Implications of the Silk Road initiative on Europe

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road initiative was launched in 2013 and pursues several objectives. China’s intentions are, amongst others, to resolve the problem of industrial overcapacity, to gain access to the European market and to enhance its political influence in the EU through targeted investments in Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean (Casarini, 2016, p. 95). China’s new Silk road initiative also involves significant financial and monetary dimensions (Casarini, 2016, p. 99). But what does this imply for the European Union and for the Sino-European relations?

From the European perspective, there are positive and negative implications. The initiative increases the Sino-European trade, improves logistic connections and enhances the connectivity between Europe and China’s huge domestic market. Extended railway links between China and Europe are expected to lower transportation time and costs and to increase the general trade volume (Baark, 2019, pp. 81-82). Moreover, the Chinese initiative provides opportunities to increase „exports of food and agricultural products, health products and business services such as financial services“ (Baark, 2019, p. 93).

Despite the economic advantages the initiative promises, there are severe concerns about the political implications going along with the Chinese project. With its huge investments in European infrastructure, China increases its soft-power in Europe and thus also increases its chance to introduce alternative norms and regulations (Dave & Kobayashi, 2018, p. 277). Besides the question of compliance with international and European norms, critics also highlight the issue of cybersecurity and recommend to „develop awareness-building measures in order to sensitise potential targets of Chinese intelligence activities“ (Baark, 2019, p. 87).  Furthermore, there are growing concerns that the European competitiveness could be threatened by Chinese dumping goods as China aims at tackling its problem with industrial overcapacities. China intensively invested in European ports, amongst others in the port of Piraeus in Greece. These harbours are consequently almost completely in Chinese ownership. European countries with big container ports as the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany will thus face a tough competition in future (Casarini, 2016, p. 105).

However, the main concern is that China’s investments undermine Europe’s unity as Xi Jinping’s investments in Southeast Europe already caused disagreements among member states. Greece and Hungary, for instance, are unwilling to support Brussel’s criticism of the Human Rights records in China (Baark, 2019, p. 90).

In conclusion, the initiative promises several economic and financial opportunities. However, the political implications are a cause for concern. With its investments, China increases its soft power in Europe, so that alternative norms can be introduced more easily. The European Union is at odds with itself and unable to agree on a common strategy with regard to China. This massively weakens the position of the EU. A common response to China’s initiative is therefore absolutely necessary.

Photo by Ajmal Ali on Unsplash

References

Baark, E. (2019). European perspectives on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. China: An International Journal, 17(4), 76-95.

Casarini, N. (2016). When all roads lead to Beijing. Assessing China’s new Silk Road and its implications for Europe. The International Spectator, 51(4), 95-108.

Dave, B., & Kobayashi, Y. (2018). China’s silk road economic belt initiative in Central Asia: economic and security implications. Asia Europe Journal, 16(3), 267-281.

An Evaluation of the European Defence Integration Process

by Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

Since 1945 the European defence integration is a matter of dispute. Many ideas to establish a European defence system separate from NATO have been presented, but none of them have been particularly successful (Howorth, 2017, p. 14). The European Defence Community (EDC) is a perfect example: The project failed due to the absence of the United Kingdom and the failure of the French parliament to ratify the plan (Howorth, 2017, p. 18). But why were so many projects fruitless? The answer to this question is pretty complex.

First of all, the Europeans disagree with the extent of the European defence integration. How much sovereignty and autonomy should nation states give up in favour of a supranational project? In 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker, the former president of the EU Commission, announced his vision of a “European army” (Kucera, 2019, p. 2). His idea initiated a polarizing debate about the future of the European defence policy (Kucera, 2019, p. 2). The overarching idea that underlies this project is a “transfer of national sovereignty onto a supranational institution” (Kucera, 2019, p. 3). This caused scepticism as many politicians feared the loss of autonomy and some Eurosceptics even perceived national security policy as “raison d’être of a state” (Kucera, 2019, p. 5). Ever since, European defence integration projects are difficult to implement. 

The majority of projects that have been presented thus far suffered from the problem that the extent of commitment and implementation depends on the individual members of the EU. I would like to provide two examples: Firstly, the Global Strategy introduced by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and secondly the PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) project.

Global challenges and threats do not stop at national borders and therefore require a common respond. The Global Strategy recognizes these security threats (e.g. terrorism and climate change). However, the Global Strategy is rather “aspirational” than “transformative” (Arteaga, 2017, p. 4) as the commitment to the strategy remains voluntary. The non-binding nature of the Global Strategy increases the risk of non-compliance and thus raises questions about the effectiveness of the project (Arteaga, 2017, p. 4). Members of PESCO also have the right to decide to which extend they would like to implement the measurement proposed by the project (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 135).  PESCO states are currently engaged in 34 projects “in the areas of training, land-based formations, naval and airborne systems, cyber defence (…), capacity building projects or space systems” (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 130). Nevertheless, it remains uncertain to what the degree its member states will commit to the project in future as nothing is obligatory (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 135).

However, the Brexit initiated again an intensive debate about the future of the European security. The retreat of the UK implies that the EU loses a member state with important military capacities as the UK is not only a nuclear power, but also member of the UN Security Council (Svendsen, 2019, p. 994).  Nonetheless, some scholars see the Brexit as “window of opportunity” (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 122) as Europe is forced to think about alternatives in terms of their defence policy.

Since 1945, the Europeans actually rely on the United States in terms of their security. Over the course of time the EU basically lost the motivation to think about own defence possibilities as bandwagoning became part of the political habit (Howorth, 2017, p. 19). Due to current political developments as Brexit and Trump’s unreliable commitment to Europe’s security, demands on “greater European strategic autonomy” (Schreer, 2019, p. 10) have received more attention.

Additionally, the increased scope of the global challenges (e.g. climate change) forces Europe to take action. The security threats afore mentioned are not manageable for a single state. Therefore, a supranational military organization coping with all the potential security gaps is certainly a desirable vision in order to maintain the peace in Europe (Kucera, 2019, p. 19). 

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

References

References

Arteaga, F. (2017). European defence between the Global Strategy and its implementation. Real Institut Elcano. 2-18.

Howorth, J. (2017). European defence policy between dependence and autonomy: A challenge of Sisyphean dimensions. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(1), 13-28.

Jopp, M., & Schubert, J. (2019). PESCO and new methods of intergovernmental integration. L’Europe en Formation, 389(2), 121-139.

Kucera, T. (2019). What European army? Alliance, security community or postnational federation. International Politics, 1-18.

Schreer, B. (2019). Trump, NATO and the future of Europe’s defence. The RUSI Journal, 164(1), 10-17.

Svendsen, Ø. (2019). Brexit and the future of EU defence: a practice approach to differentiated defence integration. Journal of European Integration, 41(8), 993-1007.

The Billion-Euro Negotiations on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework

By Lea Schiller

959.51 billion in commitments and 908.4 billion in payments – this is how much money the last Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union (EU) decided on. The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – is the EU’s long-term budget. Covering a period of at least five but usually seven years, its purpose is to help the adaption of the annual budget and set ceilings for the EU’s payments and commitments (meaning, the amount of legal obligations the EU can enter). Subsequently, the MFF also has a big influence on the contributions of member states to the EU, which can make these negotiations a crucial affair especially for the net contributors to the union, which is why the budget is decided on in the European Council by unanimity. 

This month, the EU debated the budget of 2021-2027. After meeting with all leaders of the member states, president of the European Council Charles Michel called for a special summit on the 20th of February. But what he had planned to finish in one summit would go on to be what Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki described as the “most difficult negotiations in history” on the EU budget. 

After Brexit, the EU is left with an up to 75 billion Euro big hole in its contributions, and member states are in disagreement on how to make up for it. Proposed solutions include bigger payments of the net contributors, and less concessions to the net beneficiaries, but not all members are prepared to agree to this. In what has been labeled as the “frugal four”, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden have joined to advocate for a cap on the EU budget at 1 percent of the gross national income. Describing their demands, Austrian chancellor Kurz stated: “We insist on permanent net corrections to prevent excessive budgetary imbalances and achieve a fair, sustainable outcome.”

When the summit closed after two days of negotiations, the member states had failed to agree on a new budget deal. The proposal that stood at the end of the summit was rejected by the majority of member states. And while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated the document was “moving in the right direction,” though still insufficient, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa claimed it to be “bad” and further claimed it would only make things more complicated. With the summit ending without a budget deal and no date yet set for further negotiations, it is difficult to say when the EU will reach a decision. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković even questioned whether this will happen during his country’s presidency of the Council, which is running out at the end of June.

Photo by Maryna Yazbeck on Unsplash

References

EU budget summit: As it happened (2020, February 22). Politico. Retrieved from: https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-european-union-budget-summit-live-blog-european-council-charles-michel-multiannual-financial-framework/#1279650

Khan, M., Fleming, S. & Brunsden, J. (2020, February 21). EU leaders propose budget compromise at fraught summit. The Financial Times. Retrieved from: https://www.ft.com/content/c3e2ef6e-53ed-11ea-8841-482eed0038b1

Kurz, S., Rutte, M., Frederiksen, M. & Lofven, S. (2020, February 16). The ‘frugal four’ advocate a responsible EU budget. The Financial Times. Retrieved from: https://www.ft.com/content/7faae690-4e65-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5

The European Council (2020, February 11). Multiannual financial framework: shaping EU expenditure. Retrieved from: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eu-budgetary-system/multiannual-financial-framework/

The European Council (2019, February 25). Multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020. Retrieved from: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eu-budgetary-system/multiannual-financial-framework/mff-2014-2020/
The European Council (2020, February). Multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027: negotiations. Retrieved from: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eu-budgetary-system/multiannual-financial-framework/mff-negotiations/

The Aegean Sea: Disputes between the Greek and Turkish worlds

By André Francischetti Moreno

According to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNFGS), on December 17th of 2019 Turkish fighter jets F-16s invaded the Greek airspace forty times, even entering the Athens Flight Information Region without submitting flight plans or asking for an authorization. These violations led to 16 mock dogfights, which were already proven lethal in other interception attempts by Greek forces in the past 19 years of invasions. The relationship between the two NATO allies went through moments of sympathy and animosity throughout history. Notably, moments of tensions took place during the Turkish War of Independence and the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Nevertheless, a great feeling of partnership was seen, for instance, in the summer of 1999, when a terrible earthquake hit both countries and several measures of solidarity and reciprocity improved Greco-Turkish relations in what would be known as the earthquake diplomacy. This feeling was extended until the early 2010s, with the approximation between Turkey and the European Union. Nevertheless, from there onwards substantial diplomatic differences came up between Greece and Turkey, and in 2018 the deterioration in their diplomatic relations became rougher.

The delimitation of economic zones, territorial waters and national airspace are at the heart of the tensions. In addition, Turkey claims sovereignty over a myriad of islets off its southwestern coast. The vehemence of the topic is due to the overwhelming number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. In particular, Turkey´s complaints regard a chain of Greek islands lined up along the Turkish west coast blocking the latter from extending its zone of influence. It is important to highlight that both territorial waters and airspace are measured from the nearest inhabited territory, and thus influence zones are critical when it comes to securing partial control over shipping, full control over the airspace above, and exclusive right to economic exploitation of resources on and under the seabed. Due toTurkey´s strategic importance to the European Union in anti-terrorism policies, migration containment and as a NATO ally, the transcontinental country only suffered mild economic sanctions of the European Union over the past months in protest against President Erdogan´s violations of human rights and over what the EU sees as Turkish interference with Cyprus´ EEZs.

The concern of European leaders regarding Erdogan´s decisions got higher at the end of 2019. In December, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused Turkey of not abiding by the EU 2016 refugee agreement, as the number of migrants coming through Turkey to the already worrisome Greek refugee camps dramatically enlarged. Whereas at a ceremony on the 27th  November in Istanbul, the UN-recognized government of Libya, at odds with its parliament, and Turkey signed a security accord and a memorandum understanding on the demarcation of maritime jurisdiction areas, aiming at gas and oil exploration and production in the region. Moreover, after President Erdogan said that he would send ships to drill for energy off Crete in the coming months, Vice- President Fuat Okay declared that military forces could be sent into the East Mediterranean. The EU Parliament issued a statement arguing that not only the memorandum is arbitrary and geographically questionable, however it also ignores the sovereign rights of Cyprus. Furthermore, as Italy and France have high stakes in the region because of the activities of ENI and Total in the gas drills off Cyprus, they agreed together with the Cypriot army to perform a joint naval exercise in Cyprus´ EEZs.

Hubert Faustmann, professor in the University of Nicosia and Cyprus director of the Bonn-based Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, said that Ankara´s agreement with Libya was a tactic to delay the multi-billion-dollar EastMed gas pipeline project planned by Greece, Israel, Italy and Cyprus, as it would cross maritime zones claimed by Ankara. The EastMed project would make of the involved countries a vital link to Europe’s energy supply chain, and Turkey holds its key as it can block any agreement by fostering its military, navy and air force capabilities in Northern Cyprus. According to the professor, “Turkey´s strategy is to create grey zones and disputes territories within the economic exclusive zones claimed by Cyprus and also Greece.” It is worth remembering that Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and claims Nicosia´s gas and oil exploration areas.

In response to the memorandum, Greece and Egypt are speeding up the demarcation of their territorial waters, while the European Council reaffirmed its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. The EU issued soft sanctions over Turkish energy ships drilling off Cyprus and the Cypriot government received international warrants for the crews arrest but did not enforce them. Furthermore, Greece is trying to isolate Turkey internationally, forcing the annulment of the Turkish-Libyan accords, expelling Libya´s ambassador, looking at making an official complaint to the UN and requiring a meeting of EU leaders to condemn Turkey´s actions. In spite of being backed by Russia, Israel, Egypt, EU countries and the United States, the Greek Defense Minister stated that “if it came down to a fight in the Aegean, we shall not wait for anyone to come and help us… Whatever we do, we shall do alone.” Turkey, in turn, defends that the memorandum is in accordance with international law and that Cyprus and Egypt issued a similar document in 2015. Moreover, it uses its army, geo-political importance and cooperation towards migration control as leverage against Europe. Charles Ellinas, an Atlantic Council senior associate, however, believes Turkey has nothing to gain from escalating military moves in Cyprus.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

References

A ‘secret war’ between Turkey and Greece just turned deadly after a long history of dogfights over the Aegean Sea. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/greece-turkey-secret-war-dogfights-aegean-sea-2018-4

Admin. (2019, July 12). EU threatens Turkey with sanctions over Cyprus drilling. Retrieved from https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/eu-threatens-turkey-with-sanctions-over-cyprus-drilling/

Aegean dispute. (2020, February 23). Retrieved from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegean_dispute

Al Jazeera. (2019, December 13). Turkey flexes muscle as Greece and EU stick to international law. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2019/12/turkey-flexes-muscle-greece-eu-stick-international-law-191213175146069.html

Brzozowski, A. (2019, October 11). Greece calls for more NATO ships to patrol Aegean Sea following Turkey’s Syria offensive. Retrieved from https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/greece-calls-for-more-nato-ships-to-patrol-aegean-sea-following-turkeys-syria-offensive/

Gotev, G. (2020, January 20). Turkey targets ‘weakest link’ Cyprus in regional dominance bid. Retrieved from https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/turkey-targets-weakest-link-cyprus-in-regional-dominance-bid/

Greece says Turkey not abiding by EU refugee agreement: (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ahvalnews.com/greece-turkey/greece-says-turkey-not-abiding-eu-refugee-agreement?amp

McCarthy, N. (2015, November 27). Turkish Jets Violated Greek Airspace Over 2,000 Times Last Year [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/11/26/turkish-jets-violated-greek-airspace-over-2000-times-last-year-infographic/amp/

Memorandum of Understanding between Turkey and Libya on Maritime Borders. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/P-9-2019-004285_EN.html

Michalopoulos, S. (2019, December 11). Greece seeks EU’s diplomatic shield against Turkey at Council. Retrieved from https://www.euractiv.com/section/defence-and-security/news/greece-seeks-eus-diplomatic-shield-against-turkey-at-council/

Tnh. (2019, December 19). Turkish Fighter Jets Invade Greek Airspace, 16 Mock Dogfights Ensue (Adds). Retrieved from https://www.thenationalherald.com/274637/turkish-fighter-jets-invade-greek-airspace-16-mock-dogfights-ensue/

Tnh. (2019, December 10). Greece Wants EU Full-Court Press on Turkey, EU Backs Off. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalherald.com/272988/greece-wants-eu-full-court-press-on-turkey-eu-backs-off/

Apulia: The Strategy Behind Tourism

By André Francischetti Moreno

An 800 kilometers coastline, olive groves leading to timeless cities of unscalable heritage value, mountains, cliffs, sanctuaries, home of Virgil, shelter of three UNESCO world heritage sites and an inspiration for one of the most representative Italian songs Nel blu dipinto di blu. Apulia is the most dynamic region in Southern Italy and is precisely located in the “heel” of the Italian “boot”. In recent years, it has become a trendy destination for tourists interested in exploring more in depth a country that keeps enchanting the world with its culture, nature and history. Emphatically, both culture and tourism have been an essential and interlinked part of the shift away from a primary-based economy, representing a big asset for regional economic growth. Rather than a natural coincidence for a gifted region, however, increased tourism has been the result of several projects sponsored by the European Union and the Italian government aimed to deal with important local challenges for international markets.

The first challenge for a further tourist development was the relative remoteness of Apulia regarding the main Italian destinations’ circuits, such as Venice, Florence and Rome. The second was the presence of small and medium sized tourism enterprises with difficult representation in the global market due to a lack of resources or willingness, thus problematizing the matching between single suppliers (e.g. hotels) and smaller suppliers (e.g. Bed and Breakfasts) with international tour operators involved in the organization of travel for foreign tourists. Additionally, a lack of highlight to the treasures of the region, seasonality, lack of private investment and infrastructure problems were also key issues to solve. A myriad of important projects was designed to address these matters, nevertheless in this text we are going to focus on two of them: “Buy Puglia” and the “PiiiL Culture” plan.

Buy Puglia was a Cohesion Policy program largely funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), lasting from 2007 to 2013. Its main goal was to give visibility to local sellers in national and international markets to attract foreign buyers. Pugliapromozione, the agency responsible for implementing the project, promoted exhibitions, trade sector initiatives to expose regional products, and provided educational tours, familiarizing tour operators with tourist attractions. The heart of Apulia´s strategy focused on two pillars, these being culture and tourism. Firstly, the action was based upon promoting culture as a place-branding and tourism attractor, strengthening the idea of culture as an employment generator tool and building competitive advantage. For tourism, the rationale was based upon reducing seasonality and attracting foreign investment via tourism promotion, diversification of the offering (from romantic routes to a sports destination), restoration of key monuments, fostering and supporting employment, and stimulating a more widespread growth of tourism including in less popular areas. Additionally, the ERDF invested heavily in ports, airports and in the restructuration and linkage of cultural and environmental heritage, becoming an important regional driver of economic activity for both employment and the overall economic development of the region.

Besides, in coherence with the EU strategy “Europe 2020”, which emphasizes a European agenda for growth and jobs in the coming decade, Apulia became a model of cultural planning by implementing the “PiiiL Culture” plan. As the name suggests, it is an economic development policy based on culture which aims on achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With an investment of 400 million euros for ten years, beginning in 2017, the region government decided to focus on the “PiiiL” acronym: Product (building a cultural product of quality), Identity ( defining identity as rooted, authentic, half-caste, open and plural), Innovation (regarding both product and its shaping), Enterprise (from volunteering to a new business culture) and Work (without good employment there is no economy of culture). Also, in partnership with the Apulian Film Commission Foundation, the Regional Ministry for Tourism changed the traditional approach on the promotion of specific areas (i.e. Salento and Vale d´Itria) towards the promotion of the brand “Apulia” and “Apulia and cinema” in Italy and abroad. The “PiiiL Culture” is planned triennially and favors public-private partnerships, innovation, internationalization, valorization of urban and suburban areas, use of underused spaces and the growth/formation of the public through cultural activities.

Today, international flights land in the main airports of Puglia in Brindisi and Bari, and the official tourism website of the region offers ready-to-take itineraries and tips on things to do, where to go and events to attend. If you have any social media, you may also use the hashtag #WeAreInPuglia to discover new places and find more about the experience of other people who visited those. Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it, and Apulia, supported by the European Union and the Italian government, is building it in a sustainable, inclusive and attractive way.

Photo by Claudia Lorusso on Unsplash

References

https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/pdf/expost2013/wp9_mini_case_buy_puglia_en.pdf
https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/pdf/expost2013/wp9_case_study_puglia_en.pdf
https://www.viaggiareinpuglia.it/allegati/Eventi/100423_apulia__synthesis_oecd_draft_report_1275388292363.pdf
https://www.agenziapugliapromozione.it/portal/documents/10180/4141542/Communication%20plan%20Puglia%20destination%202019
PiiiL CULTURA IN PUGLIA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.piiilculturapuglia.it/.
Your key to European statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/europe-2020-indicators.

A Comparison Between Right-Wing Populist Parties in Eastern and Western Europe

By Alexandra Reinhild Berndt

In Western Europe right-wing populist parties are less influential than in Eastern Europe, but their popularity is continuously rising. During the last French presidential elections in 2017, for example, Marine le Pen from the right-wing populist party FN (Front National) progressed to the second-round run-off against president Emanuel Macron (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 9). Why are right-wing populist parties so successful in Eastern and Western Europe?

In states like Poland and Hungary right-wing populist parties are increasingly expanding their power and seem to be more anti-democratic at least in comparison with Western European populist parties (Allen, 2017, p. 277). They violate basic democratic principles as judicial independence and freedom of the press. However, the continuous destruction of the media is not only on the agenda of Eastern European populists, but also part of the policy of Western European populist parties (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 7). The effectiveness of Eastern European populist parties is particularly visible as populist parties were able to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even if these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31). Why were populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) so successful with their anti-Muslim rhetoric? Throughout history post-communist countries experienced not only threats to their territorial integrity, but also threats to their national integrity. These insecurities concerning their sovereignty contributed to an increased fear of the loss of national identity. Since that time, populist right-wing parties were able to easily manipulate people psychologically with the help of these consolidated fears. This also explains why these parties were able to easily mobilise against minorities as the Roma or the Jews (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 30). The refugee crisis in 2015 was thus an ideal tool to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even though these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration. Particularly in this case the influence and power of the right-wing parties is very extreme as even in the absence of terrorism and immigrants, fears were easily fuelled by the populists. With the help of the anti-Muslim rhetoric populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) successfully secured their power in government. They effectively capitalised from the people’s historically consolidated fears (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31).

In Western European countries right-wing populist parties are also on the rise. In Western Europe, their success lies amongst others in the voter’s political frustration. In the view of the electorate that turned to populist parties, traditional parties were unable to deal with current political challenges as for example immigration and European integration. The disenchanted electorate is therefore more prone to accept the radical solutions proposed by populist right-wing parties (Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2007, p.1).

Interestingly, the most successful populist parties are those which effectively employ the rhetoric of democracy. Therefore, populist parties try to justify discriminatory policies with the claim to defend Western values. This rhetoric adaption plays an important role in their attempt to appear as a mainstream party (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 2). Part of this strategy is also the promotion of direct democracy, including the idea of a referendum, for example. In this manner, right-wing populist parties claim to promote the will of the people. The longevity of a party generally depends on the party’s success to recruit potential voters. For this reason, the talent of the party leader to persuade and socialise sympathisers represents a crucial factor. Socially disadvantaged groups generally represent an important target group (Pauwels, 2014, p. 7). However, different populist parties attract different social classes. Some right-wing parties mainly focus on the lower-class whereas others focus on the middle-class (Betz, 1993, p. 676).

Overall, right-wing populist parties differ significantly with regard to their rhetoric, target group, ideology and agenda (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 3). Due to their disrespect for minorities, pluralism and the rule of law, populism is essentially illiberal (Mudde, 2016, p. 28). A very important shared trait is their exclusionary agenda and their claim to fight for the will of the people (Immerzeel & Muis , 2017, p. 910). The reasons for the popularity of right-wing populist parties are slightly different in Eastern and Western European countries. In Western Europe, the popularity of right-wing populist parties lies in the voter’s political frustration whereas in Eastern Europe, right-wing populist parties are particularly successful due to their anti-Muslim rhetoric which effectively fuels historically consolidated fears.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

References

Albertazzi, D., & McDonnell, D. (Eds.) (2007). Twenty-first century populism: The specter of Western European democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Allen, T. J. (2017). All in the party family? Comparing far right voters in Western and Post-Communist Europe. Party Politics, 23(3), 274-285.
Betz, H. G. (1993). The two faces of radical right-wing populism in Western Europe. The Review of Politics, 55(4), 663-686.
Eiermann, M., Mounk, Y., & Gultchin, L. (2017). European populism: Trends, threats and future prospects. Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Halikiopoulou, D. (2018). A right-wing populist momentum? A review of 2017 elections across Europe. Journal of Common Market Studies
Kende, A., & Krekó, P. (2020). Xenophobia, prejudice, and right-wing populism in East-Central Europe. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 29-33.
Mudde, C. (2016). Europe’s populist surge. A long time in the making. Foreign affairs, 95(6), 25-30.
Muis, J., & Immerzeel, T. (2017). Causes and consequences of the rise of populist radical right parties and movements in Europe. Current Sociology, 65(6), 909-930
Pauwels, T. (2014). Populism in Western Europe: Comparing Belgium, Germany and the Netherland, New York: Routledge


The EU’s Troubled History With LGBT Refugees

By Lea Schiller

November 2013: the case of three African men sets a landmark ruling on the right to asylum for LGBT people. In 2011, Dutch immigration authorities had rejected their application for asylum – saying that the men could have hidden their sexuality in order to avoid prosecution. The men appealed, and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, a refugee is defined as an individual with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group”. The Court decided in favour of the three men, ruling that gay refugees from African countries where homosexuality is punishable by law were a “particular social group” according to the convention. But although the ECJ proclaimed the decision to be a binding interpretation of EU law, this recognition under the convention of 1951 was only the first step. Legally, the applicants also have to prove their sexuality, a justified fear of persecution and that the country of origin does not provide protection (Gartner 2015).

To determine whether or not an applicant would be provided protection from persecution in their home state, complete and reliable information is vital. However, many European states used to equate lack of information with lack of enforcement, and even if sufficient information on criminalisation is available, applicants are often required to turn to the authorities in the home state for protection first (Jansen & Spijkerboer, 2011). If risk of persecution was acknowledged, the discretion requirement was often applied: recommending the applicant to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid prosecution in their home state (Jansen & Spijkerboer, 2011) – even though the risk of forced outing would still prevail.

The ECJ ruling in 2013 turned the conversation from identifying persecution to the question of credibility; the focus was now on whether or not the applicants could prove their sexuality (Jansen, 2014). In order to determine the reliability of an applicant’s claims, many states turned to psychiatrists and doctors, who often made use of the Rorschach test, in which the doctor tries to get insight into the individual’s personality by having them interpret blots of ink (European Agency for Fundamental Rights [FRA], 2017). Additionally, many caseworkers lacked understanding for the specific situation of LGBT refugees; for example in some cases, applicant’s stories were questioned on basis of lack of information on famous LGBT meeting places in Europe (FRA, 2017). And because the experiences of LGBT people are vastly different, depending on one’s background and culture, it is crucial that assessment’s of credibility are not based on Western understandings on LGBT people (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2012).

In 2018, the ECJ banned the tests on the credibility of homosexuality claims in a binding decision on a Nigerian applicant, who was rejected by Hungarian authorities after a psychological test came back as inconclusive. The court described the reliability of the tests as “limited” and stated that they were “not essential” in determining whether or not an applicant is telling the truth.

But even after this decision, cases surfaced of questionable verification methods being used in the asylum process of EU member states, such as the one of a teenager from Afghanistan, who was turned away by Austrian officials which found that neither his behaviour or his clothing were gay enough. Just a month earlier, a man from Iraq was turned away because he was acting too feminine.
Even though the European Union has taken significant steps towards implementing a universal, just system for dealing with LGBT refugees, the journey is not over yet.

Photo by Sara Rampazzo on Unsplash

References

Can you prove it? How Europe determines whether asylum-seekers are gay. (2018, September 13). The Economist. Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/europe/2018/09/13/how-europe-determines-whether-asylum-seekers-are-gay

European Agency for Fundamental Human Rights. (2017, March). Current migration situation in the EU: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex asylum seekers. Retrieved from: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-march-2017-monthly-migration-report-focus-lgbti_en.pdf

Gartner, L. G. (2015). (In)credi¬b¬ly queer: Se¬xua¬li¬ty-ba¬sed asyl¬um in the Eu¬ro¬pean Uni¬on. In Chase, A. (Ed.), Transatlantic perspectives on diplomacy and diversity. Humanity in Action Press.

Jansen, S. (2014, January). Credibility, or how to assess the sexual orientation of an asylum seeker? Presented at: EDAL Conference, Dublin. Retrieved from: https://www.asylumlawdatabase.eu/sites/default/files/aldfiles/Credibility%20of%20sexual%20orientation%2C%20%20presentation%20Sabine%20Jansen%20at%20EDAL%20conference%20Jan%202014.pdf

Jansen, S. & Spijkerboer, T. (2011). Fleeing homophobia. Retrieved from: http://frlan.org/sites/srlan/files/fileuploads/Fleeing%20Homophobia.pdf

Riegert, B. (2013, November 8). European court ruling gives gay people hope. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from: https://www.dw.com/en/european-court-ruling-gives-gay-people-hope/a-17213185

Stone, J. (2018, January 25). EU bans countries from using ‘homosexuality tests’ on asylum seekers. The Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/gay-test-homosexuality-test-asylum-seekers-ecj-european-court-of-justice-ban-nigerian-man-f-a8177851.html

United Nations. (1951, July). Convention relating to the status of refugees. Retrieved from: https://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/1954/04/19540422%2000-23%20AM/Ch_V_2p.pdf

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2012, October). Guidelines on international protection no. 6: Claims to refugee status based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity within the context of article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees. Retrieved from: https://www.unhcr.org/509136ca9.pdf

Lieber Sandmann

Mass Media and the Construction of a New National Identity in Eastern Germany

By André Francischetti Moreno

“Sandman, dear Sandman, it’s not over yet; we’ll first see the evening regards; before every child must go to bed; you certainly still have time!”

If you come from Germany, or at least lived there, you have probably listened to this song from the children´s cartoon Unser Sandmännchen while you were growing up. In fact, in despite of the apparently naïve lyrics of the opening song, the cartoon´s origins relate to a not so-long time ago when Germany was still divided in two, during most part of the Cold War.  What most people do not pay attention, however, is on how the then government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) used the cartoon to build a new national identity. Indeed, national identity is not an inherent feature of human beings, rather it is something that must be constructed and disseminated. Smith (1988) goes further and argues that the concept itself can be regarded as a “political myth” as it holds that mankind is naturally divided into different nations. In 1949, the foundation of the GDR disrupted more than 78 years of German identity-building and set an important challenge to the new administration: “How to locate the newly formed East German State in the present, past and future of the common German experience” (Nothnagle, 1993, p. 93). The Unser Sandmännchen cartoon is a substantial example of how the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) used mass media to create a new national identity through the redefinition of values and historical aspects of the German society, differentiation and use of national symbols.

Firstly, Unser Sandmännchen conveyed a very important tenet of SED, which was the redefinition of the historical Heimat. The concept of Heimat, explored by Becker and Applegate (1992), denotes a homeland. It involves values and history, and thus may be used to legitimize a state, leading to a greater appreciation of the surroundings and a genuine and democratic patriotism (Palmowski, 2004, p. 369, 377). Essentially, the socialist Heimat was determined by class relations and proposed that socialism was the only way to become a fair society. (Schwarz, 1956). Emphatically, Peter Blümel, the former director of Unser Sandmänchenn, stated that the cartoon was projected to “reflect life in east Germany, transmit class consciousness and feeling of solidarity” (Molen, 2015). Moreover, historical approximation was also involved in the cartoon, endorsed by the “German-Soviet friendship myth” (Nothnagle, 1993, p. 103). The appearance of socialist symbols and, more subtly, Sandmann´s favorite place to spend holidays, Moscow, are examples of this shift. Volker Petzold, a Sandmann historian, said that it was made by and should convey a communist belief in a better and more just world, whose model was the Soviet Union.

Secondly, the government quickly recognized the political potential of the socialist Heimat and used it to differentiate the principles and policies of the new Eastern German State. Above all, the government utilized it to induce pride in the GDR’s achievements vis-a-vis the Federal Republic of Germany (Poiger, 2000). Unser Sandmännchen clearly represented the attempt of policy differentiation, when the little puppet traveled to Vietnam, in the middle of the Vietnam war, and to young nation-states in Africa and the Near East spreading the values of socialism (War´s, 2019). Furthermore, Sandman, who sometimes used a spaceship, traveled to space both fictionally and in real life (when in 1978, during the Space Race, the East-German astronaut, Sigmund Jähn took a puppet with him to the Soviet space station).

Thirdly, symbols were also used in order to construct a new national identity. As it comes to the transition from the old Germany to the GDR, the Eastern leaders agreed on five official ideological phases of the GDR development, of which one was the era of “Socialist Construction”, from 1952 to 1989 (Von Buxhoeveden, 1980). According to KolstØ (2006), national identity must be learnt, and audiovisual aids such as flags, coats of arms and national anthems play a crucial role in nation building and nation-maintenance). This can be seen when Sandmann and young pioneers board on a type of plane and fly over a Berlin full of GDR flags.

In brief, one can see that the GDR government used mass media to construct a new national identity in Eastern Germany and that the cartoon Unser Sandmännchen was an outstanding example of it. First, SED was able to reach its goals through the redefinition of values and historical aspects of the German society by creating the socialist Heimat and nearing German and Soviet history. Second, it differentiated its policies by exhibiting its achievements and political engagement. Third, national symbols such as the national flag were present to consolidate a national feeling. As one can see, “Communication is (understood as) the means through which a nation forges a common identity, a common purpose, and a common resolve, and mass media are the forum in which this communication occurs” (Grossberg, Wartella & Whitney, 1998). Luckily, from now on you will have a much broader idea over the cartoon, and more ideas to frame your dreams.

Photo by Barbara Evening on Pixabay

References

Becker, C. A., & Applegate, C. (1992). A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat. The German Quarterly, 65(1), 55. doi: 10.2307/406805

Grossberg, L., Wartella, E., & Whitney, D. C. (1998). MediaMaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kolst⊘, P. (2006). National symbols as signs of unity and division. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 29(4), 676–701. doi: 10.1080/01419870600665409

Molen, A. (2015, September 8). Documentary: The lost world of communism part 1/3 (East Germany) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znb_X48WXUg

 Nothnagle, A. (1993). From Buchenwald to Bismarck: Historical Myth-Building in the German Democratic Republic, 1945–1989. Central European History, 26(1), 91–113. doi: 10.1017/s000893890001997x

Palmowski, J. (2004). Building an East German Nation: The Construction of a Socialist Heimat, 1945–1961. Central European History, 37(3), 365–399. doi: 10.1163/1569161041445661

Poiger, U. G. (2000). Jazz, Rock, and RebelsCold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany. doi: 10.1525/california/9780520211384.001.0001

Schwarz, S. (1956). Die Liebe zur Heimat: Ein wesentliches ziel unserer patriotischen erziehung (Doctoral dissertation). Berlin, Germany: Humboldt University.

Smith, A. D. (1988). The myth of the ‘modern nation’ and the myths of nations. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 11(1), 1–26. doi: 10.1080/01419870.1988.9993586

Von Buxhoeveden, C. (1980). Geschichtswissenschaft und politik in der DDR: Das problem der periodisierung. Cologne, Germany.

War´s, D. (2019, October 18). Fernsehen in der DDR: Sandmann, propaganda und ein kessel Buntes [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTpRRm2cxm0

The EU’s struggles to end Daylight Saving Time (and why they are so hard to solve)

By Lea Schiller

When daylight saving time was first introduced during the First World War, the goal was to maximise the use of summer daylight and conserve fuel. By moving sundown to an hour later in the day, it was possible to sustain daily routine while burning less fuel for light. First introduced in Germany, the scarcity of wartime helped it spread throughout Europe to the United States. Though abandoned after peace was established, some European countries picked up the practice again during the oil crisis of the 1970s. In 1996, the European Union adopted legislation that requires member states to conduct clock changes in March and October of every year to keep differing time zones from destabilising the single market.

In September 2018, after conducting an online public consultation on the clock change in the European Union, the European Commission decided on the goal of ending the seasonal time changes in 2019. With about 4.6 million respondents, this consultation ended up generating the highest number of responses ever received in any public survey of the European Commission, though most of the votes originated from Germany and Austria. 84% of those who voted decided in favour of abolishing the seasonal time changes, with over 70% of all voters reporting they had a “Very negative” to “Negative” experience with the clock change – only 10% of described their experience to be “Very Positive”. The seasonal time change has been associated with causing short-term jet lag, similar to the experience after travelling through different time zones. This disruption of the biorhythm not only causes sleep disturbances and mood swings in the short run, but increases the risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes (Deutscher Bundestag, 2016).

By the end of March, the European Parliament had voted in favour of discontinuing the time changes, leaving the governments of the individual member states to decide whether to stay in daylight saving time or maintain standard time. Naturally, the need for a coordinated approach was evident, as a patchwork of timezones could have disastrous consequences for Europe’s closely knit transportation and communication systems – not to speak of the active cross-border trade. Especially for neighbouring countries, differing time zones could cause massive complications to the schedule of international trains and cross-continent flights. The Parliament amended its proposal, stressing the importance of coordination and long-time certainty in this operation. But this certainty appears to be waining. Most countries face domestic disputes over which time to keep, or are instead in conflict with their neighbouring states, trying to cooperate in order to avoid a patchwork of timezones. Meanwhile, Britain is wondering whether EU law will even apply to them by the time the discontinuation comes into force (O’Hare, 2019). Just a month after the Parliament’s decision, the General Secretariat of the Council (2019) published a note saying they had only received positions on the time change from a small amount of member states:

“It appears that most Member States need more time to conclude relevant national inter-ministerial and stakeholder/citizen consultations, as well as consultations with neighbouring countries before finalising their position.”For now, the EU has abandoned its goal of abolishing the seasonal time changes by the end of this year. The new goal is set for 2021 – as long as all member states submit a plan on how to deal with the consequences by the end of October 2020.

Photo by Bryce Barker on Unsplash

Resources

Deutscher Bundestag (2016). Studien zu gesundheitlichen Folgen der jährlichen                                                Zeitumstellung auf die Sommerzeit. Retrieved from: https://www.bundestag.de/resource/                         blob/407624/d1fa2b547812da531f580ce77f348b4f/wd-9-044-14-pdf-data.pdf

Council of the European Union (2019, May 27). Retrieved from: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/                  doc/document/ST-9414-2019-INIT/en/pdf

European Commission. Seasonal clock change in the EU. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/                          transport/themes/summertime_en

European Commission (2018, August 31). Summertime Consultation: 84% want Europe to stop                                   changing the clock. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/summertime/                        news/2018-08-31-consultation-outcome_en

European Parliament (2019, February 15). Retrieved from: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/                   document/TA-8-2019-0225_EN.pdf?redirect

Es ist Winterzeit – Wissenschaftler gibt Tipps gegen die Müdigkeit (2019, October 26). Welt.                                Retrieved from: https://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article202237376/Zeitumstellung-2019-                        Es-ist-Winterzeit-Wissenschaftler-gibt-Tipps-gegen-Muedigkeit.html

O’Hare, M. (2019, October 25). Europe will change its clocks for the last time in 2021. Should                          Britain bother? The Independent. Retrieved from: https://www.zeit.de/politik/2019-10/                        winterzeit-zeitumstellung-eu-kommission-jean-claude-juncker

Schaverien, A. (2019, March 27). EU votes to end mandatory switch to daylight saving time. The                     New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/world/europe/                                 daylight-savings-time-european-union.html

Winterzeit: Zur Abschaffung der Zeitumstellung fehlt der EU die Einheit (2019, October 25). Zeit                    Online. Retrieved from: https://www.zeit.de/politik/2019-10/winterzeit-zeitumstellung-eu-             kommission-jean-claude-juncker

MEP Marietje Schaake on the European Parliament’s Present and Future

Our first event of 2018 is here!

On the 2nd of February, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) will join EUSA to talk about her work and share her views on the future of the European Parliament.

Ms Schaake has been a member of the Parliament since 2009 and focusses on topics such as international trade and the digital single market. During her visit, Ms Schaake will firstly reflect on her day-to-day activities within the Parliament and shed light on the topics she deals with.

Afterwards, the discussion will turn to the institution itself. The aftermath of the Brexit vote and the 2019 European elections have set in motion discussions across the EU about the future of the European Parliament. How can we strengthen the connection between European citizens and the Parliament’s daily activities? Shouldn’t we be able to vote for European, rather than national parties? And what to do with the 73 seats which will remain once Britain leaves the EU?

We look forward to welcome you all to this interesting discussion, taking place on the 2nd of February, from 16:30 to 18:30, at KOG (Law Faculty Building) in the Grotiuszaal (A051).

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/944520952368350/

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