The EUROPP team take a look at the week in Brussels blogging
The EU centre and the crisis
Framing opposing views as inherently ‘Eurosceptic’ has negative implications for policy making, writes Simon Ushserwood at Policy Network. He suggests that Euroscepticism can be divided into two main groups: people who are against the principle of the EU and those who are displeased with the effects of European integration. The latter is much more common than the former, he argues, but they are both conflated by many EU politicians into a monolithic group. In any case, he writes that it is important for politicians to actively engage with critics to help shape better policy.
Based on an analysis of recent public attitudes surveys in ten EU countries, Open Europe argue that a significant percentage of people want the EU to have fewer powers. On average, the most popular choice on changing the balance between European and national authorities was ‘staying in the EU and reducing its powers.’ Countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden leaned more towards reducing the EU’s powers or leaving. However, the article suggests that France, where Euroscepticism is on the rise, is the country to watch, as an anti-EU France would bring a massive shift in European political dynamics.
Elsewhere, Roger Liddle argues at Policy Network that, in setting out his recent goals for reforming the EU and the European Court of Human Rights (which is part of the Council of Europe), UK Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated that he wants to leave space for compromise. He also outlines the history of British politicians setting goals and targets when it comes to the EU and suggests that the UK’s membership of the EU has almost always seemed conditional. While the Prime Minister has said that reform would be a necessary precondition for remaining in the EU, it is still unclear what shape any proposed reforms would take.
Charlemagne’s notebook takes a look at the political ramifications of the hazardous levels of pollution in Paris, which led to emergency traffic restrictions this week. The response to the problem involved measures permitting only cars with even/odd numbered licence plates in the Paris metropolitan area on alternating days. With municipal elections taking place in France next week, all sides have seized on the matter.
The UK budget for next year was announced this week and, as Colin Talbot notes on the Manchester Policy Blogs, the UK could be on course to have a significantly smaller government. He challenges the notion that the only way to reduce national debt is by eliminating budget deficits and argues that while the budget didn’t have too many surprises, it is continuing on the path toward a progressively smaller welfare state. This would put the UK, he says, much more in line with the United States than the rest of Europe.
Meanwhile, Gil Antonio Arroyo writes at Agenda Pública on the issue of homophobia in Spain. He cites recent survey data from Spanish schools and colleges showing that more than five per cent of LGBT students have been physically assaulted within their institution.
The European neighbourhood
Jana Kobzova and Svitlana Kobzar write at openDemocracy on the principle of dividing Ukraine into two states: a pro-EU western state and a pro-Russian eastern state. They argue that splitting Ukraine would be extremely impractical. Despite the fact that issues like language and foreign policy may rather neatly divide Ukraine, issues like economics, rule of law and human rights actually unite it. The original protests were about democratic reform, they say, and what’s most important is to carry out the necessary reforms to bring better governance to Ukraine.
Adam Michnik at Project Syndicate describes Russia’s actions in Crimea as ‘fundamentally changing European geopolitics’. He argues that Russia has successfully used ‘extortion’ to restore Russian greatness, and that the rest of the world requires a stronger response than it has managed so far during the crisis.
Sticking with a similar theme, Judy Dempsey at Strategic Europe provides an overview of the position of EU Member States on sanctions on Russia in the current crisis, including a handy table with countries’ support for sanctions and their Russian gas imports. She explains that EU countries are deeply divided as to what should be done, with some of those dependent on Russia for oil and gas unwilling to hurt their own economies in different sectors (especially during a recession).
Is British politics becoming increasingly Americanised? David Ellwood writes at the OUP Blog that British politicians continue a tradition of getting their ideas from the United States. This Americanisation of British politics is based on an ‘inspirational version’ of the United States, focused on its drive and ideas, which serves as a useful counterpoint to Europe.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.
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