This is a blog written by alumni of the EPA MA programme in Maastricht.
Bursting the Bubble

Greece, Syriza and the EU Banking Union

11 February 2015 | by

A Shifting Landscape

In October 2014, the European Central Bank concluded a year-long assessment of the balance sheets for Europe’s 130 largest banks, known formally as the ‘Comprehensive Assessment’. It revealed a cumulative capital shortfall of €24.6 billion euros among 25 of the euro areas’ largest lenders under ‘adverse’ circumstances. Three out of four of Greece’s largest banks failed to meet the capital requirements imposed by the ECB. While this did not come as a surprise considering the country’s financial troubles, the outcome was in fact less alarming than it would at first seem. Taking capital accretion and projected future earnings into account, only one of the three failed Greek banks were actually expected to fall short in such a scenario – and even then only by a small margin.

However, neither the banks nor the ECB could have anticipated the drastic shift in the political climate signalled by the rise to power of the anti-austerity Syriza party. Its uncompromising stance on the bailout programme coupled with the promise to halve Greece’s debt has frightened many investors. Over 20 billion euros (12 percent of Greek GDP) has already left the country since December. In mid-January, Eurobank and Alpha Bank, Greece’s third and fourth largest banks, sought access to emergency funds from the national central bank. This type of funding, known as emergency liquidity assistance (ELA), is made available to borrowers at a much higher interest rate: 1.55 percent compared to 0.05 percent for ordinary lending. As such, this type of financing is only meant to act as a short-term liquidity bridge, rather than address persistent structural problems such as those facing the Greek banking system.

Continue reading

Economic coordination in the European Union

5 February 2015 | by

On the 29th of January, The Representation of the European Commission in the Netherlands organised an expert meeting on ‘Economic coordination in the European Union’. The meeting was organised in cooperation with the Clingendael Institute and &Maes. During this meeting, several experts discussed the successes and failures of the European Semester.

Continue reading

Slovakia’s Anti-Gay Referendum: Will Political Apathy Save Democracy?

30 January 2015 | by

On Saturday 7th February Slovakia will hold a popular vote which, if successful, will further undermine the legal standing of the local LGBT community in the eyes of the state.

4.4 million Slovak citizens will get a chance to express their opinion on three following questions:

  • Do you agree that no other cohabitation of persons other than a bond between one man and one woman can be called marriage?
  • Do you agree that same-sex couples or groups shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children and subsequently raise them?
  • Do you agree that schools cannot require children to participate in education pertaining to sexual behaviour or euthanasia if their parents or the children themselves do not agree with the content of the education?

A popular initiative is undoubtedly part of any healthy democratic system. But because it is a very bland tool, which takes no regard for society’s nuances and complexities, any democracy should limit the scope to which it can be used. Such limits usually consist of a ban on popular initiatives concerning taxes, for fiscal purposes, and human rights, in order to avoid a slippery slope from democracy to tyranny of the majority.

Continue reading

Panel discussion in The Netherlands on the right to be forgotten

28 January 2015 | by

Last week in Amsterdam, a panel of experts discussed the right to be forgotten pertaining to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja González case, hereinafter (Google v Gonzàlez). The participants in the debate were Mr. Egbert Dommering, a professor of law at the University of Amsterdam, Andreas Udo De Haes, a journalist and Frederik Borgesius, a PhD researcher at the Institute for Information Law within the University of Amsterdam.

Continue reading

Can SYRIZA save the EU?

23 January 2015 | by

The result of the coming elections constitutes a milestone for Greek politics, since it will be the first time since the end of the Second World War that the radical left in the country ever had such a popular appeal. Secondly, these elections officially entombed a forty-year period in Greek politics, since the end of the military junta, of the integration of the country into the European Communities and its re-integration in the NATO alliance, the so-called “Metapolitevsi”, the post-junta governance.

Though Greece integrated European institutions in the past differed and currently differs importantly from its European neighbors, due to its deeply rooted scars caused by the civil war that erupted after the liberation during WWII. By this, I mean the institutional and party dynamics that shaped its political landscape under the pressing shadow of the Cold War.

Greece’s role as an advanced bulwark of the west in the Balkan peninsula against the “communist danger” also crippled its society, which was already deeply divided by the bloodiest civil war the country has seen. And indeed it has seen many; the creation of the modern Greek state in 1828 was even inaugurated by one.

Continue reading