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

Eurosceptics are not anti-European. They are just wrong!

18 July 2014 | by

Those of us who believe in a more integrated Europe have moved too closely and too comfortably to the idea that the best way to fight Euroscepticism is to label it as an anti-European movement operating on the fringes of our societies. Yet the recent surge of anti-EU parties, wishing to turn the time back proves that they are but a marginal force. Eurosceptics may represent a vision for Europe that is backward looking and outdated, but they do represent a vision that is becoming increasingly popular with more and more people. They despise the EU and wish to return to a system of limited cooperation (if any at all) between nation states. Some would say they love Europe but hate the EU. Clearly their vision of Europe does not fit with that of those arguing on behalf of the ever closer union. However, this does not make them the anti-Europeans that we often make them to be. For our own sake and for the sake of the future of the European Union, let us be honest: Eurosceptics are not anti-European. They are just wrong!

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A Return to Pragmatism? Lord Hill announced as UK Commissioner Designate

17 July 2014 | by

British Prime Minister David Cameron has just announced Jonathan Hopkin Hill, Baron Hill of Oareford (ergo Lord Hill) as the British Commissioner designate. This nomination may prove to be the most important in UK-EU relations, and indeed in the history of the College of Commissioners, given the ever-more precarious position of the UK within the European Union. The choice will speak volumes about Cameron’s strategic calculations, as regards his proposed “renegotiation” (a concept as abstract as the constantly mooted, but never defined, “reform” of the EU) and the negotiating tactics he will use.

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Resisting Complacency – EU Citizens in UK Strive to Fix European Election Voting Problems

16 July 2014 | by

Prior to the European elections this past May, the alarm had been raised that the voter registration procedures throughout the European Union were convoluted, difficult to navigate for those trained, and the sheer number clouded most organisations from providing aid to citizens. While the EU stresses democratic legitimacy of voting, and encourages mobility amongst citizens, the hurdles, which citizens residing in a member state other than their origin had to overcome, were simply ridiculous with unequal voting rights, directly contradicting basic European principles. With over 112 scenarios for voter registration in European elections and only one known organisation who took on the challenge to sort through these scenarios, citizens in the European Union who were exercising any right to freedom of movement in May were often disenfranchised from having their voice heard in the largest democratic exercise in the world.

As predicted prior to the election, these convoluted voter registration procedures were the direct cause of issues that inevitably led to European citizens being upset, and discouraged after their attempt to vote resulted in defamatory remarks and not being allowed a vote. These sentiments are not something European politicians want to see at a time when scepticism of the European project is on the rise. In this past election, politicians and others in the field highlighted 2014 proceedings as being more democratic than ever before, but how can this really be when many member states are pushing aside or were unaware of voter registration problems ? Most assuredly, the issue of citizen disenfranchisement in the European elections has not received much attention at the EU level, though these problems occurred in multiple member states. In the United Kingdom, Europeans are continuing to resist this complacency, pushing for this problem to be addressed at every level possible. It is through these efforts that the fight for mobile citizens to maintain their democratic rights that hopefully politicians, both in the member states and the European level, will take heed of more citizen dissatisfaction than the mere increase in Eurosceptic election results.

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One Direction Immigration: the Biggest Election Issue?

14 July 2014 | by

In the centre of the Place du Luxembourg in the European Quarter of Brussels stands a statue of, a British industrialist of the early 19th century. Cockerill frequently seems out-of-place, not only because of the traffic cones, empty beer glasses and flags that sporadically adorn him (the square is a favourite haunt of thirsty Parliamentarians on Thursday nights), but also because of the positioning of the Lancashire native in the shadow of this most European of all EU institutions.

Cockerill himself could have been an early poster-boy for the success of European integration. Brought to Belgium by his father as a young man, he soon married a Belgian, set up an iron foundry and machinery plant that was responsible for creating Belgium’s first steam train, and was one of the founders of the Bank of Belgium.

The story of migrants travelling to and from continental Europe is as relevant today as it was in Cockerill’s time. Up until 2004 and the accession of ten countries to the EU (eight of which belonged to the former Eastern Bloc),  net migration to the UK from the rest of Europe was basically zero. Grumblings began as more foreigners started crossing the Channel than there were Brits leaving, finally reaching a fervent crescendo in January 2014, when transitional controls over Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants were lifted. Camera crews and TV reporters however, were left disappointed with empty arrival halls and baggage claims on New Year’s Day, despite speculation of a flood of Eastern Europeans arriving at Britain’s airports. Immigration in the EU was a key topic around the continent for this year’s European elections, and will surely be a huge issue in the UK in the general election next year. Continue reading

Conservative Socialism: the Curious Case of Slovakia’s Social Democratic Party

11 July 2014 | by

Our human nature is simple: once firmly convinced that something is true, it is difficult, even in light of evidence to change one’s opinion. That is because often the gap between us thinking something to be true and it actually being true is unbridgeable. Relying on ideological shortcuts, we all sometimes befall victim to myths. One of such myths is the existence of Smer in Slovakia. European social democratic parties are parties traditionally associated with economic policies of taxing and spending and policies designed to fighting discrimination. And while most socialists in Europe remain true to these values, especially the latter, Slovakia’s socialists live a comfortable illusion that they too can call themselves social democrats regardless of the policies they pursue.

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