Bursting the Bubble

Slovakia’s EU Presidency: Brexit, divided Europe and an opportunity to restore the tarnished reputation

1 July 2016 | by

Today the Netherlands hands over the reins of the EU Council presidency to Slovakia. The challenges at hand could not be more consequential: the EU structures are being undermined by the popular revolt that has moved beyond symbolism and fringes of the society. The next six months will therefore be crucial in setting the tone with which the EU will continue (if at all).

Last week, the British citizens exercised their democratic right and voted, against all expectations, to leave the EU. Similarly, earlier this year voters in the Netherlands delivered a humiliating blow to the country’s Prime Minister by refusing to throw their support for the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine.

The public’s weariness with the EU is palpable. The more the public mistrusts the EU, the more its leaders mistrust the public and the gap between the two widens. It has now reached the breaking point whereby citizens feel they are no longer considered essential for the EU’s legitimacy. Instead, and in a rather condescending way too, citizens are being blamed for the lack of support for the project value of which they do not understand. If only people tried hard enough, surely they would instantly fall head over heels in love with it.

There is no point in denying the obvious: the EU does and always will rest on the support of its people. Pretending otherwise is a sign of weakness and lack of belief in the EU as such, which can only lead to one outcome: the EU’s demise.

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Balancing Europe’s Geo-economics and Geopolitics

29 June 2016 | by

Geo-economics may be defined in two different ways: as the relationship between economic policy, changes in national power and geopolitics (in other words, the geopolitical consequences of economic phenomena); or as the economic consequences of trends in geopolitics and national power. Both the notion that ‘trade follows the flag’ (that the projection of national power has economic consequences) and that ‘the flag follows trade’ (that there are geopolitical consequences of essentially economic phenomena) points to the subject matter of geo-economics.

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The European Union: 20 years in the wrong direction

27 June 2016 | by

Brexit on 23 June, glyphosate on 24 June…

On issues big and small, the EU needs to re-build itself from top to bottom

20 years ago I published “L’Europe à contresens”. This small book made a big impact in the press. Its key message was simple. Starting from the premise that the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria in 1995 planted the seeds of the European Union’s dilution, I argued that the enlargement process should be put on hold in order to achieve the unified Common Market built by Delors. In short, remain at 15 Member States for as long as possible, encourage the new democracies of eastern Europe to organise themselves, make the single currency conditional on a prior harmonisation of tax, welfare systems and budgets, and prioritise the Community preference over a globalised free-trade approach. Continue reading

Vote on Fact NOT Spin

22 June 2016 | by

Be an Informed Voter: For your children and your children’s children

As a European happily living and working in London, the EU Referendum debate has been rife with controversies, grotesque lies to the public and a stirring up of hate filled sentiments that have already claimed the life of one member of UK parliament fulfilling her democratic responsibility to constituents.

Jo Cox stressed in her Yorkshire Post article, days before her death, not to fall for the spin present in the campaigns.

Like many practitioners writing at European Public Affairs, I am thoroughly acquainted with the art of spin in politics, but the current campaigns for UK’s EU referendum have taken it too far, with the number of retracted media pieces skyrocketing – though the damage is done for members of the public who have seen the initial incorrect articles, with their decisions influenced, and choices unsubstantiated by fact.

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Britain and ‘the Continent’

16 June 2016 | by

With the referendum on the UK’s membership to the EU just around the corner and polls indicating a neck and neck race, campaigners on both sides are understandably desperate to score points. Winston Churchill has been resurrected in both Europhile and Eurosceptic forms. “If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea”. This quote sings to the tune of the Leave campaigners’ favourite economic
argument which proclaims a Britain out of the EU will be able to tie itself with the vibrant economies of the Commonwealth and the rest of the world and rid itself from the dictates of a sclerotic EU. Churchill made this statement in a heated exchange with Charles de Gaulle during the Normandy landings in 1944, long before the Schumann declaration. The Remain campaigners like to remind us of Churchill’s vision of a “United States of Europe”. How involved Churchill would have liked Britain to be in a federal union remains heavily debated. In 1961, Churchill wrote, “I think the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community”. The application was subsequently vetoed by De Gaulle in 1963 as he saw Britain as too different in its geography, history, economy and trade relations to genuinely integrate with ‘the Continentals’.  The Leave campaigners argue that Churchill would never have agreed to Britain in the EU in its current form and this is where the Churchill debate become purely speculative. To understand Brexit, it is best to look at how it became a possibility in the first place.

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