In 2016, the European Union’s (EU) Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s efforts to control low taxes for big, multinational companies led to the Commission ordering Apple to pay back 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes to Ireland. Including interest, that number has now surpassed 14 billion – a sum that both Apple and the Irish government have submitted an appeal against. To understand why, and what this could mean for other tech companies in similar positions, one has to look into both the history of the case and Ireland’s economy.
Apple had already been under fire in the US for corporate tax avoidance in 2013, a case during which US senators called Ireland a tax haven for global companies. Three years later, the European Commission ordered Apple to compensate the Irish government for the taxes it had not paid between 2003 and 2014 due to a preferential tax deal. Such a deal that was not available to other companies, which made it a case of illegal state aid under the EU law. Now, Apple’s appeal was approved by the EU’s General Court, which argued that the Commission had failed to provide enough evidence to prove that Apple was receiving preferential treatment.
The Irish government stressed that it had been clear Apple had not received any special arrangement. That Ireland welcomed the decision is hardly surprising, considering that Dublin is the host of many other multinational companies – with its low corporate tax rate, the country is an attractive location for large corporations, and they provide a considerable number of jobs and income for the country. Receiving several billion euros in taxes is, at least for the Irish government, a penalty in this scenario. Apple CEO Tim Cook had been even more decisive in his judgement of the EU’s move to order Apple to pay back its taxes, saying it was “political crap”.
The EU now has two months to appeal the decision and is expected to do so. The EU’s appeal will then be presented to the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, which will issue a final decision. Vestager stated she would study the judgement carefully and then decide on her next steps but added the Commission will continue to investigate aggressive tax deals to multinational companies.
Apple’s successful appeal has been called a landmark ruling – not least because Amazon and Google have submitted similar appeals that are still pending. Apple’s case could create a precedent and deliver a setback to the efforts that have been made towards curbing the monopolistic position of big tech companies in Europe.
Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda has been re-elected for a second term (Walker, 2020). In this article, I will investigate the effects of Duda’s electoral campaign on Polish society and the implications of his re-election for Poland and the EU.
In his electoral campaign, Duda made use of an anti-European and anti-LGBT+ rhetoric which had a polarizing effect and consolidated anti-European attitudes (Zerka & Buras, 2020). Among his voters, he reinforced the notion that “Polish values are under threat in Europe” (Zerka & Buras, 2020). The President thus instrumentalized European problems for his purposes. Voters that support his party share traditional and nationalist values. Therefore, his anti-European strategy resonated well with his electorate. However, Duda not only stirred up hatred against the EU but also against the LGBT+ community. In his electoral campaign, Duda propagated traditional family values and made use of a homophobic rhetoric (Walker, 2020). His party condemned LGBT+ rights as a “foreign import that threatened Polish identity” (Henley, 2020). The President’s rhetoric received a great deal of attention in the older and Catholic electorate (Pronczuk & Santora, 2020). Krawkow’s Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski even warned of a “rainbow plague” (Chadwick, 2019). This shows that Duda’s anti- LGBT+ rhetoric was particularly welcomed in conservative Catholic circles. Duda’s anti-European and anti-LGBT+ rhetoric thus further polarized the country. The societal division was especially clear due to the closeness of the election results. Duda’s opponent Rafal Trzaskowski secured 48,8% of the votes (Walker, 2020). The voter turnout was even above average with 68,18% showing the importance of the election (Pronczuk & Santora, 2020).
The Polish sociologist Maciej Gdula Duda is convinced that Duda’s welfare policy was a decisive factor for his electoral success (Broder, 2020). During his first term of office, Duda promoted direct benefit payments for families, which was highly appreciated (Broder, 2020). Furthermore, the PiS party was able to win voters from the working and middle class in rural areas by “promising to focus on their problems and to bring down the arrogant elites” (Ciobanu, 2020). Duda’s success was thus also based on his social policy and his positive attitude towards families.
Apart from its social policy, the President’s party, Law and Justice (PiS), characterized itself as fighting for Christianity “against foreign forces” (Pronczuk & Santora, 2020). The national conservative party argued that “Germany and other outside powers were trying to meddle into Poland’s affairs” (Pronczuk & Santora, 2020). This fight against foreign involvement was part of Duda’s strategy to distract from real problems.
In his campaign Duda was supported by public television (Walker, 2020). His liberal opponent, Trzaskowski, was frequently criticized or attacked, also for its positive attitude towards the LGBT+ community (Walker, 2020). The elections were thus held under an „unfair media environment“ (Tharoor, 2020). Despite these conditions, the opposition was able to secure a large amount of votes (around 48%).
Duda’s re-election has several implications not only for Poland, but also for the European Union. Duda’s political agenda of the past years already suggests what he might plan for the future (Tharoor, 2020). He might adopt measures to further politicize and hollow out the judiciary and the media. The state’s system of checks and balances is expected to be further deteriorated and it is feared that democratic institutions are further dismantled as in Hungary (Henley, 2020). The re-election might thus put the Polish rule of law, judicial independence and media independence to the test. However, it also puts the European Union to the test (Zerka & Buras, 2020). The re-election makes it harder for the EU to guarantee that Polish citizens feel supported by the EU and to ensure the rule of law in the country (Zerka & Buras, 2020). Furthermore, it remains questionable whether President Duda will be able to persuade the European Union that minority rights are respected in Poland (Zerka & Buras, 2020). For the EU, Duda’s re-election raises important questions on how to respond to the politicisation of the judiciary and to the discrimination of minorities.
In conclusion, Duda’s anti-European and anti-LGBT+ rhetoric further polarized and divided the country. The fact that Duda’s opponent was supported by 48,8% shows how deeply divided the country is. Furthermore, Duda’s re-election is expected to put the Polish rule of law and independence of Poland’s judiciary to the test. The European Union is also put to the test as it is asked to find a response to these developments.
Seán Lemass, an Irish politician who advocated for an active role of Ireland in the international community, said, “Irish people are citizens of the world as well as Ireland.” Often called “the global island” due to the worldwide presence of its diaspora, Ireland is now taking further steps to leave its footprints in the international political scenario. In the past years, the European country struck substantial diplomatic victories which go from assuming a protagonist role in the Brexit negotiations, to securing a seat on the United Nations Security Council and reaching the presidency of the Eurogroup. The latter two can be traced back to a public policy launched in 2018 by the Irish government whose main goal is to turn Ireland into a main political actor by 2025.
The United Kingdom`s decision to leave the EU raised several questions concerning the Irish border with Northern Ireland (UK), trade, cooperation between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the UK, and the Good Friday Agreement. On the one hand, a no-deal Brexit which implied hard borders could undermine the regional political stability and revive old rivalries. Having this in mind, Dublin lobbied for the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was finalized by the European Commission and May’s government to guarantee a free-border island. On the other hand, Brexit’s economic damage severely affects both countries as their supply chains are highly integrated, and they are close trading partners. Only in 2018, goods exported to the UK amounted to roughly 11.5% of total Irish goods exports (nb the growth of the pound sterling is estimated to be 1% or 2% lower per annum after Brexit, which is bad for the Irish export business). Based on this interdependency, Ireland gained an important leverage power to bring the UK to a softer Brexit. Additionally, Ireland, Cyprus, and Spain were granted by the European Union with an enhanced role in the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Commission itself stated that it would respond positively to any requests of these countries.
Global Ireland 2025 is an initiative that aims to increase Ireland’s role in Europe, the United Nations, and the world. In practice, this global vision involves, among others, opening up new embassies and consulates, building new air and sea connections, welcoming more international students, and expanding existing missions. A further aspect of the plan is to promote Ireland’s values of peace, humanitarianism, equality, and justice. The benefits of such a complex plan are various: presenting a unified and positive image of Ireland, increasing the infrastructure to support the Irish diaspora, developing tourism, doubling Eurozone exports and diversifying trade (beyond the UK), influencing multilateral institutions and attracting investment.
In June, Ireland won a two-year-long seat for 2021/2022 in the United Nations’ Security Council, debunking the more influential and powerful candidate, Canada. Some reasons for that were the good relationship which Ireland sustains with the islands and African countries, its position in favor of a two-state solution in the Middle East and being the only EU country in the race. President Higgins highlighted that the campaign “engaged with social global issues such as peace-building and peacekeeping, the elimination of global poverty, the strengthening of multilateralism, and reform of the United Nations.” Irish PM Leo Varadkar declared that Ireland will use this position to advance causes such as “peace and security, conflict resolution, reconciliation, climate action, sustainable development, and gender equality.”
One month later, Paschal Donoghoe, the Irish finance minister, won the presidency of the Eurogroup against the Spanish candidate, Nadia Calvino, who was preferred by countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Facing a predicted recession for 2020 of 8.7% in the Eurozone, Donoghoe described himself as a “bridge-builder” who will seek to bring together conservative nations with the ones who have a looser approach to public finances. Donoghoe reinforced the importance of reinstating financial targets along with the recovery plan for the European economy.
In brief, the increasing presence of Ireland in key positions worldwide represents a significant shift in the more restrained international approach of the country in the post-2008 period. This phenomenon was influenced by the Brexit process, which pushed Ireland for an active role in the negotiations, and by the Global Ireland 2025 plan. Irish PM Leo Varadkar said that Ireland must assume a leadership role so as to be in the heart of the European community and, more ambitiously, at the “center” of the world. Lastly, one can see that it is noteworthy to keep an eye on the Celtic island because Ireland is on the rise.
The European Union’s concerns with its commercial relations with China have been gaining new dimensions with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. Sino-European partnership goes from the political to the economic realm, encompassing environmental policies and debates about human rights. The global pandemic and the need to strengthen the Chinese image in the National Assembly, in Beijing, pushed China to an aggressive diplomacy style that is causing tension amidst European actors.
While many countries still struggle with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis, China seems to be recovering quickly, at least for now. Pragmatic cooperation with Beijing regarding medical supplies and assistance is indeed at the top of the Sino-European agenda, nevertheless, Xi Jinping is also taking the height of the crisis as an opportunity to exploit political and economic vulnerabilities in Europe.
At the beginning of the crisis, when countries like Italy and Spain were hit hard by the high number of infections, the European Union was divided on how to deal with the situation. The lack of action by the EU and the lack of solidarity among EU members not only caused a new wave of Euroscepticism to arise but gave China space to offer essential medical support that was urgently needed. Xi Jinping raised the notion of building a “Health Silk Road” while talking to the Italian PM Giuseppe Comte, in what many specialists would interpret as one of the many soft power victories China is striking in Europe.
The escalating tensions in the Sino-Indian border, Hong Kong, South and East China seas, increasing investments in nuclear weapons able to reach many NATO members, violation of human rights regarding the Uyghur minority and disinformation campaigns attempted the European Union to an aggressive Chinese diplomacy style and its inability to stand up to it. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell highlighted Beijing’s advances to play on the differences between Europeans. It is not news that Chinese investments in Europe have repeatedly blocked EU statements criticizing Beijing’s actions, as it was the case of Hungary and Greece rejecting a declaration against Chinese actions in the South China sea. However, in the past months, China tried to intervene in the European information network. In April, for example, Beijing pressured Brussels to modify the wording of the EU’s report on disinformation. Along with, the China Daily, under the influence of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, required the EU ambassador to delete a sentence declaring that the outbreak of the pandemic happened in China as a condition to publish a Sino-European relations celebration text (co-written by him and 27 EU ambassadors). The modification was accepted by the EU delegation, causing a fierce opposition in Europe. Also in this period, the Chinese embassy in France accused French care workers of abandoning elderly patients to starve and die. This type of declarations about the mismanagement of European countries toward the crisis and the spread of fake news led the European Commission Vice-President, Vera Jourova, to say that, “Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns around COVID-19 in the EU, its neighborhood and globally, seeking to undermine democratic debate and exacerbate social polarization, and improve their image in the COVID-19 context.”
In Europe, the last word in foreign affairs still rests on national governments, so that it remains difficult to present a united front against or in favor of foreign actors in many matters. Knowing that different European countries face different types of pressure, it is important to hold an open yet watchful posture toward foreign investments in companies that are key to the national interest and security. In the Sino-European case, for example, China is a relevant partner in climate change policies, the EU’s biggest source of imports, and its second-biggest export market. Particularly, China holds many investments in Europe, buying for instance stakes in many airports, ports, and relevant industrial companies. Most of these are made by private actors, thus representing no political harm. However, several private actors are subsidized by the Chinese government, causing unfair competition to European companies, and raising concern that some of these actors may be influenced by the Chinese government.
All in all, it is as desirable that the European Union stands for an open trade relationship with China as it is to combat Beijing’s protectionism and aggressive diplomacy. Some ways to do that is by balancing Chinese investments and demanding (as well as showing on the EU’s behalf) transparency. In June, the European Commission presented a package of tools to protect the European business fabric, such as engines to control the purchase of European companies by foreign parties (mainly those who receive state support). Nevertheless, a recurrent problem came up again: the EU Member States are also in competition with each other, and the approval of such tools is still uncertain.
When Germany’s constitutional court ruled that the European Central Bank (ECB) had violated the German constitution, the effects were immediate – the value of the Euro as well as the debt ratings of the eurozone countries fell. Next to being unprecedented, the decision also came at a time at which it puts pressure on the coronavirus relief package of the ECB – and the response among policymakers and legal experts was accordingly urgent.
Though the court issued its decision on the 5th of May, the case had been going on for much longer. It goes back to 2015, when the ECB established its public sector purchase programme (PSPP), which was supposed to stabilise the eurozone after the financial crisis by buying government debt.
In the years that followed, the German constitutional court asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a judgement on the bond-buying program of the ECB twice, and twice did the ECJ issue its permission to the ECB. Now, on the grounds that the ECB was overstepping its mandate and failed to incorporate political oversight into the purchases of the bonds, the German constitutional court has ruled the ECB has violated the German constitution.
EU law still remains superior to national law, and the ECB is not a subject of German national law. The German central bank (Bundesbank) however, is bound by the decision of the German constitutional court. The ECB now has three months to explain why their bond purchases are proportionate to their mandate – otherwise, the Bundesbank, which is the biggest shareholder of the ECB, would have to pull out of the PSPP. And this is the crux of the issue: although the German constitutional court recognises the EU’s exclusive competence in monetary policy, it has still put forward a judgement on whether or not the ECB and the ECJ are operating within their mandate. It could set, as many have argued in the following weeks, a dangerous precedent.
The reactions to this ruling were widespread and mixed – in Poland for instance, prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the decision one of the most important rulings in the history of the EU, as it reaffirms the agency of member states. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen meanwhile is considering starting a treaty violation proceeding against Germany. Monetary policy is an exclusive EU competence, she reasoned, and the ruling therefore posed questions that touched the heart of the EU’s sovereignty. Members of the European Parliament called for all EU institutions to support the decisions of the ECJ, to avoid putting the integrity of the EU’s court and the eurozone in jeopardy. In the end, not even legal experts share a consensus on what this decision means for the future of the ECB and, by extension, the EU. While some theorise it could lead to the break-up of the eurozone, others see the decision itself as a threat to the ECB’s independence. This is especially interesting since – though formally, the ruling has no effect on this – the ECB’s coronavirus relief package is a €750bn bond-buying program, which could now also be called into question.
In 2018, after the introduction of Poland’s contested Holocaust law, Jews faced a wave of antisemitism. The law aimed at legally prohibiting statements accusing Poland of collaboration with the Nazis (Santora, 2018). Due to the international protest, the Polish government decided to weaken the Holocaust law by amending the punishments in case of violations of the law; the amended Holocaust law refrains from a three-year prison sentence (Zeit Online, 2018). In Poland, antisemitic beliefs are adopted both by people with poor educational backgrounds and by people with high educational backgrounds (Krzeminski, 2002, p. 25). Even young people agree with antisemitic ideas. A study of 566 young poles conducted in 2011 showed that “more than 30% of young Poles think that Jews abuse Polish feelings of guilt” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Antisemitism is represented in the left and right political spectrum (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 831). However, studies have shown that a significant percentage of voters of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the conservative-nationalist party (PSL) share antisemitic attitudes (Zuk, 2017, p. 85). The scholar Werner Bergman (2008) also claims that antisemitism is highly correlated with right-wing national attitudes which can be illustrated by the fear about the Holocaust’s negative repercussions on the national prestige and self-confidence (p. 358). Furthermore, he evokes that “the Holocaust and the collaboration of certain sections of the nation during the Nazi persecution were initially suppressed from public consciousness after 1945 in Eastern European countries” (Bergmann, 2008, p. 359). Bergman (2008) emphasizes that the Holocaust was first addressed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, so that the country started struggling with questions about the national self-identification and self-esteem after 1989 (p. 359). Before the Second World War, more than three million Jews lived in Poland. However, after the Holocaust, only a small number of Jewish survivors and repatriates remained in the country (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2802). Despite the small size of the Jewish community, there is an increase in antisemitism. Some scholars call this phenomenon “anti-Semitism without Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823). The question thus arises why this phenomenon is still so prevalent in a country which faced the cruelties of the Holocaust and in which Jews only represent a small ethnic minority.
There are different forms of antisemitism in Poland. The most widespread form is modern antisemitism which is rather secular form of antisemitism and appears to be a relic from the political ideology of the Polish nationalist movement. It comprises secondary antisemitism (claiming that Jews themselves are responsible for antisemitism) and Jewish conspiracy theories (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.823). Secondary antisemites are “willing to forget about the Holocaust and actively oppose compensation or restitution to the victims” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813)
Different theories seek to explain the causes of antisemitism in Poland. Some scholars highlight situational aspects such as crisis or deprivation that promote antisemitic beliefs (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 824). The relative deprivation theory puts forward that ethnic prejudice results from a group’s “subjective perception of lower group status” (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p.236). The ideological model of scapegoating developed by Peter Glick, however, claims that in times of “shared frustration”, people are more prone to ideologies that blame certain groups as responsible for the situation (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 236). People who feel underprivileged are often frustrated and try to find someone they could blame for. Conspiracy beliefs provide a scapegoat, so that they can express their frustration in the aggression against the chosen scapegoat, which is in the Polish case the Jewish community (Bilewicz & Krzeminski, 2010, p. 242). Bilewicz, Winiewski and Radzik suggest that antisemitism not only has a scapegoating function for post-transitional problems, but also “allows the denial of the responsibility of historical crimes towards Jews” (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2817). However, some studies proved that personality factors such as authoritarianism and nationalism are better at predicting antisemitism than situational factors such as financial or economic crisis (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p. 825). Scholars putting forward the concept of competitive victimhood to explain antisemitism, suggest that if national identification is based on ideas moral superiority and a victimization history, people within this group are more likely to deny that other groups might also share the status of historical victimhood (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Kofta, Wójcik, 2013, p.286). Competitive victimhood thus diminishes the capacity to feel empathy towards people outside of their own group (Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik, 2012, p. 2813). Bilewicz, Winiewski, Radzik (2012) suggest that especially relative victimhood (“the perception that Poles were more victimized in the past than the Jews”) fuels antisemitism in Poland (p. 2813). Other scholars explained anti-Semitism in Poland with the help of the idea of collective narcissism. According to Golec de Zavala and Cichocka (2011), collective narcissism leads to antisemitism as it provokes a negative stereotyping of Jews within the non-Jewish society. The concept of collective narcissism implies that the members of a group (in-group members) develop the perception of vulnerability to external threats from out-group members which is deemed to be hostile (p. 359). Out-group members (in the Polish case, Jews) are negatively stereotyped and due to the increasing amount of stereotypes and prejudices, antisemitic ideas are fuelled.
In conclusion, there are situational, personality factors, and identity-related factors which might explain the phenomenon of antisemitism in Poland. However, the phenomenon appears to be very exceptional due to the fact that only a very small minority of Jews lives in Poland. The increase in antisemitism definitely raises questions about democratic values, the dealing with the past and societal values and norms.
Bergmann, W. (2008). Anti‐Semitic attitudes in Europe: A comparative perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 64(2), 343-362.
Bilewicz, M., & Krzeminski, I. (2010). Anti-Semitism in Poland and Ukraine: The belief in Jewish control as a mechanism of scapegoating. International Journal of Conflict and Violence (IJCV), 4(2), 234-243.
Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., & Radzik, Z. (2012). Antisemitism in Poland: Economic, Religious, and Historical Aspects. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, 4, 2801.
Bilewicz, M., Winiewski, M., Kofta, M., & Wójcik, A. (2013). Harmful Ideas, The Structure and Consequences of Anti‐Semitic Beliefs in Poland. Political Psychology, 34(6), 821-839.
Golec de Zavala, A., & Cichocka, A. (2012). Collective narcissism and anti-Semitism in Poland. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 15(2), 213-229.
Krzemiński, I. (2002). Polish-Jewish relations, anti-Semitism and national identity. Polish Sociological Review, 25-51.
“Nature is healing!” After several images showing how nature was positively responding to the absence of people due to isolation and lockdown measures, this saying became recurrent in many countries. Pictures of wild animals reclaiming urban spaces and even dolphins swimming in the Venetian channels were shared on social media. Although most of these reports were fake news (including, for our misfortune, the dolphins replacing the gondola in the Gran Canale), two questions gained place: Did the Coronavirus crisis have any positive impact on nature? And if so, will this effect be long-standing?
As a matter of fact, social isolation and the fall of industrial production massively impacted the emission of greenhouse gasses. While two-thirds of the global air fleet are at standstill, in cities such as Rome and Milan the traffic fell by 85% from its normally expected levels (a pattern which is mirrored around the world), and the amount of coal used in the power industry plummeted. In fact, the International Energy Agency announced that the global energy demand will fall by 6% in 2020, causing serious damage to the gas and oil industry, while for coal the value hits 8% (a number that was not seen since World War II). Already considering the possible economic recovery in the second semester, this would lead to a decrease of 0.3% in the global carbon emission. In comparison, the great financial crisis of 2008/2009 led to a dip of 1.3% in anthropogenic emissions. By 2010, however, with many countries investing in their industries at levels never seen before, the emission of anthropogenic gases went off. The situation became so critical that in many Chinese cities, people were recommended to use masks due to poor air quality.
From now on, governments will and should do anything to recover their economies as efficiently as possible, as well as foster transnational cooperation for this being essential in dealing with growing global problems i.e. global warming. Nevertheless, it is necessary that both officials and citizens take this moment of society restructuring as an opportunity to cause a real and long-standing positive impact on the environment. Particularly, recent actions by the European Union institutions toward this goal should be given attention, so as to give an example of how economic and environmental recovery can be joined in an integrative manner.
In April, the European Parliament indicated that the Commission should propose a recovery and reconstruction package which had the Green Deal at its core. Namely, the European Green Deal is a proposal issued by the European Commission in December 2019 that aims to turn Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Much more than a target, it envisages a thorough transformation of the economy by changing, for instance, industrial tools, promoting clean mobilization means, and renewable energy sources. Furthermore, its strategies, such as the Biodiversity Strategy, plan to restore by 2030 damaged ecosystems, protected habitats and species, and European forests (the goal is to plant more than three billion trees). On March 4th, the European Climate Law proposal, which seeks to legally bind countries to the European Green Deal, was presented in the European Parliament and is already endorsed by a vast number of MEPs.
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, pointed out that one should face the challenge of rebuilding the economy as an opportunity of making it more sustainable and resilient. She also called attention to the importance of individual changes of actions such as buying sustainable products, re-using old materials, buying electric cars, and even renovating each one’s house by adding ecological systems. The European Green Deal is being called ‘the motor for Europe’s recovery’ and needs to be treated as such from the individual, to the governmental, to the international domain. The nations of the world should plan their own green strategies while reconstructing their economies because nature is at a breaking point. Based on the practical idea that all industries depend greatly on nature, the economy will never heal toward a sustainable stage, if nature itself does not.
In March 2016 the European Union made a deal with Turkey to stop the immense flow of refugees and to secure Europe’s external borders. In this article I would like to focus on the deal’s implications for Turkey, the EU and the relationship between both parties.
For Turkey, the deal offers several incentives. In terms of financial help, Turkey receives a six-billion-dollar aid package, from which 3,2 billion euro have already been transferred (Engel, 2020). The money flows into local humanitarian aid organizations and more than hundred projects (Engel, 2020). Furthermore, Turkey benefits from visa-liberalizations for Turkish citizens for the Schengen-Area and from a resumption of EU-membership negotiations (Heck and Hess, p. 45). Ankara thus profits financially as well as strategically from this deal. However, due to human rights violations and anti-democratic developments, “Turkey’s membership perspective is no longer tenable“ and Turkey is rather seen as a “major strategic ally“ (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.170).
In order to maintain the deal, the EU was forced to make normative concessions (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.169). The is EU largely dependent on Turkey’s compliance with the deal to protect EU external borders and prevent illegal immigration. Turkey’s bargaining power is thus unprecedented (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.175). In the last years, Turkey disregarded core democratic values and violated Human rights. However, the EU made significant normative and political concessions in order to manage the crisis. The deal is thus at the cost core democratic principles (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.177).
The relation between the EU and Turkey deteriorated significantly lately. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the impression that Turkey is not sufficiently supported by the European Union and thus threatened the EU by opening its borders (Braun, et al., 2020). Moreover, he claims that the EU does not comply with the deal (Kirchner, 2020). In terms of the EU’s compliance, one can say that the European Union did not comply with all the agreements, but at least, the required money has been transferred (Kirchner, 2020). Therefore, Erdoğan actually cannot claim that the EU does not financially supports Turkey.
In conclusion, the European Union made not only financial, but also normative concessions in order to maintain the deal. Erdoğan’s claims that the EU does not comply with the agreements of the deal are only partly correct, but not in financial terms as the EU paid its agreed part.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the European Union a region that is not only hit differently by the virus, but also dealing with diverse economic outlooks. Some countries went into a strict shutdown for months and others started relaxing their measures after just a few weeks. Bound together in the European Union, these countries now have to find a way to keep the region from spiralling into a recession – and provide financial support for the states hardest hit.
In early April, after three days of difficult negotiations, the Council of Ministers decided on a €540 billion relief package – but this is far from where the story ends. For one, experts are suggesting the EU might need another €500 billion to mitigate the effects of the shutdowns. And for another, not all member states are happy with the initial package.
“Italy doesn’t need the ESM,” was Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s comment on the decision, effectively refusing €39 billion in aid. Next to support for installing short-time work and loans from the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was decided to be the third part of the EU’s relief package. First installed in 2012, its purpose is to support member states who are highly in debt – but its money is bound to strict conditions. Italy’s Five-Star Movement had threatened to end the coalition government should Conte say yes to the ESM – out of fear the country would be put under similar controls as Greece was during the debt crisis. Regardless of the fact that the EU had abandoned all conditions that are usually bound to the ESM out of respect for Italy’s difficult situation, and against initial resistance from the Netherlands.
But Italy is not the only country that wants to move away from the ESM, and install the so-called Coronabonds instead. Next to Italy, France has also expressed their support, with Macron telling the British media that they were “necessary” as otherwise eurosceptic populists in Italy, France and elsewhere would win. Their support has been met with heavy resistance from the northern countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland, which sparked a debate that Conte warned could threaten the existence of the bloc.
“Coronabonds” are essentially the new application of an old idea: joint debt that would be collectively guaranteed. Which would, as countries like Italy are hoping, lead to lower borrowing costs and more favourable terms. But on the other side, the northern countries are hesitating to sign loans for countries whose spending they cannot control – fearing it will lead to their taxpayers paying the bill; with neither side ready to give, which way the EU will go is still uncertain. And during the summit on the 23rd of April, the European Council passed the initial relief package that was put forward by the EU’s finance ministers – putting the topic of a recovery fund in the form of Coronabonds off for another day.
Boffey, D. (2020, April 9). EU strikes €500bn relief deal for countries hit hardest by pandemic. The Guardian. Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/09/eu-risks-break-up-over-coronabonds-row-warns-italian-pm
When one thinks of Spain, it is hard not to recall La Liga, or at least, its two major teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. As Pele for Brazil and Maradona for Argentina, there is a strong relationship between the image of the Iberic country and football. It is not a coincidence that my friends and I got our first contact with a myriad of countries by fulfilling FIFA´s 2010 World Cup album, which was won by Spain. Since 2010, Spanish teams won an incredible six out of nine editions of the Champions League, and today people from all over the world save the date to watch El Classico, the most-watched club game in global football, played by Real and Barça. In Spain, the football industry goes far beyond the pitch, encompassing an astronomical amount of money, cultural identity and social responsibility.
According to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), the professional football industry generated approximately 15,7 billion euro in economic activity and 4,1 billion euro in taxes in Spain during the 2016/2017 season. Furthermore, 184,626 jobs were generated, and the industry represented 1.37% of the country´s GDP. Another report from PwC demonstrated that in all regions, except for one, the contribution was over 1% of the GDP. In Barcelona the numbers are outstanding as one can see by visiting the Espai, which is the FC Barcelona sports complex and the greatest of its kind in Europe. In fact, Barça´s museum is the third most visited in Spain, and Nike´s megastore has the highest revenues per square meter on earth. In addition, FC Barcelona is responsible for 6% of the tourism market of the fifth most visited city in Europe and generates 1.7 million overnight stays according to Deloitte.
Due to TV contracts (keep in mind that only four countries do not transmit La Liga games), marketing, and a massive global communication capacity, Spanish teams can produce impacts on a planetary scale. In terms of operating revenues, Real and Barcelona lead among all sports teams on the planet, and alone are responsible for 1.20 out of 1,000 euro produced in Spain. The Blaugrana team overtook Real in Deloitte´s money league 2018/2019, and is the richest club in the world, reaching 837 million euro against 757 of its rival. Moreover, six out of the 10 most expensive transactions of the sport´s history were made by one of the two, including the most expensive one, the Brazilian player Neymar Jr., who was sold to Paris Saint-German for 222 million euro, surpassing the price of many great European companies i.e, the Dutch IT group Getronics (220 M).
In despite of the high revenues coming from the stadiums, on the 1st of October of 2017 Barcelona decided to play against Las Palmas behind closed doors in protest to the violent repression of the Spanish police to prevent the Catalonia´s independence referendum. As it says in its motto, written in Catalan, FC Barcelona is more than a club, being a resistance symbol of the region. Catalonian flags are waved at Camp Nou, fans sing cheerful or protest chants in Catalan, Barcelona jerseys now and then are stamped with the Catalonian flag, and the national feeling is amplified when the match is against Real Madrid, which represents the crown and the Spanish identity.
Having in mind their relevance, the Catalans and Merengues are involved in a series of technological and social initiatives. Barcelona supports start-ups, is engaged in partnerships with universities and co-develops several products, which are tested on what is deemed by Josep Maria Bartomeu as the greatest human lab in the world: 2,500 men and women athletes from 8 to 30 years. Furthermore, the hub of 16 staff is partnering in about 40 studies of muscle and tendon injuries and developed Pol, a new robot that helps sick people to visit places by controlling it from their hospital beds. The team joins technological progress with social responsibility. Real Madrid, in turn, effects its social commitment through the creation of adapted and inclusive social sports schools, supports charity initiatives and triggered the final boost that Spanish women´s football needed to fulfill its potential by purchasing Club Deportivo Tacón as Real Madrid´s official women´s team. According to Xavi Bové, sports marketing consultant, Real will attract global and local sponsors and awareness over the category. Over the past 15 years, the number of women playing football more than quadruplicated in Spain and mixed teams from very young age became frequent.
As one can see, it may seem so at first sight, but football is much more than just a game. In the case of Spain, it involves matters that range from economic impact to the national identity of a region, to social engagement and public awareness. The football industry can connect fans, companies and players worldwide, and is an active agent who can and should work for society. Regarding the financial impact of the game on the Spanish economy Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, said “ this reinforces our message about the importance of taking responsible and well considered decisions over everything that could affect this industry, one that is so relevant for our society.” After all this data, I finally discovered what to do during this quarantine: training my football skills at home.