Bursting the Bubble

The Ghosts of Europe’s Past and the EU’s Struggle with Rising Populism

17 May 2017 | by

This year has marked six decades since the creation of the European integration project. However, what should have been a celebratory moment for the long effort to construct a solid European community turned out to be a more cautious affair, especially after the Brexit backlash. Less than a century ago, Edmund Husserl’s warning words about Europe were more than farsighted: ‘the gravest danger menacing Europe is its lassitude’. The EU needs now more than ever a strong and united leadership to steer the bloc towards protecting the legacy of a community of post-security against the backdrop of a number of both internal and external challenges. The most worrying fact is that there are indicative signs that the European integration project is no longer a strong enough instrument capable of shielding the EU from its own populist and traditional power-politics past.

The recent migration waves from war-torn areas have undoubtedly triggered an array of tensions and dilemmas within the EU, which in turn rekindled feelings of insecurity and have provided fuel to exclusionary and populist-oriented politics. There is an undisputable resurgence of nationalist rhetoric in major European countries, where virulent demagogues and fear-peddlers the likes of Le Pen, Wilders, Farage, Zeman, Fico, Orbán or Hofer capitalize on popular fears and threat perceptions. They skilfully link the economic hardships of the EU’s own brand of neoliberalism and the failures of late capitalism to the perils of terrorism and the insecurities caused by the migration flows. One is left baffled of how, after more than twenty-five years since the end of the Cold War, democratization efforts are disintegrating at a fast pace and the ghost of populism is still haunting Europe.

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What we celebrate with the 60th anniversary of the EU?

31 March 2017 | by

This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the EU. What began with the signing of the Treaties of Rome and the European Community of Coal and Steel has developed in the biggest peace project the world has ever seen. In this year where for the first time the EU will not expand but will be smaller with the Brexit, we have to remind ourselves what the EU has brought to this continent. We have to remind ourselves that the promises of the single market are not the biggest unique selling proposition in its marketing but that we as European citizens have come together over the EU to make the European slogan true in its form. Indeed, its ‘unity in diversity’, where people, goods and services move over boundaries together with ideas that have made this Union stronger, more prosper and more stable than ever before. This is a good opportunity to look back at 60 years of European cooperation when all over Europe people come on the street to back or to be against the Union.

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The Brexit Task Force: Who’s Who and When to Pay Attention

29 March 2017 | by

The long-awaited Brexit negotiations can finally commence between the UK and EU. Although much has been written about the activities here in the UK as the DexEU team gets up and running – despite the staff shortage recently reported – only limited comment has been focused on the EU’s Brexit Task Force.

This week, both the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, and the Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, have given open interviews on the upcoming negotiations. We outline the key players within the EU negotiation team and inform you of the most important dates to keep in your diary. Continue reading

EU Women’s empowerment policy: In money we trust?

8 March 2017 | by

Gender equality intruded EU jargon in the past years.  Inequality between men and women started to be perceived as a form of discrimination touching many aspects of our lives (work, social position, relationships, education, politics, media, etc.), so gender mainstreaming infiltrated in many EU policies. For instance, the “Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-19” was developed to address equal access to employment and payment, participation in decision-making or gender-based violence. Thus, now it is a cross-sectoral policy, but the focus still remains on economic rights: to guarantee equal opportunities to have all of the necessary means for living.

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Can we fight fire with fire when it comes to populism?

6 March 2017 | by

Populism has undoubtedly enjoyed a good year in 2016. Emboldened by the successes of Vote Leave and Donald Trump, the trend could continue in 2017, with elections in the Netherlands and France the most immediate litmus tests.

Lots of ink, analogue and digital, has been spilled over how the opposite camp (call it progressives, liberals, cosmopolitans, rationalists, globalisation winners or any other label) should counter the populist message from a communication point of view. The Remain campaign in the UK, lukewarm at best, and the US election have shown that simply invoking facts, numbers and using rational arguments proved no match for unfounded claims and appeals to emotion. This is of course not to negate the fact that these votes reflected some real grievances.

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