Jul 30 2019

Inspiring the fight? Protests and Voter Defections in Electoral Autocracies

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By Katerina Tertytchnaya

As protests unfold in electoral autocracies – regimes that combine authoritarian practices with multiparty elections – voters who previously supported the ruling regime are expected to shift and back the opposition. However, by looking at the case of Russia, Katerina Tertytchnaya discusses how anti-regime protests may, paradoxically, contribute to explain the resilience of autocracies. When opposition parties and activists fail to convince their citizens that political change is likely, protests may generate political disengagement among the masses which, in turn, helps authoritarian regimes to remain in place.

Between December 2011 and May 2012, and amid accusations of electoral fraud in the 2011 parliamentary election, a series of demonstrations, the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union, took place across Russia. During this time, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, standing as presidential candidate in the March 2012 election, was allegedly ‘angry, nervous and frightened’. Drawing parallels with events in the Arab Spring that brought down rulers in the Middle East and North Africa, observers and journalists around the world described the protests as Russia’s ‘white, or snow revolution’.  After all, this was the first time in many years that parliamentary and on-parliamentary oppositions united together in the streets. Initial optimism, however, did not last, as the leadership of parliamentary parties – such as that of the KPRF and Just Russia – as well as the protesters, left the streets. In the spring months of 2012 Vladimir Putin also saw his approval ratings recover. Russia’s ‘snow revolution’ melted quickly with the spring.

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Jul 19 2019

The European elections generated real momentum for renewable energy – it’s time for MEPs to rise to the occasion

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By Anar Ahmadov

The EU has set a target of generating at least 20% of its total energy needs through renewables by 2020. Given the success of Green parties in May’s European Parliament elections, there is now real momentum in the push toward renewable energy transition. But a number of resilient obstacles remain and there is a clear need for stricter policies at both the EU and national levels.

Green parties were among the main winners in May’s European elections. Indeed, they have become a political force in the new European Parliament, and their success should add significant momentum to the push toward renewable energy transition in an otherwise unsympathetic environment. Yet for this to lead to a real tipping point for renewable energy in the EU, the new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will need coherent strategies for overcoming a set of resilient political obstacles.

By early 2019, the production of solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric energy reached 40 percent in Germany’s electricity production, for the first time replacing coal as the country’s main source of power. In a country known for its large production and dependence on coal this was noteworthy. Investment in renewables has generally stalled globally, but many initiatives in Europe hold promise. Continue reading

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Jun 27 2019

The European Periphery and the Eurozone Crisis

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By Neil Dooley

Nearly ten years on from the first Greek bailout, the countries of the eurozone periphery have exhibited markedly divergent recoveries. A popular narrative attributes the contrasting recoveries of Greece and Ireland to their divergent enthusiasm for following EU rules on structural reforms and austerity. In contrast, my new book, The European Periphery and the Eurozone Crisisshows that ‘following the rules’ doesn’t always ensure good economic health, but is linked to the causes of the eurozone crisis in the first place.

Why the ‘official narrative’ is flawed

The eurozone crisis has often been told as a story of excessive spending, runaway borrowing, weak competitiveness, and the political unwillingness to make painful but necessary reforms. This ‘official narrative’, developed by, among others, Greece’s lenders has underpinned a policy response of austerity and ‘structural reforms’. As Greece exited its bailout in August 2018, this story resurfaced as a tale of assisted redemption. The European Commission tweeted that Greece has embarked on a “new chapter” which is:

“the result of both national reforms and support from EU partners. The sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people in undertaking these reforms have delivered real, tangible results”.

European Commission President hopeful Manfred Weber similarly tweeted:

“It is good that #Greeceexits its bailout. Nevertheless we don’t have to forget that due to the SYRIZA government this didn’t happen much earlier and much cheaper for the Greek people”.

As this story goes, the country got into trouble by flouting the rules of the game. The EU helped Greece recover by assisting it in (eventually) getting with the programme. Ireland, on the other hand, has been held up as the ‘poster child’ of austerity, praised by former Commission President Barroso as evidence that “with strong determination and support from partner countries we can and will emerge stronger from this deep crisis”. Continue reading

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May 15 2019

A Polarized yet Hollow Debate: The Journalistic Coverage of the Greek Memoranda

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By Christos Kostopoulos

The three memoranda signed between various Greek governments and the creditor Troika have been one of the most important European political issues in this decade, generating a lot of journalistic and scholarly interest. This article presents findings from a framing analysis (you can find the complete research here) conducted on three mainstream Greek newspapers (Avgi, Kathimerini, Ta Nea). These frames were compared with the advocate frames promoted through the announcements of the four constant parties in the Greek Parliament throughout this period (PASOK, Nea Dimokratia, SYRIZA, KKE), in order to shed light on the range of democratic debate fostered by the media and the political opinions that were legitimated through their application in the press.

Starting with the first memorandum in 2010 the examination of frames from all three newspapers reveals the range of the debate. The memorandum is discussed mainly in terms of the division between those who are for it and against it, and its good and bad qualities. The framing of the newspapers follows the advocate frames of the two larger parties PASOK and ND, whereas SYRIZA, a marginal party at that point, also manages to be included, because it’s frames fit on the range of legitimate opinions. All the newspapers apply advocate frames by three out of the four major political parties, whereas none of them includes KKE frames. From a market perspective the positions of KKE are not interesting, as lower income workers form it’s main electoral base. Additionally, the examination of the exclusion of the frame from a political and ideological standpoint reveals the limits of the liberal consensus. The analysis of the frames in 2010 reveals that positions that promote a wider criticism of the capitalist mode of production fall outside the acceptable limits of debate. The main frames construct the debate around the issues of efficiency of the measures, their impact, and issues of sovereignty and democracy. The causal attribution dimension revolves around the political game with the parties accusing each other for the crisis, while there is also some blame attributed to the troika. Finally, the solutions discussed concern the future of the memorandum with positions ranging from the necessity of the successful implementation of the program, to its adjustment or complete cancelation. The application of frames is not identical by all newspapers, reflecting a multitude of evaluative positions. Nonetheless, the debate is set around the memorandum without addressing wider reaching topics and alternatives that would question the economic system, which was under a crisis globally. This framing of the debate cuts off the Greek crisis from the global developments and treats it as an issue of management of the system, to be solved by the system itself. Continue reading

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Apr 5 2019

Back to the roots: Why the UK should have a second referendum

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By Kilian Wirthwein and Fabian Ferrari

peoples voteFifteen years after the failure to adopt the European Constitution of 2004, the European political landscape has changed dramatically. Although this represented a major setback on the path of European integration, it would have been hard to find someone so pessimistic, as to predict the current state of the European Union two months out of the European Parliament Election.

In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and until 2013 the EU experienced a major eastern enlargement of state membership. Together with the shocks of 2008’s global economic crisis, it is very likely that the Brexit vote in 2016 has been the greatest challenge the EU has faced so far. Nonetheless, given the current deadlock, and the House of Commons’ failure to define a way forward, the voices in favour of a second referendum have increased.

A more informed choice as factor for legal and political legitimacy

A second referendum on Brexit would be democratic, legitimate and fair. Contrary to the argument that a second consultation would be undemocratic, the reality is that now the public is in a far better position to make an informed and realistic choice about leaving or staying in the EU.

When the British population first voted in 2016, it was yet unclear what Brexit would imply. A deal over Brexit could mean anything at the time. It was impossible to ascertain what a two-year process of negotiations between the UK and the EU would conclude.  A political climate of false promises and disinformation led to the rise of the well-known concepts of ‘post-truth’ society and ‘fake news’, especially as the Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged. Compared to the first referendum,  claims such as the Leave Campaign’s assertation that 350 million pounds a week would cease to go to Brussels and instead fund the NHS, would enjoy far less credibility during a second referendum campaign.

From a legal perspective, referenda – whether materially or formally founded – are a way to realize the pouvoir constituent (i.e. constituting power) of the Staatsvolk (the people), whose utilisation have special legitimacy in processes that represent a substantial change in rights and freedoms, and of the Rule of Law of a country. Yet, referenda per se need not be treated as unequivocally definitive in isolation of the matter and circumstance. Referenda can build a bridge between the lex lata and the lex ferenda, that is, what the law is and what the law should become. In law and in politics, however, questions of normativity should only reach a definitive character when they achieve a consequentialist level of wisdom that is proportional to the level of constitutional gravity of the question that is at stake. That is, there should be evidence at hand about the possible outcomes – such a Brexit deal – before the Staatsvolk can reach a definitive decision via a public consultation.   Continue reading

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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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