Mar 20 2019

Europe in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digital skills for education and society beyond crisis

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By Charalambos Tsekeris and Theodora Papaefthimiou 

This short article maintains that, in times of structural and persistent crisis, Europe needs to tackle the multiple challenges and existential fears by cultivating a strong and dynamical digital skills ecosystem, based on collective values and the fundamental liberal principles of co-creation, co-evolution, and collective intelligence (over against the obsolete principles of optimisation and top-down administration and control). This will arguably result in boosting innovation and, therefore, adaptiveness, as well as in translating technological progress into economic growth, and risks into opportunities for all citizens.

On 19 April 2016, the European Commission, under the leadership of Commissioner Oettinger, launched an ambitious strategy on digitising European industry. Mariya Gabriel, as current Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, is now responsible for its systematic implementation. This pertains to the first industry-related initiative of the Digital Single Market package, aimed to accelerate responsible and sustainable innovation, to boost productivity and economic growth, to fight social inequality, and to improve EU citizens’ living standards and job opportunities.

Nowadays, the spread of digital technology and Industry 4.0 (representing the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is rapidly changing the structure, nature, character and dynamics of communication, consumption, production, employment and learning within the European Union and worldwide, leading to novel types of jobs and novel types of education (i.e. Education 4.0). But it is also leading to the vital and urgent need for every European citizen to have at least basic and transversal digital literacy skillsin order to live, share, communicate, work, learn and actively participate in the contemporary speedy, complex, hyper-connected and increasingly knowledge-based society.

Digital literacy skills include information literacy skills, media literacy skills, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) literacy skills. Interestingly, information, media, and technology skills constitute a strong and integral part of the new framework for the twenty-first-century learning paradigm, according to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). In general, this learning paradigm helps us energetically navigate our future and decisively dispel “old”, “received” or “traditional” dichotomies, like those pertaining to the content vs. skills debate. Continue reading

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Mar 15 2019

Understanding Brexit at a local level: Mansfield case study

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By Kira Gartzou-Katsouyanni

Mansfield Brexit reportIn January 2018, I joined a team of researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) who were starting to work on a project about the local-level impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union in five British local authorities. We set ourselves a double challenge: firstly, we wanted to understand why people voted the way they did in those five areas in the 2016 EU referendum, in light of the local context and the issues that were considered politically significant locally. Secondly, we wanted to do a little experiment: If we produced a report about the impacts of Brexit that was locally relevant, combining the results of existing quantitative studies with the evidence collected through our own field work in each local authority, would it be possible to bring Leavers and Remainers together in one room and spark a forward-looking, evidence-based discussion about Brexit within each local community?

A year later, and after three visits to my case study area, Mansfield, I would like to share some of the findings from our work in Mansfield with regard to our original questions. You can also find out more in our report ‘Understanding Brexit impacts at a local level: Mansfield case study

Explaining the Brexit vote in Mansfield

Mansfield is a town of about 100,000 inhabitants in Nottinghamshire. For most of the twentieth century, Mansfield was one of the major and most productive centres of coal mining in the region. However, in the late 1980s and 1990s most of the pits in Mansfield and the surrounding area closed down, while other traditional sectors, such as textiles and engineering, also faced a steep decline. Ever since, Mansfield has been undergoing a painful process of industrial restructuring, and has experienced a significant increase in low value-added, low-paid service sector employment. In the social mobility index compiled by the British government’s Social Mobility Commission, Mansfield and two of its neighbouring local authorities occupy three of the ten bottom places of the index, ranked 315, 317 and 323 respectively. These developments contribute in a powerful way to a sense of being left behind by the UK’s current economic model, which heavily relies on linkages with global markets.

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Jan 10 2019

Spain is no longer exceptional: Mainstream media and the far-right party Vox

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By Sergio Olalla, Enrique Chueca and Javier Padilla

For a long time Spain and Portugal have been considered exceptions within the European Union due to the lack of a far-right political party with representation in parliament. However, this situation is no longer the case in Spain due to the recent entrance of Vox in the Andalusian Parliament. Much has been written about Vox’s political nature, its electoral possibilities in the long-term,the reasons behind its upsurgeand how it changes the Spanish political landscape. This article will focus on the way in which the mainstream political media in Spain, El País and El Mundo, treated this party in terms of coverage. After briefly discussing the recent literature on far right and media coverage, we argue that Vox received outstanding media attention considering the scarce percentage of Spaniards who had considered to vote for it. First, we explain the dynamics of media attention to Vox both at the national and Andalusian electoral level and compare it with the voting intention for the party. Second, we compare the media attention received by Vox and a similar party in terms of voting intention and results in previous elections: the Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA). Last, we compare the coverage of Vox with the rest of the prominent parties at stake in the Andalusian Regional Election of December 2018. Continue reading

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Nov 20 2018

Labour and Brexit: a ‘sensible’ deal?

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By Mary Kaldor

According to Theresa May, the choice is between her deal, no deal or no Brexit. But the Labour leadership still seems to think that it can negotiate a more ‘sensible deal’. What on earth would a more ‘sensible’ deal look like and is it a sensible strategy for the Labour Party?  Is not now the moment to abandon the soft Brexit position and to come out for remain and reform?

First of all, there is the problem of time. Theresa May has left  us perilously close to the deadline of March 2019, perhaps deliberately hoping that the fear of no deal will enable her to garner sufficient parliamentary support for her deal. If Labour is to make the argument convincingly that the alternative is not “no deal”, the party has to explain how it will take over, either as a minority government  or through a general election and negotiate a new deal in a few short weeks.

Even if the EU were to agree to further negotiations, is this feasible? Surely it would require an extension of Article 50 but would the EU agree to this on the basis of the further ‘purgatory’ of endless negotiations?

Overcoming polarisation?

Secondly, is there a more sensible deal that would meet Labour’s six tests and meet their stated goal of overcoming the polarisation between leavers and remainers? The agreement made by May with Brussels is not actually the deal. It is an agreement on the terms of withdrawal covering money, citizenship rights and the Northern Ireland border and a rather vaguely worded political declaration about the content of a future deal that would govern the relationship between the UK and the EU. Basically everything remains much the same during the transition period. The political declaration about the content of a final deal commits us to the single market and probably the customs union for goods, although there are caveats, but allows for future control of immigration and is rather vague about everything else. It is a bespoke framework that is close to the Norway and Switzerland options but with control of immigration.

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Nov 5 2018

‘It’s not about Britain and Europe, it’s about Barnet High Street and All Saints’ School’: how will Brexit impact Barnet?

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By Alexandra Bulat

The London Borough of Barnet is one of the five local authority areas selected for the LSE project ‘Understanding Brexit impacts at a local level’, coordinated by the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit. The reports contextualise the Brexit impact studies carried out at a national level with qualitative evidence collected at the local level. Borad at barnet brexit

Barnet, ‘a leafy London suburb’, as some residents like to call it, is the highest populated London borough, with an economy reliant on retail, professional and health services, all sectors which tend to employ high numbers of migrant workers. Barnet is a multicultural area, known to have the highest Jewish population in England and other sizable ethnic minority groups from both EU and non-EU countries. One in ten Barnet residents comes from another EU country. Dhingra et al (2017) predicted that urban areas in London and the South of England, such as Barnet, will feel a stronger negative impact of Brexit than other areas, under all Brexit scenarios.

Barnet ethnic compositionThe Barnet report details two broad impacts of Brexit: on public services and local businesses. The insights from interviews with Barnet residents mirror the results from national level studies. There are concerns around recruitment and retention of non-UK EU staff working in Barnet’s public services; the local residents consulted tend to agree that Brexit could exacerbate existing staff shortages in Barnet. Also, in line with previous findings from research at a national level, those consulted for the report pointed out how businesses may be negatively affected, particularly if Brexit has a negative impact on household income and Barnet residents spend less in the local economy, in particular eating out and other non-essential expenses. Continue reading

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Oct 21 2018

The three founding Myths of Italy’s new Nationalism

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 By Alessandro Franzi

The aftermath of 2018 Italian elections has turned into a political reality show  powered by the media system. Centre stage stands Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, who became deputy prime minister, Interior minister and the de facto head of government. At his side is the other deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Stars Movement and Welfare minister. Anything that Salvini and Di Maio say instantly becomes the object of analysis, comment and outrage amongst an increasingly crowded  audience.

In Italy, whether you are sipping coffee at the bar or driving your car listening to any radio station you will inevitably hear the latest statements of the two leaders treated as the most important news of the hour. The same goes for national and local televisions, whose schedules are full of shows focused on the core issues of the two government parties: immigration, crime and the privileges of politicians. This priority news organisations accord to any utterance of these two politicians is shared by online news outlets, the press, and of course social media, the preferred communication channel of this new politics. An invasion of words and images in the middle of everyday life, that leaves little time to reflect on the ongoing change.

Everyone in Italy, apparently, is involved in this conversation. Supporters and opposers, actors and pundits, journalists and churchmen, old politicians and European statesmen. Everyone is engaged in a frenetic exercise since both Salvini and Di Maio speak at every hour of the day and intervene in any topic of domestic or international affairs. They dictate the agenda. Or rather, the public agenda is theirs. The consequence is that everyone in Italy is forced to speak for or against everything that Salvini and Di Maio say. You are a supporter or opponent in this bubble which leaves no space to find out what is real and what is fiction, what is politics and what is communication, what is an opportunity and what is a threat. Sometimes it seems that the League and the Five Stars Movement are acting both as government and opposition parties, so varied are their positions and extensive their visibility and so weak and diminutive the opposition.

It is this climate of permanent electoral campaigning that has normalised the expectation of a clash between Italy and EU on the next budget law. An intention deliberately immortalized by a picture portraying Mr Di Maio greeting a non-existent crowd from the balcony of the Prime Minister’s official venue in Rome. A perfect shot to feed the media bubble that surrounds Italian politics nowadays. Moreover, now this  reality show is proving to be a critical turning point for the European Union as a whole, in view of the May 2019 vote. It would be wrong to think that the 2018 elections outcome represents an accident. It is similarly  risky to assume that the strategy of Italy’s current government is oriented only to provocation, because it seems to remain so in tune with popular feeling.

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Jul 23 2018

The nationalist Italian government is a challenge to the Church

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By Alessandro Franzi

The new Italian government, formed by the Five Stars Movement and the League, also poses a challenge to the Catholic Church. However, it is not only its populist tones that create a division between State and religious powers, in a country where ecclesiastic hierarchies have always had a strong influence in decision making. The current battleground is the nationalist approach to immigration policies, a main pillar of the new government action. The official line of the Italian church, embodied by Pope Francis, insists on the evangelical duty of receiving people who cross the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe every week. The winners of the 2018 elections push in the opposite direction by pursuing restrictive policies.

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/blessing-of-children-pope-religion-604358/

According to Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, the far-right League leader and the de facto prime minister, Italy can not afford to let new migrants enter the country. He claims that there are too many as it is, and that they are changing the country’s traditional way of life. Salvini’s guiding principle is ‘Italians first’. Hence his first acts were to close national ports to NGO boats carrying victims of shipwrecks, and to promise to cut public funds for asylum seekers’ assistance. Italy’s goal is to force its EU partners to accept mandatory quotas of migrants by changing the so-called Dublin Regulation. This position is shared by both government parties because they are widely popular among voters, although the Five Stars Movement is a less compact party than the League and risks a split in the long term.

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Jun 26 2018

Populism, Trump, and the future of democracy

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By Michael J. Sandel

These are dangerous times for democracy. Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and other places that once offered democratic hope are now, in varying degrees, falling into authoritarianism. Democracy is also in trouble in sturdier places.

In the United States, Donald Trump poses the greatest threat to the American constitutional order since Richard Nixon. And yet, despite the floundering first year and a half of Trump’s presidency, the opposition has yet to find its voice.

One might think that Trump’s inflammatory tweets, erratic behavior, and persistent disregard for democratic norms would offer the opposition an easy target. But it has not worked out this way. For those who would mount a politics of resistance, the outrage Trump provokes has been less energizing than paralyzing.

There are two reasons for the opposition’s paralysis. One is the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. The hope that Mueller’s findings will lead to the impeachment of Trump is wishful thinking that distracts Democrats from asking hard questions about why voters have rejected them at both the federal and state level.

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Jun 14 2018

Italy’s Eurosceptic Turn

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By Roberto Orsi

Italy has a new government. Matching the unprecedented results of the election of 4 March, this new government marks the beginning of something never seen before. Italy is the first country in the Western half of the continent, and the first EU founding member, to be ruled by a Eurosceptic leadership. To be fair, however, “Euro-critical” would be a more appropriate descriptor, as the positions of PM Conte and his team, as well as its underlying parliamentary majority, do not appear to be aggressively antagonising the EU political project and its key people (yet).

Read from the other side, the birth of Conte’s government signals that liberal Euro-Atlantic networks have lost political control of Italy. This is a serious development, and it follows the loss of Central-Eastern Europe to nationalist parties, the right-wing turn in Austria, Brexit, and above all Donald Trump’s seizure of the White House. It adds to a growing movement which rejects what Europe (and the Western world more in general) has become in the decades following the end of the Cold War, as well as its ideological underpinnings. These can be listed as cosmopolitanism, pluralism, multiculturalism, but they are often also interpreted as mass immigration, uncontrolled economic globalisation, suppression of local and national identities, extreme individualism, cultural uprooting, Islamisation, “gender ideology”. That movement, variously called “nationalist”, “populist”, “right-wing”, “anti-establishment”, “sovereignist”, which in reality contains an astonishing variety of positions, is undoubtedly riding an historical tide similar to the one which led to the demise of the Soviet bloc. It is radically transforming the landscape of Western politics, and it has already caused irreversible changes.

Less noticed is perhaps the positive feedback loop between Euro-Atlantic liberal-cosmopolitan positions (and actors) and the rise of such movement. One can, and perhaps should, read this movement as a reaction, at the very least, to the errors the Euro-Atlantic leadership has committed in the past years, and continue to indulge in, particularly the catastrophic refugee crisis of 2015-2016. It was astonishing to watch European leaders, as well as almost the totality of intellectuals, embarking on such course of action while they all too seemingly thought: “there will be no or negligible consequences”. This inability to think about politicsis the best guarantee of their demise and of their adversaries’ rise. So far, this has been the pattern.

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Jun 6 2018

The Counterfactual Imagination of Populist Euroscepticism

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By Max Hänska and Vassilios Paipais

Euroscepticism is on the rise across Europe, as populists from both the left and right hold up their retrograde visions of gloriously assertive and blissfully self-reliant nation states. The installation of a populist and eurosceptic government in Italy in recent weeks, after months of political wrangling, is just the latest episode of this saga.

But the patriotic visions of the future imagined by populists rest on the implausible assumption that other states will continue to honour their international responsibilities, even as they renege on theirs. The dilemmas and necessities of international cooperation cannot simply and conveniently be set aside.

In this sense, populism is parasitic upon the very liberal, rule-based international order which it so energetically contests. It is rising at a moment when neoliberal centrism, the orthodoxy of the prevailing order, has run out of steam. To secure a more legitimate and cooperative global order that is sustainable, liberals need to be bold – and imagine a real alternative.

Enter the EU

The founding idea of the European Union, of closer international cooperation, emerged after a long history of clashing national projects, culminating in two world wars, with all their catastrophic consequences. This was a history of European international relations governed by political competition in which states cajoled each other by the threat, or actual use of force.

Yet, as the former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, observed, no European nation was large enough to dominate all others, and so none could establish a lasting order.

The EU, under the security umbrella of what the publisher of the German newspaper Die Zeit, Josef Joffe, called the “American pacifier”, was to transform Europe’s power rivalries into mutually beneficial cooperation. It did so with such success for much of the past half century that the reality of what international relations were like before the EU existed has almost faded from living memory.

But after half a century of cooperation and partial integration, the drivers of international competition are returning with a vengeance. The US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, seems to be retrenching from Europe and the Middle East to focus on the containment of China. German political and economic hegemony in Europe is intensely felt and has already become the cause of grievances in Europe’s periphery. Russia is pursuing an assertive foreign policy that has become a source of annoyance, if not outright hostility, for both liberals and populists in the West. Meanwhile, Brexiteers presume Britain will gain a more assertive and dominant international role after departing the EU.

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