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Category archive for: European Politics

Reflections on the Srebrenica Massacre

By Annabelle de Heus

Twenty years have passed since the events that took place in the small eastern town of Srebrenica; one of the UN’s designated ‘Safe Areas’ where thousands of Muslim refugees had sought solace at the height of the Bosnian War. Despite being under the protection of western peacekeeping forces, the town was overrun in July 1995 and over the days that followed over 8000 men, women and children were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic. As world leaders have come together in Bosnia to join its commemoration, the search for the remains of victims in the killing fields of the Drina Valley continues. So too does the complicated process of uncovering where responsibility for the mistakes that have been made ultimately lies. Whilst military leaders Mladic and Karadzic are awaiting trial in the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) in the Hague, the focus also shifts once again to the role of the Dutch and the wider  international community. This short article seeks to briefly look back at the events of 1995 in the light of recent new research.

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Life under austerity shows why Syriza are fighting it so hard

by Jamie Jordan.

Greece has been a key talking point at the G7 summit of economic powers. The current impasse in negotiations between the Syriza-led government and the country’s creditors comes down to some significant differences in opinion over austerity. While Angela Merkel says time is running out for Greece to accept the reforms required for its bailout funds, Syriza continue to question conditions that require cuts to the country’s pensions, civil service and VAT reform.

Alexis Tsipras’s firm stance against austerity has led to the Greek government being labelled as intransigent throughout negotiations. The analogy that has become common is that Greece is a patient that refuses to take its medicine. But the irony of this is that the country’s healthcare system has borne the brunt of austerity measures – the extent of which has become evident to me while carrying out my PhD fieldwork, focusing on the restructuring taking place to Greece’s political economy and welfare state.

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Austerity and Resistance: Greece in the Eurozone crisis

By Andreas Bieler and Jamie Jordan.

Concerns over Greece’s ability to pay back its debt continue unabated, with one crisis meeting taking place in Brussels after another. While the media focuses on Greece’s ability to meet the conditions by the European Union, in this post we will have another look at some of the key underlying dynamics of the crisis.

It is often argued in the media that citizens of richer countries would now have to pay for the ‘profligacy’ of citizens from indebted countries. Cultural arguments of apparently ‘lazy Greek’ workers as the cause of the crisis are put forward despite the fact that Greek workers are amongst those who work the most hours in Europe (McDonald 2012). Rather than the result of Greeks living above their means, however, the crisis is a reflection of the highly uneven European political economy. While Germany and other countries of the European core have pursued a growth strategy based on exports, countries in the European periphery including Greece followed a strategy of demand-led growth often financed with loans from abroad. Nevertheless, it would be wrong simply to blame the Greeks for this situation. The super profits resulting from German export success needed new points of investment to generate more profits and state bonds of peripheral countries seemed to be the ideal investment opportunity with guaranteed profits, backed by sovereign states. In a way, Germany has recycled its profits in the form of lending to peripheral countries. In turn, these credits to the periphery were used to purchase more goods in the core ensuring a continuation of the German export success. Hence, the recurrent distinction between credit- and export-led economies is misleading. Firms in core countries would not have been able to pursue export-led growth strategies, if global aggregate demand had not been supported by the real estate and stock market bubbles that occurred in the periphery as a result of lending. German export success, in other words, depended on Greece’s increasing indebtedness.

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Party Systems and Governments Observatory: A New Research Tool

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

Have you ever wondered who governs the countries of Europe? Would you like to know who governed your country more than a century ago? Are you not sure about the partisan affiliation of ministers in your neighboring states? Are you interested in discovering how has the (economic and financial) crisis affected the composition of European governments and party systems?

Now a quick answer to all these questions, and more, is possible thanks to a new research project at the University of Nottingham: namely, the Party Systems and Governments Observatory (PSGo), a new research interactive tool ([1] where data on government formation and party system institutionalization in 48 European democratic states since 1848 can be found. European indicates those countries stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. Democratic refers to those countries displaying (1) a score of 6 or higher in the Polity IV index, (2) universal suffrage elections (including universal male suffrage only, when historically appropriate), and (3) governments formed and/or relying on a parliamentary majority, rather than on the exclusive will of the head of state. States includes those countries recognized by either the United Nations or the Council of Nations.[2]

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The Greek government, EU policy constraints, and the tension between responsiveness and responsibility

By Kyriaki Nanou

In January 2015, after failure to agree on the nomination of a president, national elections were held in Greece – a country at the eye of the storm of the Eurozone crisis. The main opponents were New Democracy, the main party in the governing coalition arguing in favour of the necessity of the memorandum agreements and the continuation of the reforms as part of the external support package; and, on the other side, SYRIZA, arguing that there is a different way for Greece to exit the crisis – involving renegotiation of the the terms of the bailout agreements and not undertaking all of the reform measures. Together with its governing partners, New Democracy stressed ‘responsibility’ and argued that Greece had no other way out of this crisis but to implement all of the austerity measures, which it argued had already improved the state of the economy, and to satisfy external creditors and EU partners. Their campaign was focused on a rightist agenda underlying the dangers of deviating from the implementation of the painful reforms, which had the potential of upsetting the creditors, stopping the transfer of further payments and leading to a potential ‘Grexit’ from the euro. On the other hand, SYRIZA emphasised ‘responsiveness’ and argued that politicians should listen to the needs and concerns of Greek people, who were disillusioned with austerity politics. It had a leftist agenda that aimed to provide hope to the Greek electorate by promising measures that would ease the burden of austerity – by either not implementing planned reforms or by changing or reversing some of the reforms implemented by the previous government.

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Promises, promises in the Croatian Presidential Elections

By Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac

“I won’t let anyone say that Croatia won’t become prosperous and rich. Croatia will be among the most developed countries of the EU and the world, I promise you here tonight”.

So promised Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ) after winning the 2014-15 Croatian presidential election and becoming the first female president of Croatia.

The electoral race was very close. Kitarovic won 50.74% and the previous president Ivo Josipovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 49.26% of the popular vote. In absolute terms, the difference between the two candidates was only around 30,000 votes, with the number of spoiled ballots twice that number at around 60,000.

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Regulating European Party Politics: Causes and Consequences

By Fernando Casal Bértoa

The question of how political parties are, and ought to be, regulated, has assumed increased importance in recent years. The legitimacy crisis experienced by the parties themselves, and also their progressive codification in public law, including national constitutions or party finance laws, have raised important questions, ranging from the motivations inspiring specific regulations to their effect on the parties and the party systems, and the underlying conceptions of the role and place of political parties in modern democracies.

Interestingly enough, and notwithstanding the fact that, both in Europe and elsewhere, political parties have increasingly (see figure 1) been subject to regulations governing their external activities or determining the way in which their internal organisation may function, none of the abovementioned questions has received the necessary attention, neither from political scientists nor from constitutional lawyers. Indeed, the few works dealing with the subject are mostly descriptive and lack a comparative dimension.

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Corrupt politicians can only look on in horror as Mr Integrity takes Italian presidency

By Catherine Gegout

Italy has a new president in the form of Sergio Mattarella, a 73-year-old constitutional judge from Sicily. Mattarella was elected to the role in the wake of the retirement of Giorgio Napolitano, who had held the post for nearly a decade.

The president of Italy has limited powers: he or she guarantees that politics complies with the Italian constitution, but real political responsibility remains with the government. However, the election of Mattarella is important for both the centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi and his Democratic Party. Mattarella represents integrity, and has made no secret of his contempt for the kind of politics that has bolstered the interests of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over the years.

In securing the job for Mattarella, who is a former Christian Democrat, Renzi has humiliated his main rival Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who is still leader of Forza Italia.

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Malheureusement, nous ne sommes pas tous Charlie 2: Rules of Engagement

by David Stevens and Kieron O’Hara

Last week in this blog, we argued that goods such as belonging and commitment were the chief drivers of extremist groups, alongside a rejection of mainstream thinking. In a book which appears next month, The Devil’s Long Tail, we claim that suppressing ideological messages in the hope of preventing radicalisation is simply not effective, as they are not the chief motivators of such people, and furthermore that the emergence of the web hasn’t changed this calculation.

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking pervades the anti-extremist drive. In the UK, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has just written to over 1,000 Islamic leaders to suggest that “There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country.” One assumes that a would-be jihadi might struggle to assent to this proposition – and if he or she heard it from an Imam at the local mosque, then he or she might well assume that this message was mere government propaganda.

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No Borders

By Natasha King

In 2014 a photograph taken by activist Jose Palazón, a member of the migrant rights group Asociación Pro Derechos de la Infancia, went viral. It shows a number of African migrants stuck on razor wire at the top of the fence that marks the border between the Spanish enclave of Meillia and the rest of Africa. While the migrants are stranded atop the wire, some golfers continue their game on a manicured course below.

The message of the photo is blunt: there is a gaping inequality between those living in Europe and those – generally poor, generally non-white – who are excluded from entry. Put simply, border controls are among the most obvious means that relatively wealthy states have of maintaining inequality.

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