McDonnell argues that media coverage of this nature is not in line with the evidence from European democracies. He writes that our focus should instead be placed on the rise of critical voices […]

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Ireland offers an example of the way in which gender quotas can be implemented in national parliaments

The issue of women’s representation in national parliaments has become more prominent over recent decades in several European countries. One mechanism for increasing the participation of women is the creation of gender quotas with respect to the number of female representatives within a parliamentary chamber. Fiona Buckley outlines the lessons from Ireland, where a law introducing gender quotas was passed […]

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Fostering a European identity is unlikely to be a successful method for increasing citizens’ trust in the EU

The financial crisis has rekindled debates about the legitimacy of the European Union and, in particular, whether citizens trust the EU. Using Eurobarometer data, Eelco Harteveld analyses three possible sources for trust in the EU: rational evaluation, identity and projection. He proposes that as trust continues to decline in governments of all kinds, the strongest predictor of citizen trust in […]

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