Federico Ottavio Reho European Union Values
Protecting the EU’s Fundamental Values
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
19 Apr 2022
By Anne Blanksma Çeta, Principal Social Impact Strategy, Glocalities
While opinion polls announced a narrow race in the Hungarian parliamentary elections of 3 April, Fidesz enjoyed a decisive victory. How did Viktor Orbán achieve this? And what does it mean for Fidesz’s public support in the coming months, now that the EU has decided to activate the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism? A unique survey into the future of Europe in 10 EU countries (including Hungary) might provide some answers. The survey was conducted in December 2021, and then again in March 2022 to assess the impact of the war in Ukraine. These two surveys, commissioned by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and executed by the global research agency Glocalities, drew about 5000 respondents each, and will be published in a comprehensive report soon.
2018: Fidesz and the Values Coalition of Traditionalists and Achievers
Electoral victories by Fidesz in the past decade can be explained by the values coalition which Viktor Orbán put together in the last decade. It unites Traditionalists (status quo conservatives) and Achievers (entrepreneurial networkers), who together form a values majority in Hungarian society. This electoral coalition has been consistently mobilised by Fidesz with constant values-based messages and campaigns, emphasising traditional family values, national pride, and religious values. In contrast to these positive (in the eyes of the Fidesz electorate) values stand the values Fidesz vigorously opposes in all its forms: hedonism (by implication, the LGBT community), globalism (Soros, Brussels) and liberal pluralism. All indications for the 2022 elections were that Fidesz would again run a campaign based on this playbook. The referendum on Child Protection, scheduled on the same day as the national election, was specifically designed to reinforce this values-based framing, which worked so well for Fidesz in the past. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, throwing Fidesz’s electoral strategy in a shambles. The united opposition quickly grasped the weakness of the Fidesz campaign exploiting values cleavages in Hungarian society, while a war on Hungary’s border requires a unifying message. The opposition decided to brand Orbán as the divisive, pro-Putin and anti-EU candidate, which needed to be beaten by a united opposition. So, how come that campaign failed?
2022: Rebranding of Fidesz as the Party of Peace and Stability
It was not only the opposition who grasped that the war changed the electoral context; so did Fidesz. They decided to change the elections from a battle of national conservatives versus liberal progressives into a battle of war and instability (the opposition) versus peace and stability (continued rule by Fidesz). The results of our polling data from March 2022 show how Fidesz was able to read (and shape) the public mood:
- In a list of foreign threat perceptions, ‘Russian foreign policy’ went up from 10% to 29% in Hungary, which is high, but in a completely different league than threat perceptions in Poland (where the perceived threat of Russia climbed from 35% to 57%).
- Hungary was the only one of the 10 countries polled where willingness to provide security guarantees to other EU countries fell considerably (while in most other EU countries it went up or stayed the same). On the statement ‘Hungary should provide military support and assistance to another EU country if that country is under attack, even if that attack does not threaten Hungary directly’, agreement went down from 51% to 38%, showing the extent and effectiveness of Russian intimidation on the Hungarian public.
- On a list of EU policy concerns, ‘cost of living’ was increasing in Hungary the most out of all 10 countries polled, making it uncontestably the principal concern of Hungarians during the election campaign. This clearly made Hungarians more inclined to follow Orbán’s appeasing attitude towards Russia.
- On a list of values that people aspire for in Europe, ‘safety’ and ‘peace’ strongly gained in popularity in Hungary since the war in Ukraine, while the commitment to values of ‘equality’ and ‘human rights’ went down. This demonstrates how the war in Ukraine resulted in a trade-off between the values of safety and peace, which Fidesz made central to their campaign, versus equality and human rights, on which Fidesz has a bad track record in public opinion.
This polling data explains how the campaign message of Orbán being the candidate for peace and stability in times of war resonated with the country’s public mood. Concerns about peace and stability trumped concerns about rule of law and inequality, which became less important in contrast. The results also show the considerable difference in public sentiment between Hungary and Poland regarding their risk assessment of Russia and the impact of this threat on public opinion. In Poland, high threat perceptions about Russia and high solidarity with the Ukrainian people translated in an emboldened public opinion against Russia and public pressure to offer more support to Ukraine. Conversely, in Hungary, the war intimidated Hungarians to stay out of this conflict for fear of the consequences, both in terms of security and rising energy costs.
Threats and Opportunities Regarding Fidesz’s Future Public Support
How should the EU assess Fidesz’s public support moving forwards, with an EU-Hungarian conflict over the rule-of-law mechanism? Again, the survey data provides several clues:
- Fidesz’s current legitimacy lies in the party’s ability to offer peace and stability. Further increases in energy prices (gas sanctions?) and a military escalation of the Ukraine war which could be blamed on Brussels are both elements that could further strengthen public support for Fidesz.
- At the same time, the EU enjoys high trust in Hungary (much higher than the government does, which is widely seen as corrupt). Stability trumps rights at this moment in time. The rule-of-law mechanism should therefore, much more clearly and consistently, be communicated as a way to stop high-level corruption of EU funds (a concern that consistently polls highly in Hungary).
- At the same time, the EU should be very careful in its interpretation of the rule of law. Especially in the domains of values and morality (e.g., abortion, family values, gay rights), Hungarian society remains strongly conservative and aligned with the government. The EU Commission should therefore tread very carefully, aim to enforce the more institutional aspects of the rule of law, and avoid conflating the rule of law with more politicised issues that activate profound values cleavages in Hungarian society.
- The war in Ukraine shows how national pride and pro-EU attitudes can very well co-exist. Ukrainian nationalists aspire to European integration to escape from Russia’s imperialist ambitions. Across Central Europe, national and European aspirations are closely intertwined. The EU should seek to promote and nurture this sentiment of pro-European patriotism in Central Europe, including in Hungary, where Orbán might find himself increasingly isolated among Visegrád countries.
This is only a tiny fraction of the rich insights that our data-driven study on the future of Europe can offer to clarify a variety of topical EU issues. A full report is upcoming.Anne Blanksma Çeta Central and Eastern Europe Democracy Elections Ukraine Values
Anne Blanksma Çeta
Understanding Fidesz’s Landslide Victory in Hungary: Some New Data
08 Apr 2022
It is by now conventional wisdom that the question of relations with Russia is a major obstacle to the unification of the ‘democratic Right’ that Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini, and Mateusz Morawiecki like to talk about as of late. Indeed, Russia is one of the main issues making Germany’s AfD, Austria’s FPÖ, and France’s Rassemblement National unlikely partners for a larger right-wing formation. Moreover, even the tripartite alliance between Italy’s Lega, Hungary’s Fidesz, and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS), which might soon end up in a joint group in the European Parliament, has already experienced stormy conflicts over Russia. And although the previously notoriously pro-Putin Lega has made efforts to distance themselves from the Kremlin, the varying responses from Warsaw and Budapest to recent Kremlin aggression is certainly one of the stumbling blocks.
But those differences may well pale next to the foreseeable infighting over China. This has several roots. For one thing, Russia in its current state is obviously on the losing side of history, and is hopelessly lagging behind the West and China, both economically and technologically. China, in contrast, is set to become the world’s premier economic power within the current decade. Technologically, it will likely overtake the West in a number of fields, such as artificial intelligence. As its power has grown, so have its interests across the globe, so much so that there is now a ‘China angle’ to most policy questions worldwide, and an imperative for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to support or obstruct domestic forces in most countries around the world, depending on whether they are considered helpful or not to its interests.
In fact, the stances of the European illiberal right on China are even more amorphous and fickle than those on Russia. Their differing attitudes towards Moscow can at least be traced to their respective nation-state’s historical experiences and strategic culture towards Russia. Put simply, it is as normal for a Polish or an Estonian nationalist to oppose Russia as it is for a French or a German one to court it.
China is both a much more important long-term issue than Russia and a topic that populists have few existing cues to draw on to make sense of. Contrary to Russia, with China, the economic dimension complicates political and ideological calculations. Should China be seen as a welcome Eurasian partner in creating an illiberal counterweight to Euro-Atlantic liberalism, as Viktor Orbán seems to bet on? Or does it represent the mortal danger of de-industrialisation of the nation’s ‘heartlands’, as Marine Le Pen seems to think, following Trump’s ideas? Is Beijing an alternative partner that can be a leverage against Brussels, an idea PiS appeared to entertain in its first months in office? Or is it a Soviet-style adversary to a Christian West, which is the Polish government’s current stance?
No one has faced these dilemmas more than Matteo Salvini. The populist coalition of his Lega party with the Five Star Movement created waves when it decided to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, making Italy the first European country to do so. Yet Salvini declined to attend his government’s meeting with Xi Jinping, knowing that Lega’s core electorate of Northern Italian small businesses is very suspicious of Chinese ‘state capitalist’ competition.
We know that, in their foreign policy thinking, populists value sovereignty first and foremost, even more so those on the right, who are also strongly nationalistic. Yet the lack of a deeper ideological bond between them means that this basic agreement is the source of division rather than unity. Without a deeper elaboration of what ‘sovereignty’ means in the modern world, beyond knee-jerk Euroscepticism, anti-Americanism, and fear of globalisation, it is impossible to come up with a common, fairly consistent position on a strategic challenge like China.
To be sure, the established European party families such as the centre-right EPP have their own share of internal divisions over Russia and, now, China. But the EPP knows that these different viewpoints can only be reconciled, and European citizens can only enjoy the right balance of economic gains through engagement with China and protection from Beijing’s increasingly hostile practices, within a partly supranational EU and in the framework of liberal democracy.
The pro-European, rule-of-law based centre-right departs from a positive vision of European unity, which helps it make sense of the Chinese problem in all its complexity. The illiberal sovereignist right embarks from a negative vision of national sovereignty that does not resolve, but instead strengthens, the contradictions which the Chinese question poses to Europe.Roland Freudenstein Angelos Chryssogelos China EU-Russia Values
If You Thought Russia Was the Spoiler for Europe’s Illiberals, Wait for China!
26 May 2021
The People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is an unprecedented challenge to the European Union and to liberal democracy. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically underscored this fact. China is now in an open rivalry with the West, not only about which political and economic system has better responded to the pandemic, but also about which system will dominate the 21st century.
• In the EU, our knowledge about China is painfully insufficient. Expertise on China within the Union has further diminished with Brexit.
• The little China expertise we have is increasingly dependent on Chinese funding, and its guiding narratives are therefore shaped by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its front organisations.
• The EU should therefore create a budget line to finance China-related research and language training in the EU, within the 2021-2027 MFF budget for “External Instruments”.China Foreign Policy Values
Researching the Dragon – The EU Needs to Build up its Independent China Expertise
28 Apr 2021
“The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it” said Queen Jamilia as the Galactic Republic faced enemies both internal and external during the Clone Wars. Today, democracies face populist and authoritarian challenges both domestically and globally. Among the latter, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly positioning itself as the leading revisionist force, seeking to change international norms and values and the current world order to become a global hegemon. It is promoting an alternative autocratic model to Western democracies and views them as adversaries and existential threats. Benefitting from economic difficulties and Western disunity, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, China under the CCP has seized the opportunity to challenge Western powers, amongst them the European Union (EU), in a power competition in which values are at the heart of the conflict.
This competition is taking place in the economic, information, technological, political and diplomatic arenas. The Chinese government is leading disinformation campaigns and does not hesitate to bully countries into submission. This political interference is combined with intensive cyber-attacks and large-scale technological espionage, restricted market access, and aggressive investments in national industries, infrastructures, and resources. As a result of its economic and political interests, the CCP is challenging international rules, institutions, and political norms, including human rights – all of which it has committed to in international agreements. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the threat the Chinese government poses and of the EU’s dependency on China, both as a provider of goods but also as a market. This has been reflected in public opinion polls that show largely negative views of China in EU countries, especially in Western and Northern European states.
With this growing awareness, the 2019 Joint Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative highlighted the mounting tensions and competition between the EU and China. It offered a compartmentalised model of the EU-China relationship in different policy areas, from “cooperation partner” and “negotiation partner” in domains where interests can be aligned or balanced, to “economic competitor” and “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance”.
The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.
Subsequently, in December 2020, China and the EU agreed in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. China committed to ensure a “greater level of market access for the EU”, “fair treatment for EU companies”, and “ambitious provisions on sustainable development, including commitments on forced labour and the ratification of the relevant ILO fundamental Conventions”. This agreement would be an important step in obtaining equitable treatment and access for EU companies and businesses; however, it solely focuses on market access, leaving a number of other issues such as human rights abuses and investment protection to negotiate at a later stage. In addition, this agreement will still not open the Chinese market on a reciprocal level. Finally, the EU side-tracked the United States on this negotiation despite an open call from the then incoming Biden administration to consult and cooperate on this “common concern”. This plays directly into the hands of the CCP and its divide and rule strategy, and is a missed opportunity for the EU to have a reinforced bargaining position with a like-minded power (the US) to obtain stronger commitments.
Furthermore, the CCP has demonstrated a lack of respect for rules, and employs tools and strategies to increase its dominance, leading to political instability and risks for EU countries. This calls for stronger engagement against the CCP’s disrupting behaviour on all fronts, in order to protect European interests, values, and political independence. As China’s second largest trading partner, the EU has leverage to negotiate stronger commitments and concessions. The differentiated approach adopted by the EU might maintain economically fruitful relations on both sides but is unlikely to incite China to end its political, economic, informational, and technological attacks, affecting the national security of EU member states.
In addition, the Union should develop stronger ties with countries who view China under the CCP as a mounting threat in the Asia region, such as Australia and Japan, and especially the United States. The Biden administration intends to maintain the country’s hard stance on China; however, it aims to do so in close cooperation with its allies and partners. Despite a decrease of Europe’s trust in the United States this past decade as the relationship became more competitive, critical, and less reliable, they closely share essential values as well as political and economic interests. This is a unique opportunity for the EU to have a stronger bargaining position in negotiations with China. It must seize it and identify how the transatlantic partners can cooperate on China.
All this does not mean Europe should decouple from China, or that there are no remaining paths for cooperation. But the old juxtaposition of nouns – partner, competitor, rival – should be replaced by a hierarchy of a noun and verbs: China is a systemic rival with whom we should compete and cooperate with a balanced inclusive approach incorporating relevant fields, depending on the respective behaviour of the CCP. This difference in syntax precisely indicates that the systemic rivalry is the framework, and competition and cooperation are the variables within it.
The defence of liberal values and democratic principles is essential to the health of our democracies. To protect them from the influence of authoritarianism, the EU has to ensure its actions meet all the challenges ahead, because believing democracy can work is the first step to defending it. The European Union has to be more proactive, resolute, and bold in its relationship with China. We need to become a blue dragon.Marie-Anne Brouillon Roland Freudenstein China Foreign Policy Values
The Case for a Blue Dragon: Facing China as a Confident Democracy
17 Mar 2021
It is well known that the Sahara Desert was once a large tropical forest. Due to millennia of atmospheric and climate changes, it lost most of its greenery and is now Earth’s second largest desert. Despite this, one can still find a few tiny green paradises in the Sahara, called oasis. And there is nothing of superior beauty than a hidden garden surrounded by an immense mass of sand, is there?
Until a year ago, Europe was one of the world’s largest ‘freedom forests’ and then, not due to a slow, long-term phenomenon, but because of a virus, liberties dried up, and the continent became a desert in just a few months. Initially, the process was not homogeneous, with countries adopting different strategies and some even daring to explore more ‘liberal’ approaches. Then summer came, the first wave ended, and we almost had the impression that this nightmare was finally over.
Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens in the middle of the desert, it was just a mirage, an optical illusion of the sun reflecting on the sand, mixing the optimism and will to believe that most Europeans shared after a very rough few months. A second wave hit us with the end of warm temperatures, and the liberal approaches to the fight of COVID-19 seemed to no longer exist. But, as in the Sahara, nature finds its ways and so does liberty. A handful of places in the continent did not accept lockdown as the only outcome, and came up with some creative ideas to try to save restaurants, bars, culture, sport, and so on. I am extremely glad and proud that one of these places is my hometown: Madrid.
Since the re-opening in July, Madrid’s local and regional authorities decided to maintain open everything they could. Instead of going for city or regional lockdowns, they invested massive resources into mass testing via rapid tests (earlier than most authorities in the rest of Europe), tracking, and perimetral lockdowns for specific districts/neighbourhoods with high rates of infection. This was always with a maximum length of 15 days, after which every district’s figures were re-evaluated. Elsewhere in the city and the region, cafés kept serving coffee, bars served wine and beer, shops sold their products, gyms or sports teams continued their training and competitions, and theatres, museums, and cinemas maintained a barely breathing culture alive. In late December, Le Monde -among others- explained Madrid’s exceptionalism when it came to culture.
The Madrid phenomenon has reached a level where thousands of French tourists come to the city for weekends, just to experience having some drinks with a couple of friends at a terrace, enjoying a meal in a good restaurant, or going to a concert or an opera. Some started calling the city the ‘Las Vegas of Europe’. ‘It’s liberating to be in a restaurant’, said some of these tourists to France24 recently.
But what is the price paid for this original and fairly unique approach? You are most certainly thinking that the Madrid area must have one of the highest infection and death rates. Well, think again. The mass testing strategy, together with some small efforts of tracking, district lockdowns, and a pedagogical communication that tells citizens the bare truth and treats them like adults, have resulted in fewer cases and deaths in Madrid in the second half of 2020 and the first weeks of 2021 than many other regions in the country and across Europe, despite their much harsher restrictions.
So then, what has been the price paid? Besides the frontal attacks of the national government, and the leftist parties across Spain (both City Hall and the regional government are in the hands of EPP member party Partido Popular), the price that Madrid has and is paying is no other than the regular cost of a movie ticket (around 9 euros), a glass of Vermouth in a downtown Plaza terrace (3 euros), or a rock concert (20 euros). What a frightening world, what a frightening Europe, where these common things are a rarity. And what great news that there are freedom fighters like the politicians in Madrid, willing to go against the predominant consensus, sometimes even within their own political family, and who will always prioritise the welfare of thousands of businesses and employees, with what is in my opinion one of the most imaginative approaches in Europe these days. It feels good to see some bright light as guidance for what we thought was impossible to lose: our freedom. Nothing competes with the beauty of a tropical garden in an immense mass of sand!Álvaro de la Cruz COVID-19 Leadership Values
Álvaro de la Cruz
Madrid: a European oasis
01 Mar 2021
Among those who remember their experience under communist, totalitarian regimes who imprisoned and sometimes killed freedom fighters, some are now asking: why did Navalny return to Russia? Doesn’t he know what happened to Kasparov, Khodorkovsky and other exiles? The fate of Nemtsov and Politkovskaya? Or has he already forgotten what he recently experienced while returning from Siberia? Moreover, Russian authorities had already stated that should Navalny return to Russia, he would be immediately detained.
Navalny’s return to Russia after his medical treatment in Germany is such a courageous act that it immediately gave rise to various conspiracy scenarios and ‘theories’. Some question his sanity or suspect he seeks martyrdom, while others search for broader geopolitical patterns or various power games.
The vocation of ‘politician’ is undoubtedly a very complex discipline, as is a decathlon in athletics. Like athletics, politics is a competition. And what determines the outcome of every competition is the heart which generates the will, along with the brain which draws up the strategy and the tactics.
To me, it seems that Navalny has the passion for politics. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have, for years, acted in Russia the way he did and does. Today, Navalny feels first and foremost that he has entered a contest, in the top political ‘league’ playable in Russia. Navalny is aware of having embarked on a real struggle. He is aware that he has no other choice. In his heart, he is absolutely clear about that. A fighter would never quit the marathon, mid-race, with slouched shoulders.
Navalny’s brain and intellect have confirmed to him that he has no choice, barring simply giving up. Navalny realises that he cannot achieve anything fighting from beyond Russian borders, the same as Kasparov, Khodorkovsky, and other exiles. But Navalny also knows that by being in Russia, he can potentially achieve something. Just like Wałęsa, Havel, Landsbergis, and many other jailed dissidents or church leaders who suffered and often died in communist prisons because they did not abandon their struggle for freedom. What Navalny does not know is the price he will have to pay for his struggle and victory. He does not even know if he will live to see his victory.
He is fighting for what we, living in the free West, also need: faith in ideals, values, and principles, along with the resolve to defend these principles every day.
In a time where the West has experienced unprecedented prosperity, consumerism, and consequently, selfishness and cynicism, Navalny’s act is morally and ethically revitalising. It reminds us of something much more valuable, and at the same time much more promising than money, villas, yachts, or other possessions: Navalny’s act is the manifestation of ideals. True, Navalny certainly hopes that the regime will not dare to remove him. He certainly believes also in the solidarity of the international democratic community and its impact. He is, however, plainly aware of the extreme risks associated with his return to Russia for himself and his family. That is why he deserves our respect and esteem. He is fighting for what we, living in the free West, also need: faith in ideals, values, and principles, along with the resolve to defend these principles every day. And, where necessary, even at the price of personal discomfort or risk. Those to whom these words seem like platitudes or clichés need only to look at the US Capitol these days.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy EU-Russia Leadership Values
The Reasons Behind Navalny’s Return
18 Jan 2021
A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.Federico Ottavio Reho EU Member States European Union Values
[Europe Out Loud] A Threatened European Cultural Heritage?
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
22 Dec 2020
Roland Freudenstein is the Policy Director of the Martens Centre
Konrad Niklewicz is a former Visiting Fellow of the Martens Centre
He has only just entered the government as Deputy Prime Minister, but since 2015 he is the most powerful figure in Polish politics. Poland’s truly momentous political decisions are usually taken by him in the small hours of the morning in his apartment in Northern Warsaw. His name is Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of ‘Law and Justice’ (PiS), reverently called ‘prezes’ (the chairman) by his fans, and he has ignited a culture war in Poland that may – just may – bring down his government, but that certainly has grave consequences for Poland and repercussions across the whole of Europe. Let’s shed some light on how we got here, what could come of this, and what it means for the EU.
A short history of the ‘Women’s Strike’
After only a few days, this is already the biggest wave of protests in the country since 1989. It was triggered by the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 October, declaring most abortions unconstitutional, which were possible until now under the already very restrictive abortion law. Instead of including severe and incurable damage to the foetus, now only rape or danger to the mother’s life are valid reasons to terminate a pregnancy. Considering the ferocity of the protests, there are other factors at play as well, such as widespread frustration with PiS’ way of handling the pandemic – over the summer, PM Morawiecki had declared it ‘over’, and now the health system is already close to collapsing. There is also grumbling about PiS’ graft, arrogance of power, and turning public media into propaganda instruments. Of course, the unlawful politicisation and court-packing of the Constitutional Court plays a big role – both in preparing the ground for the abortion ruling, but also in terms of public anger. Finally, these protests are also about the power of a Catholic Church, which has become more entrenched and determined to resist modernising trends in society. Kaczyński’s motives for his nudging of the Court are certainly mixed: to distract from the pandemic, to shore up the frail coalition in a fresh polarisation of the country, lobbying by the Church, but also, and maybe above all, a genuine belief that it’s his sacred mission to stem the secularisation and liberalisation of Polish society.
The protests so far are leaderless; they are to an extent generational (but protests are always more of a thing for youngsters), but – maybe surprisingly – there is no recognisable centre-periphery divide here, as there was in the recent presidential elections when cities voted very differently from rural areas and small towns. Public opinion opposes the court ruling at 60 to 70 %, and prefers to return to the ‘consensual solution’ of before; only around 10 % support the ruling. Most of the protests are peaceful, although the pent-up anger, especially of women, is visible in the language chosen, as well as the adopted symbol of the protesters: a lightning bolt. In some cases, churches have been smeared with paint, and masses disturbed. While Kaczyński himself, after the first protests, called upon PiS followers to ‘defend Churches at all cost’ (a call followed all too eagerly by nationalist hooligans), President Duda was much more measured and expressed some sympathies for the public anger. Equally importantly, the ‘moderate’ wing of PiS and its slightly more centrist coalition partner have raised doubts about the wisdom of the escalation.
How will it play out?
No one can predict whether we are facing a long-lasting social “revolution”, or just a momentary spike of emotions. PiS may still back down. It may pass a new law reinstating an ‘abortion compromise’, although it may be too little, too late now – many protesters say that the compromise is dead; their demand now is the fully-fledged liberalisation of the abortion law. This may split the protest movement again, but it’s also possible that, with sustained public opposition, cracks in the governing coalition widen. Much will also depend on whether the strongest opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO), can put itself into a pole position. Its most charismatic politician, Rafał Trzaskowski, the Mayor of Warsaw who just narrowly lost out in the presidential election, might make a comeback with his recently founded ‘New Solidarity’ movement, which aims to reach out beyond established parties. In recent polls, PiS is nosediving, PO is gaining ground, and other opposition forces are mushrooming. Although according to schedule, there will be no elections in Poland for another three years, a collapse of the governing coalition might trigger snap elections.
The implications for the EU
These are grassroots protests. Poland’s ‘Women’s Strike’ is genuinely Polish. No Brussels-based ‘moral imperialism’, resolution by the European Parliament, or George Soros-inspired NGO activity can be held responsible for them. Kaczyński’s attempts to frame them as the results of foreign influence make him look like Putin and Lukashenka, putting the blame for the Belarus protests on the CIA. Moreover, the scope and the intensity of the protests prove, once again, that the image of an EU split into a socially liberal West and a socially conservative East, best represented by national populists, is dangerously false.
EU institutions should now focus on the breaches of the rule of law that helped lead to the current situation in Poland, i.e., the assault on the independence of the judiciary. Questions such as abortion legislation itself are truly a national competence according to the EU Treaty, and this should remain so – precisely because to do otherwise would deliver genuine ammunition to Europe’s national populists about an overbearing EU. But the Polish people should be helped much more decisively in their efforts to re-establish the rule of law and to oppose the lonely decisions of a new nationalist elite, which is trying to reap the benefits of EU membership while violating its fundamental principles by the day.Roland Freudenstein Konrad Niklewicz Eastern Europe Populism Values
The Chairman’s Culture War: Europe and Poland’s ‘Women’s Strike’
30 Oct 2020
To me, it seems we can no longer go on this way. By this, I mean the disagreements about basic principles that we should all be able to believe in. For us Europeans, a greater threat than the coronavirus pandemic is posed by our inability to act in a number of important areas. Areas that are essential to the future survival of the European Union.
For years, we have not been able to address the rule of law violations by several member states. The most striking cases are those of Hungary and Poland. Beautiful countries I know well from my time leading Slovakia into the EU and NATO in the 2000s. True, the European institutions initiated proceedings against the two countries (Article 7). But these proceedings had no practical result because the potential sanctioning of the “accused” requires a unanimous decision by all Member States. It therefore became another example of the EU failing to adhere to its basic founding principles.
And as a result, Europe risks crumbling from within.
Being aware of this paradox, the European Council and the European Parliament have attempted to make the drawing of funds from the future EU budget and the Recovery Fund conditional on the respect of rule of law principles. But again, as the budget is also adopted by unanimity of all Member States, this is like moving from the frying pan into the fire. The problem has been neither resolved nor simplified. Instead it has been amplified and broadcast as another signal of Europe’s collective weakness.
Likewise, the bravery, resolve, and strength of the revolutionary movement in Belarus compares to the unwieldy and inconsistent imposition of our sanctions against the Lukashenko regime. This comparison shows just how difficult it is to seek consensus on foreign policy issues, even in cases where the bottom line is basic democratic rights. The European Commission also recently put forward a new draft European Asylum Policy. The prospects of its practical application are very hazy. Not only because we do not have the tools and the courage to tackle the root causes of illegal immigration, but also because the agreement on this issue requires the consensus of all 27 Member States.
And we used to think that the British were the problem in EU decision-making?
The diagnosis of the condition which we are in today is bleak, but it is also quite clear: the EU is unable to make decisions in the areas that are vital for its sustainability and future.
We have reached a point when, with some embarrassment, we hear the Ukrainian president say that Ukraine is more European than some EU countries.
The disconnect between the EU’s ambitions and its actual reality has never been greater.
Europe, it seems, is addicted to grand plans and lofty-sounding strategies. But while we are busy developing public consultations, Erdoğan is laughing at us in the Mediterranean and threatening to send us illegal migrants whenever it suits him. We agreed on enhanced cooperation in the field of defence, but over-indebted Greece is compelled to buy new fighter planes to be able to avert Turkish threats. The mention of frozen conflicts, like the one in Cyprus (already 46 years old), seems all too obvious. Europe still stands on the sidelines (and sometimes on opposing sides) as the chaos and destruction continue in Libya.
Indeed, our greatest enemy is not COVID-19. It is our inability to take decisions. Our greatest enemy is the unanimity rule requiring the consent of all Member States in areas which, by virtue of their nature and the constitutional principle of subsidiarity, belong much more to the Community level than the national one.
We are facing a monumental challenge – to change the decision-making rules in the mentioned fields. Its enormity stems from the fact that this would also require the consensus or unanimity of all 27 EU Member States. But such consensus will inevitably have to be found. At any price. Because the current costs are simply too high to bear. It may be necessary to look for a solution even outside the treaties which are currently in force. Passivity now is simply an excuse for inaction. Europe’s only hope is to shape its future in its own hands.
Germany should raise the banner. Not because it holds the EU presidency, but because our fate, and theirs, are now hopelessly intertwined.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy EU Institutions Values
Europe risks crumbling from within
29 Oct 2020
What has happened in Belarus since the massively fraudulent election of 9 August is nothing short of a miracle. Out of all the potentates in the countries of the former Soviet Union, Alexander Lukashenka – once labelled ‘Europe’s last dictator’ – seemed to be the least contested in his own country. The last 4 weeks have changed this image for good already, whatever happens from now on. Repeated massive and peaceful demonstrations in Minsk and many other cities, strikes in crucial factories, songs, pictures of women in red and white handing flowers to police, the disbelief on Lukashenka’s face when booed by workers; but also police brutality and the first signs of panic and collapse among the regime a week after the first protests: these are now imprints on our collective memories. Western democracies have to forcefully react. Here is why a ‘geopolitical’ approach to the issue is misleading, and why a principled reaction is both a moral obligation and in our own enlightened self-interest.
The fact that the regime has averted collapse for the moment, and that we are heading towards a long standoff, is only due to Putin’s public guarantee to keep Lukashenka in power, with all the overt and hybrid means at his disposal. Of course, Putin despises Lukashenka, but the Western pundits who predicted, at the beginning of the protests, that Putin would quickly ditch him and ‘install’ a more dynamic and more clearly pro-Russian leader, were wrong. Lukashenka is good enough for Putin because, in addition to being now totally dependent on the Kremlin, his erstwhile ‘fight with the two monsters’ (i.e. playing the West and Russia against each other) is over, in favour of the latter. For now, only keeping Lukashenka in power is the guarantee that Belarus doesn’t undergo some kind of ‘colour revolution’ – and a democratic revolution is precisely what Putin is most afraid of, because Russian democrats would be tremendously encouraged by it. This is also why Putin tried to eliminate their front man, Aleksei Navalny, in August. The question of external alliances of a post-Lukashenka Belarus is secondary to the democracy factor, especially since none of the leading Belarusian democrats have even touched upon the topic of EU or NATO membership – only Lukashenka and Russian propaganda are labelling the protests, quite ridiculously, as products of Western machinations.
A fallacy called geopolitics
Just like any other crisis involving Russia, this case has seen its share of inflationary use of the term ‘geopolitics’. That time-honoured term comes, roughly speaking, in two variants: one is the (actually rather banal) statement that geography is one of many factors explaining the behavior of political actors – mostly national governments. That’s a fact. Witness the respective importance given recently by the Greek government to the conflict with Turkey, and by the Polish and Baltic governments to the democratic revolution in Belarus. The other variant, which happens to have been particularly overblown in the Belarus debate, is the belief that geopolitics is something akin to a natural science, whose immutable ‘laws’ prescribe or render impossible this or that political development, as if there were a geopolitical law of gravity that says: small neighbours of great powers (such as Russia) cannot choose their own political systems, or foreign policies and alliances. If that were true, the Berlin Wall would not have come down in 1989, and the Warsaw Pact would still be in place. The big lesson of the 1980s – remember, it took a decade from the birth of Solidarność to the end of the Soviet Union – is that politics, not geography, calls the shots in the end.
For our freedom and yours
Regarding the West’s reaction to the miracle of Belarus and Putin’s actions, the first conclusion is that the geopolitical games played by some in the West (for example by the PiS government in Warsaw until 9 August), sucking up to Lukashenka to drag him away from Putin, have turned out to be as useless as they always were. If we want a safe and free future for Europe, we need to put geopolitics in its place.
Secondly, while not being able to change the situation in Belarus directly, there are plenty of things the EU should do: Come up with a ‘Magnitsky’ list of Belarusian officials for asset freezes and travel bans, delegitimise Lukashenka (as the Lithuanians already have), propose the Sakharov or Nobel Peace Prize for Sviatlana and Sergei Tsikhanouski, and a dramatic increase in visual and financial support for all Belarusian democrats, especially those who are victim of oppression. And Germany should do what should have happened years ago: scrap NordStream 2. There are also things Europeans should not do, such as: fall over ourselves to ‘talk to Putin’ about the future of Belarus. That future is the business of Belarusians.
Thirdly and finally, we should all remind ourselves that we ought to do these things not only for moral reasons, but in our own interest. If Lukashenka and Putin get away with their brazen operation, flouting not only all standards of human decency, but concrete commitments signed by them, then our own freedom will soon be at stake. In that sense, Belarus is everywhere. As the globally active Polish freedom fighters of the 19th century would have put it: The struggle is about our freedom as much as about the Belarusians. And this ‘fraternal assistance’ for Lukashenka might actually be the beginning of the end for Putin.
We’re all Belarusians now – a plea for putting the politics back in geopolitics
11 Sep 2020
Perhaps there is no better proof of Hagia Sophia’s universality than the array of names it has borne over the centuries. Αγία Σοφία, Sancta Sapient, Ayasofya, were all used to refer to this Christian Basilica dedicated to the Holy Wisdom. It served for 1500 years as a place of worship for Christians and Muslims and, as of a few days ago, as a World Heritage Museum under UNESCO’s patronage.
It is this monument that Turkish president Erdoğan decided to re-convert into a mosque by reversing Kemal Atatürk’s decision from 86 years ago. For Atatürk, the symbolism of turning Hagia Sophia into a museum was clear. After a century of wars and persecution of its religious and ethnic minorities, the Ottoman Empire had been significantly reduced in both size and population. His dream for “peace at home, peace in the world” required neutralising religion as a source of internal division or external threats.
The reopening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is planned for 24 July, the anniversary of the signing of the Lausanne Treaty in 1923. The Treaty regulated the borders and international commitments of Kemal’s new republic, including respect for both minorities within its borders, and the sovereignty of its neighbours. The symbolism could not be more apparent: Erdoğan sees this treaty as an obstacle to his ideological and strategic revisionism. The geopolitical implications of the Hagia Sophia decision are clear.
This decision goes beyond Turkey’s relationship with Greece, a country that has, for obvious reasons, taken the decision as an affront. It also goes beyond Europe and the West as a whole, as Erdoğan’s objective is to keep his domestic base mobilised. This move undermines global norms, rules, and efforts of inter-civilisational dialogue. The casualty of this decision may end up being nothing less than peace and understanding on a global scale, undermining relations between the West and Islam as a whole.
Turkish officials claim that Hagia Sophia is a purely internal matter. However, it is hard to see how the international community can ignore the emergence of radical civilisational discourses in Turkey, like the statement of AKP Party’s deputy chairman, Numan Kurtulmus, that “[…] those who conquered It by the sword also own the property rights”. Such statements are unworthy of a country privileged to host myriad World Heritage monuments, which, however, also come with international responsibility. All states hosting UNESCO sites are repositories of humanity’s shared history and universal values. Consequently, they are accountable for how they treat this global patrimony.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Hagia Sophia decision comes at a very delicate political time for Erdoğan. The recent local elections in Turkey, the collapsing economy, and the mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis have created unrest in Turkey that the AKP government cannot handle. As is typical for populist and authoritarian regimes, the remedy for the inability to deal with citizens’ actual problems is a turn to nationalism and religious fanaticism.
The decision was preceded by a publicity campaign to create the impression that the Turkish population is supportive. But in a recent survey by Istanbul Economics Research, Turks appeared divided: 47% were in favour, while 38% were against. Additionally, many Turkish scholars and politicians (Orhan Pamuk, Ahmet Davutoglu, and Ekrem Imamoglu, among many) called it a terrible mistake. Much as everything else Erdoğan does these days, this decision just serves to divide Turkish society, solidifying his base while targeting his opponents. Contrary to how Erdoğan tries to present it, opposing Hagia Sophia’s reconversion into a mosque does not equate to ‘opposing Turkey’: it means standing up to a regime which an increasing number of Turks are growing hostile towards.
Erdoğan is on a frontal attack against all values of the West’s past and present, from secular ideas of democratic liberalism to its Christian heritage. When geopolitical reorientation becomes embedded in a language of cultural inconsistency, it is difficult to see how there is any way back. A move that signals such blatant disregard for Turkey’s international commitments, even in the cultural field, can only portend further brinkmanship in the political and strategic field. Europe must be under no illusion. Turkey is an important partner. But you can only be a partner with someone who also sees you as one. If the EU wants Turkey to return to the table as a reasonable interlocutor (under the current government, or another one), the EU must prove it is a serious actor in its own right against Erdoğan’s provocations.
The Hagia Sophia decision is part of a long series of hostile acts against Europe by a regime degenerating into a rogue actor. The EU has more than sufficient justification to impose targeted, proportionate, but, if necessary, escalating sanctions in a variety of fields – economic, touristic, military – on Erdoğan. This is not meant as a punishment against the Turkish people, or to rupture the EU’s ties with Turkey terminally. There is simply no justification to indulge a regime that engages in such blatant authoritarianism at home, and aggressive revisionism internationally. A firm stance against Erdoğan is in the interest of both democracy in Turkey, and stability in the region.
Finally, a note about EU foreign policy more generally: Hagia Sophia has highlighted the importance of cultural heritage, particularly in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, as a topic of international diplomacy. Cultural heritage beyond the EU’s borders is a legitimate concern. The EU has long been absent in this area, at a time when wars have taken a horrible toll on cultural and religious diversity in its strategic periphery in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. A ‘strategic Europe’ must also be one that is ready to defend culture, civilisation, and diversity, not only at home, but abroad as well.
“Oh Kemal, I Have Surpassed Thee!” – Erdoğan’s Folie des Grandeurs
16 Jul 2020
This policy brief analyses the competences and potential of the EU in the field of cultural heritage protection. Despite numerous references to culture and heritage in the EU treaties, the analysis suggests that the Union’s focus on cultural heritage remains limited and does not adequately reflect the magnitude of recent challenges.
In the last decade of financial and economic difficulties, Europe’s cultural heritage has suffered from major funding cuts. This is now being compounded by the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the culture and heritage sectors. Climate change also represents a growing threat to cultural sites across the EU, and the successes of right-wing Eurosceptic populism have changed the politics of cultural heritage. The EU is routinely portrayed as a remote post-national technocracy bent on overcoming separate national identities and lacking a commitment to the continent’s common historical heritage.
This paper argues that all these developments have created the conditions for considerable ‘European added value’—economic, social and political—to be realised by stepping up EU action for the protection of the continent’s cultural heritage. Currently ongoing negotiations for the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021–7) and for the post-COVID-19 recovery fund that is tied to it (the ‘Next Generation EU’ initiative) offer a unique opportunity to advance this important agenda.Economy EU Member States European Union Values
A Europe That Protects Its Heritage
15 Jul 2020
The corona crisis apparently reinforces the role of the nation-state, of the government and the hard struggle between the United States and China, which put their own interests above the multilateral world order. Yet a different agenda is needed now, says former Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende: “Collaboration, connection, and sustainability are now more essential than hammering on the nation-state. Europe and Christian democracy can play an important role in this. Christian Democracy has always had the courage to row against the current.”
The interview conducted by Marc Janssens, editor-in-chief, has been published in Christen Democratische Verkenningen, Summer edition 2020 (Dutch). The World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid published the interview in English. Below you can find a summary of the key elements and an excerpt from the interview.
– Precisely at a time when nation-state and autocracy are leading the way, we must strengthen the social undercurrent of connectedness, values, and sustainability.
– The global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and the circular economy give hope and perspective to everyone. This agenda is essential to overcome nationalism, populism, and attacks on multilateral organisations.
– High trust societies are performing better than low trust societies.
– Europe must develop a new narrative, in which commonness, diversity, solidarity, and competitiveness are leading, which discusses the importance of values and shows geopolitical leadership.
– A new orientation and organisation of our economies are required: a moral, responsible, and stakeholder capitalism.
Jan Peter Balkenende has been out of active politics for ten years, after his time as Prime Minister (2002-2010). But sitting still is by no means the same as uninvolved. He works as an external senior advisor to EY, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, a supervisory board member at ING, and is involved in various organisations. The common thread is sustainability, social connection, global cooperation, and tackling inequality. The guiding principle in all this is the Sustainable Development Goals: “We now see a world where it seems to be about the right of the fittest and about capitalism driven by a mere pursuit of profit. China and the US compete for world power, but are mainly focused on their own interests. Their leaders Trump and Xi Jinping have little interest in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Health Organisation. On the other hand, I would like to draw attention to another, hopeful agenda: that of sustainability, the common interest – the so-called Common Good -, a circular economy and working together.
Europe but also Christian Democracy can play an important role in this, because they have a long tradition of connection and attention to the moral side of all kinds of issues. If Europe seeks strength in its uniqueness and in the interest of global institutions, it may prevent being played apart by China and America. Global thinking is not only about countries and their governments, but also about NGOs, companies, universities, civil society, religious groups. The SDGs – requiring actions and measurement – and Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ provide hope and perspective. Christian Democracy can be important in this because it is not only a political but also a social movement. We as Christian Democrats have always had the courage to focus on connection and row against the current.”
What does the new story of Europe look like?
“We have to redesign the EU to motivate people and organisations. Europe must start from its own strength, which connects countries that are also different. Of course, there are concerns in Europe and there is a lack of unity, but the current crisis requires the commitment and qualities that Europe has always drawn strength from: bridging differences and thinking together. In addition, Europe must also show results, for example in the areas of climate, environment, sustainability, and a circular economy. Showing results will strengthen trust in Europe among citizens, organisations, and businesses; but Europe must want to reform. Equally crucial is the awareness and debate about values in Europe: peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity, equality, justice, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. If you break EU rules and see Europe only as an institution from which subsidies can be obtained, sanctions must follow, after dialogue of course. Europe is too important at its core and relies too much on its own values to be undermined from within.”
How do you assess the situation in the US?
“The US fascinates by its dynamism. This has enormous appeal in the fields of science and innovation, but politically it is a completely split country. The connection is gone; there is a certain harshness surrounding discussions about fake news that is not good for the country. There is a need for truth-seeking institutions. We live in previously unthinkable times. In the late 1980s, Francis Fukuyama wrote his essay “The End of History” about the liberal democratic world order. Now we can see book titles such as “The End of Democracy” and “How Democracies Die”. The world order, as it was built up after the Second World War, has proved extremely fragile, so it is therefore important now to draw attention to values such as connection and communality.”
Doesn’t the corona crisis show that many companies in their prime have let their profits flow to shareholders, and now have to hold hands with the government because they have too few buffers? Shouldn’t we get rid of shareholder capitalism?
“It cannot be the case that shareholders only focus on the short-term financial gain and neglect the long-term consequences for the company and society. In this respect, I strongly support values-driven capitalism, in which not only financial growth, but also the social involvement of companies is the main aspect. This is really about creating shared value: economic and societal value. It must be about inclusive thinking and acting. That stakeholder thinking – the World Economic Forum recently argued for stakeholder capitalism – is essential in this day and age, when we meet the limits of money-driven capitalism. We are entering the era of responsible capitalism.”
What contribution can Christian democracy make in the debate about the organisation of society?
“That we recognise that all issues have a moral component. We are now faced with the choice: do we only determine what the role of the state, the market, and social institutions are through an economic prism, or do we examine, from a moral framework, what justice is and what the common good is, the so-called Bonum Commune. Then it’s not only about the question “who does what”? No, then we first determine what we want, what public justice means, and then the question arises why the market, government, or society can best do this. This is called differentiated responsibility in Christian Democratic thinking, but it is always a spread responsibility normalised by solidarity and stewardship. Something similar is needed now, because all kinds of things will shift due to the corona crisis. It is my firm belief that the strength of Christian democracy lies in our vision of tomorrow’s society: common good and Bonum Commune, community thinking, moral capitalism, long-term value creation, climate and stewardship, the SDGs, collaboration, and connection. We need to develop this further and, therefore, we must be inspired. That inspiration remains the most important thing a Christian Democratic politician needs. “Christian Democracy Economy European Union Values
Against the Current for the Common Good
14 Jul 2020
This article examines the question of migration from the perspective of long-term integration. In recent decades, the latter has often yielded to multicultural policies shaped on the recognition of groups and their alleged identities and demands. Through a case study of blasphemy against Islam, this article argues that multiculturalism has three main flaws: first, it shrinks the complexity of identities in order to assign individuals to pre-made boxes, thereby essentialising communities; second, it fosters social conflicts by opposing different groups and their supposed demands; and third, it creates a discriminatory system, contrary to the principles of equality and dignity. To avoid the ruination of the European dream of openness and diversity, it is necessary to return to an individualistic view of integration based on freedom, equality and universal citizenship.
Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Tommaso Virgili European Union Islam Migration Values
Whose ‘Identity’? Multiculturalism vs. Integration in Europe
06 Jul 2020
Despite the triumphant mood of Russian officials and state media about the recent constitutional ‘referendum’ results, no one in Russian civil society seems genuinely impressed. The consequences of the vote for Putin’s future may be drastically different from what he expected.
A few things are important to understand. Primarily, this was not a ‘referendum’, but rather an opinion poll with fairly relaxed rules and a near-complete absence of independent supervision over voting and vote counting. It was exempt from the standard rules of holding elections regulated by the law, and was instead regulated by a vague instruction of the Central Elections Commission. This body had strictly limited observers to those de facto appointed by the authorities, banned media from being present at the vote count, and allowed very relaxed rules for casting ballots (voting from home, voting electronically, even voting in public parks, shopping malls, etc). The vote was held over 7 days, with no real control over possible tampering with the ballots during that period. A pocketful of irregularities are explained in detail by the independent NGO Golos, who concluded that this ‘vote’ cannot be taken seriously by any reasonable standard.
Despite the fact that Putin wants to portray this ‘vote’ as his personal triumph, authorities and state media have deliberately hidden its real purpose from the people. As Golos correctly stated, most ‘information materials’ concentrated on the populist amendments to the Constitution (pensions, wages, animal rights protection, etc.), which only constitute about 10% of the total amendments. Major changes to the system of power – including the extension of Putin’s possible term of office to 2036 – were barely mentioned at all. There are recorded cases of exit poll interviews with voters who voted in favour of the amendments, yet had no idea that Putin’s term extension was included in the package (videos like that are widely available online, like this one).
It is in fact a very open question what Russians really voted for. Public opinion on the most important amendment, the extension of Putin’s term in office, is sharply split, unlike opinion on the populist amendments which are largely supported. But the real purpose of the vote, as mentioned above, was carefully hidden.
Then comes the fraud. Sergey Shpilkin, a renowned electoral mathematician who has carefully analysed all Russian elections for well over a decade by examining voting results anomalies, concludes that about half of the ‘yes’ votes were rigged. This was especially easy to pull off this time due to the relaxed rules of the ‘referendum’.
The hard reality for Putin is that the public is aware of this. No one was convinced by the results announced, since everybody saw how the fraud took place, and pressure on state-affiliated employees and their relatives to vote ‘yes’ was truly enormous this time. One thing that was visibly lacking in Russia during the days of the vote was enthusiasm to support Vladimir Putin – one can hardly find even a few drops of it in the ocean of voting fraud and compulsion.
And yet, despite all this, 21% of Russians according to official results, and 35% according to estimates of real voting by Mr. Shpilkin, have voted ‘No’. That is deeply disturbing news for Putin, who, in previous years, had tried to dwell on the assumption that his opponents in society are measured in single-digit percentage points.
What next? Record low support for Putin and continuing negative trends give the opposition strong tailwinds in the upcoming political battles. In the forthcoming ‘real’ elections regulated by election law – such as the regional elections of this September and upcoming State Duma elections in 2021 – Putin will face an uphill battle of a magnitude which he probably never experienced before. In hindsight, the Moscow municipal ballot and ensuing protests of 2019 will look like a light rehearsal compared to this.
Putin also understands this. In response, he keeps modifying electoral rules, making it harder for independent candidates to get registered, and is considering applying the recently tested 7-day voting period to all future elections (which makes it effectively impossible to safeguard ballot boxes from fraud). But the opposition is now much more skilled to bypass novel obstacles, and, more importantly, we now have stronger backing from civil society than ever before. For starters, the Navalny Live YouTube channel now enjoys around 10 million unique viewers a month, making it a truly strong competitor to state propaganda (whose viewership numbers are fading). We have been tested through repression and intimidation and can withstand it.
Difficult times lie ahead, and Putin’s romance with Russia is over. He completely failed to revive it with a totally fraudulent and unconvincing ‘constitutional vote’.Vladimir Milov Democracy Foreign Policy Values
Putin’s referendum: what next?
06 Jul 2020
While most of the world underwent some degree of confinement due to the spread of COVID-19, the Belarusian government not only denied the existence of the virus, it actually continued with business as usual, scheduling the country’s presidential election for August 9. While in the past, Lukashenka’s victory was a given, this time the election’s outcome is not as predictable. For the first time in 26 years, there are real contenders who could challenge the sitting President.
In order to qualify for the election, candidates must secure a minimum of 100,000 signatures, which will be verified on July 14. Popular YouTube blogger Sergei Tikhanovski was considering joining the race, but since he was detained and then banned from running, it seems there will be two candidates allowed to go forward, besides those controlled by the government. They are the former Chairman of Belgazprombank, Viktor Babariko, (also currently detained) and the former leader of the Belarusian IT hub Hi-Tech Park, former ambassador to the United States, and Deputy Head of the Foreign Ministry, Valeri Tsepkalo. The surprising thing about these names is that they are not part of the opposition – they are regime insiders, members of the business elite.
While jailing opposition leaders, intimidating independent media, and cracking down on peaceful protests continues to be the modus operandi of Lukashenka, this constitutes a deeper development that the regime cannot control. Belarusians are discontent with the government and are taking their frustration to the streets. The hundreds of people demonstrating against Lukashenka’s re-election demonstrate their courage and strong motivation for change, especially when considering the unorthodox methods of repression employed by the government.
Years of economic stagnation, a pessimistic economic forecast of a 4 to 5% decline in the country’s GDP by the end of the year, increasing pressure from Russia, and a disregard for fundamental freedoms have led civil society to actively voice their opposition to the establishment’s methods. The fact that two other candidates from the regime’s inner circle stand ready to challenge the status quo is a strong political signal.
It is difficult not to draw similarities between what is happening in Belarus and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine back in 2014. Belarusian civil society is expressing its dissatisfaction with the lack of democracy, close ties to Russia, and abuse of freedoms by the government – a very similar picture to what we saw on Majdan Square during Yanukovych’s rule. In the worst-case scenario, Lukashenka can decide to follow Yanukovych’s footsteps, and resort to using violence against protesters, but too many eyes are watching. Several MEPs issued a statement on Belarus on June 18, calling for a fair campaign and a fair election. The EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) both have condemned the crackdown on peaceful protests.
Looking back at the Ukrainian experience, we can definitely say that a push for change from civil society can be very powerful and lead to significant developments. In the Belarusian case, it does not necessarily mean regime change. Lukashenka’s demise has been predicted several times in the past, but he has survived to this day. However, it is important that Belarusian people understand that they are standing at a crossroads between the status quo of an authoritarian regime and a democratically elected President. “Choosing” the regime means remaining in Russia’s orbit, who resorts to blackmail if things don’t go as planned. Indeed, the Kremlin has cut oil flows to Belarus earlier this year, after the collapse of last year’s talks between Russia and Belarus over forming a “union state”.
For the elections to be free, fair, and transparent, all candidates should have equal access to independent media, which unfortunately will not be the case. Opposition leaders are being detained, threatened and silenced. Nevertheless, long queues to place a signature for a candidate, despite COVID-19, have shown that Belarusians highly value democracy and structural reforms. A poll conducted by independent media outlets, later banned, placed Lukashenka with only 6% support within the country.
As in the case of Ukraine, there is no magic spell to transition from repression of political opponents and peaceful protesting, to full democracy – it takes time, strong will, and perseverance. But having the option of choosing a President freely is a prerogative of the Belarusian people, one that the citizens are fighting for.
Belarus’ southern neighbour, Ukraine, has undoubtedly beat the old corrupt system of elections, as its people have now voted freely in two Presidential elections since the protests on Majdan. The country still has a long way to go in terms of reforms, but a democratically elected President is the first and most important step towards success.
Belarus would benefit immensely from the respect of democratic values, closer ties to the EU, structural reforms, and a break from the past. After 26 years in power, it’s time for Lukashenka to accept the new direction that Belarusian citizens are asking for. Should he win the election, he must let go of the old ways and embrace the fundamental freedoms that the country deserves.Anna Nalyvayko Democracy Foreign Policy Society Values
Curtain Call for Lukashenka?
29 Jun 2020
Few symbols of upheaval are as powerful as the toppling of a statue. The last couple of weeks have been a good demonstration of this, across all Western societies – and Belgium is no exception. The cities of Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium removed statues of King Leopold II from their streets. This political compromise may appease radical demands, but it constitutes a missed opportunity to engage in a broad civic debate on identity and history.
There was a time when these statues honoured the Belgian sovereign for what was seen as his national and colonial heroism. Today these monuments inconveniently remind us of an embarrassing past, and of political and ethical norms that have long lost their validity. Still, Belgians are divided whether or not the statues should go because many interpret history differently.
The controversy around Leopold II doesn’t stand alone. In the Belgian town of Zottegem, a statue of Julius Caesar was vandalised. In London, protesters aimed their anger at a memorial for Winston Churchill, and in Johannesburg, paint was thrown at a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Radical polarisation around identity has intensified emotions; it condemns those who assumed the role of ‘privileged’ leadership, and it hinders an objective debate on history. We deserve better than that in our democracies.
It is not the first time that statues fall prey to public anger. During the 4th century reign of Roman Emperor Constantine, monuments of as many as 25 former emperors were removed from public view. Europe’s Great Iconoclasm of the 16th century saw Catholic art and church decorations destroyed in Protestant mob actions across the continent. Statues and monuments are also a prime target after wars or violent regime change. ISIS materialised political change by destroying the artefacts in the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra. The Taliban blew up Buddha statues. And who does not remember the gripping images of Iraqis, or Libyans, celebrating their freedom by dancing on the fallen monuments of Saddam Hussein or Moammar al-Qadhafi?
But against the backdrop of this history – and a recent racial incident in the United States – should we therefore conclude that a statue of Leopold II symbolises the structural racism of the Belgian people or their government? Is a monument to Winston Churchill the embodiment of white British exceptionalism? Should we tear down a statue of Julius Caesar for the same reasons Americans are now removing Confederate symbols across their nation? Will this damnatio memoriae – the condemnation of memory – contribute to social progress? Most likely not.
Perhaps a fairer debate is first to understand why some democracies struggle to talk about their history openly? Why is it sensitive in the Netherlands to touch on the role of the Dutch East India Company in 17th century Indonesia, or to talk in France about the atrocities committed during the Algerian War in the 1950s? The answer lies in part in our values, and in the fact that our societies still have a very complicated relationship with our principles of equality – principles enshrined in every democracy’s constitution, but that are, or at least were, difficult to implement correctly.
Pioneers advocated women’s suffrage as early as the 19th century, but only in the 20th century did a critical mass support such a political innovation. Today, even if the public has grown accustomed to narratives of pluralism, multiculturalism, and wealth redistribution, the reality is too often one of isolation, gentrification, and inequality. The fact that government leaders or public influencers rarely raise this topic is not a sign of racism. Rather, it demonstrates a more significant inability to conduct a proper reflection that includes all groups of society. In an environment dominated by peaceful debate and within the framework of the rule of law, public attitudes are slow to evolve, and even the most progressive minds are often hesitant to embrace disruptive change.
That is why change coming from the grassroots needs to focus on creating a broad consensus and avoid polarisation. Only this way can powerful ideas transcend and transform into concrete evolutions. Today’s protesters will need to work with the political leaders that they oppose. And more importantly, they will need to win the hearts and minds of the silent majority, so that everyone embraces the proposed change. Clearly, destroying statues divides the public and achieves no progress on either front. Exceptions to this rule are rare. The removal of Nazi symbols in post-World War II Germany or the toppling of Lenin statues after 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe are different cases: That was about visualising fundamental change in, or at the end of, a systemic upheaval within the lifetimes of the citizens.
Today’s bilderstürmer are right to condemn the mistakes of the past. But censorship rarely works. History cannot be a subject one likes or dislikes, and exists for us to learn from. We need more conversations about history, not less. Looking at statues and monuments can actually serve as a helpful reminder of the undesirable. Today in our democracies, there is a broad consensus against racism. Civic and political leaders would be wise to promote more debate on that positive foundation. Blaming old statues may please the strongest emotions, but it will take more than that to make for a better society.
Statues have been destroyed throughout history, it rarely spurred social progress
22 Jun 2020
Amid -at times- stringent lockdown measures taken all over Europe, it seemed almost providential that one of our main platforms for home entertainment proposed a very bizarre show.
As we all guiltily binge-watched Netflix’s hit ‘documentary’, “Tiger King: Mayhem, Murder and Madness”, and revelled in its larger-than-life characters, we must be serious for a moment: the trade of exotic animals is a highly lucrative and unregulated business. In Europe, we have our own Tiger Kings.
Where does regulation stand at the EU level? The EU mostly settles for the current CITES regulation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international norms system that began in the 1970s, that regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives. It ensures their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.
Illegal wildlife trade is a flourishing business, comparable to the traffic of drugs and weapons, and amounts to 7 to 23 billion dollars annually, according to a UNEP-Interpol report. Therefore, it was a welcome announcement when the European Commission pledged in its EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, published on the 20th of May, that it “will take a number of steps to crack down on illegal wildlife trade”. The Commission said that, among other things, it will revise its EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking in 2021.
This communication was initially scheduled to be released two months ago, but due to the current pandemic that has been shaking the continent and the world, it could only come out now. COVID-19 can, in fact, be directly linked to the necessity of strengthening the future Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.
The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically shone a light on how wildlife markets, as well as the use of wildlife for traditional medicine, represents severe risks for zoonotic disease transmission. The proximity with humans provides a path for the transmission of dangerous pathogens. Wildlife markets, like the one in Wuhan from where COVID-19 is supposed to have originated, exist all around the world, and the European continent is a central hub of transport and trade for the lucrative business of wildlife trade. Besides wet markets, it is not uncommon to come across monkey meat in Brussels, or European baby eels in Asia.
Zoonoses do not have to stem from direct contact between wild animals and humans, it can also spread from wildlife to parasites (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas) or to domestic animals, before eventually spreading to humans. COVID-19 had a zoonotic origin, but is now mostly contracted from other human beings. 61% of new and re-emerging diseases are of zoonotic origins, and although they can originate from the world over, some parts of the world are more prone to develop them due to larger biodiversity, a high density of humans and animals, and the international mobility of these humans and animals. The EU is both a vital marketplace and storage space for exotic animals that could represent a risk for zoonoses.
It comes as no surprise that, with the emergence of the pandemic, members of the European Parliament have demanded a stronger clampdown on both the legal and illegal trade of exotic animals in the EU, where favourable conditions for the outbreak of diseases like COVID-19 are also rife. The difficulty lies in the effective differentiation between the legal and illegal trade of wildlife, since they are very closely intertwined, as this 2016 report by the European Parliament’s trade committee states.
This is where a positive list can step in. French MEP Agnès Evren, from the EPP Group, is hopeful the EU will include a more restrictive positive list in tradeable species in its European Green Deal plan for the environment. A positive list sets into legislation what can be brought into the EU, and everything not on the list cannot come in. This method would considerably reduce regulatory bureaucracy at the government level, and facilitate custom officers’ work when distinguishing what is legal versus what is not. Currently, the limited, legal and regulated trade often acts as a cover for illegal trade of the same species.
Criticism has been levelled against positive lists, invoking subsidiarity, and putting into question whether the EU even has competence on wildlife trade. In fact, some member states have adopted their own methods for tackling wildlife trafficking through positive lists. Others resort to negative lists which, contrary to positive lists, state which species are forbidden from trade, but where permits can be granted following a strict set of rules. Some member states barely have any regulation at all. Once an animal is inside the EU, it becomes harder to track its progression, and transportation is an even bigger headache when following every member states’ individual regulatory mechanisms. Here, EU regulation can create a level playing field for all actors, and reduce cumbersome bureaucratic efforts for national governments.
Another benefit of further regulating what comes into the EU is the possibility of checking each animal for known pathogens, such as the one which has stemmed from SARS-CoV-2. Checks would allow for closer inspection of animals that are meant for food consumption, but also those that are intended to be kept as pets, as they too can contract the virus.
The discussion on zoonotic diseases has indicated that poor regulation of wildlife trade can have serious consequences, the likes of which should not be ignored. COVID-19 is not the first and will not be the last pandemic to occur on our continent. EU regulation on this trade should, therefore, be adopted with the view of protecting the health of EU citizens.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy, which will be an integral part of the European Green Deal, offers the perfect opportunity to take immediate action in preventing the rapid spread of diseases. We should not lose sight of the bigger picture either, which is to avoid future pandemics from happening in the first place. An EU positive list for species and pets is one way to bring much-needed regulation into a trade that has proven dangerous for the safety and health of European citizens.
So no, don’t hit play on that follow-up meta-documentary about the hit documentary series. Instead, “Think Positive”.Anna van Oeveren COVID-19 Crisis European Union Trade Values
Anna van Oeveren
Animals in the time of Coronavirus: Why it’s time to think positive
27 May 2020
The month of May is the perfect time for political contemplation. There are many reasons to think deeper about Europe and our European future these days, particularly as we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and 16 years since the reunification of Europe. Additionally, Europe is facing an unparalleled challenge in the post-war era – the COVID-19 pandemic.
If someone asked me these days how Europe is doing, I would have to say that it is divided once again. We somehow overcame the global financial and economic crisis. But the cracks have since only continued to deepen. We were unable to provide a uniform response to the migration crisis. We seem to have lost the ability to distinguish our allies from our opponents, or other potential threats. We are divided when assessing whether government actions are still democratic, or if they already belong to the apparatus of autocrats. We are divided when deciding if the EU enlargement process should continue or be halted. We are divided on the issue of whether the Istanbul Convention is an opportunity or a threat. We are divided on whether our economies, being bled dry by the pandemic, should be rescued by loans or grants, and whether the future European budget should give priority to cohesion and convergence over security and innovation. It has never been easy to reach a consensus within the EU, but the current level of dissonance makes me very concerned.
Whenever there was a problem, I asked myself if anything could be done about it. I asked a similar question recently when reading the interview with Irene Tinagli, Chairwoman of the EP’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. I learned from the interview that when in her native Italy you mention the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) as a tool to support economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis, “there is a lot of sensitivity”. The ESM is “seen as a traditional instrument, as a way to control economic and fiscal policies.”
In other words, I learned that indebted Italy does not want to take additional loans under the ESM and that the current Italian government instead wants grants. I can understand why a heavily indebted Italy does not want additional loans. But I do not understand why Italian leaders are hiding behind the sentiments of voters while enflaming such views. I do not understand how the leader of a European country can plead for grants, without presenting in advance, or simultaneously, a set of reforms that would change the country for the better.
Having said this, is there anything that can be done to deal with this serious internal European division? In my opinion, we must start playing fair with voters. Either political leaders opt to play fair, or the post-pandemic wave will sweep us away. Political leaders must have the courage to explain to people that cohesion does not mean everyone will enjoy the same income. That solidarity does not mean that people of responsibility will tolerate or promote moral hazard. That someone will have to foot the bill for the irresponsible decisions of politicians. Political leaders must tell EU citizens that the key to Europe’s future consists, first and foremost, of deep reforms implemented at the national level. Only then can the most indebted countries invoke greater solidarity and support from the others. The leaders of EU institutions, for their part, should not raise unrealistic expectations, but rather patiently explain that they can only exercise the competences entrusted to their administration by the member states.
I cannot keep myself from saying this: when we, the post-communist countries, were struggling to get back on our feet after the period of morass, there was no Marshall plan, and we had never heard a term such as ‘bail-out’. It had never even occurred to me, as the then-Prime Minister, to ask other countries for grants to make up for Communist mismanagement. We carried out painful reforms, privatised entire sectors in order to repay old debts and rescue the banks. To this day, ex-Communists reproach me for selling “Slovakia’s family silver”. But I can live with this kind of reproach. Yes, we recognised the value of financial instruments, such as the International Monetary Fund’s stand-by loans, or development investment loans from the World Bank or the European Investment Bank. However, what we always valued most was moral and political support from the West, and its vision of a reunited Europe.
There is no magic wand and the only way forward is together. There is no technical finesse that would us rid of old debts. Individual cunning or political threats are not a solution, either. There is only one thing that will determine our success, or failure – sound leadership by politicians, or their resignation in front of voters disoriented by their actions. Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, their travel companions and their successors achieved a unique feat: uniting Europe and making it stand on its feet. Now is the time for its protection and further development.Mikuláš Dzurinda COVID-19 Crisis EU Institutions European Union Values
Beyond divisions, the only way forward is together
09 May 2020
In 1891, Rudyard Kipling published ‘The Light that Failed’, his first novel about an artist’s unrequited love for his childhood playmate and his progressive loss of sight. It must have been this last theme that made the title seem appropriate for a new important book by Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev and American political theorist Stephen Holmes. Since Sophocles’ depiction of King Oedipus in ancient Greek tragedy, Western culture has associated loss of sight with hubris. Also known as the ‘pride that blinds’, this dangerous overconfidence often provoked the downfall of even the mightiest in history.
The authors’ goal is to explain the ongoing global retreat of liberal democracy after the long end-of-history ‘illusion’ that saw it as the inevitable destiny of the entire post-Cold War globe. Resorting to the instruments of political psychology, they essentially impute this retreat to the hubris of liberal democracy’s upholders in the last three decades, and to the resentful reaction of those they patronised. Francis Fukuyama, the leading theoretician of triumphant liberalism, suggested in the early 1990s that an ‘Age of Imitation’ was dawning. In this new age, western liberal and capitalist democracy would come to be seen as the highest form of political organisation, and the rest of the world would be expected and invited to converge on it – to imitate it.
What Fukuyama did not realise, Krastev and Holmes observe, is the antagonistic nature of imitation: if I want to be like you, I ultimately want to replace you. The politics of imitation implied a moral asymmetry (one side, the original, was by definition better than the other, the copy), put inherited identity at risk and exposed the imitators (post-communist countries and beyond) to the judgmental monitoring of conformity by supercilious imitated. This was particularly true for Central Europe, one of the book’s three case studies, together with Russia and the US.
Central Europeans seemed not only to wholeheartedly adopt the means and techniques of western liberal democracies, but also to introject their goals and desires. Somewhat puzzlingly, in the region the model long imitated has increasingly become an obstacle to the self-esteem and self-realisation of the imitators. The authors convey this complex twist of political psychology by showing how, in countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania or Bulgaria, the gripping fear of incoming foreigners really conceals the existential anguish created by millions of their own citizens leaving to the West over the last three decades.
Theirs, Krastev and Holmes contend, is a desperate defensive posture against the model – the ‘original’ – that attracted so many of their best and brightest, awakening the spectrum of depopulation and demographic implosion. They are thus creating a countermodel based on the ideal of tightly-knit and culturally homogeneous national communities, which they hope will make them worthy and attractive in their own right, and not as pale and approximate copies of an unattainable original: the liberal, multiculturalist West.
The mutation of liberalism over the last decades – something I have myself tried to capture in the past with the concept of liberal overreach – is also given due attention. It is accurately described as the story of ‘liberalism abandoning pluralism for hegemony’ and creating the resentful impression that ‘(imposed) no-alternative Soviet communism, after 1989, was replaced by (invited) no-alternative Western liberalism’.
Though written by two longstanding defenders of liberalism, the book acknowledges the reality of liberal hubris and its negative consequences.
On the international scene, this hegemonic posture was outspokenly articulated in the ambitious – and disastrous – agenda of neoconservatives. However, and this is something the authors are almost silent about, the same trajectory could be observed in the internal affairs of Western democracies, where the rise of political correctness has created a thought-and-speech police chastening conservative positions about religion, national identity and traditional societal values. This probably contributed to the illiberal backlash of latter-day too. After all, as Krastev and Holmes do write, ‘in the eyes of conservative Poles in the days of the Cold War (…) Western societies were normal because, unlike communist systems, they cherished tradition and believed in God. But today, suddenly, Poles have discovered that Western ‘normality’ means secularism, multiculturalism and gay marriage.’
The authors are well aware that theirs cannot be the whole story. They recognise the ‘one-sidedness, incompleteness and empirical vulnerabilities’ of their thesis. It cannot, for example, account for the evolution of post-communist countries such as the Baltic states, which did not so far experience a major illiberal backlash. Most importantly, it does not explain why the backlash had to take the precise form it did. Why could it not produce a more moderate form of central European, conservative liberalism that would have continued to believe – like the Cold War West of Thatcher and Reagan that so many anti-communist dissidents admired – in God, nations and traditional values, but without questioning the foundations of liberal democracy? Besides, the important question of what precisely the liberal democratic West could and should have done differently since the fall of the Berlin wall is never precisely answered.
Nonetheless, the book is commendable on several grounds. It abandons the crusading tones so far adopted by both liberals and anti-liberals in their important debate about the current state and future prospects of liberal democracy. Though written by two longstanding defenders of liberalism, it acknowledges the reality of liberal hubris and its negative consequences. Through the concept of imitation, it offers an innovative interpretation not only of Central Europe, but also of Russia and Trump’s US. Most importantly, the book is rather plausible in its reading of the historical phase we have now entered.
The rise of China, we are explained, marks the end of the ‘Age of Imitation’ because, unlike Russia, the country’s leadership never even pretended to imitate the liberal democratic West. On the contrary, much like the strategists of the Meiji restoration in Japan one and a half-century ago, the communist heirs to the Middle Kingdom have selectively appropriated the technical prowess of the West at the service of their own political and cultural system, which they have no intention of abandoning. Meanwhile, the US has for the first time elected a president that is openly dismissive of America’s calling to spread democracy and human rights and sees his country as just another great power looking to increase its wealth and defend its interests. Those are significant moves away from the various universalisms of the last century.
In the passage from the Cold War to the Age of Imitation, the authors claim, the clash between two universalist political doctrines – liberalism and communism – gave way to the energetic exportation all over the world of the one that seemed victorious. However, we now start to apprehend that, in its sudden and bloodless death, universalist communism might have wounded universalist liberalism too, slowly reawakening the more atavistic forces of nation, culture, ethnicity and religion in the process.
We therefore might be entering ‘a pluralistic and competitive world, where no centres of military and economic power will strive to spread their own system of values across the globe’. A world that might vindicate Samuel Huntington’s predictions more than Francis Fukuyama’s. And one that the European Union – with its edifying but increasingly quixotic liberal messianism – might find most challenging and inhospitable to inhabit. The ‘chastised liberalism’ proposed by Krastev and Holmes – a moderate liberalism that abandons hegemony and returns to authentic pluralism both internally and internationally – might thus be needed in the EU more than anywhere else.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Democracy Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Liberalism: The Light that Failed?
25 Mar 2020
A doctrine whose propagators ask the question “What if we were wrong?” is a doctrine that must be doing something right. Western nations, together with their guiding philosophy, liberalism, have asked themselves this question repeatedly, through centuries, more often and more intensely than any other doctrine, philosophy or civilisation. Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes quote Barack Obama who, at the end of his term in 2016, asks this question, and they apply it to the history of post-1989 liberalism in the world. Looking at the new illiberalism in Central Europe, Russia’s militarised kleptocracy, the United States under Donald Trump and increasingly assertive authoritarianism in China, they admit to being former defenders of liberalism (if Irving Kristol hadn’t coined the term for neo-conservatives, Krastev and Holmes might be called “liberals mugged by reality”). And with the zeal of the disillusioned and newly converted, they emphatically answer that, indeed, post-1989 liberalism has spectacularly failed.
In the text that follows, they join the fashionably growing chorus of authors who claim that Western universalism is outdated and that post-1989 liberalism is passé because the West, Icarus-like, flew too high – victim of its own hubris (think Fukuyama 1989), hypocrisy (think Iraq 2003) and undermining of its own principles (think PC liberal illiberalism). We’ve been hearing this narrative in different versions for at least 12 years now, since the beginning of the global financial crisis. For some particularly remarkable examples of post-liberalism literature, look up US scholar Patrick M. Deneen’s ‘Why Liberalism Failed’ or Polish MEP Ryszard Legutko’s ‘The Demon in Democracy’. Consequently, there is nothing new about the failure thesis. The only novelty in Krastev and Holmes’ book is the application of personal psychology to the politics of post-1989 liberalism with their imitation scheme used to characterise elites in Central Europe, Russia, and China.
Without a doubt, Krastev and Holmes have written a well-formulated and well-documented study. But I would like to pick out three fundamental problems in ‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’: They relate to the way the authors frame liberalism itself, the way they depict the “process of imitation” in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, and finally the way they sketch out the world of the future.
The framing of liberalism
The West is a normative project, says the German historian Heinrich August Winkler, which means that it represents a model, an ideal state which is never fully reached. (Here’s a little element of Catholicism, for what it’s worth). It has always had its internal acts of betrayal of its own norms. France under Napoleon, for example, was a military dictatorship, even by contemporary standards. But more than any other civilisation, the West, and its guiding philosophy, have the ability to self-criticise and correct their own mistakes. This has always been elementary. And it is overlooked by Krastev and Holmes who suggest that liberalism went astray in 1989.
In characterising Western liberals’ triumphalism in those days, Krastev and Holmes quote avowed illiberals such as Ryszard Legutko with “Communist orthodoxy was replaced by liberal orthodoxy” without exposing the preposterousness of the claim. The same goes for Hungarian historian Mária Schmidt who speaks of “Western colonialism”. But there is no single plausible parallel between liberalism and communism, neither in content nor in method – unless someone can tell me the name of the latest liberal Gulag – except for the claim, upheld for about two decades at most, that “there is no alternative” – which, in itself, was quite significantly a mantra of Margaret Thatcher who amazingly still counts as an idol for today’s illiberals.
There certainly was hubris in Fukuyama’s “end of history”. But no one defends this hubris anymore today, quite the contrary – and least of all, Fukuyama himself.
The depiction of Central Europe’s reformers
In depicting Central Europe’s reformers wholesale as imitators, Krastev and Holmes become victims of their own idea. What may be true for some of that region’s elites, becomes a highly unfair caricature when applied to the entire group. I myself have met, and worked with, a good part of Poland’s intellectual elite before 1989, and its intellectual, political and business elite after 1989. These were not people who wanted to become someone or something different. These were women and men who felt their country had landed on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in 1945 and they wanted to help bring it back to its natural place, in the middle of Europe and as part of the West. That does not mean they approved of everything the European Commission demanded in terms of reform steps in the accession process to the EU. But to say that Central and Eastern Europe’s “inherited identity” was “at risk” and that it was “forced to enact policies formulated by unelected bureaucrats”, as Krastev and Holmes do, is to adopt the rhetoric of Orbán and Kaczyński.
To present these and other autocrats as the true face of Central and Eastern Europe today is not only playing into their hands, but also factually wrong. There are real conflicts going on in the newer member states of the EU, between different worldviews and different concepts of modernity – just like in Western Europe. To suggest that one side in these conflicts – the nationalists, kleptocrats, and populists – represents the real Central Europe, and the other side thin urban elites removed from the people, is far from the complex reality.
Towards a pluralistic and competitive future?
Like so many interesting texts, this one ends at the most interesting point: How exactly should we imagine the brave new world of “zero hypocrisy”? Krastev and Holmes only very superficially speak about a world that is “pluralistic and competitive” and “where no centres of power will strive to spread their own system of values around the globe”. This begs the question: How will the West compete with Russian hybrid aggression or Chinese neo-imperialism (as if those were without hypocrisy, to put it mildly), if not through self-confident support of democratic ideas and democrats across the globe? How to explain to a Taiwanese or a Hong Kong democracy protester that the West has failed and is now covering its head with ashes?
‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’ is beautifully written food for thought. But in attacking liberal hubris, Krastev and Holmes are beating a dead horse. In their rendering of non-Western “imitation”, they are grossly pigeonholing Central Europe’s former dissidents and later reformers. And in their depiction of a post-Western world as a desirable state of things, they risk betraying democrats across the globe and may well be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Defeatism is the wrong sequel to triumphalism. The West and liberalism may need a more chastised and realistic approach. But despite all their shortcomings, when looking at the alternatives, they remain a promise and an offer to all of humankind.Roland Freudenstein Centre-Right Democracy Values
When Disillusionment Becomes Defeatism – An alternative review of ‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’
25 Mar 2020
In the current debates about Islam, scarce attention is devoted to the long-term integration of different cultures within a system based on the rule of law and individual liberties. With specific reference to the prevalent culture among Muslims of immigrant descent in Western Europe, quantitative surveys and reports show the persistence of a divergence from mainstream views on topics such as gender equality, religious freedom and sexual orientation. The primary victims of this phenomenon are to be found within the Muslim communities themselves: the ‘outcasts’ who, in spite of their Muslim background, do not adhere to the prevalent cultural code and may become targets of hostility. The lack of adequate integration policies for newcomers and the absence of socio-cultural interconnections between many Muslims and the native European populations deepen the divide, thereby reinforcing the Islamic identity at the expense of the national one, and fostering prejudice on both sides.
To promote liberal democratic rules and values both among newcomers and within the wider society, integration policies should be adopted in the framework of school curricula, reception centres and integration courses. These measures should always be tailored to individuals, rather than the ethno-religious groups to which they belong. It is also paramount to bring together, as much as possible, people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, in order to foster intercultural exchanges. All this would not lead to a levelling, monocultural model, but a pluricultural one focused on individuals and their chosen identity. All cultures or traditions are to be accepted and embraced, as long as they respect the rule of law and individual liberties.Integration Religion Social Policy Values
Lifting the Integration Veil: Outcasts from Islam in Western Europe
06 Mar 2020
In the last few years, a swirl of publications and initiatives have attempted to develop the doctrinal foundations of ‘trumpism’ and to offer intellectual defences of right-wing populism, that most anti-intellectual of doctrines. One way or another, they have all amounted to a variation on national conservatism, the belief that nations are our historically grown ‘homes’ and that it is therefore the primary duty of conservatives to defend their specificities from the levelling encroachment of globalisation and international institutions. According to these apologetic treatments, that’s precisely what Trump and his political mates across the globe are up to.
There has been no shortage of outraged commentaries on such takes, but they have mostly come from the liberal left. It is therefore welcome that a robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac – a Slovak by birth, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a research associate at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies – took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s treatment is quite conventional in his belief that the current ‘globalist’ international order has coincided with an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. This alone should enjoin those right-wingers who now want to overhaul it to show some real conservatism and pursue at most its cautious and gradual reform. However, his book departs in important ways from mainstream opinions on globalism. It understands international institutions not as top-down, enlightened bureaucracies but as bottom-up, evolutionary creations subject to constant adaptations and devised as responses to concrete challenges that transcend national borders. Such challenges include the like of trade barriers, security, pollution and the management of natural resources. For his analytical toolbox, Rohac owes an acknowledged debt to the pioneering work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom on the governance of the commons, federalism and polycentricity. His attempt to apply the Ostroms’ principles to international cooperation and European integration is cutting-edge and fruitful.
The book also contains a very unconventional reconstruction of what the author refers to as ‘the West’s globalist history’ and I have referred to elsewhere as ‘Europe’s supranational past’. Rohac convincingly contends that ‘international’ integration, and not the national state, has been the norm for most of European history. He reflects on the historical meaning of such polycentric and multinational structures as the Holy Roman Empire, which comprised large swathes of the continent for a millennium, the Hanseatic League and, more recently, the Gold Standard, which acted in everything but name and trappings as a global currency into the 20th century. Although he stops short of openly drawing this conclusion, Rohac’s concise treatment clearly concurs with a reading of the European project as, historically, a restoration more than a radical revolutionary break with Europe’s past. This should encourage conservatives to cherish the principle of supranational integration rather more than they have done lately.
A robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s related effort to revive a tradition of internationalist conservatism inspired by the likes of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rüstow and Wilhelm Röpke also seems worthwhile and even urgent. One could add to this group of – mostly liberal – thinkers other figures such as Alexandre Marc, Denis de Rougemont, Richard Coudenhove, Otto von Habsburg and the Christian democratic founding fathers of Europe. The real question, however, is not whether conservatism and supranationalism are compatible. They are, at least since Edmund Burke wrote of the ‘commonwealth of Europe’ and Prince Metternich proclaimed ‘I have taken Europe as my fatherland’. As the author mentions, the problem is rather that there can be different forms of supranationalism, not all of them equally palatable to a christian democratic or conservative taste. Even Hayek and Röpke, who were conservative liberals, would likely have reservations about some regulatory and bureaucratic excesses of today’s EU, not to talk about the postmodernist cultural rhetoric often underpinning its policies.
To rein in the rise of national conservatism, therefore, the centre-right ought to do more than merely develop a more convincing defence of globalism and European integration. It must also articulate a meaningful reform agenda based on stronger subsidiarity, the protection of national and regional identities and a more open emphasis on the cultural foundations of European unity. The book makes some important advances in this direction, for example by insisting on the need to limit the reach of international institutions through narrower mandates, as well as to open them up to bottom-up experimentation and market incentives.
To me, the one limit of the book is the author’s embrace of a liberal internationalist – if not neoconservative – outlook, as opposed to a ‘classical’ conservative one. On the one hand, Rohac defends a polycentric interpretation of international cooperation gradually evolving by trial and error and based on institutional diversity. On the other hand, he adopts a somewhat dogmatic view of the international society that acknowledges only liberal democracies as fully legitimate actors. This contains an element of liberal messianism, is subversive of the existing international order and restricts the range of acceptable institutional diversity and experimentation.
Relatedly, the book presents a limited view of political realism and connects it with a nationalist and Hobbesian outlook: ‘realism’, writes Rohac, ‘posits the existence of self-interested sovereign nation-states as the basic units of analysis, disregarding both the rules that might constrain their behaviour as well as the various governance structures that facilitate their cooperation—providing a perfect starting point for a Trump-like doctrine of unfettered national egoism’. Although this might be a correct characterisation of the ‘structural realism’ of American scholars like Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, it leaves out the classical realist European tradition of statecraft, which had its masters in figures like Metternich and Castlereagh and more recently found an outstanding epigone in Henry Kissinger. Metternich was perhaps the main exponent of international conservatism in the 19th century, and the chief theoretician and architect of an integrated supranational governance in Europe at the time.
Arguably, this tradition has some advantages over both the structural realism of Trumpians and the liberal internationalism preferred by Rohac. Unlike structural realists, classical realists attach importance to institutions and rules. Unlike liberal internationalists, however, they understand that functioning institutions and rules cannot be designed in the abstract by enlightened planners and based on universally valid principles. They are always culturally and historically embedded. As such, they can only flourish in a specific context and gradually evolve with it. This approach seems more attune to Rohac’s own understanding of globalism as an evolving ecosystem. Combined with his highly innovative arguments, it might not only help the centre-right counter conservative nationalism with a conservative and christian democratic internationalism. It might also contribute to formulating a new EU foreign policy doctrine more adapted to the emerging multipolar (dis)order than the currently prevalent saintly visions of the EU as a ‘civilian power’.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Development Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Globalism and the centre-right
11 Feb 2020
The East-West divide in the EU has recently received much attention. While certain national leaders on both sides have tried to capitalise on it politically, data on the attitudes of the general public in the two subregions convey a more complex picture.
This paper analyses European polling data on people’s attitudes regarding several key societal questions. It concludes that the opinions of Western and Eastern European populations are in fact converging on key societal issues, and that EU policies should reflect this growing consensus.Democracy European Union Religion Society Values
East Versus West: Is There Such a Thing as a European Society?
11 Dec 2019
I say Europe you say?
Europe, Europe as well.
What was the biggest myth about the EU that you had to dismantle during your career? Or to explain to your co-citizens?
There were many, but I think the most common one, and to some extent, the most dangerous one, is the myth that the EU is going to take away national states and identities. I think that we have to make clear to people that we live in a world where you have different identities. For example, I have a regional identity of the place in Sweden where I was born, a national identity as a Swede, and a European identity as a European. The fact that we can upgrade our identities to double or triple ones is very important but sometimes slightly difficult to get across.
You often argued that Europe is far behind China and the US in terms of internet governance, global technology, and digital economy. How can the EU take the centre-stage?
We are gradually losing that particular race and I’m afraid that when we go to the next stage of the race with artificial intelligence we are going to fall even further behind. I think what is needed first is that we fund basic research and our universities. So that’s the number one: fund basic research so that talent remains in Europe. Secondly, we need to have capital markets that work. We need to deepen the digital single market and avoid regulatory digital protectionists.
Could you share with us one of your favourite visits while you were either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs back in Sweden and why you picked that specific one?
When I was Foreign Minister we also chaired the Arctic Council for two years, so I went to strange places where most people haven’t been. I am going to mention two. Salekhard in Northern Siberia up where the Ob River meets with the Cora Sea. The Ob River is six kilometres wide at that point. It is frozen ten months a year and Salekhard has no road connection, no railway connection, but it’s still a really important place.
Second, Iqaluit which is the capital of Nunavut which most people don’t know what it is, but it is one of the northern provinces of Canada, which is a huge area. The northernmost part of Nunavut is closer to Stockholm than to Ottawa and has the population density of northern Greenland.
After French President Macron has stated that the EU should first reform itself before it considers taking up any new members, how do you see the European perspective for the Western Balkans?
I think the French have really messed it up, which is based on a certain reluctance that has been there the entire time when it comes to enlargement and a lack of understanding about what is happening in the Balkans. How exactly they are going to get themselves out of this particular hole remains to be seen. The European perspective for the Balkans is extremely important – we have a role and a responsibility there. And if we back off, it is not primarily about the fear that the Russians or Chinese or anyone else will step in.
It is rather about the fact that the forces of disintegration will take over from the forces of integration and we know from history what that might lead to and why those forces are dangerous. So exactly how we are going to solve this remains to be seen. I think it will be or rather it has to be one of the key talking points of the Council and the Commission next year. We have a Croatian Presidency in the first part of next year, we have a summit meeting of the EU and the Balkan countries coming up in Zagreb in May.
Over the years some of the headlines in which you have been featured had named you a Twiplomat. In the world of hyper-connectivity we are living in today does it seem like digital diplomacy could replace the public one?
Well, it’s already an obvious part of diplomacy. Of course, more and more of the things that we do are an integral part of the digital sphere. So is diplomacy. You have to be there, in the social media sphere, you have to use all the instruments of digital communication. Because that’s where, particularly young people, live. And if you’re not in the digital world, you’re not in the world.
Speaking of digital, we have seen on your social media that you are a frequent flyer. Do you happen to know how many photos of planes, for example, you have on your Twitter feed, or how many times have you been up in the air?
When I was Foreign Minister, there were some people who were saying ‘you travel too much’ and I said, ‘it is an unfortunate fact that most of the world is outside of Sweden’. Some people have difficulties accepting that fact, but it is a fact. But yes indeed, I must fly quite often as there are no good train connection from Stockholm to Los Angeles.
With which EPP colleague would you choose to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture with?
Probably my wife, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, but I’m not quite certain that she’d like to do it with me!
As the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations could you maybe choose one favourite project or initiative that you are doing?
There are two things I would like to outline that I think we have devoted our attention to over the last year. The first is European sovereignty issues, same as the Martens Centre is doing, and this has become much more topical, but still remains fairly complicated. European countries are increasingly vulnerable to external pressure that prevents them from exercising their sovereignty.
The second we have done is a work looking at the experience of European common foreign and security policy reforms during the last five years, and see what can be done in order to reform it, less the substance, more the mechanism of institutions and the way they’re working in order to make them more effective. So those are two things that have been fairly high up on the agenda lately.
Which topic would be your favourite one to discuss over Fika?
Over Fika, I want to discuss…the weather. The news of the day. Fika is a time to be slightly less serious, to discuss what’s on your mind today, things like that.
What is, in your view, the most effective level of governance at which we could tackle climate change? Is it the local, is it the regional, is it the national, or the supra-national?
Well, the problem, of course, is that the answer has to be all of the above, I mean we clearly need a global approach. Because if you look at it at the moment, Europe is in the lead, tackling the issue, but we need to do more, we need to implement more consent on what we are going to do. But the main challenge is going to be the coal use of China and India, these sort of rather booming billion-people economies of Asia.
To get them, or have them to get off coal, and be on a sustainable track to reducing emissions, that is absolutely critical. And that can only be done at the global level. At the same time, we need to continue to demonstrate leadership in Europe. To demonstrate that we are not a utopia in doing it, and to demonstrate that it is actually feasible to be doing it. And some of that will have to be done at the local level.
Swedish Krona or Euro?
Well, it would be the Euro. At the moment, we don’t have any public support for that, so we had to bet it on the krona, yes.
European Commission or the European Council?
I very much appreciate the Council as the fora for dialogue with different political leaders of Europe. It is very useful to sit down and listen to the different perspectives that are coming from different nations. If we don’t anchor what we do in Europe on the national level, we are lost. The Commission has its role, which is of indispensable importance, but it is in the Council where we anchor what we do in the different national political cultures.
Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what would be the questions that you would ask?
Donald Tusk: what he’s going to do with Viktor Orban. That’s got to be an interesting one.Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership Values
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Carl Bildt
I Say Europe
04 Nov 2019
The perspective that the Union is a project is holding us back. The Union simply needs to be pragmatic.
In 2008-2010 I served as secretary general of Felipe Gonzalez’s reflection group on the future of Europe. The title of its final report was “Project Europe 2030”. While several recommendations remain valid, I have been gradually realizing that the title was a mistake.
That it is exactly this kind of understating of the European Union that is holding us back. The Union is not a project. It is not an unfinished project. It is a product. It is a product of countless thinkers, politicians, civil servants and citizens. It is a result of centuries of dreams and decades of institution building.
The Union is here to be utilised. It is not here to be upgraded, rebuilt or reformed. With the coming European elections, political parties and politicians are publishing their election platforms. Promising change has always been an effective political strategy. Almost everyone is promising some kind of a reform of the Union.
The other usual strategy to motivate voters is creating some kind of sense of urgency. It is supposed to be urgent to reform the Union. Because of populism, economic crisis, Brexit, migration … What I will explain is that most reforms are neither urgent, nor possible, nor reasonable.
Project ‘socially just Europe’?
The reform that the progressives are promising is in the direction of a fairer, more social Europe. What they understand by justice is redistributive justice. This is not something that can be achieved on the EU level. For the Union to redistribute between the rich and the poor it simply does not have the budget.
Technically it could create such a budget but the citizens are willing to show solidarity within their group, their nation-state. It is quite unlikely that the, say, Germans would be willing to pay for Italian social benefits. Such promises are just creating expectations which, when unfulfilled will create the disillusionment with the European project.
The other possible interpretation of more socially just Europe is for the Union to instruct member states how they should redistribute between the rich and the poor. But it does not have this competence. Indeed, it could be reformed to get it. But it would be stupid to centrally prescribe the social model, harmonize tax policies, social security policies etc.
The strength of Europe has always been diversity and the opportunity for different countries to search for solutions in different directions. Then we have been quick to learn from each other. The social model innovation will be important because of the changes in the labour market caused by the technological revolution therefore it is important to keep Europe innovative in this regard. In summary, more social Europe is mostly hot air.
Project ‘ever closer Union’?
The reform that the liberals are advocating is an ever-closer Union. United States of Europe. Union of European Socialist (well, liberal) Republics. This is not impossible. An ever-closer union has been a kind of underlying belief of Brussels European, of the EU administration. It is the “project Europe” by excellence.
The project would be unfinished until there is a European super-state. Such as state is possible. But it is not possible for it to be democratic. For one simple reason. Democracy assumes there is a demos. There is no European demos. There are demoi – Germans, French, Slovaks etc. Demos is not an intellectual construct that could be created by good PR coming from Brussels. It is a feeling of belonging. And according to Eurobarometer, Europeans identify with their nations an order of magnitude more than they identify with the European Union.
A monolithic Europe is also not European. It does not matter if European competitors, like China, are growing stronger. China has always been a centralized empire. Europe’s strength has been its diversity. In fact, periods of fastest progress were when European entities were competing with each other – like rivalries among ancient Greek states, among city states of renaissance Italy, among the members of the Hanseatic league, among the kingdoms on the Atlantic competing for colonies.
Even when it looked that the Catholic Church would create a single authority over the continent Martin Luther rebelled. The Italian renaissance from which Emmanuel Macron is borrowing a title for his vision was a result of a competition among many city-states of ununified Italy and not a centrally driven project.
Generally, the Union is close enough. Macron’s plan is an “ever-closer union light” with a couple of new Brussels agencies, including the rather scary “European agency for the protection of democracies”. Centrally policing the political systems in member states sounds like something from the Warsaw pact playbook.
Yes, human rights, freedoms and liberties need to be guaranteed at the European level and the EU would do well to position itself as the ultimate defender of human rights on the continent. But is should be the judicial arm, not the political executive that should be dealing with it.
Project ‘Europe of Nations’?
The far right rather unintelligibly pasted the idea of nation copied from a member state context to a Union context. While one can understand (though not endorse) the idea of the national populists to pit the original citizens against immigrants, the French against the Arabs, the Germans against the Turks, etc., Europe of nations suggests those ethnicities are represented at the European level.
Which is very different from the Union of the member states, which is what we have today and works reasonably well. Member states are represented at the European Councils, states elect representatives into the European Parliament, states appoint one Commissioner to the European Commission. This reform too is hot air, a dangerous one.
Even further to the right are those whose reform would be to dismantle the Union altogether. Which might get them some protest votes. But they can only advocate the breakup of the Union while there are enough of us who understand that the Union is a tremendously valuable achievement and want to protect it.
The problem with projects is that they are by definition unfinished. They require attention. They are an excuse that work they should be doing is not done properly.
Imagine a family starting a project of a summer home. As long as the summer home is a project they work on the summer home. They do not enjoy it for vacation. They don’t go sunbathing, they are adding another porch. If the stove is not working properly it is because it is a project. It will work when the project is finished, but not yet. Guests should tolerate some cold. Temporarily, of course.
Thinking of the EU as a project is preventing us from exploiting in full what we have built so far. Instead of thinking how to solve problems at hand – such as migrations, terrorism, security, growth, innovation – the institutions are tempted to think how these problems could be solved if the institutions were reformed, if the project was more advanced, if only Brussels had this or that authority, if only this or that agency existed in Brussels.
Instead of making use of what is available, administration is tempted to dream of what would be nice to have. For politicians too, advancing the project is a more noble call than using the institutional and legal tools the project has created so far.
Of course, we need to work on improving the Union. Like living organisms, the Union needs to adapt to a changing environment. What could be needed is an evolution for which current treaties provide many possibilities. If the political will is there. It is the lack of political will not the inadequacies of the treaties that is preventing action.
Perspective is important. And the perspective that the Union is a project is holding us back. The Union simply needs to be pragmatic. In the service of the citizens, businesses, regions, member states. It should provide services that make life safer, easier and the economy more competitive and productive.
This does not sound as noble as starting a renaissance, but someone has to do this as well. As Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote, there is work to be done. Let’s just do it.
This op-ed was originally published on Euractiv.com.Žiga Turk Brexit Democracy EU Institutions European Union Integration Values
Europe is not a project!
26 Mar 2019
Political correctness is becoming one of the most unpopular things on the planet. A cursory look at public debates and internet pages reveals political correctness high on the list of public menaces, somewhere between terrorism and George Soros.
An article of the Czech conservative historian Aleš Valenta in the Aspen Review Central Europe is an articulate expression of this prevailing mood. Valenta, a former anti-communist dissident and fellow political traveller of mine, now works for the Institute of Vaclav Klaus in Prague.
In his article, Valenta argues that the EU is dominated by neo-Marxist tendencies, whose common denominator is equality. Equality has many faces, with feminism and multiculturalism being the ‘deadliest’. The EU’s principle of gender equality then amounts to ‘degenerated liberalism.’
A cursory look at public debates and internet pages reveals political correctness high on the list of public menaces, somewhere between terrorism and Soros.
Apart from the Czech exit from the EU, Valenta calls for an end to political correctness. He hints that the Central European countries, ‘sandwiched between autocratic Russia and the West that is enslaved by feminism, political correctness, and drenched in guilt’ could become bearers of this return to ‘common sense, rooted in human nature’.
Valenta’s linking of Marxism to ‘leftist liberalism’ is bizarre, and so is the attribution of these philosophies to the EU.
But apart from these factual mishaps, Valenta’s article embodies a wider political trend of the last decade, exploiting excesses in the politically correct language to discredit the liberal notion of tolerance and the European project as such. These trends, although probably strongest in the Visegrad Four, are present across Europe and the West.
Limits to political correctness
One definition of political correctness is ‘language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society’. The concept gained wider acceptance in the US in the 1970s, where it was used, often in a self-deprecating manner, by the American left. Since then, the term has become a derogatory one, an argumentative tool against someone who refuses to give things their proper name.
There is no doubt that political correctness can stifle debate and even turn innocent people into victims. US academia is a prime example here. During my studies in the US in the 1990s, I witnessed a student gathering organised to protest moves towards abolishing affirmative action at universities. Two speakers, a white male professor and a black businessman, expressed support for doing away with the affirmative action. Several student speakers subsequently called them names and even cast doubt on the professor’s ability to teach.
One year later, another professor at the same university, a poet, was severely disciplined by his department. He had pinned his slightly erotic poem on the departmental board. A complaint from several female students followed, alleging being ‘intimidated’ about the poem’s content and demanding punishment.
There is no doubt that political correctness can stifle debate and even turn innocent people into victims.
Closer to home in Europe, debates on political correctness often concentrate around Christmas, a Christian festival which tends to evoke strong emotions at both personal and societal levels. Many accusations of European Muslim communities protesting against Christmas celebrations have been urban myths.
However, we cannot close our eyes to the disturbing occurrences when this is real. One example is that of calls currently spread, among others, by the youth branch of Ditib, a large association of Turkish Germans. The call for Muslims not to celebrate Christmas is powerfully expressed by a picture of a Muslim man hitting Father Christmas, see here.
Limits to common sense
There is a different side to this story. We should realise that some responses to the excesses of political correctness are as sinister as the original phenomenon.
Critics usually do not provide an alternative to the notion of political correctness but when probed, they tend to simply reply that ‘common sense’ should be restored. This is often a legitimate and logical stance.
We need to be more careful when political correctness becomes the tool of new discoverers of Europe’s religious traditions, such as the German Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) and like-minded movements in other European countries.
We should realise that some responses to the excesses of political correctness are as sinister as the original phenomenon.
Europe’s new Christians are not people who have undergone a religious awakening in the evangelical sense. Instead, they appeal to an exclusively collectivist notion of shared Christian roots to polarise society. As one observer has put it, they have become Christians because they do not like Muslims. In today’s secular society, their return to Christianity gets expressed as fighting for a political cause through demonstrations and Facebook pages.
Leaders of these new Christian movements and the associated crowd who invoke the alleged golden past of the European nation state, exploit the current crisis of Western democratic institutions to attack indigenous and new ethnic minorities and non-Christian religions, all that while trying to wipe out Europe’s political pluralism as well. ‘Common sense’ and ‘the voice of the people’ serve as their battering rams to destroy what they portray as the rotten castle of checks and balances.
The protection of minorities of any kind – ethnic, religious, political and others – is an essential element of any constitutional democracy. Political correctness, when properly applied and when not limiting effective policy interventions, can be a useful tool to achieve this constitutional objective.
A decision by a country deciding to leave the EU will solve nothing. Our societies are changing irrespective of the views of anyone in Brussels and minorities of any kind deserve protection for the sake of all of us.
Europe’s centre-right and all mainstream parties have work cut out for them to develop language that fosters respect and tolerance but does not sweep problems under the carpet. Being hateful and deliberately offensive is not an alternative, if we want to preserve our democracies.Vít Novotný Ethics Society Values
Political correctness in the age of nativism
Blog - Other News
05 Dec 2018
Over the past 15 years, the space for civic engagement in Russia has continuously shrunk, and it looks set to be cut further during Vladimir Putin’s fourth presidential term. Following a wave of repressive measures, it is already more restricted than it has been since 1991. Non-governmental organisations and activists have been stripped of funds as their activities have been criminalised.
They increasingly face a double disconnect: from international partners and within their own society. The clampdown on civil society reflects the growing repression of Russian society as a whole. But growing local initiatives and rising protests across the country undercut the narrative that Russian civil society is dead.
And despite the pressure, Russian civil society is proving to be more active, resilient and diverse than is generally assumed. It continues to have new ideas and the capacity to be a key agent of development and social change in Russia. Many groups and individuals continue to have a vision for the country’s future and are willing to work with Western partners. The example of Ukraine shows that civil society is an indispensable factor in overcoming the authoritarian legacy of post-Soviet societies.Democracy Elections EU-Russia Society Values
Filling the Void: Why the EU Must Step Up Support for Russian Civil Society
27 Apr 2018
The 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place between November 6th and November 17th 2017 in Bonn (Germany). While it is certainly worth applauding the international climate regime’s unprecedented diplomatic achievements, its actual accomplishments are subject to controversy.
The promises countries have made to combat climate change, if successfully and fully implemented, would still fall short of the aim of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, this represents a significant ‘if’, because some states—for example the US—have expressed their desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and also because successfully implementing public policy is tricky. Moreover, nation-states are under-delivering on the issue of climate finance.
Thus, with the international climate regime in difficulty, the narrative has been shifting in recent years to the role of sub-national and non-state actors. This state of affairs represents an opportunity for centre-right and like-minded political organisations in the European Union to define a policy on environmental protection, of which climate change is a sub-set, which has the potential to be both more independent and more effective than the ‘progressive’ agenda. Such an approach is based on two key characteristics: local governance and free markets.
First, centre-right thinking underlines the strong motivation local communities have in tackling environmental protection (and climate change). Centre-right and conservative thinking argues, in the tradition of Edmund Burke and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, that society is a partnership between the living, the unborn and the dead.
It believes in civil association rather than in state intervention, and considers that the most important thing humans can do is to settle down, make a home, and pass it on to their children. As stewards of the planet, individual communities aggregated at local, regional, national, and, for some, transnational level react instinctively to preserve the environment which they have inherited and which they are to pass on to their children.
As opposed to other strands of right-wing thinking, centre-right perspectives differentiate between rational self-interest and irrational excess accumulation by stressing the intrinsic values of harmony and responsibility, which are immaterial and unquantifiable. Feelings of affection towards the ‘home’ are a much more powerful motivator for environmental protection than the ‘mission’ to save the planet, which is both far-removed and too long-term.
Second, the instrument to facilitate the natural expression of this feeling of ‘home’ is the free market, which, like local communities, has a self-correcting character. The role of the state is to ensure that free markets function in a non-discriminatory fashion based on the rule-of-law. The problem with environmental protection, in a centre-right perspective, is that polluters externalise their costs.
Under the auspices of the rule-of-law and governmental policies which make the polluter pay, individuals acting of their own free will can mobilise against big business and greed, which is a form of irrational excess. By contrast, interventionist governments may actually even facilitate the externalisation of costs, mainly to distant places with which individuals have no connection or indeed pass it onto future generations.
The approach to environmental protection and climate change should therefore give much more attention to local governance and free markets. One should examine environmental protections in the EU from a perspective of decentralisation and increased autonomy based on the principle of subsidiarity for local governance (e.g. local energy communities, free associations between cities and regions).
Furthermore, centre-right policy-makers should differentiate themselves from the left but also other right-wing thinking by stressing the fact that market-based mechanisms and non-quantifiable values-based goods go hand-in-hand. The feeling of ‘home’ represents the key motivator, not the personal balance sheet—although there is no reason why this incentive should not be explored.
In this regard, reviving the debate on the carbon tax as complementary to the current cap-and-trade system, while politically problematic, would be an appropriate conservative response to market externalities. Efforts at international governance should not be discounted but emphasis should be put on local actors, towards which the narrative seems to be shifting.
Environmental protection and climate change are real challenges our generation has to face. I have tried to outline how the centre-right in the European Union can differentiate itself from other political thinking on this issue.
It is important that individuals on the centre-right use what seems to me as international developments which speak in their favour as an opportunity to solve the problem of environmental protection through their own perspective, i.e. bottom-up, through resilient markets, rather than top-down through government intervention.Andrei Moraru Centre-Right Environment Values
What about a centre-right approach to environmental protection?
18 Dec 2017
In mid-September, together with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the German Bundestag Marieluis Beck, and former US Ambassador to NATO Alexander Versbow, I visited Toretsk, the so-called contact line in South-Eastern Ukraine. It is a line separating Ukrainian territory controlled by Ukraine from Ukrainian territory that Ukraine does not control.
We were brought to the Dnepropetrovsk airport from Toretsk by a Ukrainian military helicopter. When we descended from the helicopter, its captain asked Rasmussen to patiently listen to him for two minutes. The captain said to the former General Secretary of NATO and current advisor to President Poroshenko something along these lines: “Mr Rasmussen, I fulfilled the duty assigned to me. I safely transported you and your friends from point A to point B. But you arrived in point A 15 minutes late. This was very bad, because it made our big helicopter exposed to the attention of the enemy for 15 minutes. In a similar situation, I recently lost a group of soldiers who were shot down by the enemy because of the delayed take-off.”
It was only then that I understood why, after the helicopter got off the ground, its captain made several manoeuvres to change the flight direction and why for about 10 minutes we flew so close to the ground that we almost touched it. “But now comes the most important part,” continued the captain, “I know you are advisor to President Poroshenko. Show him this photo – the picture showed the captain with President Poroshenko during one of the President’s visits to Eastern Ukraine – and tell him that I am the soldier who was the first and the only one to speak up during critical moments on Maidan square, wearing the uniform of a member of Ukrainian Armed Forces, and I publicly urged the Ukrainian military not to intervene against the demonstrators. I am 53 now. I risked everything, my family, my work. I believed then and I still believe in democratic changes in our country. But please tell the President, because I cannot get near him, that if he does not do away with corruption, we will lose the war with Russia and we will lose our country. I earned 5 euros today for my service to you. But I’m not complaining. I did not do it for money. I did it because Ukraine needs your help, it needs the solidarity of the entire democratic world. I still believe that Maidan had and continues to have a meaning. But our President must take a strong stance on corruption.”
I decided to share this experience with the public. At home in Slovakia, in Ukraine and in Brussels. Because the future, and not only that of Ukraine, lies with people like the captain of our helicopter.Mikuláš Dzurinda Democracy Foreign Policy Values
Why Poroshenko must take a strong stance on corruption
19 Sep 2017
There is not only a clash among civilisations. There is a clash within the West: between the elites and the people, between globalists and the nationalists, between universalists and localists. It has its roots in two different kinds of enlightenments – the Continental and the British. The center-right should embrace the British enlightenment and put trust in the reason of the people not in the reason of one man. Building the future institutions of Europe should be based on people’s sense of European identity which needs to be developed in advance of any major changes to European political structures.
Two competing narratives have been framing the debate after the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. The first was “the end of history” as argued by Francis Fukuyama. The second was that of “the clash of civilisations” by Samuel P. Huntington.
The end of history has been proven wrong in the international context. The clashes, particularly between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Civilization returned in Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Georgia.
The clash between Islam and all other civilisations is leaving bloodstains not only at the external borders of the Islamic civilization but also within countries where Islam is a minority: in the US, Spain, UK, Belgium, France, Germany we are witnessing a series of terrorist attacks.
Until recently, however, it would seem that the history ended at least within the Western Civilisation. That the societal model framed by human rights, rule of law and liberal democracy won and that it is only a matter of time, will and (sometimes military intervention) that it would spread to the rest of the world. Well, with the surge of the so-called populism, it appears that the history did not even end within the West.
The clash within
There is a clash within the Western civilisation between the elites and the people, between the globalists and the nationalists, between multiculturalists and monoculturalists. More elaborated framings of the clash include anywheres vs. somewheres, false individualism vs. true individualism, French vs. British enlightenment and left vs. right moral foundations.
Actually, the clash is between the Western Civilisation and an emerging universal, global civilization that is uncomfortable with the very notion of the existence of the West and the Western Civilisation, its philosophical and religious roots.
A new civilisation is emerging within the West that is breaking from Western tradition and its transcendent base. It is aspiring to be global, present on the whole Gaia, not limited by geography, race or the traditions of its source civilisation.
It is based on universalism, multiculturalism, environmentalism and borrows shallow philosophical and religious snapshots from all around the world.
Haidt would have claimed it is attractive to people with weak “group cohesion” moral foundations of authority, loyalty and sanctity. It considers itself cosmopolitan, modern, progressive and enlightened while its opponents are portrayed as rural, backward and conservative.
What side for the conservative-liberal?
What should be the position of a conservative-liberal in this clash? Particularly the work of Hayek and Himmelfarb offers a solid foundation – Hayek for those leaning towards a classical liberal side and Himmelfarb for the conservatives. The left will instead read Descartes, Rousseau, Marx and Marcuse.
In his essay on individualism, Hayek writes about two kinds of individualism, the false and the true one. The false individualism – one could also call it a vulgar individualism – puts trust in an individual human mind, in individual reason that is powerful enough to come up with superior ideas on how society should be organised than the average plebeians can.
True individualism, on the other hand, argues that the sum of the reason of all people is larger than that of any individual or group. That the results achieved by a society of free reasonable individuals can produce results that are beyond the understanding of any single individual. Much like the invisible hand of the market is more efficient in allocating resources, the “invisible hand of morality” is more efficient in organizing the society than the “engineers of society”.
Which some politicians and some dictators would like to be. Hayek advises that the formal rules that explicitly define the functioning of a society should not do much more but to encode the principles that have established themselves through the spontaneous collaborative processes.
This approach goes against the championing of human reason that is supposed to be the main result of the enlightenment. Himmelfarb takes Hayek’s point to its historical root.
The vulgar individualism has its roots in the French enlightenment that indeed praised human reason and rejected faith, superstition and customs as an argument in societal problem solving. In the French enlightenment, pure reason was put in conflict against the church and faith.
It has this idea that human reason can engineer society, redefine relations in the society, even replace a seven-day week with ten-day week, because it is easier to scientifically compute time that way. The idea that brilliant reason that create better societies has provided the philosophical basis for the French revolution and all totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
Interestingly, no such regimes ever appeared in societies that were shaped not by the French but by the British enlightenment. Which, by the way, did not position reason against faith.
On the contrary, it complemented reason with social virtues, or in the words of Adam Smith, moral sentiments, that bind people together. Virtue in dealing with other people and humility about the power of individual reason to plan or engineer society lead to respect of tradition and feelings.
Unfortunately, with a bit more self-interested US and Britain in exit, the EU is losing advocacy of that kind of enlightenment. Europe is left with the French trust in human reason and the German efficiency to implement the brilliant ideas it will come up with.
Hayek and Himmelfarb tell essentially the same story: that the vanity of human reason is dangerous when an individual or an elite wants to redesign or reshape institutions that have been evolving for centuries as a result of spontaneous collaboration among people. People did use their reason but also their morals to create and give meaning to institutions such as private property, work, marriage, and nation state.
Changing, dismantling or replacing them too quickly – perhaps based on a thin albeit democratic majority instead of broad acceptance – had tragic consequences in the past. It is the role of the conservatives to prevent that.
Less tragic but nevertheless negative was also sticking to ways that times have surpassed. The most important words in the recent Merkel speeches are “we Europeans”.
These two words need to be repeated and repeated for decades. When they sink in, when European identity is established and present in the Europeans, the European Union will be able to get elements of a nation state that go beyond the common market and common border protection.
European conservatives should be pushing in that direction – not by pushing the institutional innovation but instead the European identity. In this way and ever closer union will be a result of spontaneous collaboration among Europeans and not a project of a political elite.
Conservatives cannot be louder than the “progressives” asking for more Europe. But we can be more reasonable and more realistic.
 Goodhart D. (2017). The Road to Somewhere: The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, C Hurst & Co.
 Hayek F.A. (1948) Individualism and Economic Order, University of Chicago Press.
 Himmelfarb G. (2017) The road to modernity, Vintage Books.
 Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.
 Ibid.Žiga Turk Centre-Right European Union Values
The clash within our civilisation
11 Sep 2017
Social media are becoming the dominant source of information for significant parts of our societies. There are numerous positive aspects of these media, such as their ability to mobilise for a political cause and how they enable greater and quicker flows of ideas across societies.
This paper focuses on those aspects of social media that negatively affect the public debate, such as the spreading of fake news and the creation of ‘echo chambers’ of like-minded users who become isolated from alternative opinions. The paper proposes that social media platforms should be considered media companies and that they should be regulated by modified versions of existing press laws, adapted to suit the new technology.
The creation of a ‘notice and correct’ procedure, as it is tentatively called, would provide an effective tool to stop lies from spreading, allowing affected parties, public or private, to protect their rights. By making the social media platforms jointly responsible for the content they publish, governments would create the right incentives for companies to adapt their business models and modify the construction of their algorithms and policies.
The paper outlines how such a procedure could function without constricting the freedom of speech. Finally, the paper stresses the improvement of e-literacy as an additional, viable and long-term solution to the problem of fake news.Ethics Industry Internet Technology Values
Weeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
11 Jul 2017
Angela Merkel put the fear of God in many Atlanticists when she remarked in Bavaria “the era when we could fully rely on others is partially over”. This is classical Merkel speak and it means: “I’m seriously worried and I believe it’s a good idea to say so publicly while avoiding a too blunt statement “.
For a campaign crowd fully aware of her strange and strained interactions with Donald Trump in Washington, Brussels and Sicily, the meaning was clear: we aren’t going to put up with American boorishness on defense spending or foot dragging on climate change, refugees and other matters. To cap it off, the German leader announced that Europeans “…need to take our fate into our own hands”.
The most important aspect of this statement is that after Brussels, but especially after the G-7 summit in Sicily, she has to avoid looking like Trump’s poodle if she wants to be re-elected in September. Although opinion polls are looking better for her than in February, the three left-of-center parties could still topple her if they manage to convince enough voters that only they can confront Donald Trump, and credibly stand for a more independent Europe.
After Brussels, but especially after the G-7 summit in Sicily, Merkel has to avoid looking like Trump’s poodle if she wants to be re-elected in September.
While German politicians are quick to denounce populism, there is a long tradition of using populist rhetoric in the context of hotly contested campaigns going back to Willy Brandt. Certainly, Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder won an election on an anti-Bush and to a degree anti-American ticket in 2002. Should we just interpret Merkel’s remarks as nothing more than a candidate feeding red meat to her base?
The answer is yes and no. Donald Trump declared NATO as obsolete and criticized Europeans for not spending enough on their own defense because it sparked an enthusiastic reaction among his core followers who are tired of America’s military commitments in far flung places. As European have discovered, he meant what he said about defense spending even if he has moderated his views on the Alliance.
Merkel was playing to the crowd and, once the campaign is over, we should expect a more open and conciliatory tone towards the United States if not towards President Trump – provided the current escalation can be kept in check. But she is also serious about creating a Europe that is less dependent on the US and the UK in terms of the projection of military power, intelligence gathering and global diplomacy.
With the election of Emmanuel Macron in France, European ambitions have been rekindled. Spring is in the air in Paris, Brussels and Berlin, after a period of gloom caused by Trump’s election victory and the Brexit referendum. Rather than worry about Russian threats or new waves of refugees, Europe’s great and good are now ready to talk about deeper integration, including deeper cooperation in defense and other spheres.
But, honestly: Europeans have little choice over whom to depend on when it comes to the full scale of military threats from Russia. From hybrid to conventional to nuclear, Europe cannot defend itself, even 20 years from now, and will have to rely on the US. What Europe can and should do is improve its capacity to intervene in the Southern neighborhood. But even for that, good relations with the US and the UK would come in handy.
The German Chancellor is also serious about creating a Europe that is less dependent on the US and the UK in terms of the projection of military power, intelligence gathering and global diplomacy.
Americans should take this ambition seriously for three reasons. First, they need to understand the danger for the German Chancellor in being seen to kowtow to American hectoring. Second, they need to remind Europeans that this ambition does not have to be contrary to US interests but rather supports the American desire for more burden sharing.
And, finally, they need to be clear that the ultimate US security guarantee is NATO and Article V. It is time for President Trump to rethink his rhetoric and actions and to focus on revitalizing the Atlantic partnership through a clear commitment to European defense.
Chancellor Merkel may not have been signaling a pivot away from the United States, but her declaration should spark a serious debate in Europe and North America about how to remake the transatlantic alliance at a time when the problems and threats are quite different from the period following WWII.
Both Merkel and Trump (and Obama before him) have sent out clear signals that the old Atlantic partnership is not working. Now, we need to decide whether we will just let this once powerful community slide into disrepair and disarray or we will recognize its inherent potential and power for good and take the necessary steps to repair this struggling partnership.Roland Freudenstein Craig Kennedy Brexit EU-US Transatlantic Values
End of the West or just politics as usual?
01 May 2017
The year 2017 will mark the sixty-year anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. On this occasion, the European project will receive a thorough check-up, and important decisions will be made that will decide whether and in what form it survives.
In this context, it is crucial to recognise the long-overlooked contest between two competing visions of European federalism, propounded by two great figures of Europe’s twentieth century: Altiero Spinelli and Friedrich Hayek.
The recent past tells the story of a revolt against European integration that is taking dangerously big dimensions and demands urgent countermeasures.
Honest pro-Europeans should admit that some sort of Hayekian federalism is the only federalism with some chances of success in our continent.
This briefing was originally published on the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER) website.EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Integration Values
The past and future of European federalism: Spinelli vs. Hayek
10 Apr 2017
Massive anti-corruption protests on March 26th have effectively ended the sleepy landscape of the Russian politics that have existed for the past three years since the annexation of Crimea, a period dominated by the notion of “unchallengeable” sky-high approval ratings of Putin. The country is visibly fed up with Putin’s cronyism, obscene corruption and inequality, which were the prime targets of the protests.
There are a few remarkable things about Sunday’s rallies. First, about 100 cities were affected, including such names as Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Saransk, Novokuznetsk, Nizhny Tagil – provincial towns which are normally unheard of in regular Russian political life. In regional capitals, up to several thousand were attending, setting records of participation in many cases. Second, this is the first time when most of such rallies were forbidden by authorities – but people turned out regardless. Beforehand, opposition was only able to mobilize big masses of protesters on the condition that rallies were officially approved; non-sanctioned rallies normally scared off most people and were down to a narrow number of dedicated oppositioners.
This time, it was all different – people across the country have shown no fear despite arrests and heavy police pressure. This is a sharp contrast with anything we’ve seen before. There are clear signs that people in Russia are fed up with the rule of the same faces who have been in power for almost two decades now for the benefit of enriching themselves. Dominating young faces also suggest that the younger generation sees no opportunity for a decent future within Putin’s system, which largely provides benefits and social lifts to insiders, and excludes everyone else.
You can get a glimpse of people’s resolve to stand against pressure in my short video which I’ve captured right at the heart of the events at Pushkinskaya square in Moscow on Sunday – people chanting “Russia against Putin”. All right, I could have been wrong predicting last year that you may see such mass demonstrations of discontent with Putin’s regime at the September 2016 Parliamentary elections – but in fact this demonstration turned out just to be delayed for six more months. Elderly opposition figures at the Duma elections failed to impress Russians who want change, but a younger and much more energetic Alexey Navalny have finally managed to ignite people. Navalny has been remarkably successful in finding a common cause and building a wide network of support across the country and his regional visits gather huge crowds of supporters, something also unseen in many years, as a lot of opposition forces were, unfortunately, too Moscow-centric.
Together with Navalny’s ongoing Presidential campaign, further rallies like that would build more and more pressure against Putin and his regime in the coming months. Arrests won’t stop the momentum. The resolve of protesters on Sunday is a stark contrast with passiveness and fatigue of bleak pro-Putin demonstrations marking the anniversary of the Crimean demonstration just a week before. On March 26th, no one ever showed up on the streets in Putin’s defence, except heavily armed police and troops — supposedly existent “armies” of Putin’s diehard fans are nowhere to be seen. It seems that the tale of “universal 90% support for Putin in Russia” has effectively ended right in front of our eyes.
Mass arrests and exceptional armed police defence, however, clearly suggest that Putin doesn’t want to easily let go. But for the first time, this was confronted by real mass resolve to protest despite personal risks, and current pressure, arrests and insane accusations against protesters on state TV which only make people angrier. The bad news is that serious confrontation sometime in the future seems inevitable, as protest rallies have only just begun and Russians are passionate to turn to the streets once again. Youth forums are now filled with anger, particularly after Putin’s spokesman’s remarks that youngsters who attended rallies were “paid” to protest. It is very likely that things may turn violent soon if Putin doesn’t back down with his repression machine.
The good news is that Russia is back: our people have remembered who they really are, and demanded freedom and respect of their rights with energy previously unseen. Sunday was really a turning point.Vladimir Milov Democracy EU-Russia Values Youth
Sunday’s Protests: Russia Is Back
28 Mar 2017
The rapid deterioration of relations between European governments and Turkey in recent weeks may come to be seen as a watershed in EU-Turkey relations. The leader of a NATO ally and EU accession candidate country did not hesitate to exploit the vulnerability of European leaderships ahead of crucial electoral battles by mobilizing thousands of people in the heart of Europe.
Given also his role in the refugee issue, his authoritarianism, and his fickle personality, it is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.
In the last few years Europe has seen security threats multiplying. The annexation of Crimea heightened anxieties about Russian aggression. Russia also has other levers of pressure, including energy resources, cyber-warfare and, most recently, a multifaceted project of disruption of Western democracies, ranging from support for populist parties to disinformation campaigns. Then, a series of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 revealed the extent of the jihadist threat.
All these are clearly major threats for Europe, covering a broad range of security challenges: geopolitical and ideological, global and regional, internal and external. But if there is one actor that embodies all these different dimensions of risk at the same time – geopolitical pressure, internal subversion, democratic disruption, and an increasingly erratic behavior of its leadership – it is Turkey.
It is time for the EU to start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as nothing less than a long-term security risk.
Turkey has always been a crucial strategic partner of the West, but the refugee crisis of 2015 severely upset the power relationship between Turkey and the EU, punctuated by Turkey’s desire to accede to the Union. Not unlike Russia with its gas, Turkey found itself controlling the flow of a critical commodity – refugees.
Not unlike Russia, it saw this as an opportunity to extort benefits from the EU, which it promptly did by forcing upon the EU a deal in which it gained various concessions in return for curbing the refugee flows into Europe.
This process took place in parallel with increasing authoritarianism and concentration of power in the hands of President Erdogan internally. After the failed coup of the summer of 2016, Erdogan engaged in sweeping purges of the Turkish state and society.
If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia, a personal semi-authoritarian nationalist regime with populist overtones, where the main legitimating mechanism of a deeply entrenched leadership is antagonism of the West.
Events of the last few weeks have added a new layer to the difficult geopolitical relationship between Europe and Turkey. The massive rallies in favour of Erdogan in Austria, Germany, Holland and France have highlighted that, while Europeans were agonizing over the compatibility of Islam with liberal democracy, they long underestimated Turkish nationalism – an ideology as sticky and potent as any religion – as an obstacle to the integration of thousands of citizens of immigrant descent.
If his intended constitutional reform goes through in April, Turkey will differ very little from Putin’s Russia.
The difficult relationship between Turkish immigrants and their host countries is nothing new of course, but only now has a leader in Turkey shown the intention (and ability) to use these populations as levers of pressure on European governments and to settle domestic scores.
Despite his effort to disrupt European democracy through trolls and hackers, Putin could only dream of commanding the kind of street power in European capitals that Erdogan enjoys.
Erdogan embodies today the sum of all that urope fears: an authoritarian and populist leader (like Putin), with the capacity to strong-arm European leaders thanks to his key position in the refugee problem (akin to Putin and energy), and now with the expressed ambition to use diasporas as a weapon of foreign and domestic policy, disrupting electoral processes and fracturing societies in Europe (thus playing a role akin to that of radical Islamism) and crashing opposition at home.
Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk.
The current standoff with the Netherlands will probably cool off after the Dutch and the Turkish electoral campaigns are over. But with elections in Germany looming, Erdogan will surely be tempted to employ his hybrid (internal and external) geopolitical arsenal again.
The EU is dealing with a leader who understands his relationship with Europe not simply in transactional terms, but as an opportunity for extortion in every available facet.
Instead of an ally, or even a difficult partner, the EU must start viewing Erdogan’s Turkey as a multidimensional security risk. Breaking off relations completely of course is not an option, but a serious discussion on a strategic approach to Turkey must now start. This must include a thorough appreciation of how Turkey can challenge European security and democracy internally and externally.
As a multidimensional security risk Turkey requires a holistic approach, including both internal (e.g. addressing the lagging integration of immigrants of Turkish descent in European societies) and external (e.g. effectively securing European) defense.
The EU must remain alert about opportunities to engage Turkey diplomatically. But it must be ready to face up to extortion or internal disruption as well.
Perhaps nothing would work better to rebalance the EU-Turkey relationship than challenging Erdogan on his own turf. As the regime in Turkey is rapidly losing all vestiges of a functional democracy, and given the lack of genuine democratic opposition (opposition parties in Turkey are either secular-nationalist or ethnic-sectarian), the EU must engage in serious bottom-up democracy promotion in Turkey, helping to foster a real liberal democratic culture in Turkish society.
If Erdogan thinks he can turn European societies into a battleground of the EU-Turkey relationship, the EU must answer in kind. Europeans must make the emergence of a genuine Turkish democracy the key strategic goal of their policy towards Turkey, and must be ready to invest resources and time to ensure this outcome comes to fruition.Angelos Chryssogelos Elections Foreign Policy Leadership Security Values
Erdogan: an EU security risk?
16 Mar 2017
There has never been a shortage of thinking about the future of Europe. Last week, the Commission presented its five scenarios. Which is timely, because things are not working as they are. And which could be a distraction for the same reason: from the Commission one would expect to be strong on execution rather than on thinking about the future. Nevertheless, ideas are valuable.
While the scenarios present a complete palette of organisational options for the EU, they are shallow in explaining why do we want the EU in the first place. What is its raison d’etre? This is what the proposed sixth scenario is about. But first let us have a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the original five.
1 – The project goes on
In the first scenario, the EU continues to implement reforms as planned. This “business as usual” scenario is useful because it reveals what the authors understand as problems. The two problems are that the decision-making process is slow, inefficient and complex; and that the EU institutions are not meeting the citizen’s expectations.
To put it shortly, Brussels has no power to meet the expectations of citizens. This is the problem that the other scenarios are supposed to address. And what these scenarios propose, in fact, is either lowering the expectations or increasing the powers of Brussels.
2 – Less Europe
The second scenario assumes that the EU – unable to agree on anything else – is reduced just to a common market. It is unclear if this means abandoning the common currency. In principle, the common market is not so little if it functions properly. Hayek explained that a common market is a sufficient basis for a working interstate federation. It preserves peace, which is touted as the main achievement of the EU, and prevents government meddling with the economy.
In the scheme of the five scenarios, this one has a role of the “bad one”. The writers assume that in order to be competitive in the common market, the member states would “race to the bottom” in the absence of common consumer, environmental, social and tax standards.
This strawman should be approached with caution. Unless the EU does not ensure global standards for consumer protection, environment, social assistance etc. it would as a whole be a victim of a global “race to the bottom”. The solution would assume joining Mr. Donald Trump in limiting the freedom of world trade.
3 – More Europe for some members
The third scenario – multiple speed Europe – acknowledges that some member states may be interested in doing more together. While there may be many new interesting topics of collaboration, one is present as the elephant in the room already: the monetary union.
A closer cooperation in the Eurozone is not an option but a necessity. The moment of truth for such a closer cooperation comes when German taxpayers would need to pay, for example, the Greek education system. Which, of course, means that the Germans can have a say in how many teachers you need on a small Greek island with two kids.
This brings us to the core problem of all variants of “more Europe” scenarios: lack of European identity. If anything should be learned from Trump, Brexit and the raise of populism in Europe is that identity matters.
Without people belonging to Europe almost all scenarios are doomed.
West Germans were somehow willing to pay for East German social services. Not because Germany is a democracy and a democratically elected parliament passed a budget that said so. But because East- and West- Germans are one people. They are all Germans. They share history, culture, religion and language. They share identity. They are one demos. And you need a demos for a democracy. You can have a union without a demos, but without democracy. Like the USSR or Yugoslavia.
The European democratic deficit, seen so often as a key European problem, has its root in the European demos deficit. The level of political integration that can be achieved formally is limited by the level of common European identity that is achieved among Europeans intuitively.
4 – More Europe but on fewer topics
This means the EU would need to concentrate on a few important tasks, but those performing well. Hard to find anything wrong with doing good the important stuff. The devil is in the details and the details are on which topics the EU would do more and on which less.
5 – More Europe on all topics
Member states should transfer more power to Brussels and establish common policies for several areas. This is essentially the Verhofstadt scenario and in line with the proposed new European Constitution of the Ljubljana Initiative. The “United States of Europe” scenario has all the problems of the Euro Area of Scenario 3, only worse, because there are more member states involved.
All scenarios above are making one wrong assumption: that the division of power between member states and the union is a rational, technocratic decision to be taken by political elites while pretending to be debating it with “the citizens” on the internet.
6th Scenario – More Europeanism
Democracy needs an identity foundation that binds individuals into the demos. The binding can be a language, a religion, a culture, a race, or a belief in a credo. Europe does not have that. The proof? If something like that existed it could have been exploited by the populists just like the French, American, German, Dutch populists are exploiting the French, American, German, Dutch identities. There are no successful pro-European populists!
The local and particular cannot be based on the general and universal. Local and particular is every state-like entity. Universal concepts of liberal democracy such as human rights, the rule of law and democracy are not a sufficient basis for local communities. There has to be something more in addition to the universal. Huntington explains this in his book Who Are We?
Europe can be saved. But it will take more than technocratic options on how organise relations between Brussels and the member states. The sixth scenario is a scenario of a passionate Europeanism.
Europe lacks a statesman whose platform would be “I am a European”; one who would sell to Europeans the dream of making Europe – not great again – just making Europe. Who could say what great things “we Europeans could do if we stood together”. And say it to the Germans, the French, the Dutch, the Slovenians and so on. It seems the founding fathers in the 1950s were able to do so but then this art was lost.
She should sell the idea to the intellectuals that European nations working together is the only way to preserve the European civilization, its culture, its values, its institutions, its creed and its religion. That the reason for existence of the European Union is no more no less than to provide an institutional backbone of European civilization.
And he should sell the idea to everyone that only together can Europeans face the threats from the south and from the east; that the battles of Tours and Vienna were fought and won by Europeans who spoke different languages! If dormant feelings of belonging to a group are to be awakened, let people belong as Europeans too, not just as Germans, French, Dutch..
Europe lacks a statesman […] who would sell to Europeans the dream of making Europe – not great again – just making Europe.
It would take too long to forge this sense of belonging by Interrail tickers, Erasmus exchanges and mobile phone roaming. These are all nice to have but, seriously, train tickets cannot be the foundation of a political union. But an idea can be! An idea of proud Europeanism that is adopted by leaders and communicated with a loud and clear voice, that is. Perhaps communicated to the voters at the next European parliamentary elections!
The division of power between the member states and the union will then depend on how strong is the sense of belonging to the union via-a-vis belonging to the member states. This will determine which options from the menu of the five scenarios above are realistic and which ones are not; and where the Union could and should do more and where not.
Without people belonging to Europe almost all scenarios are doomed.
This op-ed orginally appeared in New Europe.Žiga Turk EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Euroscepticism Values
The sixth scenario and Juncker’s white paper
08 Mar 2017
Hollywood lost on November 8th. Some directors and actors threatened to leave the country if Mr Trump was elected. The paradox here is that the tone of many filmmakers grew darker over the past two decades, as if they were whispering: “progressive policies do not work…we have no alternative but vote for them anyway!”. Donald Trump listened to that murmur carefully.
It all started with the Sopranos (1999-2007), as most things in our century. Amongst gender gap outcries of various sorts, the Sopranos brought back the notion of male patriarchy, the nostalgia for a time when men were confident and financially indispensable.
The wife of Tony Soprano, Carmela, would not have existed, and been so popular amongst men and women, without today’s repressed female crisis: “having it all” and sleeping five hours per day. Mad Men (2007-2015) fed on the same melancholy, shared by both sexes.
Then came another confession in the form of lost illusions over capitalism. The complexity of the 2008 financial collapse, and the meagre response of the Obama Administration with the Dodd Frank Act passed in 2010, were dissected for the public in numerous movies: Margin Call (2011), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Big Short (2015).
The audience was both entertained and informed by mega stars who took time, as well as a decent amount of well-intentioned energy, to describe how finance truly works nowadays and why, eventually, inequalities are growing as a result of a disconnection from the values of merit and labour.
Politics was quick to follow. Gone are the days of joyful, optimistic, West Wing (1999-2006) episodes, which provided President Obama with a wonderful cultural cushion for the election that brought him to power. Their wish was indeed fulfilled in 2008: millions were already dreaming of the learned and daring President Bartlet.
Breaking away from that “let’s reach for the stars” ideal, House of Cards (2013- ) is now displaying the unsavoury corruption of Washington lobbying and the political swamp of extra-marital affairs. It’s the new bottom up cocktail: Sex, Drugs & the Taxpayer.
An even more fascinating topic is war. Hollywood is having a hard time transforming the US-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into gripping philosophical tales. Where are today’s Apocalypse Now (1979), The Deer Hunter (1978) or Platoon (1986)? The United States was defeated in Vietnam, much as it was in its post 9/11 battles.
But something changed at the core: there was more to tell in the 1960s and 1970s because the risks accepted by soldiers and their families were higher. Interestingly, the best American account of the current rise of violence focused not on the Middle East, but on the US/Mexican border.
Director Denis Villeneuve, in Sicario (2015), pressed his finger on the limitations of Western rule of law to combat Mexico’s drug cartels. A revenge-hungry Benicio del Toro summed it up chillingly to dismayed Emily Blunt: “you will not survive here. You’re not a wolf and this is a land of wolves now”.
One final point over world governance. While 195 countries were painfully negotiating the Paris Agreement in December 2015 over climate change, Hollywood spent all its resources explaining that innovation would save mankind, not public bureaucracies. I Am Legend (2007), Sunshine (2007) or Interstellar (2014) made the point that men are indeed over-reaching but that only the brains of a few can help us all, not the efforts of many.
World War Z (2013) is a case in point: Brad Pitt plays a United Nations worker whose role is to actually find a vaccine he understands very little about. Let us hope that we have a more straight forward plan if zombies ever do occur.
Donald Trump surfed on those Hollywood waves, drawing much different conclusions than most of his Californian inspirers. When he kept repeating: “we have to get smart about Mexico”, he was referring to the same evidences most Americans saw in theatres or in front of their TV screens.
When he blurted out that “prisoners are not war heroes”, he sent a powerful message to all those who feel the Western anguish of not being able to cope with violence anymore.
When he repeatedly degraded women, he appealed to the sense of numerous couples for which feminist-minded parity led to deception for some and demographic bitterness for all. When he blamed political and business elites, he knew he had the same Hollywood cushion that Barack Obama had when he won in 2008.
For those who still believe in liberal democracy – the author being in that group – one certainty prevails: the longer we wait to find practical policy answers to the issues above, the more compromises will have to be made.
Limiting contemporary tensions to “the fringes of the nation”, as the New Yorker once put it, would be a major mistake. Trump caught the Hollywood truth ball. We should too.
 Anthony Lane, “Dark Places: Sicario”, New Yorker, September 21, 2015.Michael Benhamou EU-US Transatlantic Values
Hollywood, Trump and the Fringes of America
13 Jan 2017
The free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is the basis of the European Single Market. It is one of the most successful achievements of European Union, bringing jobs to the European citizens and growth to the European economy.
The four freedoms were enshrined in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, laying the groundwork for a functioning single market, since then, however, technological progress has changed our economies. How can the European Single Market adapt and keep pace? With a 5th freedom: the free movement of data.
A fifth freedom?
The concept of a 5th freedom was coined by, Janez Potočnik, former European Commissioner for Science and Research, in April 2007 by calling for the ‘freedom of knowledge’. He aimed to improve Europe’s ability to remain competitive in terms of knowledge and innovation, as ’the cornerstones of prosperity’, he argued.
In this blogosphere, Bruno Maçães, former Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, defended the freedom of knowledge by proposing reforms to transform the single market. He called this ‘knowledge mobility’, considering the rapid and borderless nature of the digital economy.
Freedom of knowledge and knowledge mobility can be achieved with the free movement of data.
The new fabric
Data is the raw material in the digital world, a good with major socio-economic value which can unleash the potential of the data economy expected to reach € 566 billion by 2020 (European Commission). It is a key driver for increasing Europe’s competitiveness and economic growth in order to ensure the continued well-being of EU citizens as they face the challenges of globalisation.
90% of today’s global data has been created in the last two years alone. And data will keep on growing. Data is produced largely by people while interacting on the internet — foremost via pictures and videos, as well by an ever-increasing number of connected devices, such as smartphones and sensors (a.k.a. the IoT – Internet of Things), which gather climate information, satellite imagery, GPS signals, and much more.
When analysed, all this data represents a land of opportunity. It has the potential to transform raw data into useful information to build up knowledge, and to enable that knowledge to utilise higher orders of intelligence in all sectors of society. It can bring greater efficiency and productivity to services, lowering delivery costs. It can create new and innovative services and business models, making the digital economy a major driver for growth and jobs. It can help us solve major societal challenges. It can even be used to make governments more accountable, more transparent and better at policy-making.
DIKW Pyramid (Ackoff)
But are we letting data move freely in Europe like we do for persons, goods, services and capitals? What can the free movement of data bring?
Let’s take the example of a self-driving car. The car receives data from a traffic light that has turned red. This is then processed: the red traffic light is identified as a stop signal. But what happens if data cannot move freely among connected devices (in this case, between the traffic light and the car)? Or what happens if the car crosses a national border?
Consider another scenario. have you ever been to a doctor while abroad? You are seated opposite the doctor, but your medical records remain at home. This can lead to a tricky situation, besides the difficulty of being ‘lost in translation’ between the foreign language and medical lingo. But if the doctor can access your medical history, this whole process can be facilitated and a more informed decision can be taken.
The European Commission, in its Digital Single Market Strategy, identifies the economic and societal growth potential of data technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing and the IoT.
After the European Cloud Initiative, the Digitalisation of Industry Initiative and the Internet Connectivity Package, the Commission is due to present the European ‘free flow of data’ initiative. It will tackle restrictions on the free movement of data and on the location of data for storage or processing purposes. It’s been said that by removing data restrictions, the EU could generate € 8 billion per year in GDP.
This initiative should balance societal and economic benefits. It should address, properly and clearly, data ownership, liability and portability (encompassing confidentiality, availability, privacy and integrity) in order to achieve trust.
The four freedoms opened many opportunities in the European Single Market, increasing the well-being of European citizens. With the freedom of data, we will not just keep pace but power greater innovation. And innovation is the only way to grow.
We must take the lead in unleashing the potential of data and in rooting our values and standards in today’s globalised and competitive digital economy.
The ‘free flow of data’ initiative may well be just the first step; to go further, we must show political leadership and vision: to add and open when reactionary forces push to remove and close.
By creating more barriers to the free flow of data, as a protectionist reaction, we are not increasing security. The centralisation or the closing of the data is as interesting for hackers as a honey pot is for bees.
So, in order to enable the Single Market to truly go digital, we must add a 5th gear to our engine. To fuel this, Europe must add to its core freedoms the free movement of data.
Ackoff, R. L., (1989) “From Data to Wisdom”, Journal of Applies Systems Analysis, Volume 16, pp 3-9.
Bellinger, G., Castro, D., Mills, A., (2004) “Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom”, System-thinkingGonçalo Carriço Growth Technology Values
Does the EU need a 5th Freedom?
11 Jan 2017
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election to President of the United States are events of historical proportion. In important ways, they challenge assumptions long taken for granted by both sides of the political spectrum. We publish below various contributions on the lessons the European People’s Party should draw from these political developments.
Contributors are broadly connected to the European centre-right and offer a wide range of opinions on the topic under discussion. Some believe that an identitarian agitation is sweeping across the West, and that the centre-right should reclaim identity politics from anti-establishment movements and reconcile it with European integration, after having neglected it for too long. Others reject this analysis, downplay identitarian factors or see the return of identity politics as a purely populist phenomenon that should be opposed by all means.
A Europe of values and results
Director, CEDER Study Centre
The recent developments in the UK and the US are reflections of discontent of large parts of the population with what is going on in their daily lives and their feelings about the future, which led to mistrust in traditional politics and in current leaders. The Brexit referendum is for many people the proof of a failing European Union, while the US presidential elections give rise to fears about the traditional multilateral approach and the strength of our transatlantic relations.
We believe that the EPP must emphasise the importance of delivering tangible results on all levels of government; results that improve the lives of citizens and which take into account the concerns of all EU citizens. For the EPP this will require strong leadership, vision and more unified action and opinions. Deepening and strengthening the European Union is also necessary, on the basis of our common values, such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, solidarity and tolerance.
The confidence and involvement of citizens will be of utmost importance to restore the ‘European Dream’. The dialogue between citizens and the European institutions therefore needs to be strengthened. That is why we believe the work of Luc Van den Brande as Special Adviser to EC Commission President Juncker to further strengthen the dialogue with the EU citizens is so important.
Stay firm and united
Member of the European Parliament
Now it is serious. These are the times that the European Union once was founded to meet. To secure freedom, democracy and peace in Europe. To provide stability in a fragile world. To develop a dynamic economy for prosperity and social cohesion. This is not anymore about ideological speeches but brutal reality.
It is a new world. More risky. More instable. It is the free world that is under threat and it is the world order from the years after the Second World War that is being challenged. The crises of today are not the crisis of the European Union, but it is these kinds of crises the EU was created to deal with. To give stability to Europe and give stability to the free world.
This challenge might be the most difficult we have ever faced. It is more challenging than reforming agricultural policy, establishing the internal market or launching the service directive. It is even more challenging than fighting bureaucracy.
The solution is simple but difficult. We must stand together, side by side. Reform our markets and deepen the internal market. Achieve an Energy union and a Capital Markets Union. Take the lead in the digitalisation of global economies. Stay firm to Russia and clarify that all parts of the Union are the European Union, be it Narva in Estonia or all the ancient capitals of Europe once behind the Iron Curtain.
Control our borders in order to ensure that the processing of asylum procedures is worthy of civilised societies. We must strengthen our military defence capabilities in order to be able to make use of our soft powers and proceed with the enlargement when countries are prepared. Reform Europe rather than create new divisions in the EU by ever new ideas of institutional changes.
Wanted: personalities with attitude and image
Deputy Director for Political Consulting, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Nobody had seen it coming. But within hours of the US presidential elections, many people apparently understood perfectly what had happened. Donald Trump’s election was heralding the start of a ‘global era of populism’, newspapers said.
Taking a more analytical view, it is clear that there are significant differences between the US and Europe. Electoral and party systems, the media and election campaigning, personalities and the topics dominating the debate in the US do not allow any clear conclusions to be drawn for future developments in Europe. And populist parties, which have been gaining ground in Europe for some time, also differ considerably from each other.
However, there appear to be similarities in some of the underlying conditions that have facilitated the strengthening of populist mobilisation. The anxiety of the middle classes about losing status in the course of the processes of social change has increased noticeably in affluent Western societies. Differentiation in lifestyles and individualisation combined with high levels of immigration are causing feelings of one’s culture being under threat and fears of a collective loss of identity.
There is evidently an added factor at play in that the aging section of the affluent society in particular perceives change as an imposition. People develop a defiant stance of rejection in the face of pressures to adapt to the consequences of the global economy. ‘Make America great again’ and ‘Take back control’ are populist responses to this frame of mind, which exert great attraction through the illusion of being able to return to a simpler, more predictable and manageable world.
Instead of shaping the future constructively, this is about recreating an imaginary past that never existed in the first place.
Brexit and Trump clearly illustrate that what we need are personalities with attitude and a good image, who look forward to shaping the future in a positive frame of mind and can develop ‘dynamics of hope’ rather than ‘dynamics of fear’ (Jean Monnet). Trump was only strong because of Clinton’s weakness.
Cultural pessimism, doomsday scenarios and scaremongering have no place in Christian democratic politics. When looking around Europe, one can easily identify the leading populists. On the side of those who want to manage change with a confident outlook, Angela Merkel now stands almost alone.
We need to move beyond political correctness
Professor of History of Philosophy, Università degli Studi del Molise, Italy
From the recent US Presidential election and from Brexit we can learn some useful lessons. First, coalitions between the mainstream centre-right and centre-left do not work. The attempt to put together all ‘responsible’ people who belong to the mainstream intellectual culture of social-democratic values and globalised economic liberalism fails because it excludes the majority of the people. This coalition is doomed because it appears as an elitist project against which everyone else rebels and wins.
Second, we learned that we need a real left-right dialectic in order to fight the so-called ‘populism’. An Italian example will clarify what I mean. In the recent municipal elections, the Five Stars Movement won in Rome and Turin where, at the second round, the race was between their candidate and the mainstream candidate. However, in Milan, where the centre-right and centre-left parties presented two different and credible candidates, the Five Stars Movement did not even qualify for the second round.
Third, we need to reflect about populism. In order to rebuild a successful centre-right one should look at the needs expressed by those who are voting for the so-called ‘populists’ and offer clear centre-right solutions that are distinctly opposed to the centre-left perspective. On Europe, for example, the idea of a ‘slim federalism’ that is strong on security and foreign policy but weak on internal economic regulation (real subsidiarity) should be adopted, together with a recognition of the Christian roots of Western values.
Finally, we should stop talking about populism as if it was an undifferentiated phenomenon. Although he gathered grassroots support from people who did not feel represented by US mainstream politics, Trump is a conservative. He won regular primaries of the GOP defeating 16 candidates. He then won the presidential election with sixty million votes and he has a strong political agenda. One might like or dislike his political platform, but make no mistake, he is not the same as Marine Le Pen or Beppe Grillo.
It’s about communication, too!
Deputy Director, Civic Institute, Poland
Both the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election have demonstrated to what extent large parts of society disapprove of the political, economic and social status quo. One conclusion seems relevant to every liberal democracy: rapidly changing patterns in communication. The total dominance of online media – with the particular importance of social media – is coming.
Only a few years ago many believed that social media would strengthen democracy by allowing people to have a say and freely share information. This year proved that they were wrong. To a large extent, social media have become a source of misinformation, not information. Instead of strengthening public debate, they poisoned it with lies and inflammatory language. Instead of being the harbour of free speech, online-based platforms became the amplifiers of hate.
During the US presidential election, for the first time in history, fake news outpaced real news in terms of public engagement. More voters were exposed to lies than to the truth. Millions of voters were given a false picture of events. It would be foolish to think that this did not influence their voting decisions. In the last century, when new, revolutionary media appeared – the radio and later the TV – democracies decided to regulate them.
Democratic oversight and independent regulatory bodies were established. Laws were enacted to protect the impartiality and truthfulness of the broadcast. Like the printed press, the radio and the TV broadcasters were legally responsible for the content they aired. In case of online-based social media, no such regulations exist. We urgently need to think how to fill this void.
Dr. Žiga Turk,
Professor, University of Ljubljana
The message from the success of Brexit, Trump and some so-called populist movements in Europe is that identity matters. Identity matters, as particularly the US elections demonstrated, not only the minority identities of Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Gays, feminists, etc. Majority identity matters.
The scientific explanation comes from Moral Foundations Theory. It claims that people – voters included – often decide intuitively and not necessarily rationally. We base our intuitive decisions on six different moral foundations: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. The progressives are generally associated with the first three of the six foundations. Conservatives, in addition, are associated with the foundations of loyalty, authority and sanctity as well.
In his campaign Trump successfully addressed the loyalty to America and the need for authority in American leadership. Meanwhile, his running mate Mike Pence covered the issue of sanctity of American Christians.
This is perfectly illustrated in a post-electoral tweet of Mr. Trump, addressed to protesters rioting against him: ‘Imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people under one God saluting one flag.’ To those of us immersed in political correctness this sounds almost like ‘ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’. But Trump’s message is just a warning of what happens if the centrist democratic politicians fail to base their policies firmly on the entire spectrum of people’s moral foundations.
The values of the liberal world order are not only democracy, freedom, respect of law and respect of people regardless of their origin, the colour of their skin, their religion, gender, sexual orientation or their political beliefs. Our common values also include loyalty to our culture, love for our homeland and respect of our traditions and religions.
It is the unique task of conservatives in general and the EPP in particular to bring those values back into the liberal world order in a positive and constructive way. The socialists and the liberals will not accomplish this because they lack intuitive understanding of it. If the EPP does not do it, someone else will. And then it will not be benign.
This balance of values is a unique contribution for preserving the world as we know it, a contribution that only the EPP can and therefore should make.WMCES Editor Brexit Centre-Right Elections EU Member States EU-US Values
Brexit and Trump: lessons for the centre-right
30 Nov 2016
Immediately after Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States, many commentators have suggested that his policies toward Russia will not be as accommodating as his campaign rhetoric on Vladimir Putin, and that Trump may eventually become a difficult counterpart for the current Russian leadership. Arguments for that theory include, among others, persistent fundamental differences on certain issues, Putin’s unreliability and unpredictability, Trump’s focus on ‘America First’, pressure from certain anti-Putin forces in the GOP establishment, etc.
However, all these arguments consider only the bilateral U.S.-Russia dimension as if it existed in a vacuum. But if you put Trump-Russia relations in the broader global context that is about to emerge because of Trump’s presidency, all these differences and problems don’t stand a chance to outweigh a perfect global match between the common interests of both Putin and Trump.
Trump’s foreign policy is largely uncharted waters, but one thing is very clear – he will be involved in many important global conflicts. Rearranging NAFTA and other trade agreements, dealing with China as a rising power, loads of issues in the Middle East (Syria and the potential scrapping of the Iranian nuclear deal to begin with, but there’s always so much more in that particular region).
What do you do when you’re about to engage in many tough battles of global significance, and want to cover your flanks and back? One of the first things – you look for important players with whom you can reach a solid ‘ceasefire’ to untie your hands for bigger things. This is what Turkish President Erdogan did a few months ago, almost simultaneously reaching out for a thaw with Russia and Israel, relations with both of whom were quite difficult recently, to untie his hands for multiple other ventures both at home and abroad.
In Trump’s case, Putin’s Russia dangerously fits into this fundamental logic. There are clear signs in Moscow that Putin has been carefully preparing for ways to approach Trump. He’ll appeal to his business logic (the flip side of which is his complete lack of experience in public governance and international affairs) and offer him a “deal” – the term so dear to the newly elected U.S. leader: Give me back some of the minor stuff which stands in the way of our relationship (Ukraine, human rights in Russia, financial sanctions) – and I’ll support you in your bigger global efforts.
Given Putin’s skills in psychology and recruitment inherited from his earlier profession – which were so brilliantly used initially with George W. Bush, for whom just one look into Putin’s “soul” seems to have overshadowed all Russian authoritarian trends in the beginning of Putin’s rule – that looks quite achievable.
Yes, on the other hand, there are established Republicans demanding sanctions for human rights violations – but Trump would easily answer by keeping in place the personal sanctions lists against Russian officials, such as the Magnitsky list, which, in fact, is not too much of a problem for Putin. The key problem for him are the financial sanctions imposed by the Obama administration – and here, there are huge U.S. corporate interests behind lifting those.
Lifting financial sanctions and keeping the window-dressing lists of Russian human-rights abusers banned from entry into the U.S.: Putin will be happy with that. What he wants most is to return to major borrowing in the Western financial markets, not allowing his prosecutors and judges to freely travel to Miami (in fact, Putin himself had recently prohibited all these people from travelling abroad).
Ukraine? Putin may even offer a real de-escalation in Donbass in return for a more general U.S. withdrawal from political and financial support for the current Ukrainian government. This would also give an opportunity to Trump to say ‘See, I’ve achieved what Obama couldn’t – real peace in Eastern Ukraine’.
This is how a big Trump-Putin deal might look like – and nothing serious seems to stand in its way, given Trump’s priorities focused on other things, and Putin’s apparent readiness to propose and psychologically ‘sell’ this new U.S.-Russia non-aggression pact.Vladimir Milov EU-Russia EU-US Foreign Policy Transatlantic Values
The Art of the (Trump-Putin) Deal
14 Nov 2016
A tentative response to a groundbreaking US election.
Of course, the election of Donald Trump to 45th President of the United States is an unmitigated disaster for the US, for the West and therefore for the entire world. Of course, with all her faults, Hillary Clinton would have been by far the better President. But what’s done, is done, and the questions to be answered now are: How did we get here? How bad will it get? And what should Europeans do?
The wave of populist anger sweeping through the West has been amply described in past weeks. It would have had its effects even on a Clinton administration. It’s driven by identity politics as well as fears of globalisation, and of course by economic grievances. It certainly is facilitated by the acceleration, anonymity and the echo chamber effect of social media.
And quite obviously, in the case of the US, Republicans share the blame, with their congressional divisiveness that has become an ideology, and their demonisation of Obama and Clinton. The Clinton campaign will be torn to pieces, in hindsight.
The question is whether all this should be cast as a titanic battle between the forces of open vs. closed. I’m afraid the US election (just like the Brexit referendum in June) has shown that doing so risks putting the majority of people on the side of closed because the more unified ‘moderate forces’ act, the more they will be seen as one elitist conspiracy.
Hence, here is a first conclusion: Europe’s big tent, catch-all people’s parties will have to take care not to appear united against worried voters, but give different answers according to their ideological differences that have not magically disappeared because of a new paradigm discovered by the editorial offices of the Guardian and the Economist.
What happens now?
As far as we’ve heard over the past months, Trump’s ideas for office range from the ludicrous to the scary, from building the wall and making Mexico pay for it, to banning Muslims from entering the country, renegotiating all existing trade deals, jailing Hillary, ‘bombing the shit out of IS’ and striking a deal with Putin. But let’s remember that he is not alone.
There are checks and balances at work in the US that he cannot easily swipe aside. So the ludicrous ideas will take care of themselves, and for the scary ones, the hope of the world rests in Congress, even with a Republican majority: Especially on any bargain with Putin, House and Senate Republicans are very unlikely to follow.
Having said all that, of course President Trump can cause enormous damage especially in foreign relations where he needs less Congressional approval than for domestic affairs. But to now claim with certainty that we’re looking at the end of the West may be self-defeating. We simply know too little about what the Trump administration will really do.
It would be easy to say that Trump’s presidency is just what it takes to get Europeans to get their act together and make a dash for the ‘United States of Europe’ – if it wasn’t for all those other jolts in recent years that have failed to unify us, against expectations, such as the financial crisis, the migration crisis and the Brexit referendum. Of course, the US election may well be a bigger shakeup than all those combined. Nevertheless, a ‘federalist surge’ in the EU is doomed to fail because it would unleash the same reaction we have seen in Britain and the US this year.
What we do need now is a level-headed approach, based on our core values, i.e. liberal democracy which, as it happened, has taken a blow last night. But the centuries-old project of the enlightenment is alive unless we give it up. Naturally, authoritarian leaders across the world will rejoice now, pointing to the US election. But it is up to all democrats to show that democracy, while not perfect, is able to correct its mistakes.
The European Union will have to shoulder more of the burden of defending itself against threats from the East and the South – that would have been the case even with a Clinton administration. Stronger European defence structures within NATO, and better cooperation of law enforcement, are now more necessary than ever. Striving for a soft Brexit, and strong structures of cooperation with Great Britain, becomes even more important now, although the challenges are formidable.
Economically, we need to buckle up for a new downturn but that should only reinforce our resolve to make EU economies more competitive, and the Single Market more performing. And the Euro crisis has taught us that the key to this is with the member state governments, not the EU’s institutions. Last but not least, yes, we will have to cooperate with a President Trump, as ludicrous as it sounds.
All this is sketchy and will have to be adapted as the policies of the Trump administration take shape over the next couple of weeks. We are looking at a less predictable US and therefore at a riskier world than ever before. But above all, as we have learned from the other nine-eleven 15 years ago, it’s important not to overreact.Roland Freudenstein EU-US European Union Transatlantic Values
Our Transatlantic 9-11
09 Nov 2016
The key problem of Europe is ontological. We are not sure what the European Union actually is. Is it a free trade area, a giant NGO based in Brussels and doing good for Europe and the World, or perhaps a country in the making? The compromise answer, popular in Brussels, is that Europe is a project. The project is something that is not static, which is being developed, and has not yet reached its final form.
Brussels vs. Bratislava
As long as Europe is a project, it is possible to talk about the future of Europe. As long as Europe is a project, it can be illustrated as a bicycle – standing upright until it moves forward. The Euro crisis, the migrant crisis and Brexit have slowed down this bicycle or even reversed its direction. One cannot drive a bicycle backwards. This is in fact the problem to be addressed by the leaders of the EU Member States this week in Bratislava: how to get the bicycle going again.
They will, as many times before, debate the future of Europe, more precisely the future of the European Union. The point of this writing is that if the European Union has an ambition to be more than a free trade area or a non-governmental organization, if it will be getting attributes of statehood, it needs a solid foundation for that.
Many agree that the EU should move in the direction of an ever closer union. And everyone agrees that a solid foundation is needed. The disagreement is in what is the essence of this foundation. One disagreement is between the right and the left. The right sees the EU founded on the common market. The left sees it founded on social justice and solidarity.
This article is about another kind of disagreement. I will argue that the future of the European Union cannot be based on an ideology, neither left nor right; that ideology cannot be a foundation of a union with an ambition to get some attributes of a country.
Ideas vs. Feelings
I understand ideology as a rational system of ideas – the product of an enlightened human mind. Examples of such systems of ideas are socialism, free maket, environmentalism, multiculturalism, framework of human rights and the rule of law etc. Ideologies are the results of reflection. Many are good, some are also bad.
That ideology cannot be the foundation of a country is the main message of Samuel P. Huntington’s (of Clash of Civilizations fame) book Who we are. He argues that countries based on ideology failed. For example Czechoslovakia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This author’s former home state of Yugoslavia was held together by the socialist ideology and the ideology of brotherhood and unity of nations. Similarly, Czechoslovakia and the USSR.
Alternative to ideology are feelings, instincts and culture – everything that is pre-rational, subconscious, which is not the result of complex intellectual exercise, but people simply have it in their blood and genes. Those moral foundations provide, according to Jonathan Haidt, the basis for group cohesion and are the basis of nation states. These foundations include kin, religion, language, history, nation.
Therefore, Slovenians, Croats, Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrans, Macedonians and Bosnians wanted to live in different countries. Stronger than the cohesive effects of the socialist ideology, Yugoslav common market, free movement of people within Yugoslavia and common currency, stronger were the disintegrating feelings based in language, history and religion. In Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union too, instincts trumped ideology, common market and common currency.
Elites vs. the Rest
This superiority of stone age instincts over intellectual achievements is hard to swallow by intellectuals and other reasoning people. It seems impossible that in the 21st century pristine senses of tribe and nation prevail over the achievements of the human mind, such as free market, common currency or social justice. But only to intellectuals. Most people do not bother trying to understand the reasoning how “good” is to have the widest possible community to achieve social justice (or free market). Ideologues of both central left and central right have a common problem.
The majority of people take a shortcut and listen to their instincts. These instincts tell them that Germans will not pay for social justice in Greece, while they may be willing to tolerate taxes to achieve social justice in their German homeland. These instincts tell them to charge customs on imported goods if this helps save German jobs. It does not help much if intellectuals explain that open markets (or social justice) are good for all. Somewhere deep down, people feel something. And there is a limit to how far and how deep political elites can run counties against such feelings.
This divide between the reason of the elites and the instincts of ordinary people explain Brexit, Sanders, Trump and the whole host populist movements in the EU member states. In good times, most people tolerate or largely ignore ideology. The elites may be convinced by the rationality of the arguments even in bad times. But not the rest.
It is intellectually appealing to base the future European Union on the common market, human rights, social justice and solidarity but, in my reading of Huntington, it will not work.
Geography vs. Civilization
If the European Union should become a closer union – and I think in some areas it must become stronger – then this will not be possible only on ideological, rational, enlightened foundations, no matter how much are the intellectuals are fond of them. More Europe is necessary for the protection of external borders, maintaining security, ensuring free market and the rule of law. But the foundation should be the European identity: who we are, how we are, and how we are different from that which is not Europe. Elements of this identity are religion, civilization and culture.
A closer Union can be accepted by the European citizens if this Union is seen as a guardian of European culture and civilization. Or, if is sounds more politically correct, European “values”. It can be only as much closer as much intuitive awareness of European civilization exists within Europeans. Multicultural Europe seems a good idea to those who are not part of European culture and to the enlightened minority that hopes noble ideas can trump basic human instincts.
In reality, however, Europe founded on ideology is bound to fail.Žiga Turk European Union Euroscepticism Values
A European future of Europe?
16 Sep 2016
The idea that the left/right paradigm in politics is outdated has been around for so long that it’s amazing how often we still think in left right terms. Maybe old habits die hard. Or maybe there has always been more to the old paradigm that what the commentariat made us believe.
But according to a growing chorus of pundits in 2016, now is the time to seriously let go. The paradigm du jour is open vs. closed, global vs. territorial or, as the Economist puts it, drawbridge-downers (read Merkel, Macron and Soros) vs. drawbridge-uppers (such as Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Orbán and the UK Leave campaign). I admit that this thesis has a lot going for itself: after all, the rise of identity politics (us vs. them) and the return of nationalism are among the driving forces in the success of populists.
That would indeed speak for an entirely new paradigm. But wait: there is also a crisis-driven resentment against the market economy and international trade (traditionally, a leftist idea). Moreover, the echo chamber effect of social media reinforces any kind of polarisation, no matter whether the paradigms are old or new.
Hence, from the perspective of Europe’s biggest political family, the European People’s Party, there are three things wrong with making ‘open vs. closed’ the decisive paradigm of our days.
First of all, open/closed corroborates the populist narrative of an establishment that, no matter whether it calls itself liberal, socialist, green, Christian democratic or conservative, is united in despising the ‘little people’ and that will always act in the interests of a global elite. Now, it is simply not in the interest of big tent, catch-all political families to let this narrative become dominant: if we permit the populists to act as the party of the people vs. the elites, we risk losing.
Secondly, quite frankly, big political families such as the EPP (but also the Socialists) in their current composition neatly straddle the divide between drawbridge-uppers and drawbridge-downers. Both Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, her fierce critic in refugee matters (and the only one among the parties represented in the Bundestag) belong to the EPP family.
Their positions are not mutually exclusive in every respect. On the role of borders in the 20th century, the German Chancellor has already shifted her position since September 2015.
If we want to keep the overall Schengen system, we need to improve the protection of its external borders.
And from an EPP mainstream perspective, there is nothing wrong with wanting to control borders. Believing that the nation state is far from being finished is not automatically anti-globalist. But claiming that in this crisis we have a ‘rendezvous with globalisation’ essentially implies that there is nothing we can do about the masses of people trying to cross our borders, economic migrants included.
But if we want to maintain the liberal world order, we had better acknowledge the importance of identity politics. If we want to integrate a large number of people from one of the most violent and backward regions of the world, we need to be more straightforward about defending our values.
If we want to keep the overall Schengen system, we need to improve the protection of its external borders, and allow for more long term exceptions on the inner borders. To put it brutally: If we don’t do this, people will eventually elect someone who does it instead (but probably less smartly). How about some of the ‘wir schaffen das’ spirit here?
Finally, there are still substantial differences between the centre right and the Socialists as well as the Centre Right and the Greens. Left vs. right has not lost all significance! How open is ‘open’, if the ‘no border’ Greens proudly claim they have killed TTIP? How open is ‘open’ if freedom is supposed to be ensured by ever new gender quota and diversity rules?
So there are good reasons for maintaining that left/right has kept a lot of relevance, especially in an economic crisis which still pits ‘printing money’ against some degree of fiscal prudence.
So what does modern European punditry recommend, in order to fight the new battles? ‘Stronger rhetoric, bolder policies and smarter tactics’, says the Economist. That is think tank newspeak at its best. Of course, making a strong case for openness – maintaining Schengen, strengthening trade – is necessary.
But at the same time, identity politics should not under all circumstances be defined as something alien to centre right thinking. In the migration movements of today, culture matters, and we shall ignore it at our peril.
How open is ‘open’, if the ‘no border’ Greens proudly claim they have killed TTIP?
Punditry’s final punch line is the reference to demographics: young people tend to think more openly, as last witnessed in the Brexit referendum. So supposedly, it’s just a question of time until the final victory of ‘open’. That would be more credible if we could be sure that ‘generation Erasmus’ still thinks along those lines 10 and 20 years from now.
But alas, we may not be so fortunate. If the ‘progressive’ spirit of 1968 had lived on in the same form as half a century ago, conservatism would have never had the comeback it had in the 1980s.
So open vs. closed may be a useful paradigm for analyzing recent debates. But it is neither a realignment of political forces across the world, nor a useful tool to shape the strategies of Europe’s centre right.Roland Freudenstein Centre-Right Globalisation Immigration Political Parties Values
Is open/closed the new left/right? Paradigm shift and Europe’s centre right
13 Sep 2016
There’s an ambiguity at the core of the European project which calls to be solved or at least addressed, but from which the project gets much of its vitality. Is the European project supposed to apply only to Europeans or does it entertain universal ambitions? These days policymakers in Brussels will praise European values while renouncing every practical intent to extend them beyond the boundaries of the European Union as it stands. But then one is forced to ask: why praise them so much, why even call them universal values if they have such a limited scope?
In principle one could envision a different Europe, one much more interested in shaping the forces of globalization. The European Union could be much more active in spreading a certain European way of doing politics beyond its borders and the most obvious geographical sphere for such ambitions would be those regions standing between Europe and Asia, sometimes indistinguishable from Europe itself. Slowly expanding its influence eastwards and having within its sights a more deeply integrated Eurasia is an immediate task.
Everything changes if you start thinking along these lines. The European Union suddenly becomes a political agent rather than a territory. European because it is a political will based and organized in Europe, but global in the scope of its action and ambitions. To the extent that forming a strong political will, being a political agent, is more inspiring that being part of a territory, being an object of power, this would be a better and more perfect Union.
When Russia and China developed their new, mammoth integration projects – the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative – they had one underlying goal: to show Europeans that their decades-old integration project was one among others, benefiting from no special aspirations to universality. But if this underlying goal succeeded beyond the most optimistic expectations, that was because the European Union was already, and very much on its own, retreating within its borders. I cannot pinpoint precisely when this retreat happened. Today it is indisputable,
Both Russia and China are therefore ready for the next stage in their plans. The goal now is not to remove the universal pretensions from under the European edifice but to build such pretensions for their own projects. Take the case of Russia: if you talk to policymakers in Moscow they will tell you that Russia, not Europe, knows how international politics works. Europeans live in an imaginary world just of their own, Russians live in the real world. Europeans are parochial, Russians abide by the more or less universal rules of power politics.
In Beijing – where I recently had a number of very fruitful discussions – the claims to universality are no less striking. I was told by policymakers that China wants to give back to the world what it received over the last three decades and heard from academics that China is actively developing values that can appeal to every human being: some version of development and well-being can be readily understood and assimilated by every nation on the planet in a way that democracy and human rights cannot.
In the future historians will no doubt marvel at the speed with which the European Union transformed itself from a universal project into a geographically limited (perhaps increasingly limited as every European periphery starts to look more and more at odds with the ideological core) territorial unit, uninterested in influencing what happens outside and soon enough struggling to avoid being influenced and shaped by other – more healthily constituted – political agents. The current European malaise – in almost all its forms – has its root in this phenomenon.
“Let me make a prediction: within twenty years Europe will to a considerable extent be a part of Eurasia.”
Let me make a prediction: within twenty years Europe will to a considerable extent be a part of Eurasia. What I cannot predict – because it is still open to political decision and action – is what this Eurasian supercontinent will look like. Will it be, at least in some fundamental respects, a larger version of the European Union or will the European Union be dramatically changed by the need to adapt to the rise of new political abstractions, new universal values, which both Russia and China are actively developing and propagating? And yes, in this latter case, we shall still be dealing with universal, abstract values. Much of the European complacency has to do with the conviction that Russia and China cannot speak in a universal voice, but as I argued above this is historically and politically wrong.
Evidently if as a European you are convinced that other superpowers have only one of two alternatives – remain mired in parochial and nationalist myths or embrace abstract European ideas – then there is no need to rethink the European Union as a political agent. We can just sit back and watch the superiority of the abstract and universal play itself out on the world stage. But let me repeat: Russia and China have their own political abstractions. The clash – if it happens – will happen at the level of powerful political abstractions.
A clash is not inevitable, of course, but think about it: what better chances do we have to avoid conflict in the great Eurasian landmass than to spread European political concepts of cooperation and human rights outside our own European boundaries? The moment is a critical one. The tectonic plates have started moving – we need all our resources to balance this movement and make these pieces fit together as smoothly as possible.
There is one final reason why Europe should become more actively interested in the project of Eurasian integration: to combat the forces of disintegration within Europe itself. The European Union is in desperate need to strengthen its political capacity, its ability to act collectively. So far this has been defended through a vague appeal to history and feeling, but ultimately political capacity can only be strengthened if there is a goal for the sake of which it will be exercised. The European Union needs to become a stronger political agent not in order to fulfill a moral or historical commandment, but in order to perform the tasks which the future will call for: extend its influence outside its boundaries, manage the flows across the borderlands and work for a peaceful future in greater Eurasia.Bruno Maçães European Union Globalisation Values
Europe and Eurasia: the EU beyond its boundaries
15 Jun 2016
Wikileaks, Cablegate, Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks, Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers…the last few years have witnessed a spectacular surge in scandals sparked by journalistic leaks of confidential information. With the exception of the first, all others exposed elaborate systems of tax avoidance used by firms and prominent individuals to deflate their tax bills by taking advantage of low tax jurisdictions.
Invariably, revelations provoked outbursts of indignation on all sides of the political spectrum and increased popular anger against ‘privileged’ elites. The occasion was seized by law-makers, international organisations and regulators to vow once more to ‘do something’ about this, to assault the last fortresses of bank secrecy and to move to a world of total transparency in people’s wealth and income.
I confess that I would not like to live in such a world. And I suspect that it would be a far less free and ultimately less prosperous world than the one we know. I am no friend of tax evasion and not even a defender of tax elusion. But there are aspects of the mainstream opinion on tax avoidance and fiscal transparency that any person believing in the sanctity of individual and economic freedom should be deeply uncomfortable with. I would like to signal two of them.
First, there is the ideological option in favour of total transparency – and therefore potential total control – that is implicitly adopted in this debate. It is the red line connecting the more political revelations of Wikileaks with the tax-related leaks of the Panama papers. At the root of it there is a radical breed of ‘democratism’ that treats power and wealth with suspicion – as somewhat fraudulent and illegitimate – and struggles to tear apart the veil of secrecy often protecting their holders. The objective is exposing them nakedly in the limelight, where they will stand defenceless against the conforming attacks of people’s anger and indignation. They will be stigmatised as the morally corrupt and undeserving citizens they are.
This form of staged pressure with strong moral overtones is frankly scary to conservative and liberal eyes. Secrecy and freedom are historically intertwined in the most diverse realms. There is no voting freedom without secret ballot, and freedom of correspondence is a fiction unless one’s letters are inviolable. Can there be real economic freedom if not a cent of one’s wealth can elude the public eye?
There is a second unspoken assumption I detect in the common discourse on tax avoidance. It is the belief that all wealth ultimately belongs to ‘society’, not to those who created it. The implication is that the latter are left the enjoyment of part of it to the extent agreeable to society, as represented by its democratic authorities; but there is no upper limit to the proportion of private wealth society, i.e. the progressive State, can legitimately decide to confiscate to its owners for its own purposes. This is well illustrated by a declaration of Sergei Stanishev, President of the Party of European Socialists, with reference to the Panama papers: ‘The money that these people were hiding’, he said, ‘does not belong to them — it should have been redistributed for the benefit of all.’
How much of it should be redistributed? Perhaps all of it? Is there no limit beyond which society’s claim on its people’s wealth stops being a legitimate demand to promote the public good and becomes instead an odious act of oppression? For those of us who believe in economic freedom, such a limit should exist. This means that, when we discuss tax avoidance, we should, at the very least, be indignant of the exorbitant fiscal demands of modern states as much as we are of the creative tricks used to circumvent them. Such balance is hard to find in the commentaries I hear around, including many coming from the centre-right and the right wing of the political spectrum.
I am familiar with the socialist argument that the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is disappearing. This, we are told, would intensify the urgency to close up all available opportunities for tax avoidance. However, from Marx to Piketty, socialists have been making this point for well over a century. Each time they were proven wrong in the long run. Do we really have solid evidence to argue that ‘this time is different’? I have my doubts.
Finally, there is a most important issue that casts the whole debate on tax avoidance in a completely different light. Historically, tax avoidance was one of the major drivers of Europe’s economic development in the modern era. In ‘The European Miracle’, his classic work on the subject, notable economic historian Eric Jones clearly showed that crucial to laying the foundations for Europe’s economic rise was the ‘curtailment of predatory government tax behaviour’. But what made it possible? The fact is that, at the beginning of the modern era, Europe was a hodgepodge of kingdoms, principalities, and city-states constantly eroding each other’s ‘tax base’ – as modern technocrats put it – through remorseless tax competition. In other words, early modern and modern Europe was a paradise of tax avoidance in which the confiscatory fiscal instincts of rulers were held in check by numberless ‘exit options’ for merchants and bankers. In all likelihood, we owe the rise of a modern competitive economy in Europe – and ultimately our very prosperity – to this fact.
It is no surprise that the leftist ideal should not be the decentralised and competitive Europe of the early modern era, but early modern China, a formidable centralised empire whose bureaucracy of mandarins always managed to squeeze the most out of rich and poor Chinese alike. It was enough to ensure that the country missed out on modern economic growth until the 1980s. But the urge of many centre-right politicians and commentators to embrace the crusade against tax avoidance and for tax harmonisation – instead of focusing on reducing taxes for everyone, rich and poor, so as to make tax avoidance unnecessary – will forever puzzle me.Federico Ottavio Reho Economy Ethics Globalisation Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Panama papers: on tax avoidance we take too much for granted!
25 Apr 2016
Almost everywhere in the EU we see growing doubts about the EU’s capacity to act: in many countries, populist parties are getting stronger. They reject European integration and call for a return of the nation state. The gap between high expectations and the harsh reality has undermined the public support for the European integration project. In particular, during the refugee crisis, the European Union has failed to meet expectations. But does this justify the calls for less Europe?
The terrorist attacks which struck at the heart of Europe were planned across national borders: National actions alone will not counter them effectively. International terrorism, the conflicts in our immediate vicinity which are the cause of so much instability and human suffering, and the flow of refugees are problems which no EU member state can tackle on its own. Yet, what could a European solution look like?
Despite of the different approaches taken by the member states, the refugee crisis has illustrated the need for a European Border and Coast Guard with far-reaching powers. The protection of our external borders, and consequently of the security of the whole Union, can no longer be the sole responsibility of, in some cases overburdened, national authorities.
The March 18th agreement between the EU and Turkey shows that only a united European Union, in co-operation with its neighboring countries, can find sustainable solutions. However, further steps are necessary. We urgently need a reform of the Dublin system including a fair distribution of asylum seekers among all EU member states. The same rights, duties, and rules must apply to all refugees across Europe. The further development of the European Asylum System is therefore the only viable solution. One thing remains clear: In a globalized world, in which Europe is and intends to remain an important actor, we will have to deal with the question of migration for a long time to come, irrespective of the conflict in Syria.
The numerous crises in our immediate neighborhood highlight the need for a coherent EU foreign policy. Europe should also be able to guarantee its own security – both internally and externally. Therefore, the EU has to step up its support of democratization processes, in its Eastern and Southern neighborhood. In the long term, we should aim for a common economic area with our neighbors. The common threats we face also call for an ambitious European security strategy with a vision for Europe’s role in the world. We need to strengthen the co-operation of our national military forces with the goal of joint military action. In the fight against terrorism, a better exchange of information between our intelligence services is indispensable, as well as a closer cooperation between both police and judicial authorities.
European citizens justifiably expect the Union to act faster and more flexibly in order to fulfill these goals. To this end, we first need to speed-up the decision making process in the EU by expanding majority decisions, particularly in the area of foreign and security policy. This is the only way that the Union as a whole can act efficiently without always resorting to a “coalition of the willing”. Naturally, we must also strengthen confidence among EU members. The opinion of every member state should be heard and carefully considered before taking such decisions. Secondly, the EU should be able to expand its own resources, as to be more flexible in the prevention and management of future crises. In the long term, the European Union should not limit itself to mere crises responses. Rather, it should claim its position in shaping global developments and demonstrate leadership in its immediate neighborhood.
The basis for this is a unified EU: the division into East and West, North and South which we are currently witnessing, presents a danger to us all. It is therefore of utmost importance that the United Kingdom remains a part of the European Union. And we should never forget that it is our common European Union values that connect us: human dignity, freedom, democracy, peace, and the rule of law. We should not waste our energy focusing on our divisions, but to concentrate on making Europe, “the community of destiny”, work again. We have no doubt that Europe can succeed in this.
[This article was originally published in Komentare]Mikuláš Dzurinda Hans-Gert Pöttering Democracy European Union Values
Europe is doomed to succeed
08 Apr 2016
Regrettably, the concept of the European Union, its construction, way of working and fundamental values find themselves in grave crisis.
Many factors, of varying intensities, have contributed to this problem. First and foremost: three consecutive crises have befallen the EU in recent years. The financial crisis, the sovereign debt crisis, and now the immigration crisis – they all have taken a heavy toll. In the public conscience, the EU has become a symbol of Western failure. It is frequently perceived as assuming responsibility for the economic pain imposed upon ordinary citizens. In many member states, especially in the South, “austerity” is now the Union’s middle name. The unprecedented (and uncontrolled) influx of immigrants and refugees from Syria, North Africa, Iraq and some Asian countries polarised public opinion and unearthed a sort of emotion and prejudice we had not witnessed for many years. Again, the EU is largely blamed for the mess.
The EU does not provide health services, pensions nor education. In quiet times, that makes it less relevant in the eyes of an average citizen. But in times of crisis, a perverse process occurs in many member states in which budget cuts and decreased funding for public services and the welfare state are immediately attributed to the EU. The Union’s relevance grows, but unfortunately in a negative way.
The EU seems distant, disconnected from ordinary citizens. Its very construction separates it from the people. From the very outset the EU was elitist and based on a wise but hardly comprehensible set of norms. Its founding fathers, like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, wouldn’t have even thought of the necessity for “connecting with voters” when they sketched their first declarations. Nor could they have imagined that one day the whole concept would necessitate explanation in 140 characters (or less!) on Twitter.
The Eurozone crisis further deepened the impression that the whole system is undemocratic. Crucial decisions (that saved the Eurozone from collapsing) were taken in the shadowy cabinets of the Justus Lipsius building. Or in the ECB governing board meeting room.
The holy trio of old arguments explaining the Union’s raison d’etre, namely “peace”, “stability”, “prosperity”, is no longer valid. These values, dear to our grandfathers (and maybe inhabitants of Balkan region) are taken for granted in most European countries. How often do we think of the air we breathe? The same goes for the EU. Add to the pot the lost credibility of many national elites – and a recipe for disaster is ready.
European institutions, willing governments and pro-European parties, and above all business entities that profit from the single market, must react.
Many parallel efforts must be made to address the challenge. Firstly, the EU should defend itself by delivering. The EU should offer new solutions that feel relevant to citizens. If it is to redeem itself by concrete action and performance, then creating the social security pillar of the EU should be considered as the priority.
At the same time, the EU should urgently change the way it communicates and markets itself. It is essential that EU citizens rediscover the already offered “added value” of European Union membership.
The EU mechanisms are complex. So are insurance and investment banking products, but it does not stop companies from advertising them. The trick is to simplify the message and multiply it massively. Companies do not try to explain how their products and services are prepared, instead they focus on what is important and tell people how much would they profit from using them.
It is high time that the EU follow the business experience. It is not doing this right now. The EU must start telling people – like companies do – what it is delivering to them, directly or indirectly. There are easy to grasp benefits the EU could (and should) boast about such as the possibility to live, study and/or work in another EU country, the reduction of roaming charges, the Erasmus programme, cheaper flights, and improved consumer rights (especially in the online shopping business). Above all, the EU must communicate straightforwardly that it is creating – through the single market, free flow of capital and workers – hundreds of thousands jobs across the continent. Should the EU disappear, those jobs are gone too. This could be sold in a thirty second TV advertisement. Businesses can do, and do, exactly that: persuading us in thirty seconds how miserable our life would be, should we not buy the latest “Gizmo Pro 7”. The EU need not try to reinvent the wheel. It ought embrace the proven techniques, which are already successfully employed by business strategists.
This idea is serious. Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne pointed out the lack of discussion on the enormous costs to citizens of rolling back the single market, reintroducing border controls or reversing trade liberalisation. The European institutions and pro-European politicians seem to be failing in getting the message across. TV debates, lengthy interviews, press conferences, open doors – let’s not fool ourselves, it simply is not working.
To some in the Brussels-bubble this may sound like blasphemy, but the EU should not be shy in resorting to massive and emotionally-intelligent advertising. Right now there’s no counterbalance to bad news (often untrue) aired and published by tabloid media outlets on a daily basis. There’s no counterbalance to all sorts of lies and downright propaganda, thrown at the EU by its enemies. They don’t hesitate, they use every possible mean of attack.
It’s time the European institutions and stakeholders start to communicate like the most successful global companies do. Who should pay for it? The European Commission, the Parliament, the Council and the European political parties (while cutting expenses in other areas of communication) but also companies that profit from European integration.
Advertising is not a silver bullet. It can’t replace improved EU performance in fields that matter to ordinary citizens. The problem is we also need short-term solutions to stop people turning away from the EU. That’s a job for advertising. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. But there is responsibility to shine a light on the EU’s many positive attributes.
 M. Leonard et al., European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2016, ECFR, London 2016, 15
 H.Grabbe, S. Lehne, Emotional Intelligence for the EU Democracy, Carnegie Europe 2015Konrad Niklewicz EU Institutions European Union Values
The EU is a superb product. Time to advertise it seriously
17 Mar 2016
In 1819 the French intellectual Benjamin Constant pronounced his famous speech on ‘The liberty of the ancients compared with that of the moderns’. He argued that ancient men had no freedom as individuals, but only as members of the body politic. On the contrary, modern men living under representative government had limited political sovereignty, but many more individual freedoms.
His speech hinted at a profound difference between the ancients and the moderns. But what would he say if he could observe western societies now, after almost two centuries during which the liberty of the moderns revealed all its potential?
At the time of Constant’s writing, personal freedom was embedded in an intricate structure of family, community and church ties that mitigated it with ‘natural’ duties towards one’s elderlies, relatives, children, neighbours and ancestors. In a word, one’s community. These duties were not enforced by the external coercion of the law, but by the inner force of moral upbringing and by the external force of social conformity.
As a result, the freedom of the moderns was not exactly equivalent to the liberal principle of non-interference: it flourished within a complex ecosystem of moral obligations towards specific people; it was therefore as much about our negative obligations not to interfere with other people’s lives as about our positive duties towards them, which often compel us to restrain our natural desires and leanings for a higher good.
Under this conception, the emphasis was on self-mastery, moral discipline and social duties, not on leaving other people alone. In the Anglo-Saxon conservative tradition, this concept is referred to as ‘ordered freedom’, but it existed, with slightly different variants, in pretty much all traditional societies across the Western world, and it owed much to Christian moral teachings.
On the contrary, the contemporary conception of freedom tolerates little in the form of specific duties towards specific people. It tends to replace them with abstract duties towards abstract entities that do not require our direct effort as individuals but require us to call on politicians and bureaucrats to do something about it, to plan things better at the highest possible level, often the world level. That’s one root of the modern obsession with global poverty, while charity at home stagnates or is comfortably delegated to inefficient welfare bureaucracies, or with the environment and global warming.
The fashionable moral causes of our age have all in common that we do not have to take direct responsibility for their solution, our moral obligation is discharged by the mere preaching and campaigning. They are the kind of causes you can comfortably support from your sofa, writing tweets full of moral indignation during the break of the movie you are watching, and getting plenty of likes on them.
Thus, in a strange twist of western values, what progressives usually consider supreme ‘moral engagements’ are in fact the end point of a complex process of moral irresponsibility. This process, in turn, finds one of its causes in our dis-embeddedness from the organic communities that were the traditional ecosystem of individual morality across the western world.
There is perhaps something we can do to revive this ecosystem in the 21st century, but it may require measures that many would consider too far-reaching. They imply a progressive but radical reversal of the 20th century trend that saw more and more personal and social responsibilities taken away from individuals and voluntary organisations and handed over to state bureaucracies.
Societies are complex, adaptive structures, and there is no doubt that their resilience and resourcefulness have been hugely damaged by over a century of servitude to the state. The disease is chronic in the old Europe, where the march towards centralisation was most radical and people have become accustomed to believe that, far from being themselves ‘society’, they have a claim on ‘society’ – to be enforced by the State – for all sorts of things that morally responsible individuals used to see as their main duties in life: providing for themselves and their families, educating their children, taking care of their elderlies, saving for their old age and, very importantly, getting organised to support the neediest in their community through charities and churches.
I would not be surprised if, in the political conditions of the coming decades, there arose a great scope for a virtuous revision of the tasks of government in order to de-bureaucratese our systems and reintroduce choice and ownership at the individual, family and community level. The concrete ways to do so will have to be studied in details.
But there certainly are interesting possibilities, such as the rigorous application of voucher systems in health and education, which would re-empower parents, private organisations and churches in educational choices as well as in the direct management of schools. Home schooling could also be encouraged under certain conditions.
The progressive withdrawal of the state from the universal provision of social security (most notably pensions) should also be envisaged. People could be gradually re-empowered to keep more of their incomes and save for themselves and their families privately and freely, with the state stepping in only in extreme circumstances of need. In a nutshell, people could be encouraged to re-take control of their lives as responsible moral beings with specific social duties that cannot be delegated or outsourced because they are the essence of community life.
A strong intellectual commitment to shifting public opinions on these issues will surely be needed. But I believe we can convince people that this societal model is the healthiest, as it is based on the principles of freedom and genuine moral responsibility, not on the realities of bureaucratic coercion and that grotesque caricature of moral solidarity that is the modern welfare state.
These developments would no doubt be very challenging. But in times of economic stagnation, overblown public debts and social disintegration we may soon come to regard them as ultimately beneficial. It is not implausible that even Benjamin Constant would give us a like on this.Federico Ottavio Reho Ethics Social Policy Society Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Give me a like, not a duty! Reflections on postmodern freedom
05 Feb 2016
The universalism of liberal democracy is under attack. While the number of democracies in the world has increased, the level of freedom in them has declined. Electoral or illiberal democracies only provide the minimum standard of democracy, where individual liberties remain unprotected. Furthermore, these illiberal democracies have developed counter-narratives that attack the liberal international order, and with it, liberal democracy.
These counter-narratives, supported by Russia, China and other undemocratic regimes, confront liberal democracy in three ways: first, they trivialise the violation of individual liberties for the sake of increasing state security; second, the claim of civilisational diversity is used to reject democratic values as incompatible with their culture; and third, they accuse the West of the moral decay of ‘traditional’ values.
Moreover, these authoritarian narratives play to the West’s weaknesses. The West needs to defend its hard-won liberties, rights and values by confronting these counter-narratives. Furthermore, citizens have a moral duty to participate politically in order to ensure that democracy continues to work. The transatlantic community needs to ensure that liberal democracy remains at the top of its agenda.
Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Ingrid Habets Democracy Values
Liberal democracy: the threat of counter-narratives
23 Nov 2015
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in the blogpost are those of the author and thus they do not reflect the official position of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.
Indeed, the huge majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But the majority of perpetrators of terrorist acts in Europe since 2001 are Muslims. That fifteen million European Muslims generate more terrorists – including the thousands that travel to join ISIS – than half a billion of Europeans shows that their integration in Europe, especially in France, is failing.
What can’t Europe do?
Campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq achieved little but a regrouping of radical Islamists into a different organisation. Bombing the Middle East to Stone Age will not achieve much either. We should stop the migration flows and improve border controls. This would make sense at least until we learn how to better integrate Muslims into our societies.
But what about all those who are already in Europe? Again, I do not believe much can be achieved by violence. Fencing off Muslim ghettos or sending young jobless people to labor camps is unjust, inhumane and stupid. Policing and security checks are just the last line of defense. Battles with Islamists may be won with weapons, the war not.
Maybe we need more social workers for Muslim neighborhoods. More basketball and football fields. More and better teachers at schools. More jobs and/or higher welfare. Maybe. I am not so sure, because these services are quite extensive already.
Win the culture war
Recently, it became politically incorrect to claim that at least in the last five hundred years, the European civilization has been by far the most successful one on the planet, with clearly superior achievements to its neighbors across the Mediterranean. Calling that Eurocentrism does not make these claims false.
Europe did not achieve that because of some kind of racial or genetic superiority. We did not have better hardware, we had better software. The fight with Islamic extremism is a fight of two softwares – one that enabled the most successful civilization on earth and the other that – if used dogmatically – was keeping whole nations in the middle ages.
Simply put, being a member of the European civilization needs to become more attractive. It should be “hip” not to be a member of a local gang of immigrants, but be part of the civilization that built the Champs Elysées, Tulleries and the Arc de Triomphe, Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Church of Saint-Sulpice and the Eiffel Tower, the civilization that has painted the artwork in the Louvre and Orsay, be a part of a country that gave humanity Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie and Claude Debussy.
How does this compare to the achievements of the countries that Muslims came from? Politically incorrect question? Here is a politically incorrect answer: at the climax of their power, they added minarets to the largest building on earth at the time, the Christian church of Hagia Sophia. This might be a dramatic exaggeration, Arab Science in the Middle Ages had quite a few achievements, but was held back in the ivory towers. It was Western Science that changed the world.
Why are we Westerners unable to share the pride for the achievements of our brilliant civilization to immigrants? Why don’t all of them want to become a contributing force to this? Muslim youth could participate in the construction of the largest aircraft and the fastest trains in the world; instead, some are planning to bomb them. Europe had an open border for a long time, they were welcomed, and yet so many remain strangers.
But not with relativism
Perhaps this is so because some of the Westerners have lost faith in themselves, have stopped to take pride in their own achievements and roots. Yes, I am talking about the readers who were appalled by the deliberate political incorrectness and Euro-supremacism of the last couple of paragraphs.
How can we give an African or Arab the desire to become part of this great civilization, when some Europeans prefer to deny their fathers, religion, civilization and its achievements? How can becoming European be attractive if values that are immanently European are labelled “universal human values”?
No, comrades, liberté, égalité, fraternité are not universal human values. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness neither. These are Western values. Fabriqué en France, made in the USA! As long as some are ashamed to be European, we can’t expect immigrants to want to become a part of our society and culture.
This society is secular in principle with enough room for Muslim and other faiths, cultures and identities, but without genital mutilation of women, arranged marriages of minors, gender inequality, stoning of gays and bloggers etc. If being European is not able to inspire people, then it is only right that Europe is occupied by a culture that can. The vacuum created by relativism, conceptual entropy and cultural capitulation will be filled with something else. Anything, including Salafism and the sooner, the better. There will be fewer victims.
Remember Paris 1789
But if it matters to be European, then our response to the atrocities must also be European. Civilized not barbaric, determined not wishy-washy, proud not shy. Guilt is always individual and never collective. Their way is to kill the innocents, our method is to process the suspects. Sharply, strongly and fairly. If we want to win the war of culture, the last thing we should do is abandon our principles and values.
As long as proven otherwise, everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims, are free and equal first-class citizens with all their freedoms, rights and duties. They were, are and will be equal, maybe because 2,000 years ago someone said that we are all children of God. And definitely because it was in Paris in 1789 that someone wrote: “People are born free and with equal rights.”
Not only if we forget what that means, but also if we deny who and in what tradition invented it, Europe as we know it, will be dead.Žiga Turk Democracy European Union Society Values
18 Nov 2015
Socialists of all colours would have us believe that government interventions and regulations are the only way to tame the animal spirits of capitalism and give it a human face. As so often with socialist mantras, the very opposite is true: only a ‘conservative economy’ can be truly humane. But what exactly is a conservative economy? First, I define as conservative an economy with minimal government intervention, organised according to the principles of competition and individual freedom and responsibility. Second, I define as conservative an economy that is embedded in a society with solid conservative morals and a wealth of spontaneously developed and organically grown institutions.
The first element was crucial in unleashing the forces of human ambition and creativity that produced what economic historian Deirdre McCloskey called the ‘Great Enrichment’ of the last two centuries. The second element is crucial in order to maintain a sense of moral restraint and community belonging, which channel these wild creative forces to the pursuit of high and worthy purposes, something the rigorous enforcement of free market principles alone cannot ensure. In the inspired words of Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism: ‘society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.’
Precisely: the progressive agenda has always been about weakening ‘the controlling power within’ (the strict moral discipline of the classical and Christian tradition) in order to strengthen ‘the controlling power without’ (government controls and regulations), with a clear loss of human freedom, diversity and spontaneity; the conservative agenda has been – and should still be – about reviving ‘the controlling power within’ in order to minimise ‘the controlling power without’, thus protecting a societal model that is both more free, more humane and better connected to the great history of Europe’s civilisation.
In my understanding, this is one of the central themes in the thinking of German economist Wilhelm Röpke, a man who certainly deserves an honourable place in the intellectual pantheon of the European centre-right. Now fallen into almost complete oblivion, except in some ordoliberal circles of his native country, Röpke was once a respected and influential personality. He is rightly regarded as one of the intellectual fathers of the ‘Social Market economy’ and considered as the intellectual mentor of Ludwig Erhard, the man who, as Minister of Economics and then federal Chancellor, engineered the extraordinary rebirth of West Germany’s economy in the 1950s and 60s, and to whom Röpke was a trusted advisor.
Precisely fifty-five years ago, Röpke published a book entitled A Humane Economy, in which he set out to reflect upon ‘the social framework of the free market’ (a free PDF version of the book is available here). The book never became a bestseller and was too focused on the ills of its author’s age to be considered a classic. However, to the extent that the ills of its author’s age are also the ills of our age, there is a great deal we can learn from it. Here are some of the lessons I retained, although I do not claim that Röpke would have necessarily illustrated them the way I do:
- In spite of its amazing power of innovation, the market is a conservative institution with precise limits. It is ‘conservative’ because it is, to borrow the expression of Adam Ferguson and Friedrich Hayek, ‘the product of human action but not of human design’. In other words, it is an organically grown institution resulting from the free and spontaneous interaction of human beings. Nobody has either planned it or can control it, and yet its results are infinitely better than anything the smartest planners could engineer because it gives free course to human cooperation and ingenuity. At the same time, Röpke explains, what makes life worthy is ‘the whole unpurchaseable world beyond the market and turnover figures, the world of dignity, beauty, poetry, grace, chivalry, love, and friendship, the world of community, variety of life, freedom, and fullness of personality’. There is no guarantee that free markets will promote the pursuit of these values, in fact they may even discourage it unless they are underpinned by healthy moral foundations.
- The European welfare state is one of the major instruments of the progressive plan to weaken ‘the controlling power within’ and strengthen ‘the controlling power without’. As Röpke explains in details, ‘a whole world divides a state which occasionally rescues some unfortunate individual from destitution from another state where a sizable part of private income is constantly sucked into the pumping engine of the welfare state and diverted by it, with considerable friction losses’. In the second scenario (our scenario), the welfare state becomes a bureaucratic machine that weakens individual and family responsibilities, distorts economic incentives, increases economic dependency and tends towards self-aggrandizement and the self-preservation of people who have a stake in it.
- An integrated European order that is both free and humane must be built on federalism and on what Röpke calls ‘decentrism’, not on centralisation and progressive planning. Calling himself a ‘European patriot’, this German intellectual who was in love with Switzerland – where he lived and taught for a long time – seems to have had in mind the Swiss model of the immediate post-WWII period when he spoke about Europe. According to him, the continent had to consolidate, recover its self-confidence, revive its political and military power and regain its due place in world politics, but it could only do so by strictly adhering to decentralisation, revitalising local communities and embracing competitive federalism: ‘decentrism is of the essence of the spirit of Europe. To try to organize Europe centrally, to subject the Continent to a bureaucracy of economic planning, and to weld it into a block would be nothing less than a betrayal of Europe and the European patrimony’. We are not very far from the European federalism I recently defended as the best vision for the pro-European right of the 21st century.
Wilhelm Röpke was all at once a Christian humanist imbued with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, a conservative in the best central and Northern European tradition and a free market economist. He harmoniously combined in his own thinking different intellectual traditions which are now politically represented within the European People’s Party. His work deserves to be rediscovered and pondered.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Economy Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Economy with a human face: some thoughts on Wilhelm Röpke’s ‘A Humane Economy’
10 Nov 2015
Power is decaying everywhere. In business, politics, the military, religion and even in chess, jokes economist Moisés Naím pointing at the decline of Russian supremacy in this field. In The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used To Be (2013) Naím argues his case with compelling evidence, while making an obvious reference to Francis Fukuyama’s classic book The End of History and the Last Man.
A book in which the American political scientist saw the triumph of Western liberal democracy after the Cold War as a possible end point of mankind’s ideological evolution. Does the ambitious reference live up to its promise then? The author surely comes close to that.
He kicks off by presenting a very clear definition of power as ‘the ability to direct or prevent the current or future actions of other groups and individuals.’ ‘Power’, he says, ‘has a social function. Its role is not just to enforce domination or to create winners and losers: it also organises communities, societies, marketplaces, and the world.’ This refined analysis proves to be an indispensable foundation for his conclusions later on.
When debating the issue of ‘power’ Naím does not forget to mention the patriarch of power theory: 17th century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes said that ‘during the time men live without a common power, a Leviathan to keep them all in awe, they are in that position which is called war and such a war as is of every man against every man.’
These days, the world is confronted with power shifts, secularization and a steady decline of traditional institutions. According to the author, the current Leviathan is therefore nowhere to be found and with this statement he does have a point.
In business, for example, the market power of large firms has declined due to global competition in emerging economies. Large enterprises like Nokia and Yahoo have lost their significance, and it is clear that the future belongs to creative small firms and dynamic technological companies. Power in the corporate sector is diminishing and harder to hold on to when you get it.
The monopoly position once held by traditional political parties as spokesperson for society’s grievances, hopes and demands has been eroded. In Europe especially, the influence of traditional political parties is fading rapidly: on average only around 4.7 per cent of the national electorates are members of a political party today.
This trend has paved the way for the success of ad hoc, fast paced, electoral machines. Some extremist parties are also profiting from it, given the fact that they often profit from the so called ‘protest vote’. One has to look no further than the results of the 2014 European elections for a confirmation.
The author presents the case of the decline of military power too. He coins the term ‘minilateralism’ to indicate that at present it takes a smaller amount of countries or resources to make a global impact. Al Qaeda spent about $500,000 to produce 9/11, whereas the direct losses of the destruction plus the costs of the American response to the attacks were $3.3 trillion.
Unfortunately as with this case and other examples, facts and figures used in the book we do not get the most up to date information. In a rapidly evolving international world order where regional conflicts multiply this is no minor detail, and one might have wished for more recent examples.
Finally, Naím considers the decline of religion, arguably one of the direst cases in the book. Religious organisations traditionally had the power to determine the patterns of social behaviour. The decline in the number of practicing Christians represents a drastic case of decay of power, removing it from large hierarchical and centralised structures and in favour of a constellation of small and nimble autonomous players.
The overall decay of traditional institutions cannot be without consequences; without them, the risk of disorder emerges. Moreover, their demise implies the disappearance of the highly specific knowledge they often embodied, which is not easy to replicate for newcomers. Additionally, the more slippery power gets, the more likely it is to be governed by short term incentives and fears.
On a psychological level, these changes in power structure, traditional hierarchy, predictable norms and rules can lead to disorientation, because the social function of power, so clearly captured in Naím’s definition of it, is hindered. Interestingly, Naím believes the danger of alienation in modern societies is even more severe than that of recent threats such as radical Islam. Had it been written this year (as opposed to 2013), this position would have been controversial, to say the least.
In the final chapter, the author states that ‘big power is not dead, but these old institutions are more constrained than ever in what they can achieve.’ For our societies to adjust to this new reality, a new wave of political and institutional innovations will be needed. We had one such wave of political innovations after World War II, when the desire to prevent another global conflict led to the creation of institutions such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union. A new wave of innovations brought about by the transformation of power structures, Naím argues, is inevitable.
Overall, The End of Power is a highly sophisticated work. Although the book is not flawless – for a second edition the author should definitely consider updating his facts and figures – it offers an interesting interdisciplinary reflection on the corrosion of traditional powers. It remains to be seen if the book will become a classic comparable to Fukuyama’s The End of History. In the meantime, The End of Power certainly makes for provocative reading and helps us realise what momentous and often unnoticed transformations power is undergoing in our time.
The European centre-right was a front runner in developing some of the now ‘traditional’ institutions founded after World War II. It should therefore remain future-oriented and open to innovative solutions for the pressing societal challenges of today. However, it should do so without undermining its belief in the importance of strong communities and civil society.
The End of Power: A book review
14 Oct 2015
Now that the wrangling about quotas for refugees among the member states of the Union is over (for the time being), and Europe is more focused on regaining control of our external borders, it’s time to look at some of the more long term questions concerning our identity.
Most of Europe’s leaders agree that the current wave of migrants coming to Europe will change our societies. Some express fears (that Europe will lose its Christian identity), others hope (that more diversity will make us more tolerant, less nationalist, more open). Others are simply skeptical whether the sudden influx will be easy to manage without bringing our societies near breaking point.
Let me first deal with two notions that I reject. The first one claims that the sheer fact that migrants come from a different culture and embrace a different faith, will put European civilisation in jeopardy. The other one says that a massive influx of people from other cultures automatically makes us better people because diversity is always good: the more multicultural our identity, the better we will become. Both notions are deeply mistaken.
The fatalists claiming that European civilisation has now signed its own death warrant, might want to take a look at examples of successful integration in counter-intuitive places, such as the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic whose second generation is melting beautifully into Czech society. They are neither white, nor to any significant extent Christian.
But on the other hand, the starry-eyed multiculturalists have a hard time defending the growth of parallel societies, in which the central values of our constitutions (equal rights for men and women, freedom of expression and faith etc.) are systematically disregarded: in places like Parisian suburbs, parts of Birmingham or Berlin-Neukoelln.
All this brings us to the central long term challenge of the current wave of refugees, many of whom are here to stay for a long time: Integration. Looking back at different European strategies over the past five decades, none can be called fully successful. That has many reasons, but one of them is that too often, efforts to effectively integrate migrants have not been made, either because we denied that we are facing (and for demographic reasons, even need) immigration, or because insisting on values was somehow smacking of Western imperialism.
It’s time to take a fresh look. Germany’s debate in recent weeks shows that. Germans continue to be more than willing to shelter those whose lives are threatened. But integration has become one of the hottest topics of German politics, thanks to the refugees. A whole group of politicians from the CDU and the Greens is now openly talking about migrants’ obligation to integrate. As wobbly as it sounds, and as hard as it is to enforce this, it will nevertheless have to become an indispensable part of ‘Willkommenskultur’.
Public administration, social services, schools and civil society: they will all have to incorporate a much stronger emphasis on the central values of Western societies when dealing with migrants. This has to happen from day one of the asylum application process. Material success must be clearly and openly linked to successful integration. That means improving access to the labour market as much as a more intensive effort to explain our constitutions and the rights and obligations of citizens. Countries like Canada, Australia or the United States have some useful lessons ready. We should not be shy to use what is applicable to Europe, while knowing full well that we cannot copy 100 %.
Angela Merkel’s ‘Wir schaffen das’ (We’ll manage) should not only refer to the immediate challenge of sheltering hundreds of thousands of people. It should also refer to the challenge of integrating many of them into a modern, open society. The stakes are enormous: if we manage this, the reward will be a younger population, possibly even a completely new link to Middle Eastern countries, as we already have forged new links to Turkey and the Western Balkans in recent decades.
But if we fail, this could still ruin social cohesion, and bring Europe down for good. The question is not whether Europe in 20 years will have fewer Christians and more Muslims. The question is whether we will still be an open society. If that is what we want to be, we need to get serious about integration now.Roland Freudenstein Immigration Integration Migration Social Policy Values
Who do we want to be in 20 years? European identity and the refugee crisis
01 Oct 2015
An article dealing with the meaning of European federalism may appear untimely and anachronistic to many contemporary readers. It comes at a moment when the European ideal is under great strain, when only a handful of dreamers still have the temerity to call themselves ‘federalists’, and almost none of them would dare to do so in public. The EU has been mired for years in an economic crisis of unusual length and scope, the legitimacy of its institutions is being questioned and anti-EU forces are on the rise in many countries.
Besides, the claim to be offering a reappraisal of such an important topic may appear presumptuous, coming as it does after more than 60 years of European integration and many profound appraisals of this historical process.
However, very little systematic analysis has been carried out so far on the meaning of European federalism. This article, far from conclusive and all-encompassing, is a contribution in the direction of such an analysis. It reflects on the meaning of European federalism and argues that the values and policies it implies could offer answers to many contemporary challenges and change the EU and its member states for the better.
The first section deals with the ideals and institutional structure underpinning federalism. The second sketches the economic constitution of a federal polity. The third section briefly illustrates how this federalism can help meet certain contemporary challenges.
The meaning of federalism
Whereas the US founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to draft the original constitution of the United States, the European founding fathers never fully articulated their political vision of an integrated Europe in a constitutional document. Therefore, the origins of European integration contain no grand federalising moment comparable to the US Constitutional Convention. European integration developed as a process for which ‘ever closer union’ and federalism were simply regulative ideals and not elements of a precise constitutional blueprint.
Today, a long way down the path of integration, this ambiguity seems less and less tenable, as it leaves all pro-Europeans open to the accusation that they are ultimately struggling to unify the continent within a state-like polity similar to those that unified the various European nations in previous centuries.
Read the full FREE article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Federico Ottavio Reho Integration Regionalisation Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Did we get it wrong? The true meaning of European federalism
09 Sep 2015
The political parties from across the European continent have formed transnational political families, based on their values. The ‘internationalisation’ of political parties started in the late nineteenth century, but it was brought to a completely new level once the European Parliament (EP) came into existence, as the parties then had the chance to compare their views and negotiate their positions on the same policy dilemmas at the same time.
From the beginning, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have formed parliamentary groups not according to their nationality, but according to their ideology—just as in national parliaments parliamentary groups are formed by the members who share similar policy orientations in order to better coordinate, share resources and exert influence on policy.
This article analyses the voting behaviour of these pan-European parliamentary groups, whose cohesion and internal splits are used as indicators of the actual symmetries and divisions between national parties belonging to the same political orientation.
How cohesive are the European parliamentary groups in the new term?
The pan-European parties have long been considered mere consultative bodies, rather than decision-making ones. Power has always remained in the hands of the national party chiefs and the heads of state. Traditionally, the leading political figures within the EU institutions, whether commissioners or MEPs, have been seen as following instructions from their party bosses back home.
But the aftermath of the 2014 European elections may indicate a change of direction. Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EP has become bolder, not only when negotiating legislation, but also when appointing the EU’s chief executives. MEPs have been able not only to create a united front among themselves but also to rally support among their colleagues at national level using the structures of the European parties. Ultimately, they submit their candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.
Read for FREE the full article published in the June 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Doru Petrisor Frantescu EU Institutions EU Member States Integration Values
Doru Petrisor Frantescu
Values topple nationality in the European Parliament
09 Sep 2015
340.000 recorded migrants crossed Europe’s border between January and June 2015: an unprecedented number for the EU. Conflicts and repression are raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen with a level of intensity that current EU defence, development and humanitarian mechanisms simply cannot cope with.
Europe is left with simultaneous challenges: ensuring control of our borders, maintaining societal stability, honouring our values and living up to binding international commitments to help refugees.
In the short term, that means protecting the Schengen perimeter by fighting smugglers more aggressively and preventing terrorist infiltrations. This defensive boost could materialise in three ways:
 Common Standards for Border Management as legal chaos reigns today;
 Frontex, Europe’s border management Agency, should be allowed to initiate return missions and not just stick to operational assistance;
 A European System of Border Guards should be created, targeting sensitive spots where flows are not manageable by Member States.
Listing those technical points, one still feels overwhelmed by the amplitude of the catastrophe. Those refugees bring up the best of our instincts but also the worst. If those negative reactions prevail over our values of humanity and solidarity, then we have lost the battle to the radical groups who are responsible for this horror. Refugees should therefore be rescued, bearing in mind also that some will have to be returned. Europe faces dire political and economic challenges, in addition to investing in more forceful civil-military responses to the ongoing conflicts.
Leaving the big politics for later, we will now list civil society initiatives across the continent that demonstrate the values Europe is built upon. We used the internet and our own contacts all over the EU and found a lot of venues to help. They are obviously many more out there:
- Germany: Refugees Welcome Initiative
- Iceland: Icelanders call for more refugees
- Slovakia: Who Will Help?, a Slovak Initiative to accommodate refugees with help of 1,000 volunteers
- United Kingdom: Home for Refugees
- Czech Republic: Organisation for Help to Refugees
- Denmark: Danish Refugee Council
- Hungary: Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary and Migration Help Hungary
- Malta: ADITUS and MOAS
- Italy: Italian Jesuit Service for Refugees
- France: Le Forum des Refugies
- Norway: Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers
- Belgium: Serve the City
- Poland: Fundacion Estera
[Photo: Haeferl, Wikimedia]Michael Benhamou Pavlina Pavlova EU Member States Immigration Migration Values
More Europe, Less Egoism: European civil society to the rescue in the migrant crisis
04 Sep 2015
The failure of multiculturalism has been declared by many. Yet few have come up with alternatives to how Europe’s ethnic and religious groups can co-exist in our liberal democracies. This InFocus argues that Europe can benefit from the genuine desire that many immigrants have, to identify with the constitutions of their new home countries while maintaining elements of their own culture.
European and national policymakers should elaborate on the existing concept of multiculturalism, and they could learn from the US and Canadian approaches to integration. Europe’s centre-right political parties have a particular role not only in opening politics to immigrants and their descendants but also in forging strong national and European allegiances that are compatible with group belonging.
The jihadist terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen in early 2015 starkly reminded us that not all is well with the integration of Muslims into European societies. Paradoxically, the public demonstrations in France that followed the attacks injected a degree of optimism into European public life. These moving and encouraging public displays demonstrated beyond doubt that France continues to be a country of liberty. The 3.7 million people who were on the streets also proved, in their support for tolerance and freedom of speech, that liberal democracy is not dead.
Nevertheless, if anyone still had doubts, European liberal democracy is facing a number of external and internal tests. Among them are dealing with group identities and with jihadist terrorism, as these identities’ extreme manifestation. Positively dealing with group belonging is a precondition to tackling the wider challenge, to create a sense of common purpose at the difficult times that Europe is experiencing.
IN FOCUS is a new series of commentaries in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.Centre-Right Immigration Integration Society Values
Politics of Identity: What Next after Multiculturalism
26 May 2015
This week, Europe gears up for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Sure enough, Russian propaganda does everything to use the narrative of Russia the liberator – then and now – for their purpose of whipping up patriotic fervour. At the same time, the Central Europeans from the Baltics to Bulgaria have a different view: The Soviet victory of 1945 brought them from one catastrophe to another one. And today, Putin’s Russia is a clear and present danger to their freedom, and their ambitions to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the Eastern Neighbourhood. So there is a clear alternative to Russia’s narrative about war and about its own place in history.
But there is another war we should think and talk about: Russia’s blatant aggression against Ukraine. The West should not have been as surprised as it was, back in March 2014. The writing had been on the wall since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 – and its ongoing violation of the ceasefire agreement afterwards. The Kremlin is waging war against Russia’s neighbours because it sees successful democracies in the region as a threat to its own power. It needs the narrative of the alleged past humiliation at the hands of the West in order to justify its aggression. It needs the confrontation with the West in order to distract attention from the failure of the economy. In the words of Ed Lucas, the West’s reaction to this war has been mixed, at best. It is true, we have managed to maintain unity on sanctions – so far. And yes, NATO has reacted robustly by beefing up its capacities to come to the rescue of Balts and others threatened by Russian aggression. Despite this, the assessments among Europeans of the significance of Russia’s breach of basic norms have not converged. And, no, the danger of an unravelling of EU and NATO solidarity is not over.
This brings us to the war that Russia is now threatening to bring upon the West every day in its media. In March, 2014, Kremlin media mogul Dmitri Kisilyov stated that Russia was ‘the only country in the world really capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash’. Ever since then, the Kremlin has hammered the message home to Russians that war with the West is looming. This is accompanied by the narrative that the ‘decadent’ West will roll over if you only threaten it firmly enough. Look at the ending of the infamous ruski okupant video and you know what we have to react to now.
Si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war. This apparent paradox is at the core of what has come to be called military deterrence in modern times, but in reality is a principle of conflict as old as mankind itself. In order to keep your adversary from attacking you, you have to prepare your defences, including counter-attack, precisely because you don’t want to have to use your weapons. So we must re-learn deterrence. We have forgotten about it in the last 25 years, as articulated by Anne Applebaum last year. Some of the members of our political classes have also been traumatised by the ‘peace movement’ of the 1980s which was essentially directed against the principle of possessing nuclear weapons.
However if we want to prevail in this confrontation, further spread democracy and the rule of law eastward, and live in peace, we cannot avoid relearning a couple of simple truths. Most importantly, is the truth concerning deterrence. If it is to be credible, it must be based on three pillars: The capacity to defend yourself, the willingness to do so, and the communication of both to the opponent. At this point in time, the West must shape up in all three categories. That presupposes, first and foremost, a frank public debate about the military threat we are facing: conventional, hybrid and nuclear. It includes the insight that we can only live in freedom today because the United States has been, and ultimately still is, risking thermonuclear war for us – remember the Cold War? And it also means that we – political parties, leaders, think tanks and NGOs, need to start a frank and rational debate about all of this.
So do mention the war: the one that ended 70 years ago and about which Europe still has to find a narrative that lives up to our values. The one that Russia has started against Ukraine, and to which the West is still struggling to find a consistent, determined and sustainable answer. And the big one between Russia and the West, which will hopefully never happen but which we have to be ready to wage if we want to prevent it.Roland Freudenstein Defence Democracy EU-Russia Values
Do mention the war!
07 May 2015
Ukraine and its people are facing a very tough period in their history. We all know that Ukraine needs not only monetary but also political and moral support. That is why I decided, together with three friends, including two members of the European Parliament, to take part in the Kyiv half marathon. They agreed with me that you do not need a reason to run, but it is great to have a cause to run for, and joined the team. What do marathon running and implementing reforms have in common? For starters, they both include a long and arduous journey in which you will run into difficulties. You may even feel pain at times, but nothing compares to the feeling one has when crossing the finish line.
That was the key message of our ‘Run for Ukraine’ campaign: we wanted to express our solidarity and to inspire the brave Ukrainian people to bear with the pain of reforms so that they can soon feel the rewarding feeling of crossing the finish line.
This was a unique opportunity for all of us to meet people in the marathon and exchange views: they told me that every year as the marathon movement becomes more popular, it is becoming part of their everyday life and culture. It is important to understand that our routine too is a marathon of fighting bad habits and each time you win, it makes you stronger, because when you are committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.
Last year, together with my friends and colleagues from the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies we decided to start a big project entitled ‘Ukraine Reforms’. I visited Ukraine in December and talked to students, young people, business representatives, and media. I explained them why reforms are needed. After my visit, Ivan Miklos, former deputy Prime minister of Slovakia, also visited Kyiv to discuss macroeconomic reforms. Now he is an advisor to the Ukrainian Minister for Finance and to the Minister for Economic Development and Trade.
In February, former Prime Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius visited Kyiv and also Dnipropetrovsk as part of the project. Last week, Janez Jansa, former Prime Minister of Slovenia visited Odessa and Kyiv. He held discussions about security and defence, an area he knows well since his time in office as Defence Minister in the first Slovenian democratic government. Under Communist rule, he had been a dissident and fought for the freedom of his country.
In May, two friends of mine, Jan Bielecki and Leszek Balcerowicz, accomplished Polish politicians, will visit Ukraine. They can be described as the architects of the first model for the transition from communism to a market economy. I am looking forward to see the results of their exchange of expertise on the ground.
Reform in Ukraine today should be comprehensive. I would say the three major reforms include the tax system, the labour market and public administration, with a profound decentralisation of power. Having had the opportunity to speak to diverse and local communities, I saw that the people of Ukraine have the determination and commitment required for them to push through these difficult times.
I hope that the advice and expertise of the team of reformers we assembled under the umbrella of the ‘Ukraine Reforms’ project will make a positive contribution. Their journey now is a marathon of reforms: Ukrainians have a long way to go and are sure to stumble over difficulties but their will is strong. Nevertheless, I believe that, together, we will make it to the finish line.Mikuláš Dzurinda Eastern Europe Leadership Values
Committed to reforms
04 May 2015
A significant town in the north of France – Hénin Beaumont, 26.000 inhabitant-strong – has recently decided to shift from seventy years of socialism to Front National (FN), France’s extreme right anti-EU party. The 2014 Municipal elections gathered 64% of voters and 50,3% of their ballots went to the new FN Mayor, Steeve Briois. No second round was needed.
The first source of discontent turned out to be the former Mayor’s fraud scandal and budget mismanagement, yet the debate revealed a deeper feeling of abandonment : « after World War II, French governments took a lot of taxes from our coal, textile and steel outputs and when all that closed down, nobody invested in our region to transform it ». Workers, engineers were left with the choice of unemployment or migration to other regions in France’s East-central areas. When asked about Charlie Hebdo and the recent terrorist attacks, the answer is quite blunt : « all of this is very Parisian here, far from our concerns. We want jobs ».
The European Union is perceived as being unsupportive of those violent social changes : « Europe forgets the young and the old, […], Europe only brings more austerity to our problems, […] Europe is breaking up social achievements and serves the interests of free marketeers ». Others complained about the difficulty of filling FEDER’s paperwork, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in small towns where none are trained for it.
For many citizens of Hénin, despite their proximity to Belgium, Brussels is perceived as a cold place where few of them are at ease. Bringing a case or a project to the EU is « simply distressing ».
Panelists answered back that Europe actually brings more opportunity and solidarity. The example of a participant’s close friend was mentioned : Italian born, she studied in France thanks to Erasmus and later on found a job in Sweden, learning two new languages in the process. One listener interjected that « she also sent her kids abroad, to Germany, and Europe requires a lot of efforts, a lot of contortions to reach employment. Eventually what you see scares you ; the lack of activity is everywhere in the south, in Spain, in Italy ». And Europe’s institutions are « just confusing ».
Hénin residents believe they have accepted a lot of compromise and adapted to the best of their abilities. Many left their families and region to find work elsewhere with very limited support from Paris and Brussels, in their view. They wonder where all those economic and political disruptions are leading them to, for what Europe ?
This is where Front National plays its best cards : you are making sacrifices for a Europe that accelerates that instability and favors immigration […] bring back your energy to a project you can control and understand : your nation and your community.
Combating that fatigue, and the egoistic temptations conveyed by far-right parties, reminds us of the challenges that awaits political representatives and all of us:
• Engage citizens in towns where participation at EU’s elections is low or negative ;Michael Benhamou Democracy European Union Populism Values
• Persevere in explaining Europe and the direction of its policies ;
• In a nutshell : make Europe a frontier that can be reached again.
Defending Europe in Hénin Beaumont
23 Jan 2015
In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris between 7 and 9 January 2015, Marine Le Pen, head of France’s Front National, made several statements. She was right to blame Islamic fundamentalism as an ideology that inspired the terrorists. But most of her responses to the attacks deserve to be refuted.
Firstly, on the day following the murders at Charlie Hebdo headquarters, Le Pen suggested a referendum on the death penalty in France. She would introduce this referendum if she were to be elected as French president in 2017. Secondly – and she was not the only European populist to do so – she seized on Paris attack by targeting European immigration policies. Specifically, she stated that President Hollande should suspend French membership in the Schengen Agreement. This Agreement governs the functioning of a visa-free zone of people on the territories of its European signatories.
Le Pen’s proposals are not only populist, they are also ineffective. A return to death penalty would bring France’s law closer to countries with whose political systems Le Pen probably would not want to be associated, such as Syria. And the record of the death penalty in preventing crime is more than questionable.
[Photo source: www.lemonde.fr]
The suggestion that France should suspend its membership in Schengen is even more absurd. The perpetrators of the terrorist attacks, the Kouachi brothers and Ahmed Coulibaly, were French citizens born in France. They learned the terrorist trade not in the countries that their parents originated from, that is Algeria and Senegal. Instead, these terrorists were trained in Yemen and Syria, countries where they had no family connections. They did not require Schengen visas to be able to commit terrorism. Withdrawing from the Schengen Agreement thus would not contribute in the slightest to preventing similar attacks in the future. And linking terrorism to immigration would mean focusing on the wrong factor, thus wasting precious resources in tackling terrorism.
On a more general level, it’s not clear how changes in immigration policies would help in tackling jihadist violence on Europe’s soil. Improving cooperation among our secret services, monitoring suspects and defeating ISIS seem like much more effective policies. When it comes to immigrants or people with an immigrant ancestry, the real policy challenge in front of us is the integration of these people into society.
The 3.7 million of people who demonstrated in support of tolerance and free speech after the Paris attacks, demonstrated that liberal democracy is not dead in Europe. If our liberal democratic systems are to survive, we must not wreck them by annihilating our freedoms. We must also be much more confident in our efforts to integrate immigrants and their children in European society.Vít Novotný European Union Immigration Values
The Paris terror attacks should not influence EU immigration policies
15 Jan 2015
Freedom of expression was the assassins’ first target on January 7th in Paris, at Charlie Hebdo’s offices. But, deeper, lies a widespread feeling amongst those radicalized groups that resolve is on their side: nothing can challenge a strength drawn from the belief in God – and a sizable contortion of Islamic texts. We, Westerners, are just getting weak and lonely.
One of the masterminds of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), wrote pages on the subject while imprisoned in Guantanamo: “hundreds of American crusaders join the US Army, wear the latest military gear, eat the best food in Iraq and Afghanistan and play with their play stations while their enemies, the poor Muslim, can’t find their daily bread (…) but at the end, the American soldiers go back home and commit suicide.” (“KSM’s Statement to the Crusaders of the Military Commission in Guantanamo”, p.11).
Fundamentalists live off those narratives of sacrifice that mirror Western weak spots, turned into signs that history is presumably shifting in their direction. Favorites of that propaganda are plenty: hostages certain European nations are willing to give millions for, soldiers protected behind heavy concrete walls, caricatured as devilish drone players, the loss of meaning, the absence of values that fundamentalists believe a democracy cannot sustain in the long run. To paraphrase KSM again, “happiness is not found in music, dancing, or in living a so called free life (…)” where only divorce and AIDS supposedly await all of us.
Charlie Hebdo had found happiness in freedom, like many of us. They were targeted because they pushed freedom to an edge that some refuse to handle and accept. Facing that tiny minority, Charlie cartoonists never lost themselves in excuses, fear or hatred. They continued their work despite recurring threats with visible glee and great courage. “I would rather die standing up than live on my knees” were Charb’s famous words. There is a lot of inspiration to be drawn from this behavior.Michael Benhamou Democracy Extremism Islam Religion Values
Charlie Hebdo massacre: a test for Western character
09 Jan 2015
The European People’s Party (EPP) examined its values at the Bucharest Congress in October 2012. The result of this reassessment, the Bucharest Party Platform, affirmed the six core values of the EPP: the dignity of human life in every stage of its existence, freedom and responsibility, equality and justice, truth, solidarity and subsidiarity. These values are inspired by the Christian Democratic philosophy. Although today’s EPP includes also parties that do not consider themselves Christian Democratic, all member parties of the EPP draw inspiration from these values. After an exploration of the foundation of the EPP, this paper examines the party’s core values, tracing their origins to religious writings. The paper outlines how these values translate into the practical policies of the EPP: the party’s response to Europe’s economic crisis and addressing issues around free movement and access to social benefits in the EU. The paper demonstrates that values underpin the party’s policies but also that practical politics leaves room for interpretation.Christian Democracy Ethics European People's Party Religion Values
The Christian Democratic Origins of the European People’s Party
11 Dec 2014
In What Money Can’t Buy, world renowned American political philosopher and Harvard Professor, Michael J. Sandel bravely takes up the challenge of trying to answer one of the fundamental questions of human history: what money should and should not buy.
Skipping the usual elaborate introduction, Sandel begins by illustrating how modern society has become a global marketplace where nearly anything can be purchased for the right price. Sandel presents a collection of examples to strengthen his case. For instance, so called ‘concierge doctors’ in the US now offer their services for annual fees ranging from $1,500 to $25,000. A move made possible by the fact that standard doctor’s appointments in the US often have to be hurried affairs because of the low reimbursement rate offered by insurance companies to primary care doctors for routine appointments. Those who are willing to pay the amount can count on “absolute, unlimited and exclusive access to your personal physician.” The drawback, of course, is that it’s unfair to those who are not part of the happy (wealthy) few.
Sandel continues by illustrating that as a result of this ‘marketisation’ of society, people are often happy to pay off the moral obligation to adjust to social norms if they can. For example, introducing a fine for parents who came late to pick up their children from a nursery school did not reduce the number of late-arriving parents, but actually doubled it. The parents treated the fine as a fee they were willing to pay. Picking up a child therefore becomes a market relationship with the teacher/school.
Market reasoning however, has no objections to these notions of unfairness and moral obligations. It relies on the thought that free markets contribute to societies’ well being by allocating the goods to the buyers who value them most highly, based on their willingness to pay. Sandel concurs to a certain point, but argues that market reasoning is incomplete without moral reasoning. He argues that when market reasoning is applied to more morally charged issues such as love, friendship, sex, education, health or environmental protection, it is not plausible to assume that everyone’s preferences are equally worthwhile. Some of these goods, he feels, should be excluded from the exchange-value logic or else they will eventually lose their value. The essence of this argument can be traced back as far as Aristotle. In that sense, Sandel’s analysis offers an easy-to-read update of some classical held ideas.
Although written in 2012, the topic remains relevant in the current ‘collaborative consumption’ society in which (private) people with limited resources connect to those with under-used assets in need of some extra cash. Virtually everything is up for sale and we all become small entrepreneurs on the side. Accordingly, society slowly transforms in a fully fledged business industry. Not that there’s anything wrong with entrepreneurship, the economy thrives on it, but the more extensive this ‘collaborative consumption’ becomes, social gatherings will more and more revolve exclusively around possible commercial transactions.
In an era of increased consumption, Sandel’s well written analysis of how money has infiltrated our lives offers a differing view. A point made especially relevant in the aftermath of arguably the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. His main argument that we should decide what values should govern the various domains of social and civic life is a strong one; market rationality has become dominant to a point where respecting social norms is at stake.
The main problem of the book is that the vast majority of the examples of commodification he presents, are American. This harms the universality of his argument. Another obstacle for the book to become an undisputed classic (like some of his previous works) is the sheer volume of these examples; it does not leave ample room for a thorough analysis.
Interesting, Professor Sandel is himself also for sale. For an extraordinary amount, he will show up for a lecture to talk about what money can’t buy!Barend Tensen Development Ethics Social Policy Society Values
What money should and should not buy
14 Nov 2014
25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, for most Europeans, personal reminiscences mingle with historical reflections and a certain idea of an uncertain future. The opening of the border between East and West Berlin on the evening of 9 November, 1989, not only opened the road to the unification of Germany. It also brought European communism to an end, the classical East-West confrontation (a.k.a. Cold War) to a close, and it paved the way to a ‘Europe Whole and Free’, in the words of the then U.S. President George H. W. Bush.
In the midst of so many comments and observations about that magic year, here are three simple insights:
First, the Wall was brought down by the people, not by Mikhail Gorbachev. The revolution of 1989 was, first and foremost, not made by somehow enlightened communist first secretaries that had suddenly come to their senses, or fallen in love with free elections. The Wall came down because the people had had enough of it, and were willing to risk everything, even their lives, in order to change their political system. That was also because a functioning alternative, Western Europe’s liberal democracy, was there. And it was because there were leaders in the West that were alert and determined enough to help the freedom movements in the East at the right time: Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. The reason why most party leaders of the Warsaw Pact and their henchmen in army and secret police did not use force, was that they did not believe force would ultimately be able to save communism. But saving communism was still their project – from Warsaw to Moscow via East Berlin, different speeds notwithstanding, they all tried an organised retreat, step by step, until it was too late for them to keep the Wall standing.
Second, the fall of the Wall was a great moment in time. On the backdrop of what came before, but also what we seem to go through today, 1989 and the decade that followed were a time of universal human progress. Democratic revolutions were achieved almost bloodlessly, and the transformation to the rule of law, democracy and the market economy in Central Europe was a huge success, compared to any other attempt made elsewhere since then. Economic, political and cultural globalisation received a huge boost in the two decades after 1989, thanks to that. Even Western economies felt a need to reform and become more globally competitive as a consequence. The Eastern enlargement of the two decisive Euroatlantic institutions, NATO and the EU, was another achievement. But maybe even more importantly, democratic capitalism spread globally. Political and economic freedom, and the idea that they are deeply interlinked, made dictators recede and emboldened democrats in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well.
But, third, the end of the Wall was not the end of history. Liberal democracy and democratic capitalism, 25 years after 1989, seem in retreat. The Slovene neo-Marxist Slavoj Žižek recently said that global democracy was shaken by 9/11, and global capitalism took a hit in the economic and financial crisis since 2008. China seems to prove every day that economic prosperity and impressive growth figures are possible without political freedom – and that authoritarian systems may even be better for the economy than multi-party democracy. From Vladimir Putin to the jihadists of Islamic State, the rejection of ‘Western decadence’, and a broad refusal to take any ‘lessons’ anymore, seem to be gaining ground. But it would be very short-sighted to believe that the West is finished. Authoritarian systems, and illiberal democracies without proper checks and balances, feel much less secure than they like to pretend. Witness the intensifying crackdowns on internet freedom in China, Russia and other countries, even Turkey. And note that from Kiev’s Euromaidan to Hong Kong’s ‘Occupy Central’, the people refuse to believe that multi-party democracy is not good for them.
Remembering 1989 makes sense only if we seriously try to define what that year means for our future in the 21st century. Liberal democracy has taken many more hits in the last 25 years than we hoped in those crazy days of November. But as much as the triumphalism of the 1990s may have been exaggerated, the belief in the decline of the West of recent years has been an error at least as dangerous. It will not stand the test of time. Many walls are still standing around the globe, and some have been freshly put up. It is the mission of the EPP political family to help the people bring them down, and replace them with a more durable order based on political and economic freedom. As former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in 2013, history may not have ended in 1989, but freedom remains its motor and its horizon.Roland Freudenstein Democracy European Union Values
The meaning of ‘89
10 Nov 2014
A spectre is haunting us – the spectre of ‘pikettyism’. Originated in France, it draws its strength from a book by economist Thomas Piketty whose work on the historic trends of capital inequality has bridged the gap between academic research and a mainstream audience. His central finding – that inequality will continue to rise underpinned by a disproportionate concentration of wealth in relatively few capital owners – has particularly delighted the progressive establishment in the US, with Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz throwing all their weight behind Piketty and making his study into the economic sensation it became. The risk now is that socialist governments in Europe will embrace this seemingly new rationale for supporting increased taxation and government intervention in the economy.
Piketty is convinced that, if left unchecked, the dynamics of capital accumulation will produce a level of inequality incompatible with our democratic societies. His diagnosis borrows a great deal from the ‘iron laws’ that periodically appeared in nineteenth century economics to predict the catastrophic outcomes of capitalism’s contradictions. His therapy seems little more than a nostalgic update of the confiscatory fashions embraced by most governments until the late 1970s, when top marginal tax rates and inheritance taxes were often above 80%. A century-old theory combined with policies of the 1960s seems hardly a new frontier of progressive economic thinking. In fact, the only policy innovation of the author is a proposal that he himself does not hesitate to define utopian: a progressive global tax on capital enforced through a high level of international coordination. My impression is that such proposal is worse than utopian: it is mistaken. And so are most policy prescriptions in Piketty’s book.
To begin with, Piketty has a very unrealistic view of capital. He identifies capital as all ‘nonhuman assets that can be owned or exchanged on some market’ and treats any income from capital, be it interest, dividends, profits, royalties or other, as a form of parasitic rent. This makes him blind to the fundamental entrepreneurial dimension of capital investment and accumulation in a free society. In a market economy, capital is not just stockpiled so as to produce certain returns automatically: it must be employed productively in activities that are successful and add value to the economy. Piketty’s theory has no place for market competition and entrepreneurial profit, possibly the two most important factors in a market economy. Furthermore, the optimal degree of government control of national income comes out of Piketty’s book as a purely technical problem, so that the author sees ‘no reason why a country cannot decide to devote two-thirds or three-quarters of its national income to taxes’.
Unfortunately, there are excellent reasons why even a far lower threshold has proved to be unsustainable in the past. Incidentally, these happen to be the reasons why a wide consensus in favor of a dramatic reduction in the size and scope of government emerged since the late 1970s. The simple truth is that government is too often inefficient in its regulatory, economic and welfare interventions. It invariably operates by establishing bureaucracies based on centralized control which grant all sorts of privileges and special protections. In fact, ‘rent-seeking’ by special groups has been long recognized as one of the main drivers of the growth in government spending. Piketty’s view of government officials is as idealized as his view of capitalists is demonized. The mundane truth is that both tend to be self-interested individuals acting in accordance with the incentive structure they face. While competition in the free market acts as a balancing force that tends to align individual incentives with social welfare, no such mechanism exist in government.
The moral implications of Piketty’s argument are even more questionable. The obsession of some economists with fighting income inequality is highly misguided. We accept market freedom because it creates a ‘society of incentives’ where everybody can make the most of his talents and innovative abilities and reap the full benefits of them. The rules of this game imply that some of us may get much richer than others and should have the right to freely employ their wealth and bequeath it to whomever they like. Income inequality is the price we pay in order to make our societies more dynamic and innovative, ultimately to the benefit of everyone. Extensive taxation and redistribution may make our incomes more equal, but it will not make any durable contribution to reducing overall levels of poverty.
Instead, the virtues of market freedom are unfolding before our eyes and they have been lifting millions of people out of poverty and deprivation in the last decades. Today’s China is characterized by striking and extreme inequalities. Are we really to conclude that the miserable equality of pre-capitalist China was preferable because it did not offend the social sensitivity of progressive economists? It is no chance that Piketty is completely silent about the economic miracle that has reawakened entire continents after centuries of stagnation and decline. He is too obsessed with widening income inequality in the West to care about poverty reduction in the East and the South. However, it seems to me that the most meaningful moral issue is not by how much my neighbor grew richer than me in the last years, but how many fewer people are starving in the world. To my knowledge, there is no government program of income redistribution that ever contributed to this objective anywhere in the developing world.
Like it or not, it has been economic policies traditionally labelled as conservative that were the most progressive in their effects. In the past generation, the most ambitious leaders of the centre-left (Clinton, Blair, Schröder) were courageous enough to recognize this simple lesson of history and turn their back on the old-fashioned policies of the past. Is it pure chance that their more traditional successors were never capable of repeating their landslide victories in recent years? Piketty’s theories may well be able to win over the nostalgic leaders of the European left, but I have the impression that we can still count on the electorate to look past his simplistic solutions and focus on real policies that will make our societies more productive and prosperous in the long run.Federico Ottavio Reho Development Economy Social Policy Society Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Confronting Piketty and his mistaken concept of inequality
26 Jun 2014
With the hottest phase of the European election campaign approaching, it is hardly surprising that the attacks of the most rampant Eurosceptics against the EU are multiplying. Populists of all sorts describe it as a power-hungry leviathan keen on controlling people’s lives, hampering businesses with its regulatory fury and bound to stifle European freedoms and democracy in the grip of its bureaucratic tentacles. There may well be a grain of truth in some of these criticisms. However they all overlook the fundamentally liberalising force displayed by the European project in the last sixty years.
The origins of European integration were as much about peace as they were about individual freedom. This is hardly surprising in light of the mighty enemy these two ideals had in common in pre-war continental Europe: aggressive ideologies aimed at totalitarian control of individuals and societal resources, allegedly in the superior interest of the community. It is no surprise that the first architects of the European project were to a large extent liberals and Catholics, both committed to the preservation of an individual sphere autonomous from state control, while the collectivist left stayed largely hostile to it. After centuries of centralizing tendencies, nation states accepted an unprecedented pooling of sovereignty under common supranational institutions. Where threats to freedom used to come from the ambitions of aggressive foreign powers, such as in Eastern European countries and the UK, it may be difficult to understand that national rulers and overbearing nation states have been for a long time one of the most acute dangers to individual liberty on this continent. It was the European project that finally addressed this problem.
In spite of the many mutations and difficulties of the following decades, European integration has stayed loyal to this original inspiration, constantly increasing the range of individual possibilities and restraining state powers. Under the Treaties of Rome, member states relinquished control of their trade policy and committed themselves to the abolition of state-imposed obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers. For that purpose, they resorted to the most liberal of all possible means: a new supranational judicial system, under which the centuries-old dream of the rule of law replacing the rule of force in interstate relations was realised. In fact, in the first decades of European integration it was the rule of law that enlarged the scope of individual freedom against the statist tendencies of most national governments. It was the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Cassis de Dijon case (1979) that fired the first salvo of what was to become the long and still ongoing battle to complete the European common market. In the 1980s, with the Single Market project on track, freedom-loving politicians from all member states enthusiastically joined the Commission in its effort to open up national markets, break up state monopolies, encourage competition and roll back the frontiers of the state in national economies. We owe a great deal of our economic freedom, the great variety of goods we enjoy and the high quality of many of our services to this unprecedented liberalising effort.
In the 1990s Europe made yet another gift to its citizens: the freedom to move, take up jobs and settle anywhere they liked within the common market, soon to be transformed into a fully-fledged European Union. Plans for the creation of a new common currency were also advanced. The euro did away with state control of the money supply, one of the most ancient pillars of state grip on society and the economy. For centuries, and until the very eve of the European Monetary Union, political institutions had used their monopoly of the money supply to surreptitiously extract resources from recalcitrant societies. While the ancient kings were used to debasing their gold and silver coins, modern democratic states have consistently resorted to the printing press to artificially support increasing levels of public debt. For past generations, this vicious practice came at the price of higher and higher inflation, the most unfair tax one can imagine; an even greater pain is inflicted on many contemporary Europeans, upon whose shoulders the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of past governments have placed a heavy burden. Once again, it is the European project that has unmasked the traditional deceptions of national politics and restrained the tendency of many governments to treat their economies as the ancient kings treated their hunting reserves.
I am very well aware that the European Union of our days has many severe limitations and contradictions and that its liberal spirit has taken on a scary appearance to many of us. However, I am firmly convinced that the European project can still be the most cherished endeavour of freedom-loving people all over the continent. If there are problems, let us fight hard for them to be tackled and overcome; if the project seems to have derailed, let us get together and hurry to put it back on track. Let us never forget the prescient words of Friedrich von Hayek, the doyen of twentieth century liberalism, in 1939: ‘There seems to be little possible doubt that the scope for the regulation of economic life will be much narrower for the central government of a federation than for national states. Since the powers of the states which comprise the federation will be yet more limited, much of the interference with economic life to which we have become accustomed will be altogether impracticable under a federal organisation’. All Europeans of the twenty first century should remember that.Federico Ottavio Reho Democracy European Union Euroscepticism Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Would we really be more free if the EU had never come into existence?
28 Apr 2014
The Centre for European Studies (CES), the official think tank and political foundation of the European People’s Party (EPP), has been renamed in honour of its late President, Wilfried Martens. The Centre will now be called the ‘Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies’.
In conjunction with the name change, the Centre also changed its logo and can now be found online at www.martenscentre.eu.
During his presidency, Wilfried Martens was deeply committed to, and engaged in, the Centre’s activities. His lifelong motto ‘Thinking Europe’ has guided the Centre since its inception in 2007. ‘Wilfried Martens was the key driver in the development of the CES – now Martens Centre,’ said Tomi Huhtanen, director of the Centre. ‘The objectives of the Centre and the values it represents are inspired directly by him.’
During the EPP Congress plenary session on Thursday, the Centre’s current President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda, praised Wilfried Martens for his life’s work: ‘The European Union is today a stronger project thanks to his contribution and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies will continue this work. […] the legacy lives on.’Centre-Right Christian Democracy Leadership Values
Centre for European Studies renamed in honour of its founder Wilfried Martens
10 Mar 2014
The battlefield for defending European values has shifted to the East, to the streets of Kiev, Tbilisi and other Eastern neighbours. While these regions are willing to take full responsibility for this push for freedom, this is not only their battle and the European Union should signal this loudly and clearly in its dialogue with Russia, writes Salome Samadashvili.
As the events in Kiev have taken on a truly dramatic, violent and bloody turn, Brussels is preparing for yet another EU-Russia summit. Russia’s Ambassador to the EU has declared that this summit will not be about Ukraine. His boss, Foreign Minister Lavrov, using the terms of ‘strategic rivalry’, reminiscent of the days of the Cold War, has asserted that Russia will not allow foreign powers to break-up Ukraine. Meanwhile the EU continues to talk about ’strategic partnership’ with Russia and has not, publicly at least, pointed a finger at Moscow as the party responsible for turning Ukraine into a virtual war-zone.
The Cold War has ended without a peace treaty which would settle the terms of the outcome of this decades long standoff between the West and Russia. It was assumed that the constituent parts of the former USSR, Russia included, as well as its former satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe would venture on to become full democracies. The ‘end of history’ would bring stability and peace to the European continent. While in a long term this assumption might still be true, believing that the strategic rivalry between Russia and the West has already become a distant history, will be of the most tragic consequences for us, people living in the former Soviet republics. It can will also certainly be damaging to the long term interests of Europe.
Let’s have no doubts – what we witness in Ukraine today is the Kremlin’s attempt to impose on the world its own terms of the end of the Cold War. The settlement is written not in ink, but blood, shed in the streets of Ukraine today and my own country, Georgia, five years earlier. So at the highest political forum of the EU-Russia cooperation, it would be both timely and necessary to ask, what does “strategic partnership” with the current Kremlin administration mean? If it means a shared vision for the future and cooperation around common objectives, than the EU-Russia summit indeed cannot be only about Ukraine, it has to be about even bigger questions, which should define the EU’s policy towards Russia in the years to come.
It would be helpful if Russia got a clear signal that it cannot aspire to remain a “strategic partner” of Europe, or be part of the club of nations consisting of the wealthy democracies, for example G8 or OECD, as long as in addition to disregard for democracy in its own country, the Kremlin continues to support instability and non-democratic regimes in its neighborhood. Russia needs to know that its vital interests – such as cooperation in the field of energy, will suffer due to its choice to undermine democratic transformation and modernization of the nations in its former Empire. Freedom to travel to Europe, both for the citizens of the Russian Federation and for the elites with diplomatic passports, is another point of influence at the EU’s hands. The EU can signal its readiness to use measures such as the Magnitski Act to make clear that it does not view the current Russian government as a partner with whom it can do business as usual.
While the options, which the EU has at its disposal are not numerous, the leverage which Europe has over Moscow is much stronger, than the EU has so far been willing to acknowledge. Russia cannot continue its economic development without access to the EU markets, technological know-how or investment. Europe can make it clear that these cannot be taken for granted. Using its leverage on Russia now rather than later is in Europe’s own strategic interests. While the economic interests of the European countries in cooperation with Russia are self-evident, in a long-term perspective, an increasingly assertive, non-democratic and aggressive Russia will also hurt the EU’s economic and business ventures in the region.
“No new Munich” has been the modus operandi of the past 20 years – the West has assured the newly independent states of the former USSR, over and over again, that there would be no more agreements on spheres of influence at the expanse of the small, formerly captive nations. The fact that this continues to be true, I hope, will also be made clear at the Summit. In the coming months this should also be proven not only through words, but by demonstrating a clear commitment of the EU for greater reengagement with our countries, focused on broad support for democratization and economic growth.
Yes, we live in an increasingly complex world and the EU needs the Russian cooperation on many fronts, not least on the Middle East and Iran. But the challenges posed by the recent economic crises notwithstanding, we also live in an increasingly prosperous world, secured by advancement of democracy and freedom. We see what EU integration has brought to the countries in Central and Eastern Europe and we aspire to the same for our nations. Freedom, security, prosperity and the right to make independent choices about the future: That is what we hope for. The fact that the current Russian regime, which denies those same rights to its own people, sees this as a threat to its security, does not make our choice any less wise or legitimate. Undermining these freedoms is not a “legitimate” interest of the Russian Federation with respect to its neighbors. Which I hope will also be made clear at this Summit.
In competition of different visions for the best value system for the advancement of humanity, the battlefield for defending European values has shifted to the East, to the streets of Kiev, Tbilisi and other Eastern neighbors. While we are willing to take full responsibility in this strife for freedom, this is not only our battle. I hope the European Union will signal this loudly and clearly in its dialogue with Russia.
[Editorial published by EurActiv on 28 January 2014]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Values
What should the EU-Russia summit be about?
28 Jan 2014
The upcoming year will be a very significant year. Important events will be remembered during the course of it; the huge enlargement of both the EU and NATO which occurred 10 years ago; the shot in Sarajevo 100 years ago which triggered the First World War and the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe which occurred 25 years ago.
These anniversaries are undoubtedly a powerful incentive to ensure that not only political leaders but also people outside of politics contemplate the future of our continent and the world. For political leaders the aforementioned anniversaries are inspiration to responsibly shape the future architecture of the once again reunified Europe.
So it is home, a cosy abode for all countries, nationalities and ethnic groups — an inclusive home for all its inhabitants. The specified milestones in the history of our countries, of Europe and of the world, will be marked at the same time while the EU is working intensively on new rules for mutual coexistence in the common European house. The new rules have in part been forced to be implemented due to the economic and financial crisis, and also as an effort to succeed in intensifying global competition.
We need new rules and effective tools so we can overcome the consequences of the financial and economic crisis with minimal cost to our citizens. And also to help us avoid the repeating the same errors and mistakes that led to the crisis into the future.
It will not be easy to fine tune an orchestra of 28 players, of which many are convinced that they are the virtuoso. But many of us feel that change is necessary, that further development cannot be stopped. Personally, I believe there are still a number of areas suitable for deeper integration.
However, there are also areas in which power should be left in the hands of member states. I think we need more effective European cooperation, but also efficient internal competition that will stimulate the development of a united Europe. It is not just the issue of the consistent application of the principle of subsidiarity, but also artfully creating tools that could and should inspire leaders at national level to form effective economic and social models according to local, regional, historical, cultural, and geographical conditions. Obviously, in strict compliance with the agreed rules. In my experience and in my view: cooperation, competition and solidarity should dominate in the EU.
We all feel that these new rules at the European level are needed. For example, in the banking sector. The banking sector should be more durable, less vulnerable, but also sufficiently conducive for business development. It should be more effective, for example in helping small and medium-sized enterprises. We should not even prevent stricter scrutiny of compliance with the agreed rules.
Personally, I support the legal enforceability of compliance with these rules. Equally I consider structural reforms at the national level, in other words in the individual member states to be as important. The world is changing and changing fast. Previous sources of employment are no longer as strong as in the past, meaning Europe has to begin to look at new areas for growth and employment, like in renewable energies and in the science sector for example.
With innovation and creativity, new opportunities can be born for EU citizens. So I think, in Europe, it is not only more discipline and accountability that we need, but more creativity and the courage to make the required changes. Only then can we stop the threat of unemployment, particularly among the young. Only then can our economy create the conditions for the creation of new jobs, which I consider the largest challenge in the New Year to a common Europe.
I consider a great challenge in 2014 to be how to manage migration and its implications. The EU and its member states will continue to intensively apply itself to the areas and regions from which refugees come (it will continue to be Africa, particularly the north, but it will also be Syria and other Middle East countries, it will also be regions and countries and military conflicts).
To help solve problems in the regions where they arise is by far the best solution even though it is not an easy prevention migration. I think, however, that there is also an urgent need to adopt new rules in this area. So that, for example, the institutes of political asylum is not misused for economic objectives and that the accepted migrants integrate effectively with the citizens of the countries that accept them. At the same time, we must ensure a convergence of our asylum systems and a proper application of existing rules by the member states. Finally, Europe needs a much better system to regulate labour immigration, to ensure that it does not lose out in global competition for the bright minds that can bring dynamism and new ideas to our societies.
Today it often seems that the project of multiculturalism in Europe is failing. This is also true because instead of making use of individual opportunities, immigrants are sometimes promoting their interests collectively. Some groups of immigrants set themselves apart. Instead of contribution to the common good, we sometimes witness abuses to the social system of the country. Europe should continue to show migrants its kind face. However, it should also show the necessary courage and determination against those who would want to abuse this kindness. In order to prevent problems with integration, European political parties should make a strong effort to bring immigrants into the political and public life. Otherwise, we are risking even deeper problems with integration.
Undeniably great, maybe even the dominant challenge to the free world, and also for our European community, is the challenge of security and the duty to prevent attacks like the one of September 11.Likewise, atrocities such as the attack on marathon runners and spectators in Boston, and most recently the residents of Volgograd. I want to highlight just three essential key factors of our European security:
• First, is the transatlantic alliance. A steadfast alliance of the EU and the US; effective cooperation in the NATO environment is and must remain a fundamental element of our European security as well as global stability;
• The second major element I consider to be, is the creation and development of European defence capabilities which will strengthen the partnership element of the European transatlantic alliance and will be complementary to the existing capacities and capabilities of NATO;
• Finally I consider as necessary the modernisation of our armies at national level and the cooperation of national armies at a regional level, which should be dominated by the principle of sharing and pooling, as well as smart defence.
Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall the then US President George Bush senior stated his dream, his vision, to make Europe whole and free. Much of that vision has come true. It is amazing how Europe has changed in 25 years. But the work is not yet completed, not in the Western Balkans, or in the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
I believe that this year will continue to see the success story of Serbia, as well as the normalisation of its relations with Pristhina. That Macedonia and Greece will manage to unravel the Gordian Knot and further progress will be recorded in Kosovo and Albania and that Bosnia and Herzegovina will also see improvements. Montenegro is already on the right track. 2014 is a year of opportunities for these countries and the challenge for the EU is to develop wise, active and responsible policies to contribute to the realisation of these opportunities.
The big challenge for us all is the movement that is taking place on our eastern borders, especially in Ukraine. The EU should take an interest in the positive and in particular the sustainable development of Ukraine. It should not however compromise on its principles and criteria. Only then can the citizens of this country properly orientate themselves. Because, ultimately, only Ukrainian citizens can decide on their future.
The same as we decided our future ourselves, we, Slovaks, but also Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and the other countries of the former communist bloc 25 years ago.
I believe that this year we will also collectively protect and promote human rights not only in our countries, in those countries that aspire to EU membership, but everywhere in the world. The EU will be consistent and principled with any country in the world. That we will develop strategic partnerships also with countries where human rights are t limited, but that we shall be courageous and consistent in the protection of human rights in these countries.
We enter the New Year as a rule always with hope, with optimism, with positive expectations. It is good and natural. However, one should admit that we live in troubled times. The previous levels of prosperity are over but yet some people are expecting someone to come along to sign a cheque to get ourselves out from these troubled times. For some time it seemed that the answer to the challenges of the 21st century would be globalisation.
Technological development and significant social movements in all corners of the world have indeed led to rapid globalisation. Of growing concern and anxiety for people in today’s world is the frequent feeling that there will be ever less space in it for them.
People feel that they are becoming ever more lost in the labyrinth of communication highways and gigantic corporations. That they are losing their identity, their roots, and their traditions. Young people especially nowadays find it hard to find a job and fell confident about their future.
The number of people who place the blame for their own problems on politics is dangerously increasing. Many blame the so-called standard political parties. In my country – and I think it is not an exception – it is fashionable to vote for extremism. Elections are becoming manifestations of revolt, not choice. Militants, extremists and populists are winning recognition. The challenge of the EU is to offer answers to such trends, to such developments. The answer to the current difficulties cannot be extremism or chaos, as suggested in some circles. The answer cannot be collectivism as suggested by many, even by reasonable people.
We are rich in experience of collectivism in Central Europe: we all had the same, but the same was very little. The answer is the protection and promotion of individual freedom, individual rights, but also of the individual responsibility of every person.
The answer is politics that allows for individual opportunity, individual assertion of oneself, individual dignity. In other words, politics that puts a focus on quality education, on science, research and innovation. Politics that prefers and honours a healthy lifestyle, but also a real solidarity for those who are able to aid those whose handicaps prevent or limit them from creating these values.
I think an important and serious test for all responsible European leaders ahead will be the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament. To join in the efforts of combating populism and shining a light on their rhetoric, regardless of whether it comes from the left or right. The ways to respond to the challenges of today are various but must be offered in the values of our Western world which are also universal values.
These values should be unconditionally returned to, and these values are to be held onto. As did Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman, and Helmut Khol for example.
If we stick to these traditional universal values, we can find the right answers to the challenges of not only the present, but also to those we will face further down the road.
[Speech given at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Annual Reception ‘European Challenges 2014’, 22 January 2014]Mikuláš Dzurinda Centre-Right Economy Leadership Transatlantic Values
Challenges for 2014
24 Jan 2014
Yanukovych still has the choice to emerge from the current ordeal as the man who has taken Ukraine’s statehood and democracy to the next level, by securing free and fair elections and making its European future irreversible. In exchange he will be allowed to get away with the economic benefits he has gained in his three years in power.
The stakes in the epic battle for securing democratic future of Ukraine have never been higher. A signature of the Association and Free Trade agreements between Ukraine and the EU would have been seen as an irrecoverable loss by Russia under any circumstances. However, if Ukraine’s European future is sealed by the massive democratic movement we are witnessing in Kiev today, it will bring a double blow to current Russian regime. It will create a substantial obstacle on the way of Russia’s ambition to rebuild an empire, but Kiev will also become a “Rubicon” for democracy’s advancement towards Kremlin.
Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the agreements with the EU in the coming weeks will only signal that he has never intended to do so, manoeuvring to buy more time. And time is of essence-Sochi Olympics are already starting to be a disappointing affair for Putin, with the heads of several European states refusing to attend the opening ceremony. Once Sochi is over, however, the Russian President will turn his full attention to the most important jewel of his crown-the Eurasian Union. The 15 billion credit line and substantial cut in gas prices presented to Yanukovych in Moscow, make it clear that the costs of the project, as with Sochi Olympics, do not matter.
In the coming weeks the EU cannot afford to yield-Yanukovych must either sign the agreements with the EU or the new elections are in order. The argument of the opposition is clear: When the elected representatives change the strategic alliances of the country, without having a popular mandate to do so, they lose any legitimacy to take the decisions on behalf of their people.
That said the challenge posed by the new elections, is also considerable. The opposition is divided and Vitali Klichko, the most likely candidate to defeat Yanukovych, lacks the necessary political infrastructure. Yanukovych’s hold on the administrative resources, which he will use to try to falsify the election results and the likelihood of heavy Russian interference, also present a considerable threats to the outcome of the elections.
However, the longer the period of uncertainty lasts, the greater will be the damage to Ukraine-massive collapse of the economy, social unrest and instability, are the most likely consequences. The EU’s margin of interference will diminish even further, as the conditions attached to the EU assistance will never be acceptable to increasingly cornered Yanukovych, focused on his survival. Weaker Ukraine, will be an even easier prey for Russia.
To paraphrase the Austrian Philosopher, Otto Neurath, the countries in transition from authoritarian rule into modern democracy are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship. “Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there.” Ukraine and other former Soviet republics are racing against time-longer is the interval between replacement of the beams, greater is the likelihood of sinking. In the coming weeks, the EU and the US need to think strategically how to avert sinking of Ukraine’s democratic future, which is clearly a looming disaster.
While the current administration in the US might think that it is time to take a backseat and let the EU lead in its shared neighbourhood with Russia, Putin views the absence of the US as an opportunity to bring the region back under his neo-imperial rule. The Russian government is only too well aware, when it comes to confronting them, the EU, plagued with its own internal economic problems, is still a rather divided camp. It does not respect the EU’s “soft power.” Transatlantic Unity is a sine qua non for advancement of the democracy in our part of the world. We see encouraging signs of the US reengagement in the region and hope it will continue.
Western support for democracy groups in Ukraine turned out to be the most efficient form of foreign assistance. One can only regret that the leaders of the civic groups behind the mass protests, who today might be Ukraine’s last hope for securing country’s European future, do not have the time to organize themselves into the coherent political force, able to lead beyond street protests. The West needs to continue assisting broad democratization in the countries of the former USSR-helping to replace the Soviet citizens used to passivity with the ones who know how to hold their governments accountable.
Granted that Yanukovych does not sign the agreements with the EU in the nearest future, it will be up to these groups, supported by the Western political pressure, to force Yanukovych to call early elections. The West should already start mobilizing massive electoral assistance to Ukraine to prevent electoral fraud, securing the right of the Ukrainian citizens to have their voices heard through the ballot box.
Yanukovych should feel a real threat of becoming an international pariah in case he tries to steal the elections. A serious discussion of the potential sanctions against Yanukovych and his economic interests in Europe and the United States would be a good start.
Finally, convening an internationally mandated group of experts to look at real economic foes of the country and considering the potential need for “Marshal Plan” for Ukraine, which the country will likely need in order to shore up its economy, as the political crises deepens, would also be helpful.
Yanukovych still has the choice to emerge from the current ordeal as the man who has taken Ukraine’s statehood and democracy to the next level, by securing free and fair elections and making its European future irreversible. In exchange he will be allowed to get away with the economic benefits he has gained in his three years in power.
An alternative would be abandonment to the mercy of Vladimir Putin. If this choice is clearly framed, one might hope that if not patriotism or other sentiments of higher moral category, than a simple instinct of self-preservation prevails and Ukraine will be given a chance to win the race against time, securing its democratic future.
[Originally published on EurActiv.com: http://ces.tc/1fDVP3Z ]Salome Samadashvili Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Neighbourhood Policy Values
Race Against Time-The Democratic Future of Ukraine
18 Dec 2013
This report surveys recent works in political economy showing that trust—and civic capital more generally—matter for various aspects of economic well-being and presents new evidence from European countries showing that trust has deteriorated considerably in those European countries that have been affected the most by the ongoing economic downturn. We also discuss policy recommendations. The key message is that because trust and social capital matter crucially for economic and institutional development, countries must both monitor developments closely and pursue policies that cultivate civic social capital. Given strong inertia, changing people’s beliefs and promoting civic engagement will not occur overnight. Targeted policies can increase civicness and promote social capital considerably. First, promoting education seems crucial as, a higher level of education cultivates social capital. Second, countries where primary and secondary education are based on lecturing and memorising, should alter the curriculum towards more group activities, team projects, and critical thinking based on a dialectic method. Third, policymakers should continue promoting the outward orientation of the economy and the removal of administrative barriers to entry that fuel corruption and impede competition.Crisis Economy Education Ethics Values
Trust(ing) in Europe? How increased social capital can contribute to economic development
10 Jun 2013
Current demographic changes are a major factor in the increasing societal interest in the contributions older generations can make to the development and cohesion of society. This Centre for European Studies study argues that the traditional view of ageing is gradually being replaced by a new perspective, one with increased focus on older people’s capabilities, resources and potentials. It suggests that population ageing does not imply inevitable declines in a society’s competitiveness or reduced intergenerational solidarity. Amongst other policy recommendations, the study proposes flexibility in age limits, to prevent exclusion of older people from areas of societal responsibility. The study encourages a stronger focus on the productive participation of older people in political and public discourse, and support for civil engagement of older people through mechanisms such as incentive systems.Economy Ethics Social Policy Society Values
Active Ageing: Solidarity and Responsibility in an Ageing Society
08 Apr 2013
The Schuman Report on the State of the Union is a work of reference which everyone now looks forward to reading every year. For decision makers and observers of European policy it is a source of original thought and ideas, underpinned by a strong requirement for quality. It is a tool for those who are looking for reliable sources in terms of European statistics and macro-economic data. Some eminent people have chosen to contribute their ideas also. In 2013, Josef Ackermann, former CEO of Deutsche Bank, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Zurich Insurance Group , offers his analysis of the banking Union, Lord Dykes, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for the LibDems in the House of Lords, provides readers with his view of the future for the UK in the European Union and Alain Lamassoure, MEP, Chairman of the Budget Committee in the European Parliament, suggests a budgetary federation.The very best specialists help to throw light on the major trends ongoing in the economy and also in international and European politics. This book includes around 35 maps that are often unique, in explanation of the major issues the Union is facing. It also includes a summary of political Europe which analyses the 2012 electoral year (among France, Greece, The Netherlands, Romania), looks into the political and economic representation of women in Europe and draws up an overview of normative output in the Union in 2012. A unique series of commented statistics and maps covers all of the main topical issues (growth, buying power, economy, demography, immigration, energy, environment) and enables the Schuman Report 2013 to present a full view of the European Union and its policies.Crisis Economy European Union Eurozone Values
Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2013
25 Feb 2013
On the 29th of January 2013, the CES launched a new research paper titled “All tomorrow’s parties: the Changing Face of European Party Politics”; the study analyses the changes in the political party landscape in Europe and the future challenges that parties can encounter in this transformed environment. Dr. Florian Hartleb, CES Research Associate and lecturer at the University of Bonn and the University of Politics in Munich presented the main conclusions of his report, followed by comments from Dr. Erkka Railo, senior research fellow at the department of Political Science and Contemporary History at the University of Turku, and from Dr. Wojciech Gagatek, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Europe at Warsaw University.
The main conclusions of the discussion were that currently there is a new environment emerging that is changing the face of political parties, forcing the so-called “traditional parties” to adapt in order to survive. Political parties are struggling with a membership in gradual decline, which raises the question if they still represent the general public. Further new types of parties like 2nd generation populist parties or business parties are entering the political landscape throughout countries in Europe. In his remarks, Dr. Hartleb put a particular focus on the new “cyber parties”, in particular the Pirate Parties in Sweden and Germany. Dr. Hartleb concluded that the golden age of “traditional” political parties could soon be over, but that these parties based on values and stable commitments could still maintain their lead, provided they adjust their organisation models by introducing more participatory elements.Elections Party Structures Populism Values
CES Presents New Research on Changed Political Landscape in Europe
29 Jan 2013
The Conservative plan, as set out in David Cameron’s speech, is to try to renegotiate the terms of UK membership in the EU, if it wins the next general Election, and put the terms to a referendum. The risk is that Labour may feel under pressure to adopt a similar policy, so as to prevent a leakage of its votes to UKIP.It is very unlikely that the results of any such renegotiation, whether conducted by Labour or the Conservatives, will satisfy British popular expectations. And if that is the case, the UK electorate may choose in a referendum to leave the EU. This renegotiation is likely to be a disappointment because the expectations in Britain are vague and unrealistic. David Cameron did not offer any clear negotiating objectives in his speech.
SINGLE MARKET IS NOT A FREESTANDING ENTITY
He seemed to think that the EU Single Market was some sort of freestanding entity separate from common EU policies on regulation, working time, transport, and education. But for other EU nations, it was in return for policies on these things, that they opened their markets to the rest of the EU, in the first place. The Single Market is a delicate political construct that cannot be easily unpicked. And while accepting that the EU needed to resolve the euro crisis, he wanted “contrition” to be expressed by those who created the euro, notwithstanding that Economic and Monetary Union was on the EU agenda before a previous Conservative Prime Minister negotiated the UK’s entry terms! He also wanted the goal of “ever closer union” dropped from the EU Treaties, even though that too was part of the Treaty before the UK joined. He is 40 years late with these ideas
RENEGOTIATION WILL BE WITH 26 OTHER GOVERNMENTS
The UK renegotiation will not be with bureaucrats in “Brussels”. It will be with the Governments of every one of the other twenty-six states in the EU. Britain may want to pay less, but other countries may want it to pay more. Many other EU countries see the very things British negotiators would most like to be rid of – like the working time directive – as part of what they gained, in return for their opening up to the Single Market in the first place. Concessions on these issues will, in particular, be anathema to left leaning Governments, of which there are an increasing number.
Exempting Britain from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), another possible British demand, will get nowhere. Repatriating regional policy will not go down well with countries who have recently joined the EU, and whose incomes per head are much lower than those in Britain
ALL EU RULES HAVE BEEN MADE WITH BRITISH INVOLVEMENT
British popular opinion has been constantly led to believe that the EU is a foreign entity, with which Britain has a sort of treaty, and not as what it actually is – a Union of which the UK has a participating member with a vote on every decision.The role of British MEPs, British ministers, and a British Commissioner in EU decisions has been systematically ignored in the UK media and all decisions inaccurately presented as emanating from an “unelected” bureaucracy.
If possible results of a renegotiation are hyped up in the next British General election, and lots of “red lines” promised, the actual results of the renegotiation will prove to be paltry by comparison. That could lead to UK exit.
IMPACT ON NORTHERN IRELAND PEACE
I am particularly worried about the effect of Britain leaving the EU on the fragile situation in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland, and its reversible peace process, is being ignored in the debate taking place in Britain. It is also being ignored in the rest of Europe, where the impatience with the British is palpable.
Obviously if the UK leaves the EU, it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU.
But what sort of relationship will it be?
One of the big drivers of anti-EU sentiment in Britain is immigration of EU citizens from central and eastern European countries, like Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltics. Gordon Brown famously encountered this sentiment during the last British General Election.
IMMIGRATION CONTROLS AT NEWRY?
If the UK leaves the EU, it would be free to restrict immigration from some EU countries. But, as a continuing member of the EU, the Republic of Ireland could not do so. So if the UK wanted to prevent these EU citizens entering the UK through the Republic, it would have to introduce passport controls at Newry, Aughnacloy, Strabane and on all other roads by which such EU immigrants could cross the border from the Republic into the UK.
CUSTOMS POSTS AT STRABANE?
If the UK is outside the EU, tariffs would have to be collected on UK exports entering the Republic and vice versa. Average EU tariffs are quite low, but some tariffs, on things like dairy products and clothing, are quite high. Customs posts would have to be placed on all roads leading across the border to ensure collection of these tariffs. Smuggling, with all its potential as a funding source for other forms of illegality, would become very profitable again. But the human and political cost in border counties would be the worst aspect of it. Nationalist communities would again feel cut off from the Republic by the inconvenience of passport controls, and of customs posts. Since Northern Ireland came into being as a separate entity in 1920, the large nationalist minority there has retained a very strong sense of identification with the rest of the island. The possible reintroduction of customs posts, and of immigration controls, would undermine the efforts that have been made , in the Good Friday Agreement, to reduce the divisions between North and South and between Ireland and the UK. Given that UK Prime Ministers have had to devote so much time to the so called “Irish Question” for the last 150 years, it is amazing that the current UK debate on EU membership is being conducted as if Ireland did not exist, or the UK had no interest in it. Some might say that fears of the UK having customs posts and passport controls on the Irish border are exaggerated because they think the UK outside the EU could easily negotiate a free trade and free movement deal with the EU
UK CANNOT BE BOTH IN, AND OUT, OF THE EU AT THE SAME TIME
There is a big snag here. To enjoy continued free access to EU markets for its goods and services, Britain would have to continue to apply EU rules, as now, but WITHOUT having had any say at all in them – something the UK does have as an EU member. David Cameron had a point yesterday when he argued that the nature of the EU is changing in response to the euro crisis, and as a non euro member the UK’s relationship with the EU will change anyway. But there was absolutely no need for him to promise an in or out referendum, which places him in a straight jacket.
video source: www.euractiv.comJohn Bruton European Union Eurozone Values
David Cameron’s speech
04 Jan 2013
In December 2012, the second volume of the bi-yearly CES policy journal European View was released. The issue is dedicated to the role of values in the twenty first century, a crucial topic for any political family. Authors Roland Freudenstein and MEP Mario Mauro, among others, examine the role of values in politics, with a closer look into the history of the European People’s Party and the role of religion. The economic crisis and its complicated moral ramifications are studied by a list of authors that includes former Irish Taoiseach John Bruton and MEP Elmar Brok. The role of values in the varied dimensions of EU foreign policy is analysed in light of the Arab Spring, but also with a view of the EU’s Eastern Partnership and EU’s ambitions on the world stage. Finally, this number’s contributions also delve into the changing complexities of party politics in Europe, with studies on populism, nationalism and the difficulties for democratic development in transition countries. The journal is published by Springer and you can access the latest issue at the following link: http://ces.tc/VGQRgB.
About the European View:Values
The European View is the policy journal of the Centre for European Studies, the political foundation of the European People‘s Party. It is an intellectual platform for politicians, opinion makers and academics that tackles contemporary themes of European politics, focusing on one specific topic in each issue. What makes the European View unique is its hybrid nature – its capacity to involve both esteemed academics and experts on the one hand, and high level politicians and decision makers on the other. Presidents and prime ministers are regular contributors to the European View.
Now available! Second 2012 European View Issue
16 Dec 2012
The aim of this study is to explore the changes in the religious and ideological landscape of the Netherlands and how they impact on existing social relations. What place do religion and philosophy have in society and how should government relate to them? This theme is at the heart of Christian Democracy. The rationale for this is that Christian Democracy sees man as a rational being who seeks to find meaning in life. How people behave socially and politically cannot be considered separately from each individual’s inner calling. What is at stake is the deepest motivation of human beings to determine their identity at the deepest level. It can therefore be seen that the body of ideas of Christian Democracy and the movement’s legitimacy are closely linked to the right of citizens to organise themselves in social groups on the basis of their religion or faith. This report does indicate that the manifestations of religion and faith may well be subject to change, but for many people these convictions continue to represent an important source of inspiration. Tried and tested principles will therefore be revisited in this report taking into account the changes apparent in religion, society and government. It cannot be stressed enough that such values as freedom, pluriformity and tolerance are of crucial importance for a harmonious society.Christian Democracy Ethics Religion Society Values
Faith and Society: Christian Democratic reflections on the place of religion and ideology in the public domain
10 Dec 2012
European electorates are squeezed between austerity they don’t like and stimulus they can’t afford. Economic growth would provide the easy way out. But how can growth be achieved if economic activities are restricted and success is not appreciated? The Bourgeoisie founded the modern world and made it grow out of pre-capitalist poverty. As bourgeois virtues, such as prudence in the daily business of life and courage in investing were digniﬁed, entrepreneurs were granted freedom to innovate. However, the bourgeois virtues, values and freedom have always been resisted and despised by powerful counterforces. The question of growth or stagnation can be described as a struggle between political mentalities: the bourgeois against the aristocrat, ascetic and peasant mentalities.Economy Society Values
Bourgeois Virtues: the Aristocrat, the Ascetic, the Peasant, and the Bourgeoisie
18 May 2012
allIt is happening everywhere in Europe: in Italy, a grassroots movement called “Movimento 5 stelle” (“Five Stars Movement”) has coalesced around former comedian and showman Beppe Grillo, who writes one of the world’s most influential political blogs addressed to young people. In Austria, three IT experts founded an online party at a press conference held on 27 March 2012. It follows the principle of direct democracy in that the online community should make the decisions.
Specific topics which are internet-related, such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), as well as more general issues, can be voted on within pre-set deadlines. Live tweets from Parliament could make the party attractive. A watchdog council is expected to control communications and prevent, for example, extremist discussions. Starting in 2013, the party will open ‘real’ regional branches and create a national unit to participate in elections.
The Pirate parties are a new phenomenon in the European political landscape and are particularly visible in Germany. In the 2011 Berlin state election, the Pirates managed for the first time to exceed the 5% threshold necessary to win seats in the state assembly, winning 8.9% of the votes. Since this turning point, the party has created media hype with positive feedback and has received some international attention, including in The Economist. Many members who flooded into the party after its success in Berlin are not concerned with internet issues. But they share the assumption that disagreements can be resolved by dialogue and voting. In March 2012 the Pirates received 7.4% of the vote and thus won 4 seats in the Landtag of Saarland.
Subsequent polls in 2012 have shown an increase in the popularity of the Party (constantly over 10%). As was the case in Berlin, nearly one quarter of first time voters (23%) in Saarland gave their vote to the Pirate Party. This distinct generational divide indicates that reasons other than protest are important for the Pirate Party’s success. Belonging to the Internet generation and shared concerns over digital issues seem to be more convincing reasons than protest voting. The Pirates also have a new approach to politics. They depict themselves as a real party in which it is possible for everyone to contribute and no one has any privileges. The Pirates have their own software and use the Internet as the medium for internal decision-making. As a new party, it was able, starting in Sweden, to sustain a functioning organisation by means of the Internet. Even critics have to admit that the new form of participation has given new energy to intra-party democracy, although caution should be exercised in taking any revolutionary idea too seriously.
Excessive transparency could open politics to ridicule, for instance through the live streaming of each session. Each slip-up or scandalous incident would not only be monitored, but could overshadow political content. Such openness may serve to promote curiosity, rather than democracy. Furthermore, the notion of participation and thus equality would be limited to the virtual community. And even here there are drawbacks: only a small number of party members are active in online communities. Moreover, the party congresses of the Pirates are conventional in important respects. We have witnessed internal quarrels, even to the level of insults and arguments over internal regulations and statutes—the typical tools also used in debates within established parties. Future discussions about the organisation and structures of parties will focus on the question of membership surveys and decisions as well as on virtualisation. This is especially true after the success of the German Pirate Party has shown that the internal dynamics of the social media community can already be occasionally regarded as agenda-setters for classic media.
European Pirate parties generally define themselves as a new left-wing alternative to the established parties (including the Greens) and share ambitions for the European elections in 2014, vowing to promote a more transparent state and a larger role in decision-making for citizens. In the European elections in 2014, the Internet, data protection and cyber security will be the key issues, at least when it comes to reaching and mobilising the younger generation. The Pirates’ rivals are starting to copy their methods by creating virtual party organisations and internet policy platforms, leading to so-called Facebook parties. Euro parties must use the new tools of interaction for campaigning on the European level in order to increase low turnout and create a European discussion.Florian Hartleb Elections EU Institutions Political Parties Values
Pirates & Co: The Fast Emergence of New Parties in the Virtual Age
03 May 2012
In 1961, a group of five students founded the “International Christian-Democratic and Conservative Student Union”. In 2011 this organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary as “European Democrat Students”(EDS). For decades, EDS, the largest political student organisation was the starting point of many political careers and could be proud to be the oldest pan-European organisation of the centre-right. By 2011, it became the biggest organisation of young people in Europe, representing 1,600,000 students and young people. The authors recount not only the complete history of the EDS since its foundation, but also describe and interpret the various reasons for its existence. By reading this book, the deeper roots of European integration become visible, outshining daily European business and creating a European identity EDS has contributed so much to.Centre-Right Education European People's Party Values Youth
Students on the Right Way: European Democrat Students 1961-2011
01 May 2012
Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Member States Political Parties Values
Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy
02 Apr 2012
The Schuman Report on Europe, the State of the Union 2012 edition is a unique, unequaled reference work on Europe. The Report is a source of information, analysis and proposals in which the most eminent thinkers express their ideas on governance, federalism, the euro, regulation, European industry, European budget, energy, international policy, social model, in other words a complete review of the European Union and its policies. This publication is also a practical tool with 34 unique maps, a summary of political and legal Europe and a complete range of statistics on the European economy. The third edition is devoted to the means to implement to overcome the crisis, with an exclusive interview with Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank. All 26 contributions in the Schuman Report converge to one message: “the reasons calling on Europeans to stand together have never been as numerous as today”. Basing themselves on 67 commented tables and graphs and 34 colour maps, most of which are unique, the authors invite you to understand all of the challenges that the European Union faces today.Crisis Economy European Union Mediterranean Values
Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2012
05 Mar 2012
The founding of the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP) in 1997 was a remarkable event. After decades of division among the Christian Democrat and Conservative youth in Europe, which were split between two organisations-the European Young Christian Democrats (EYCD) and the Democratic Youth Community of Europe (DEMYC)-the critical mass of organisations ﬁnally decided to unite the centre-right youth in Europe in one single organisation in the mid-1990s. From the very beginning YEPP was a success and has developed into the largest centre-right youth organisation in Europe, bringing together 57 organisations from 39 countries. YEPP has also become the sole youth organisation linked to the European People’s Party, and in this way it has clearly contributed to the strengthening of the EPP political family. This book on the history of YEPP is based on primary written and oral sources. Documents from the YEPP archives have been used, along with a number of interviews with former YEPP Presidents and a number of key ﬁgures in YEPP’s history that were conducted speciﬁcally for the purpose of this publication.Centre-Right European People's Party Party Structures Values Youth
United by one conviction: The history of the Youth of the European People’s Party
06 Feb 2012
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europa: Lluitar, Sobreviure
01 Dec 2011
The “Occupy Wall Street Movement” has gathered in New York since September. Organising via blogs and adopting the slogan “We are the 99 per cent” (as opposed to the 1 per cent of the population who are wealthy), these protests have reignited an almost forgotten counter-globalization movement. Many different groups within society–not only unemployed people–are involved in a movement which currently has no real core identity.
The Left, including the extreme Left, wants to claim ownership of the intentions and goals of the very heterogeneous groups participating, which even differ from country to country. In many European cities, protest movements are visibly on the rise, including the “United for Global Change”, a so called world-wide protest day, on October 15th. This counter-globalisation movement is seeking to find a strategy to combine their objections with those of the national protesters. On 15th of May “los indignados” (the indignants) protested in economically troubled Spain, and protests in Greece likewise were composed of people with different political views and social backgrounds united by anger and despair. In Greece, one can even say a massive movement has emerged.
The counter-globalisation movement seeks to use these opportunities to recall their old slogans such as “A better world is possible!”. Indeed, after its emergence at the end of the 1990s, global, European and national elites have taken the old demands of the organization “Attac” seriously (the introduction of the Tobin Tax on financial transactions), which was founded in Paris in 1998 under the name = Association pour une taxation des transactions financières pour l’aide aux citoyens. Maybe surprisingly, the counter-globalisation movement was not very visible during the first global financial crisis in 2008.
This is changing now. First of all, after 3 years of crisis in many EU countries, with bank bailouts and an apparent retrun of at least some actors in the financial sector to some bad old habits, managers and bankers are much more clearly the scapegoats today. Second, countries like Greece, Spain and Italy have to implement strict austerity measures that are seriously hurting more and more people. Third, dimming economic perspectives for many Europeans correspond to a pervading sense of relative decline of Europe (and North America) vis-à-vis the emerging economies in China and elsewehere. Moreover, “citizens in anger”, formerly supporters of the state and the market economy who are shocked by the political and business elite, correspond very much to the bestselling French booklet “Indignez-vous!” (Time for Outrage). The author, Stéphane Frédéric Hessel, born in 1917, is a former ambassador, concentration camp survivor and French resistance fighter. The 32-page essay was first published in a small batch of 6,000 copies selling for not even 3 euro per piece. By the end of 2010, 6 million copies had been sold. But the ideas are extremely heterogeneous and specific: Hessel’s reasons for personal outrage include the growing gap between social classes, France’s treatment of its illegal immigrants, Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians, the need to “re-establish a free press”, the need to protect the environment and the importance of protecting the French welfare system. He calls, from a leftist perspective for a peaceful and non-violent insurrection.
The Left has tried with the emergence of the counter-globalisation movement to give themselves a new narrative, in the words of the philosopher Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek, a “communist manifesto for the 21st century”. Å½iÅ¾ek was involved in the Wall Street protests, as well as Naomi Klein. The Canadian journalist wrote in 2000 with “No Logo” a bible for counter-globalisation activists. Her bestselling book can be interpreted as a manifesto with neo-anarchist and Marxist inspiration.
But the protests have also met with some applause, or at least profound empathy, among conservative thinkers: Philipp Blond (the “red Tory”) has criticized Thatcherism from a fundamentally Catholic perspective years ago. The Daily Telegraph columnist and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore, has begun to think, in his own words, “that the Left may have been right, after all”, in a column written even before the London riots of early August 2011. His critique of neoliberalism was eagerly taken up by some German conservative intellectuals such as Frank Schirrmacher (editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and Lorenz Jaeger (journalist). In Southern European countries, conservative criticism of the market has a longstanding tradition. But in European electoral politics, the main thrust relevant to the EPP family will continue to come from the Left.
The mainstream Left, such as the Party of European Socialists and many of its member parties, is trying to profit from the new wave of protests by pointing out that they have criticized “neo-liberalism” and “casino capitalism” for a long time already, and demanded stronger state intervention in the economy (“more politics, less capitalism”), a financial transaction tax, stricter banking regulation, as well as less emphasis on austerity and more on stimulus. Of course, this last point is made especially by socialist parties in opposition, not those in power in Greece and Spain which have to enact austerity themselves.
Currently, we can see all possible forms of protest: violent and non-violent, reactive and preventive in terms of the timing of police intervention, spontaneous and long-planned, illegal and legal in respect to the law, repressive and tolerant in the ways of expression, brutal and calm related to the degree of force used and broad and selective in terms of an intended programmatic agenda. There is an ambivalent, declining confidence in legislatures and governments, but no general distrust of coherent polities within European national systems. But more and more, populations (as well as the media) are in fear of a so-called casino-capitalism and the alleged injustice of the financial system.
Options for a smart reaction:
Here is how the EPP family should react to the protests and their underlying resentments, as well as their instrumentalisation by our political competitors:
• The new global protest movement is extremely heterogeneous. It combines really existing new fears about the future of individual people with well-known and somewhat worn out radical leftist ideology.
• The main difference between 2008 (when protests were expected but never materialized) and today is that austerity has begun to bite, and that the general mood of economic decline has spread.
• The EPP family should point out that it understands the individual fears about economic perspectives, and some of the anger about financial market instabilities and bankers’ payments. But it should not buy into the anti-capitalist rhetoric of the Left. Nor should we show any understanding of the violence used by diverse radical groups which have only been waiting for the moment to profit from protest movements like this.
• It should point out the contradictions in the leftist narrative: between a general critique of austerity on the one hand, and the budget cuts by socialist governments themselves. Above all, it should make a clear distinction between smarter financial market regulation that is needed to SAVE the markets, and a fundamental critique of the market economy which is the road to nowhere.
• It should keep on repeating that besides airing their resentments (however justified or unjustified they are) and criticizing “global capitalism”, the “Occupy together” protests have not shown any coherent, systemic alternative to the globalized economy. Socialism, for the time being, is not on the placards. As soon as it appears, our family’s answer should be to point to the evident failures of socialist economics in the 20th century.
• Above all, it should point out that in order to overcome the crisis, we will all have to work longer and harder, and keep on innovating our economies, which includes both smarter regulation and further liberalisation, f.e. in completing the EU Single Market.
Picture source: www.blog.timesunion.comFlorian Hartleb Crisis Jobs Society Values Youth
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