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Category: European Politics

How Marine Le Pen could become the next French president

Written by Paul Smith.

Never one to miss a bandwagon when it passes, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National, was one of the first European politicians to congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory.

For the demagogic populist Le Pen, Trump’s win, like the Brexit vote, is the victory of the “people” against the “elites”.

Setting aside the ludicrous nature of anyone claiming the victory of a billionaire who inherited his riches as a blow against the established order, Le Pen’s intervention is important. France is facing its own presidential election in April and May of 2017 and Le Pen aims to win it.

Russia in the Balkans: Pan-Slavism revived?

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Serve for the faith, for humanity, for our brothers … Mother Moscow blesses you for a great deed.

At the end of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the tormented Count Vronsky joins volunteers going to the Balkans to defend the Serbs and Montenegrins against the Ottoman Empire.

The slaughter of the co-religionists and brother Slavs awakened sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. And the heroism of the Serbs and Montenegrins, fighting for a great cause, generated in the whole nation a desire to help their brothers, not in word now but in deed.

This November, a trilateral military exercise named Slavic Brotherhood 2016 is taking place between Russia, Serbia and Belarus. Are we seeing a resurgent Pan-Slavism today in the Balkans and a Russian foreign policy developing closer relations between the Russians and Serbs, Montenegrins and other nations? This question arises against talk of a new Cold War, and a battle for hearts and minds internationally.

What holds a democracy together – political parties, or the party system itself?

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Who hasn’t heard that democracy is in crisis? Election after election, we see people participate less and extremist political parties on the rise. The most recent example is in Georgia, where during this month’s legislative elections half of the country’s electorate decide to stay at home and a far-right pro-Russian Eurosceptic party (The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia) managed to gain its first seats in parliament.

Meanwhile, traditionally stable party systems are collapsing. Traditional parties are challenged and in many cases displaced by totally new political formations, making the polity more fragmented, volatility and unstable. Spain and Greece constitute, perhaps, the clearest examples. And political parties themselves are in crisis. It is not only that parties have lost members and voters, but – more importantly – they are considered to be among the most corrupt and untrustworthy institutions.

Why the EU is suddenly marching to a different drumbeat on defence

Written by Richard Whitman.

Now that the most militarily capable member state is on the way out of the European Union there have been proposals for greater defence collaboration between the countries that remain.

Without Britain, the EU is left with substantially degraded defence capacities. As they meet in Bratislava to discuss life after Brexit, EU leaders have taken the bold but risky move to draw attention to the EU’s continuing ability to deepen integration.

It is risky because, despite being a central commitment in the Maastricht Treaty, the EU has only made modest progress towards establishing a shared defence and security policy. Member states disagree on how much they should merge their military capabilities and have made slow progress towards their Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This has so far progressed via a series of civilian and military conflict management missions.

Radicalisation in Bosnia: old wounds reopened by an emerging problem

Written by Louis Monroy Santander.

Bosnia experienced a difficult reconstruction process after its 1992–1995 war. Now its ongoing political and economic crisis is making it harder to respond to a growing global problem – radicalisation.

According to recent reports, Bosnians have been travelling to Syria to fight for radical Islamist groups in increasing numbers since 2012. They now constitute one of the largest European foreign fighter contingents as a proportion of national population. Figures from 2015 suggest there are more than 300 Bosnians in Syria.

There have also been a number of low-level incidents of terrorist violence in Bosnia. In April 2015, for example, a 24-year-old man from an area near the town of Zvornik drove into a police station and opened fire. He killed one officer and injured two others before being shot dead.

This has prompted heated debates about how to handle the problem without feeding into the tensions that pervade in Bosnian politics. Of particular concern is the possibility that decisions about security will be coloured by ethno-politics.

May the Force Be With You: Britain’s New Government

Written by Tim Haughton.

For once the journalistic clichés were not over the top. The 23 June referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was a seismic event, an earthquake which brought a dose of destruction to the British political scene: the Prime Minister resigned, allies knifed each other in the Conservative party leadership election, a new Prime Minister was appointed who then undertook one of the most extensive cabinet reshuffles of modern times with some eye-catching appointments and the leader of the Opposition lost a no confidence vote of his parliamentary colleagues. Even caffeine-fuelled journalists found it difficult to keep up with the speed of events.

Like all earthquakes tensions had been building for some time. Divisions in the Conservative party had been evident since the UK first applied to join the then European Economic Community in the 1960s, but since the late 1980s the party had begun to tear itself apart over Britain’s continuing membership of the EU. Whilst a sizeable slice of the Leave vote in the referendum came from traditional Conservative voters in the heartlands of rural England, the Leave side was bolstered by disaffected Labour voters. Both groups were mobilized and emboldened by Leave’s alluring slogan to ‘Take Back Control’. A significant proportion of traditional working class Labour voters, many of whom had stayed at home in previous elections or who had cast their votes for UKIP, used their votes to express their discontent with the state of the government and to give the political class a good kicking.

Six months after its last election, Spain is having another. Here’s what you need to know.

Written by Fernando Casal Bértoa.

Spaniards head to the polls again on June 26 — just six months after the last elections. Here’s why: As predicted here in the Monkey Cage, the four main parties — the conservative PP, the socialist PSOE, the liberal Ciudadanos and the radical-left Podemos — failed to come together to form a government, even though some of them (mainly PSOE and Ciudadanos) certainly tried. Since the parties weren’t able to form a coalition government, Spain will hold a new election.

Michael Gove – not Boris Johnson – is the real contender for next Tory leader

Written by Mark Stuart.

Britain’s “Thatcherites” are an incredibly cohesive bunch. To the despair of historians, they do not write things down. Tory politicians prefer to eschew laborious meetings and minutes in favour of informal dining clubs at which future strategy is debated and plotted. Theirs is a close network of friendships.

This informal club is committed to keeping the Thatcherite flame alive, promoting the beliefs of its hero, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Rightly or wrongly, given Thatcher’s cautious approach to Europe, securing Britain’s departure from the EU is regarded by the vast majority of Thatcherites as furthering one of her greatest aims. Mere ministerial careers may have to be sacrificed to achieve this goal.

Britain could become a global power – if it stays in the EU

Written by Mark Walters.

Even after weeks of campaigning, both sides of the referendum campaign have focused entirely on the short-term impacts of the debate. But the question really has to be where Britain will be in ten or 20 years from now.

And the future looks bright for Britain. It is actually on the brink of becoming the most powerful nation on the planet. But it has to remain in the EU to realise the ambition.

Before Brexit looked like a real possibility, the Centre for Economics and Business Researchpredicted that the British economy would overtake Germany’s as the largest in Europe by the 2030s.

The Referendum Result: We’ve Got It Now!

Written by Christopher Pierson.

Britain remains in the grip of referendum fever with each side producing more and more frightening images of the Armageddon that awaits us on the other side of 23rd June if we make the wrong choice.

Meanwhile, the Swiss (who are more used to this kind of thing) had a series of referenda last weekend, including one on the introduction of a guaranteed basic income for every Swiss citizen.  A guaranteed basic income is a payment made regularly to all citizens solely on the basis of their citizenship and paid to them irrespective of their working status, their income or indeed any other non-citizenship characteristic.   The idea (amongst it supporters) is not to provide a ‚minimum‘ payment (a floor beneath which no-one should be allowed to fall) but rather to support the maximum sustainable payment (consistent with other economic imperatives). The sum provisionally suggested for payment in Switzerland was CHF2,500 (about £1,765) per month.