Vous êtes ici

Ideas on Europe Blog

S'abonner à flux Ideas on Europe Blog
Informed analysis, comment and debate
Mis à jour : il y a 4 jours 21 heures

Reform #5: Armed forces

lun, 26/07/2021 - 12:15


The united and strong Europe – reformed along the principles introduced previously (see Enlightened Europism) – is going to be able to defend and promote its achievements globally only through a wise and decisive foreign policy with clear strategic aims. However, in my view, the necessary precondition of a successful foreign policy and diplomacy is the existence of a powerful army; therefore, the reformation of the European armed forces is inevitable in order to let our voice be heard and understood in the world. Besides, the Republic of the United Europe (or RUE) must abandon the European Union’s ill practice of deliberately neglecting the protection of the bloc’s external borders, bringing stability to the bordering regions instead.



Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the member states of the European Union spend gradually less on defence and security, relying entirely on the US-dominated NATO for military protection and intelligence services. As it is never smart to depend on a foreign power regarding national security – especially on one that is not committed to provide unconditional military aid –, the creation of a strong and independent European army is imperative to guarantee the security of the European people.

The European Union came across of establishing a common European army a couple of times in its history already. The first attempts were made at the beginning of the unification process (in the shadow of the Soviet Union’s threat), at the collapse of the USSR, and at the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Despite the opportunities provided by these events, the EU managed only to make tiny steps towards a military co-operation between the member states. Due to the pressure caused by the Arab Spring (e.g. Syrian civil war, illegal immigration), the Russo-Ukrainian conflict (e.g. Crimea, Donbass), and increasing Turkish hostility (e.g. Caucasus, East Mediterranean), the topic is once again on the table in Brussels, but – once more – there is not enough political will to move forward.

As the consequence of lacking political will, funding proves to be a serious hindrance of investing in a grand European project, which would require not only additional spending, but also the reallocation of existing national military expenditure. Besides money, many member states express their anxiety over the potential loss of national sovereignty, as they oppose the idea of a European army patrolling on their national soils. These are the reasons why the European defence policy is being stuck at the level of the Common Security and Defence Policy (or CSDP) and Synchronized Armed Forces Europe (or SAFE) – both impotent. There are military co-operations in place between some member states (e.g. Germany and the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries), but they are not serious enough to be taken as examples.

Apart from the issues related to political will, funding, and national anxiety, there are numerous technical and practical difficulties that have to be overcome. Due to Brexit, the EU has lost its most powerful military power (e.g. nuclear energy, intelligence), which is a painful loss on short-term, but can be neutralised on mid-term by the member states developing and constructing their own weapons – following European guidelines –, meaning that the creation of a European arms industry is crucial. There are massive differences between the various national weapons systems not only in quantity and type, but in quality as well; therefore, common European standards must be set and followed in order to harmonise and modernise the national armies. For instance, comparing the member states’ 178 weapons systems to the US’ thirty, it is obvious that Europe needs significant reduction – whilst increasing effectiveness. There are seventeen different types of tanks in use in the EU (only one in the US), 29 types of vessels of war (four in the US), and twenty types of fighter jets (six in the US). The United States has a command centre (Pentagon), which decides on all matters related to the military (e.g. weapons system, development), whereas the European Union lacks a command centre, as every member state decides on its arms industry on a national level; moreover, not even the language of command is common.

It is at utmost importance to face the mountains of challenges around the topic of a common European army, and find the right solutions in the forms of decisive actions.



In the Republic of the United Europe, political will is not going to be an issue anymore, meaning that finding financial resources to overcome technical difficulties should not be an impossible task. The aim for the RUE is to establish a command centre and to set common standards of operation, to centralise its arms industry and weapons system development, and to co-ordinate the synchronisation and modernisation process between the existing armed forces of the member states.

In my view, the increase of funds to support the synchronisation, modernisation, and development of the new European army is inevitable, but it is not required to withdraw or regroup financial support from other projects. The major part of the solution of allocating financial resources is the smart redistribution of the money being spent already, permitting the member states of the RUE to spend only in accordance with common European standards – thus discontinuing parallel misspending. In terms of the new direction of foreign policy, the RUE would quit from the NATO collectively, meaning that the contribution being paid currently could be redirected into the creation of the common European army in the future. Altogether, the RUE should allocate 3% of its GDP to finance its military expenditure.

All capacities and capabilities – land, air, sea, cyber, and space – of the reformed European armed forces must be increased and strengthened. The primary focus should be on cyber security and on the development of the naval and aerial forces (e.g. construction of aircraft carriers), but the modernisation of ground forces (e.g. upgrade of tanks) are also crucial. In addition, Europe urgently has to develop and rely on its own nuclear protection, satellite system, and intelligence services, whilst decide on the structure and language of command, on personnel numbers, on creating a NASA-like space research and IT development centre, and on establishing a technological institution, which enables the RUE to research and construct the most modern and most efficient technology available. The Galileo project (global navigation satellite system) and the European Space Research and Technology Centre (or ESTEC) could form a good base to use for further development. Regarding modernity, Europe can learn from Israel, as the young state commands a high-tech military, which is at the forefront of drone and satellite technology and aerospace defence system. Also, the RUE must aim to gradually proceed with denuclearisation, abandoning the military use of nuclear power altogether.

Unless provoked or directly threatened, the European army must concentrate on the protection of its external borders, instead of foreign involvements. However, border protection takes us to a complex issue. In order to neutralise the anxiety of national governments that may not welcome the fact that armed forces – potentially soldiers from other member states – patrol on their soil, I suggest that the responsibility of protecting the borders should be given to the border states, but still under European command and finance. For instance, the Mediterranean region would be protected primarily by French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish personnel under a leadership the European command centre finds most suitable – based on expertise and experience, not on nationality.

In my opinion, the protection of the RUE’s vast borders covers three major regions: the Mediterranean, the East, and the Oceans – in this order of importance. The region of Mediterranean includes the entirety of the Mediterranean Sea, from the Gibraltar Straight to Tel-Aviv. It is an extensive border that separates Europe from an unsettling and unstable region (North Africa, Middle East), meaning that it is quite difficult to secure it from potentially hostile forces (e.g. terrorists), criminals (e.g. human traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers), and illegal immigrants. The Mediterranean region must be stabilised in two steps: Operation Pompeius and Operation Scipio. Named after ”one of the great statesmen and general” – also consul and triumvir – of the late Roman Republic, who successfully subdued the menace of piracy that disrupted trade and undermined security on the Mediterranean Sea, Operation Pompeius includes the elimination of organised crime and terrorism on the Mediterranean Sea and in North Africa. Named after another famous consul and general of the Roman Republic, who defeated the North African kingdom of Carthage, Operation Scipio includes the military intervention in failed North African countries on the behalf of co-operative and legitimate political forces that can guarantee unity, safety, and peace. The operations Pompeius and Scipio are going to accomplish stability by restoring security and peace in the Mediterranean region (e.g. eliminating Daesh).

Similarly to the Mediterranean, the region of East covers a vast territory to protect. Whilst the Mediterranean region consists mainly of sea and the forces are less organised and primarily irregular, the region of East consists of land entirely and the menacing forces are well-organised and regular. The protection of European borders in the East means defending Europe from a potentially hostile Russia. Although, diplomatic relations with Russia will be covered in the next articles explaining foreign policy, I must emphasise here shortly that the current negative relations between Europe and Russia are not the results of a purposeful European policy or diplomacy, but the bitter consequence of an unfortunate and unpleasant situation that comes with the alliance with the US. I am strongly convinced that a united and strong Europe could develop a fruitful and thriving economic and trade relationship with Russia. In the East, diplomacy must play the key role in achieving peace and stability, but a steady border protection – as a show of force – is inevitable to achieve success in the diplomatic efforts.

The region of Oceans includes the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, where border protection does not require tremendous efforts, as Canada, the UK, and the US are all considered friendly or neutral countries. As these countries and the RUE all have their own interests in the Arctic Ocean, limiting Russian activities jointly should not be too difficult.

In accordance with the challenges of external border protection and planned limited foreign activity, the number of army personnel should not be more than one million soldiers. As I am against the concept of compulsory military service for the general male population, I would suggest the encouragement and attraction of those, who are willing to undertake this noble service for Europe by offering a clear carrier path, decent salaries, and other privileges perhaps. The potential results could be decreasing unemployment, easing strain on the budget, and increasing army personnel simultaneously. The importance of border protection and the issue of large and permanent unemployment are present in the very same member states anyway (e.g. Mediterranean member states).



Given that the political will and fund allocation are accomplished in the spirit of unison, solving the technical challenges of creating the armed forces of the Republic of the United Europe should be absolutely doable. Once the reformation is completed, the RUE would have the fourth strongest army in the world, enabling Europe to guarantee the protection of its external borders, to defend against terrorism, and to deter potential Russian or Turkish aggression, whilst underlining the fact that the European army does not wish to play police beyond its borders or act as an aggressor altogether. The common European army is also the key for Europe to become a real global power, to underline the superstate’s independence from the US, and to pursue its own interests, designing a new foreign policy and preparing an impressive shift in diplomacy.

The post Reform #5: Armed forces appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

The European Union and the international governance of securitisation in finance: from foe to friend?

mer, 21/07/2021 - 18:06

In the world economy, the European Union (EU) is often portrayed as a ‘market power’, able to leverage the large size of its internal market and its considerable regulatory capacity to influence international trade negotiations and shape global market regulation. Moreover, the EU often favours stringent regulation for products and production processes. In finance, after the international financial crisis of 2008, the EU also favoured more stringent domestic and international rules on several financial services, with some exceptions in the banking sector. At the same time, the EU’s attempts to ‘trade up’ international financial regulation by acting as a ‘rule-maker’ rather than a ‘rule-taker’ has met with limited success.


The EU’s role in the post-crisis international governance of financial securitization does not sit well within the literature that considers the EU as a ‘paladin’ of stringent regulation as well as a rule-taker in finance. In fact, while the United States (US) promoted more stringent domestic and international rules on securitization in the aftermath of the crisis, comparatively, the EU, has tended to sponsor less stringent domestic and international rules. Securitisation is the process of creating marketable financial instruments by pooling various financial assets (e.g. mortgages, loans) and selling these repackaged assets to investors.


The regulation of securitisation is important because it is part of the shadow banking system and contributed to the 2008 international financial crisis. It also has implications for monetary policy and the provision of funding to the real economy. Furthermore, in the context of the covid-related economic crisis, securitisation can be a way to provide additional funding to struggling companies. Yet, it can also be a source of financial instability. This is because securitisation can be instrumental for the creation of complex and opaque financial products, with poor quality of credit underwriting and monitoring standards. The EU has a relatively large securitisation market, although smaller than the one in the US.


What accounts for the EU’s role as a pacesetter in ‘trading down’ the regulation of securitisation worldwide? An explanation that has been overlooked so far is the pivotal role that the United Kingdom (UK) has played in the international standard-setting process, where it forged a coalition first with the US and then with the EU. The UK, in addition to the EU and US, can be seen as a third power when considering the regulation of global finance. The UK’s power is derived from the fact that it has a very large financial sector, and the City of London is an important international financial centre, also for securitisation. Moreover, the UK has traditionally punched above its weight in international financial fora also because British regulators have advanced expertise on financial matters and well-established contacts within the global financial community. Thus, whether the UK sides with the US or the EU, has implications for strengthening or weakening the negotiating positions of either jurisdiction at the international level.


In the case of securitisation, prior to Brexit, UK and EU regulators had aligned preferences and coordinated their actions at the domestic and international levels. In particular, a powerful alliance was forged by the Bank of England and the European Central bank (ECB), with the support of the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Commission. The Bank of England and the ECB produced two influential policy documents on this matter in 2014, noting that securitization, if appropriately structured and regulated, could provide additional funding to the real economy. Furthermore, it could be a source of funding for banks, which could transfer credit risk to non-bank financial institutions. A particular focus was on the promotion of simple structures and transparent underlying asset pools (so-called ‘high-quality’ securitization), while preventing the resurgence of the complex and opaque structures that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. The European Commission was also supportive of securitization, which was a key component of the Capital Markets Union project proposed by the Commission in 2015. In fact, high levels of securitization were regarded as instrumental to develop Capital Markets Union, which was supported by many EU member states, especially the UK. Capital Markets Union was designed to increase financial sector integration in the EU and enhance the EU’s position in global capital markets.


In international standard-setting fora as well as at the regional (European) level, the Bank of England, the ECB, the EBA and the European Commission, were on the same page and sang from the same script in the attempt to reform the securitisation framework. To revive securitisation markets, two sets of measures were necessary: rules to increase the transparency and standardisation of securitised products, so as to create a label for ‘safe’ securitisation, and less stringent capital rules for this type of securitisation. In response to the EU-UK proposal, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and the International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO) published Criteria for Identifying Simple, Transparent and Comparable Securitization. At the same time, the BCBS agreed to reduce capital requirements for simple, transparent, and comparable securitization (2016). The same process was subsequently repeated for short-term securitisation (2018). Interestingly, the international discussions concerning the regulation of securitisation and the discussions on Capital Markets Union and the re-launch of securitization in the EU proceeded in parallel and the former were used to legitimise the latter.


Overall, the regulatory pendulum swung back and forth: initially, in the wake of the 2008 crisis, the international regulation of securitisation was traded up following the pace-setting of US regulators. Then, it was traded down as a consequence of the pace-setting of EU and UK regulators. Whereas the financial industry as a whole plauded this regulatory easing, critics (mainly some academics and finance watchers) worried about this development. The explanation – which is elaborated in my JCMS article mentioned below – hinges on the pivotal position of the UK, which first allied with the US and then with the EU on this matter. More generally, the article highlights the crucial role of the UK in making rules for global finance, in particular, whether the UK forges a coalition with the US or the EU. This explanation can ‘travel’ to other cases in finance and has become more important after Brexit because the question of whether the UK will side with the US or the EU in international standard-setting negotiations has come to the fore, especially whenever the EU and the US have strongly misaligned preferences. It takes two to tango in regulating global finance.


This blog post draws on my recent JCMS article: Quaglia, Lucia ‘It takes two to tango: the European Union and the international governance of securitisation in finance’



Short bio: Lucia Quaglia is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna. She has published 10 books, 6 of which with Oxford University Press and over fifty peer-reviewed journal articles. She has also guest co-edited 4 special issues of highly ranked academic journals.

The post The European Union and the international governance of securitisation in finance: from foe to friend? appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

tl;dr – The UK’s Command Paper on the Northern Ireland Protocol

mer, 21/07/2021 - 17:10

The publication on 21 July of the UK government’s Command Paper came just before the end of the Parliamentary session. Flagged for several weeks, it was presented as the culmination of a long push to secure changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Undoubtedly, the Paper does cap the numerous public statements of Lord Frost, Brandon Lewis, Boris Johnson and others in government, not least in saying that a root-and-branch reformulation of the entire text is needed, rather than some tweaking at the edges.

But it is another aspect of culmination that is more striking: the lack of credibility behind the proposals advanced.

Put briefly, the UK’s position appears to be one of “we didn’t mean to sign the Protocol, so let’s change it”, an approach that has no grounds in either international law or basic political common sense.

The international law aspect is something I’ve covered already, but to recap the basics: if you freely sign a treaty, you’re bound to stick to it, unless there’s some very fundamental change of circumstances. And no, disliking it isn’t enough.

The political angle is one that’s not too complex to unpack either.

In any potential negotiation, you need to know what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (or BATNA, for acronym fans) is. As long as you can get a better outcome by negotiating than by not negotiating, then you should negotiate and agree.

Note that this is purely relative: the negotiated outcome might be poor, but it just needs to be less poor than not agreeing. And so it is for Brexit.

The EU might not like the Protocol much, but it was better than any other option on the table, or walking away from the table altogether.

As such, the UK’s proposal to renegotiate the Protocol needs to be a clear improvement on the status quo.

And yet, the Command Paper barely deals with the EU’s needs (beyond Single Market integrity), which means the case has not been made to even start on this, so the Commission’s rejection of renegotiation is less than surprising.

Since the UK knows all this, the question has to be why bother pursuing a route that isn’t going to lead anywhere good? Playing with invocations of Article 16 (which isn’t what the UK government thinks it is, but that’s a different point) can only result in numerous legal and trade retaliations from the EU, and a big telling-off by the US, only to leave the UK with the original problem still in place, so it’s not really going to work.

As with so much of the Brexit process, this isn’t really about the external aspect, but the internal one. The deep allergy of Number 10 to signing up to anything that gives a formal role to the EU in UK affairs is driven by the pressures of backbenchers, regardless of the views of public opinion, businesses or anyone else.

Indeed, the most telling sentence in the entire Command Paper is from para 14:

Nevertheless, the revised Protocol delivered the fundamental requirement of enabling the UK as a whole to leave the EU in a genuine and meaningful way

British policy is thus about what mustn’t happen, rather than what must; a strategy that has failed repeatedly since 2016.

The hope is still, clearly, that someone will come up with a cunning wheeze to square the numerous circles, so all that’s needed – and fortunately all that’s possible – is to keep things from settling into any kind of regularity, so that no one gets too comfortable.

I’ve set out some further thoughts on the Command Paper in this thread, but the key is that this isn’t any kind of unblocking process, but rather a holding pattern:

Right, a first reading of Cmnd Paper on NI Protocol

tl;dr is tl;dr [sic]https://t.co/NqnUdWSqRP


— Simon Usherwood (@Usherwood) July 21, 2021

As a bit of a side-note, I’ll also mention that the DUP made various positive noises about the proposals in the Command Paper, largely because they talk to the same people.

The DUP’s seven tests from last week did highlight the problems of the current Protocol, but also of all the other options out there. Those that do meet the DUP’s requirements don’t work for either the EU or Number 10.

This suggests that we are still a very long way from any kind of stable equilibrium on Northern Ireland.

PDF: https://bit.ly/UshGraphic88

The post tl;dr – The UK’s Command Paper on the Northern Ireland Protocol appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Democratizing the European Semester: the involvement of national parliaments

lun, 19/07/2021 - 16:40

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, EU Member States managed to agree on key financial instruments to support the economic recovery of Europe. The decision to manage these instruments within the existing European Semester procedure has put this procedure into the spotlight. Adequate parliamentary involvement in this procedure is crucial. The pandemic can serve as a new opportunity to enhance the involvement of parliaments. Beyond providing stronger incentives for national parliaments to get involved more actively in the procedure, the pandemic could also encourage governments to include their national parliaments more systematically.

There is room for improvement in involving national parliaments in the European Semester. Illustration: Georges Boulougouris

The European Semester: less technocratic and more democratic?

In 2021, member state governments submitted National Recovery and Resilience Plans for the first time. These documents outline national reform measures and investment plans for mitigating the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring sustainable recovery. Based on the Commission’s assessment of National Recovery and Resilience Plans, member states can receive available EU financial support for implementation via the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

This process is linked to the European Semester procedure. Originally introduced in response to the Eurozone crisis, this procedure is designed to ease coordination between EU Member States and EU institutions in planning and implementing economic and fiscal policies. The aim of the procedure is to assist EU Member States in maintaining responsible fiscal policies and achieving their growth potential.

Yet, this is a complex and intensive procedure that manages key national policies in a largely executive and expert-level manner. It therefore has often been emphasised that corresponding parliamentary involvement is necessary to ensure greater accountability, justifications of decisions taken in the procedure, and contribute to the openness of its complex processes.

For this reason, research has started to examine the extent to which and how exactly national parliaments participate in the European Semester. However, one unexplored question is how governments engage with their parliaments in this procedure. In this blog post I will present data on government activities related to the timely and systematic consultations with their parliaments in the European Semester before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Governments’ Efforts to Involve National Parliaments in the European Semester

The European Semester policy coordination mostly evolves around intensive exchanges between the European and national executives (the Commission, the Council and national governments). The procedure has several important stages with a clearly defined timeline. A particularly relevant stage for national parliaments is when governments prepare national European Semester programmes. In the National Reform Programme (NRP), which is one of those programmes, governments provide detailed elaborations of national macroeconomic policy plans and outline how they will contribute to the EU defined objectives. The Commission assesses this programme and prepares EU policy recommendations that should be implemented at the national level.

National parliaments largely depend on the information provision from the governments in the European Semester, especially with regard to the national programmes. It is then relevant to consider whether governments provide their parliaments with timely and sufficient information about these programmes, as this is a necessary element of the accountability. Because governments need to submit their National Reform Programme to the Commission by 30 April each year, providing sufficient information about this programme to the parliament before the submission is important for the overall parliamentary scrutiny. And, in order to ensure political responsibility in the procedure, parliaments should also have an opportunity to assess the government’s actions and decisions in the European Semester. Thus, considering whether the representatives of the government appear before the parliament to report on the National Reform Programme and justify their actions is important, as it increases political accountability. To what extent does this happen in practice?

Drawing from the larger data collection of my own doctoral research, the data below shows appearances of the government’s representatives before the parliament to present and discuss the National Reform Programme in the pre-Covid-19 pandemic period. The data covers national parliaments of 25 EU member states, including both lower and upper chambers in bicameral parliaments (not included are the parliaments from Cyprus, Greece and Malta).

Presentation of the NRP by the government’s representatives to the parliament. Source: author’s own

Overall, government representatives appeared in person to report and/or discuss this programme with the parliament/chamber before the 30 April submission deadline in less than a half of the 38 parliamentary chambers during the observed period (2014-2017). Generally, in about one quarter of parliaments/chambers, this was done only after the programme was submitted to the Commission. Still, there are several parliaments where government representatives did not present the National Reform Programme. Some parliaments/chambers did not scrutinize this programme at all, and therefore, government’s representatives did not report on it. This might be due to the lack of formal competencies or because parliamentary elections took place in a particular year. Nevertheless, some parliaments/chambers might also not scrutinize this programme, even though they have formal rights to do so.

A closer look at the data in Table 2 below reveals that before the 30 April submission deadline, government’s representatives mostly appeared only once before the parliament to present and discuss the National Reform Programme. There were only few parliaments that tend to have more than one discussion with the government’s representatives during the observed period, such as the Italian, the Luxembourgish and the Portuguese parliaments.

Number of the government’s appearance before the parliament to report on the NRP before the 30 April deadline. Source: author’s own

Towards more open and democratic management of the European Semester

In addition to a parliament-centred perspective, in this blog I suggest to look at the issue of the parliamentary involvement in the European Semester from a governmental perspective as well. Representatives from the government made efforts to appear in person before the parliament to present and discuss the National Reform Programme in the pre-Covid pandemic period. Still, less than half of the examined parliaments had a chance to discuss this programme with government representatives before they are sent to the Commission, and did so mostly only once. This indicates that there is still room for improvement concerning the systematic consultations with, and adequate involvement of, national parliaments in the European Semester.

The developments brought by the pandemic can serve as a new opportunity to strengthen the dialogue between representatives of the government and national parliaments in this procedure. Available EU financial support for member states recovery now depends on the EU’s assessment of proposed reforms and investments in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, and their follow-up implementation.

Since these directly concern important questions of the longer-term national socio-economic development, governments should increase their efforts in seeking the parliamentary input during the preparation of National Recovery Plans to ensure that different views, opinions and needs are expressed and accounted for, and that planned measures and available EU financial support adequately and effectively address challenges on the ground.

The post Democratizing the European Semester: the involvement of national parliaments appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

The Treaty of Maastricht: issues of asylum and migration become ‘matters of common interest’

lun, 19/07/2021 - 08:29

The Treaty of Maastricht (1993), which established the EU and introduced a three-pillar system of policymaking, formalised intergovernmental cooperation in the field of asylum and migration between the 12 EC states.

The first pillar, also known as the European Community, was the only pillar with a legal personality and covered the vast majority of EU legislation. The second and third intergovernmental pillars were termed ‘common foreign and security policy’ (CFSP) and ‘justice and home affairs’ (JHA), respectively.

The 3-pillar structure introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht, 1993 (Source: ADST, 2016).

In other words, the twelve member states committed to collaborate in issues related to asylum and migration, however, only on an intergovernmental basis reflecting their unwillingness to surrender sovereignty to the supranational level (Van Oudenaren, 2004).

Therefore, despite the indispensable step provided by Maastricht in the process leading to the development of EU asylum and migration policies, the third pillar did not produce the desired results. Consequently, the deficiencies of the third pillar led to the Treaty of Amsterdam, agreed by European political leaders in 1997.  This will be discussed in the following post.


ADST, Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (2016) How Did We Get Here? A Look Back at the Creation of the European Union, 22 June. Available from: https://adst.org/2016/06/get-look-back-creation-european-union/

Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty), 7 February 1992 [OJ C 191, 29.7.1992]

Van Oudenaren, J. (2004) The European Union: From Community to Constitution. In: Tiersky, R., (ed.) Europe Today: National politics, European integration, and European security, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 21-58. 



The post The Treaty of Maastricht: issues of asylum and migration become ‘matters of common interest’ appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Vertical Interplay between the European Commission and Member States in EU Trade Policy

ven, 16/07/2021 - 17:13
by Taro Nishikawa This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


After the European Community (EC) launched the Common Commercial Policy (CCP) in 1970, the question of who influences EC/EU positions in international trade negotiations became an important scholarly research topic. On the one hand, greater control by Member states vis-à-vis the European Commission and the limited autonomy of the European Commission are stressedex-ante controls (e.g., negotiation mandates) and ex-post controls (e.g., Article 113/133 Committee, current Trade Policy Committee). On the other hand, the European Commission’s multiple sources of autonomy are pointed out—agenda-setting, agency slack, norm repackaging, and rhetoric/cognitive framing.


The reality of EC/EU positions in international trade negotiations might be more complicated. As Dür and Zimmermann, and Elsig point out, the influence of the European Commission and Member States can depend on the stages of trade negotiations. When issuing the mandate, the EC/EU position would be directed by Member States’ preferences, especially those with a majority in the Council (cf. a liberal intergovernmentalist approach). However, when negotiating with trading partners, the European Commission would have the ‘reframing ability’ to decide how to achieve the objectives of the Council’s mandate within a win-set of the EC/EU (cf. two-level games model). This article applies this hypothetical model of vertical interplay between the European Commission and Member States to the EC-Japan trade negotiations in the 1980s.


In the 1970s, the EC was hugely concerned about trade imbalances due to the ‘torrential’ export of certain manufactured goods from Japan. Many Member States made bilateral agreements with Japan to put voluntary export restraints (VERs) in place. However, in the 1980s, the EC faced new changes and challenges. Firstly, the role of the European Commission in the EC-Japan trade negotiations grew, e.g. the first EC-level voluntary export moderation on ten goods in 1983. Secondly, even though they had been concerns for the EC and the US since the 1970s, market opening and domestic structural impediments became key discussion points in international trade negotiations, especially between Japan and the EC and between Japan and the US.


In this context, this article focuses on the trajectory of trade negotiations concerning the EC’s request for a Japanese import target in November 1985. The idea of an import target was first introduced confidentially in the Japan-US Semiconductor Agreement in 1986. The request by the EC was the first official request for an import target from foreign countries to Japan, although it did not focus on specific products and was never accepted by the Japanese Government.


Since 1982, in response to the US’s and the EC’s continuing concerns, the Japanese Government introduced several market-opening measures, including tariff reductions, easing restrictions on imports, and improving the standards and conformity assessment system. In April 1985, in line with recommendations from the Advisory Committee for External Economic Issues, the Japanese Government decided to set up comprehensive market-opening measures in six areas, ‘the Action Programme for Improved Market Access’.


In June 1985, in response to this move, the Foreign Affairs Council stressed the necessity of ‘a clearly verifiable commitment […] to a significant, sustained increase’ in Japanese imports of manufactures and processed agricultural products in the forthcoming action programme. Moreover, according to diplomatic documents (no. 2019-1333) of the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (DA-MOFAJ), during the EC-Japan summit in July 1985, then-Commissioner Willy De Clercq, in charge of external relations, requested the increase of Japanese import rates on manufactured and processed agricultural products, according to a numerically verifiable method. During a press conference after the summit, Jacques Delors, the then-President of the European Commission, also mentioned the necessity of a concrete import target. This clearly shows that both the Council and the European Commission were already requiring Japan to commit or target its imports.


After the Japanese Government’s announcement of ‘the Outlines of the Action Programme’ in July 1985, the European Commission’s Communication to the Council in October emphasised that Japan should set concrete and measurable targets for a significant increase in its imports of manufactured goods. Based on this communication, the Article 113 Committee and the Foreign Affairs Council discussed the EC’s relations with Japan. According to diplomatic documents of the DA-MOFAJ (no. 2016-1088, 2016-1089, 2016-1091), the majority of Member States supported the idea of requesting an import target; the UK, France, and Italy were especially proactive, and only Denmark, the Netherlands were opposed to the idea. West Germany was opposed to the idea but later accepted it reluctantly. As a result, in its conclusion, the Council instructed the European Commission to request Japan to set ‘a quantified target with a timetable for a significant increase in [Japanese] imports of manufactured goods and processed agricultural products, as a complement of its Action Programme’.


According to diplomatic documents of the DA-MOFAJ (no. 2016-1089), the European Commission first unofficially requested the Japanese Government to set an import target, by sharing with Japan the Council’s confidential conclusion. Interestingly, after the Japanese Government declined the request, the European Commission ‘reframed’ the Council’s mandate. Although the conclusion mentioned ‘a quantified target with a timetable’, during a meeting with Japanese then-Foreign Minister Abe, prior to the EC-Japan Ministerial Meetings, then-Commissioner De Clercq proposed a ‘complementary proposal’, the introduction of ‘a forecast of the estimated effect on imports’ of the Action Programme and ‘a Long Term Import Vision’. In November 1985, during the Ministerial Meetings, the Japanese Government officially declined this proposal due to the impossibility of a quantitative estimation of the Action Programme.


The above case shows that the influence of the European Commission and Member States over the EC/EU position in international trade negotiations can depend on the stage of negotiations. However, considering that the European Commission shared similar preferences with the Council before issuing the mandate, it was empirically difficult to determine the origin of the idea of an import target within the EC. To prove this hypothetical model of vertical interplay between the European Commission and Member States, it is necessary to investigate subsequent international trade negotiation cases, e.g. the EC/EU-Japan trade negotiations in the late 1980s and in the 1990s, and more recent cases such as the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).




Photo credit: Rob Stevens

Taro Nishikawa is a PhD candidate at the Leuven International and European Studies (LINES), the Faculty of Social Sciences, the University of Leuven (KU Leuven). His PhD project deals with European Community (EC)-Japan trade conflicts in the 1980s and the Early 1990s from a perspective of International Political Economy (IPE). His wider research interests include IPE of trade and external economic policies of the European Union (EU). As a double degree program student, he has a Master of European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives (M.A., Cum laude) from the University of Leuven (Belgium) in 2018, and a M.A. from Kobe University (Japan) in 2019. After getting a B.A. in Policy Management from Keio University (Japan) in 2013, he worked as an administrative officer at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan and at the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan until 2016.

Institutional website: https://researchportal.be/en/researcher/taro-nishikawa



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.




The post Vertical Interplay between the European Commission and Member States in EU Trade Policy appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Regional cooperation, externalization, and prevention: trends and practices of EU counter-terrorism in EU enlargement

jeu, 15/07/2021 - 12:49
by Magdalena König This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


Counter-terrorism policy has never been such a prominent policy area in EU enlargement as it currently is. In recent years, the EU has put security policy, and in particular counter-terrorism policy, high on the agenda of the accession processes of the South East European EU membership candidates Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, and the potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. In this contribution, I sketch out three trends and practices that define the EU’s approach to counter-terrorism, an increasingly important policy area of enlargement: regional cooperation, externalisation of internal policies, and prioritisation of preventive counter-terrorism strategies over hard measures.


Not a new, but an increasingly highlighted enlargement topic

Even though counter-terrorism has never been as prominent for EU enlargement as it is currently, it is not a new topic within the field of enlargement. Indeed, counter-terrorism cooperation has previously been relevant to enlargement. For example, during the negotiations with Turkey, Croatia, Bulgaria or Romania, as well as in relations with non-EU states such as Ukraine or Moldova. However, with the ongoing enlargement towards South East Europe, counter-terrorism policy has changed – the scope of engagement on the topic has widened and a variety of levels of governance have become involved.

Since the departure of foreign terrorist fighters from South East Europe to Syria and Iraq as of 2011, the EU has put more emphasis on counter-terrorism in accession negotiations. The Commission’s 2018 Western Balkans strategy puts a particular emphasis on home affairs. Meanwhile, counter-terrorism and the prevention and countering of violent extremism (P/CVE) are part of one of six flagship enlargement initiatives. While the Commission’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) 2014-2020 had already assigned significant funds to counter-terrorism and P/CVE projects, the new IPA 2021-2027 will reflect the increasing focus on counter-terrorism policy by providing even more funding for related activities. Moreover, the 2018 Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans is becoming increasingly part of the enlargement assessment. It is included in chapter 24 on justice, freedom and security, which is a prioritized chapter since a reform in 2012.


Three trends and practices

The EU’s priorities and practices regarding counter-terrorism policy in South East Europe show certain trends. Firstly, regional cooperation is a guiding principle of enlargement, beyond the realm of counter-terrorism. In the area of counter-terrorism, regional cooperation is particularly pursued with reference to terrorism being a mobile activity that crosses borders, ethnic lines and political differences. Moreover, the underlying assumption is that the challenges which the South East European states face with regards to terrorism and extremism are comparable. The Commission does not cease to highlight that rather than pursuing progress in counter-terrorism policy bilaterally, it prefers using a regional approach because of the “good neighbourly relations” that should be promoted through the enlargement process. An expression of this approach is the 2018 Joint Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism for the Western Balkans which was developed from several high-level counter-terrorism dialogues between SEE and EU representatives. The Joint Action Plan was negotiated on a regional level between both, SEE and EU representatives. Another important instrument reflecting this approach is the regional network of national Countering Violent Extremism coordinators in South East Europe. The network is chaired by the EU’s regional counter-terrorism advisor who is based in Sarajevo and was appointed specifically for South East Europe. The EU asked the South East European governments to appoint a national Countering Violent Extremism coordinator as a single contact point to participate in this network and to coordinate on policies with states in the region.

Secondly, in relation to counter-terrorism and P/CVE in enlargement, the EU has externalised some of its internal policies in these areas. Not surprisingly given the nature of the enlargement framework, the aim is to introduce EU-minded policies and practices in these policy areas. Therefore, there is a strong coherence between the EU’s internal and external counter-terrorism policies, in particular in relation to South East Europe. A good example of this approach is the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), a Commission-led network of practitioners working on (de)radicalisation. It is sought to be replicated in a two-fold way in the region. The Commission aims at integrating the South East European states into the EU-wide RAN as well as, in the long run, implementing a regional version of RAN. This again reflects the preference for regional cooperation in the EU’s strategy.

Thirdly, what is broadly referred to as counter-terrorism cooperation is clearly prioritising P/CVE activities, or so-called soft measures, over hard measures such as police work and law enforcement. While the EU engages in both dimensions of this work in South East Europe, more attention is given to P/CVE than to counter-terrorism activities. This is also underlined by the EU’s current priority topics of counter-terrorism policy: the prevention of radicalisation and the return and de-radicalisation of foreign terrorist fighters and their families. With this focus on P/CVE activities the EU has treated projects employing a so-called whole-of-society approach preferentially. This means that in its activities, the EU supports the use of a P/CVE approach which brings together a broad range of local authorities and institutions, such as doctors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, etc.

Given the relative novelty of enlargement focused on counter-terrorism, it will be crucial to accompany the integration in this policy field with academic analysis. For example, a question that arises from the three patterns sketched above is, what role does counter-terrorism play in the overall political integration of EU enlargement?




Magdalena König is a PhD researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Her research interests include EU enlargement, counter-terrorism politics, and the politics of prevention of radicalization. In her PhD research, she examines the role of preventive approaches to counter-terrorism within the ongoing EU enlargement towards South East Europe. Magdalena has a BA in European Studies from Maastricht University and a MA in Peace Research from the University of Tübingen.


Institutional  website: https://www.rug.nl/staff/m.c.koenig/

Twitter: @koenig_mc 



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.




The post Regional cooperation, externalization, and prevention: trends and practices of EU counter-terrorism in EU enlargement appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

The study of ideas in EU-China disputes in the WTO

jeu, 15/07/2021 - 11:37
by Salvatore FP Barillà This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


In the context of trade policy, economic capacity and market size are often considered central analytical factors. It is assumed that the larger the market size of a state, the more likely it will be to engage in a dispute with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This assumption is especially prominent for disputes between global powers and developing countries.


Nonetheless, materialistic theories do not seem to fully address the situation of EU-China trade disputes in the WTO. When considering the EU and China, two of the largest market economies and two global powers, the expectation is that they should both have requested the establishment of a panel in the WTO dispute settlement mechanism (DSM) on a number of occasions. Nonetheless, when looking at the cases initiated by the two actors, this expectation is not empirically accurate.


The EU is the second most prolific user of the DSM after the United States (US) in terms of initiation of disputes with 104 cases as complainant, while China has only 21. Why?

Traditional drivers used to analyse the reasons why states engage in trade disputes in the WTO suggest a more intensive use of the DSM by China. Like the EU, China is one of the world’s largest economies. China has the legal capacity to engage in a dispute, like the EU, so what explains this discrepancy in the available data if traditional materialistic explanations fail to do so?


My research aims to prove the causal relationship between domestic ideas and governments’ decisions to request the establishment of a WTO panel. I argue that the EU and China are representative of different ideas, namely programmatic beliefs. My research proposes that if a government whose programmatic beliefs are centred on mediation and arbitration , then the government will follow its programmatic beliefs. On the contrary, if a government whose programmatic beliefs are based on the preference of judicial remedies requests the establishment of a panel, then the government will be following its programmatic beliefs.

The EU is expected to favour the establishment of a panel to mediation. In this sense, the EU will interpret material factors (like economic capacity, or market size) as conducting the decision towards the establishment of a panel. China is expected to prefer mediation over the establishment of a panel. Attempts of mediation in official documents, as well as in media records, will be analysed as evidence.


Chinese ideas of dispute settlement are based on the Confucian tradition of win-win relationships, 關係 (guan xi), in which the preservation of the relationship with the other party is essential to the positive outcome of the dispute. The concept of legal tradition is broader than the mere corpus of laws and political acts that are part of a state’s legislation. It embraces principles, traditions and practices of the state. In this sense, it seems fair to claim that legal traditions are part of a state’s culture and might play a role in a government’s behaviour. Furthermore, the administration of conflict resolution was originally given to family elders (heads of families or clans). This type of local conflict resolution served as a way of preventing other conflicts among citizens. There was no procedural law because the public official would decide the outcome of disputes. Public administration was not separated from the judiciary body. This lack of separation of powers in China.


European and Western ideas, which have been absorbed by the WTO, are based on a dialectical vision of disputes, in which one party wins and the other loses. This dialectical vision of the dispute is also due to the fact that traditionally in the West, legal institutions have been seen more keenly as the main institutions to turn to in order to solve a conflict. In this sense, it can be argued that the WTO itself was built on the Western idea of judicial remedy.


Norms, or, better, programmatic beliefs can guide, inspire, or justify governments’ decisions to act in a specific way.


This brief overview shows how the investigation of ideas, or, more specifically, programmatic beliefs can provide explanations for governments’ decisions to request the establishment of a panel in the WTO. In particular, this overview shows how the EU’s programmatic beliefs would suggest a more intensive use of the DSM. On the contrary, Chinese programmatic beliefs would imply a less frequent use of the WTO’s judicial body. My research aims to provide empirical evidence confirming these theoretical propositions by analysing EU-China disputes in the WTO DSM.




Salvatore FP Barillà is a PhD candidate in Politics at the School of Social and Political Science of the University of Edinburgh. He holds a combined bachelor and master’s degree in Law from LUISS university, and a double master’s degree in European Studies and International Relations from LUISS university and China Foreign Affairs University. He is interested in International Political Economy, International Trade and Investment Law, and EU-China studies.


Institutional  website: https://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/staff/salvatore-fp-barilla

Twitter: @sfpbarilla



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.



The post The study of ideas in EU-China disputes in the WTO appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Financial Settlement News

jeu, 15/07/2021 - 11:17

Perhaps the most striking thing about the breaking of the story about the unexpectedly large size of the UK’s financial liabilities under the Withdrawal Agreement last week was that it generated so little attention.

The consolidated EU accounts for 2020 were published on 9 July, but it took a ‘tip-off‘ to RTE to get them checking the text. Number 10 said it ‘didn’t recognise the figure’, but then that was it.

So little for something that had been flagged in 2016 as one of the hardest issues to crack in the then-upcoming negotiations.

In practice, finances were dealt with relatively early and relatively simply: the WA set out (Arts.135-148) the rules for deciding what was and wasn’t included, plus a schedule for payments.

But no figures. Precisely to avoid getting anyone’s backs up. And because until the money’s spent, no-one actually knew how much it would be.

Which didn’t stop the UK trying to work out the bill.

The graphic below sets out those estimates, as well as highlighting the huge potential for misjudging totals. The Commons Library briefing on all this is excellent as a guide.

The short answer to the mismatch between the UK estimates and the Commission’s first calculation (which is unlikely to move much) is that both the basic calculations on contributions and RAL were shifted by Covid and the associated economic slump, which also affected valuations of other assets and liabilities.

Number 10 might not have recognised the total, but they also haven’t gone hard on rebutting it, which suggests this is one fight that they are not going to push on.

UPDATE: The UK government’s report on the 2020 budget reiterates the March OBR estimate, but doesn’t challenge the more recent Commission valuation.

PDF: https://bit.ly/UshGraphic87

The post Financial Settlement News appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

EU-China Strategic Partnership is at a Low but is it at its Lowest or is the Downward Spiral Only Beginning?

jeu, 15/07/2021 - 10:27
by Preksha Shree Chhetri This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


On 20 May 2021, the European Parliament voted to freeze the ratification of the much-hyped EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) (Reuters, 2021). The bilateral deal had been agreed in principle between the EU and China in December 2020, putting an end to seven long years of negotiation (Europa, 2020). The ratification of the CAI would have been significant in two ways – the first and obvious way would be by providing fresh prospects for economic benefits and opportunities to both sides and second, the ratification would signify the impuissance of the EU’s recent hard-liner approach towards China. However, the freezing of the CAI by a large majority of votes in the European Parliament suggests that the EU’s toughening stance on China is not just mere posturing but a well-backed policy option. Transformations in the EU’s approach towards China over the last few years is the primary focus of this blog.

The EU and China became strategic partners in 2003 and have reached several milestones, mostly on the economic front, in their relationship since. Over the years, many important agreements between them have faced backlash from disillusioned human rights activists from both within and outside Europe, only to wane out after a few days. The ideological differences between the EU and China are well known and so are the many permanent bones of contention between the two strategic partners. Issues related to human rights and the arms embargo in China, and the EU’s refusal to grant Market Economy Status to China (The Bricspost, 2016) have been constant irritants in the partnership. However, none of these irritants interfered with progress in other areas, especially regarding economic engagements. Their economic ambitions have often overshadowed their differences, paving the way for a cordial and strategic partnership. In addition, the EU-China alliance has a very robust institutional architecture. While strong economic relations facilitated cooperation in newer areas, the institutional architecture made sure that dialogue in more difficult areas continued. This system had been working perfectly until recently.

One of the biggest known discords between the EU and China was in 2008, when Beijing cancelled the EU-China summit in retaliation against the meeting between European leaders and Tibet’s exiled political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama (Euractive, 2008). Though this was the only time that the annual summit between the two strategic partners suffered a formal fall out, partnership in other fronts remained unchallenged. For instance, on the economic front,  the EU exported €78.4 billion worth of goods to China in 2008, a rise of 9 per cent compared to 2007, and imported €248 billion worth of Chinese goods (Europa, 2009). In fact, during the following annual summit in Prague, the two sides signed important cooperative agreements, such as the Joint Statement on Europe-China Clean Energy Center, the EU-China Science and Technology Partnership Scheme, and the EU-China SMEs Cooperation Point of Consensus (Council of the European Union, 2009).

For many years, the EU-China relations were what Fox and Godement (2009) rightly described as “unconditional engagement” – a policy which gave China access to all the economic and other benefits of cooperation with Europe while asking for little in return. The EU’s response to China’s domestic as well as regional manoeuvres has been highly divisive amongst various stakeholders. While activist and scholars are generally vocal about their criticisms about Beijing’s policy decisions, political leadership and the industrialist community usually opt to stay mum. For instance, in 2019 Volkswagen’s then CEO Herbert Diess feigned ignorance when asked about the detention camps holding thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang in order to protect the company’s investments in the area. (The Washington Post, 2019). In July 2020, amidst pressing crisis in Hong Kong over the New Security Law introduced by Beijing, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s initial response triggered a lot of criticisms when she insisted on the need to maintain dialogue with China (Business Insider, 2020) and publicly stated that Germany would not involve itself in the Hong Kong issue (DW, 2020).

In the past year, incidents of blindly siding with Beijing have become less frequent and we have seen a considerable rise in the number of critical voices from within both political parties as well as from the business community. In fact, the EU as an institution markedly changed its approach towards China when it termed China a ‘systemic rival’ in the latest policy paper (2020). This along with the European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen’s call for a geopolitical Europe (European Parliament, 2020) and French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘European Awakening’ (France24, 2019), created a lot of stir around the EU’s changing debate on its relationship with China. In addition, owing to China’s wolf warrior diplomacy during the global pandemic and its 5G ventures turning sour in Europe, the change in the EU’s perception of China was rather visible, and for the first time, it was somewhat united. However, just as the scholarly community was forming theories around the EU’s new China policy, the CAI agreement was finalized between the two sides.

Given the EU and China’s thriving trade ties and their highly intermingled economic network, an investment agreement between the two is both, desirable and feasible. However, the deal came at a time when many capitals in Europe were raising growing concerns about Chinese investments ( The Diplomat, 2018) as well as its expansionist tendencies (Hindustan Times, 2020). Moreover, an agreement on a deal as complex and significant as the CAI during a global health crisis sends an indirect message to the world that the EU is only focused on business and has no intentions of transforming its tough dialogue on China into tangible policy change.

Successful ratification of the CAI would have meant that China’s presence in Europe would not only be unassailable, but China would also gain renewed prospects for expansion. However, owing to Beijing’s decision to impose sanctions on ten EU lawmakers, the deal failed to get ratification from the European Parliament (FMPRC, 2021). The European Parliament’s action compels one to question whether the EU is after all quite serious about putting its foot down when necessary and redesigning its China policy.



Preksha Shree Chhetri is a PhD scholar at the Centre for European Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and a Research Assistant at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi. She is also the recipient of the Huayu Enrichment Language Scholarship granted by the Ministry of Education, Taiwan. Her research interests include, EU-China relations, EU-Taiwan relations, EU-India relations, global climate change negotiations, BRI and EU in Central Asia and Africa.



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.



The post EU-China Strategic Partnership is at a Low but is it at its Lowest or is the Downward Spiral Only Beginning? appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Poland vs. The EU: The “Clash” over LGBTQ+ Rights

lun, 05/07/2021 - 13:15
by Solomiya Kharchuk This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


The clash over LGBTQ+ rights between Poland and the European Union has been particularly noticeable in recent years. From this clash, questioning around why Poland and the European Union disagree on the issue of LGBTQ+ rights arises.

I rely on a constructivist approach to social reality, which is based on the idea that the world we dwell in is socially constructed. Accordingly, I build upon the “interpretivist theory of knowledge”. That is to say that I assume interpretation plays a crucial role regarding human action because material items mean nothing on their own. We create meaning through the process of interpretation as well as by using linguistic signs. Hence, another question arises: how do decision-makers from the EU and Poland interpret the issue of LGBTQ+ rights?

As Ronald Holzhacker holds, framing LGBTQ+ rights as a human rights paradigm is necessary in order to achieve a “broader emancipation strategy”. The term “emancipation” is central to the discipline of security studies at Aberystwyth School, and, as stated by Ken Booth, refers to “the securing of people from those oppressions that stop them carrying out what they would freely choose to do, compatible with the freedom of others”. Many actors, including IGOs, NGOs, media and academics, have contributed to the process of framing LGBTQ+ rights in terms of human rights. Their efforts have proven fruitful because the principle of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation is now included in the general framework of human rights. This framework is in turn anchored in ideas of “universality”, “equality” and “non-discrimination”.

In regard to the European Union, with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights became an integral part of the EU’s legal framework. In accordance with Article 21 of the Charter, discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited. Furthermore, one of the purposes of the EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights is to promote non-discrimination based on sexuality.

However, since 2019, more than 100 municipalities in Poland passed local regulations resulting in their becoming so-called “LGBT-ideology-free zones”. The IGLA Europe reported that in May 2021, Poland received the lowest EU ranking (13,22%) on how the laws and policies of each country impact the lives of LGBTIQ people. Furthermore, the most recent Human Rights Watch Report held that “[t]he government ramped up its attacks on women’s and LGBT rights, part of the government’s increasing hostile rhetoric against what it refers to as “gender ideology””. In 2020, the President of Poland stated the following: “this is just like the Neo-bolshevism (…) they are trying to convince us that these are people, albeit this is nothing else that the ideology (…) if someone has any doubts that it is actually the ideology, examine the pages of history, so you will see how the LGBT movement was being constructed, so you will see how this ideology was being constructed”. In 2021, the chairman of the ruling Law and Justice Party, said the following when asked about the LGBTQ+  community: “as long as we govern [this country], no one will be able to impose anything on us. All the [people] who want to live in a normal world, where a woman is a woman, and a man is a man (…) If we want to live in the society, which refers to obvious things, it is necessary to support our formation”.

In 2020, the President of the European Commission Ursula von den Leyen, stated that “LGBTI-free-zones are humanity-free zones and have no place in our union”. This statement also places an emphasis on a broader issue of human rights in relation to the EU’s external relations. The President of the European Commission also uttered important words about the LGBTQ+ community: “I will not rest when it comes to building a Union of equality. A Union where you can be who you are and love who you want – without fear of recrimination or discrimination. Because being yourself is not your ideology. It’s your identity. And no-one can ever take it away”. Moreover, Ursula von den Leyen unveiled the first-ever European Commission Strategy for LGBTIQ equality (2020-2025) which includes specific goals for the EU, namely, tackling of discrimination against LGBTIQ people, ensuring the community’s safety, building LGBTIQ inclusive societies, and leading the call for LGBTIQ equality around the world. In March, 2021, the European Parliament passed a symbolic resolution, declaring the whole European Union an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone”.

To summarize, Polish decision makers interpret and represent LGBTQ+ people as a problem and followers of an “ideology” which poses a threat to Polish society. Conversely, European Union decision-makers treat the LGBTQ+ community as people who have the right to their identity. This, in turn, allows one to claim that EU decision-makers represent the LGBTQ+ community following Ken Booth’s explanation of emancipation. In conclusion, the collision between the Polish and EU decision-makers stems from different interpretations and representations of the same people.



Solomiya Kharchuk is a PhD candidate at the Doctoral College of Political and Administrative Sciences, University of Wroclaw. She holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Wroclaw.



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.



The post Poland vs. The EU: The “Clash” over LGBTQ+ Rights appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Europe is a Woman. And What Does She Say about Men?

lun, 05/07/2021 - 13:05
by Michał Gulczyński This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


In 2019, Donald Tusk famously said “Europe is a woman,” when arguing for gender parity in top positions in the European Union (EU). Indeed, the EU has been recognized as a leading actor in women’s empowerment and gender equality policy. Gender has been successfully mainstreamed in the communication of the European Commission. In 2018, as many as 14% of the Commission’s press releases mentioned words like gender, women/female or men/male.

Some recent studies suggest that women are more supportive of the EU than men, while opposition to European integration is often linked to the rejection of gender equality and feminism. Therefore, it seems justified to ask whether the EU’s gender equality narratives have the potential of negatively affecting men’s support for the EU.

My analysis of all press releases issued by the Commission since 1985 shows that the Commission mostly talks about men in two situations: when referring to “equality of women and men” or when comparing women to men. Men are very rarely mentioned without reference to women. Every year, around 1-2% of press releases refer to men but not to women. However, in the 1980s, the word “man” was used as a neutral synonym of “human” (“the ordinary man fears that taxes will be too high”), and now, it is often used in the context of “man-made disasters.”

Unfortunately, this change in the image of men is reflected in policies. The latest Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 starts with a chapter on gender-based violence. There, women are presented as victims in need of help, while men are portrayed as perpetrators. As a result, men seem not to deserve any policy  which would have an aim other than that of supporting women.

Men are also portrayed as an uniformly advantaged group, i.e., one with high political power, holding top positions and capital. In contrast, the Gender Equality Strategy underlines women’s struggle for political influence not only in the area of gender equality (within the #MeToo movement), but also in the “push for change” in the field of climate policy.

Importantly, the Gender Equality Strategy mentions intersectionality, but only to state that “[w]omen are a heterogeneous group and may face intersectional discrimination.” Although an intersectional approach might help to discover some dependent groups of men –i.e., men without political power who deserve dedicated public policies, such as less educated single men in rural areas or male refugees– this possibility is discarded by the biased definition. This is in line with the finding that topics such as humanitarian aid and refugees are more frequently found in press releases referring only to women.

It is relatively easy to imagine the consequences of the division between women as a deserving and men as a non-deserving group. Men are not regarded as a potential policy target population.

For example, the Strategy states: “while there are more women university graduates in Europe than men graduates, women remain underrepresented in higher paid professions.” The Commission does not discuss any solutions for the gaps in higher education or digital skills. Those gaps are only mentioned to underline the gaps negatively affecting women. On top of that, and despite realizing that more women than men graduate from university, the Commission denies the existence of the reversed education gender gap: “while the gender gap in education is being closed […].” In the following paragraphs, the Commission proposes targeted programmes only for women. Similarly, the Strategy underlines that “women and men experience gender-specific health risks,” but only reproductive health problems are explicitly mentioned.

In sum, in the last 25 years, gender has become an important part of European Commission’s communication and policies. However, the meaning of gender is limited to the “women-as-victims” frame. The negative image of men as a non-deserving (deviant) and, simultaneously, politically powerful group does not allow any intersectional perspective to be taken in relation to men and their problems. It may also block the possibility of addressing justified needs of the groups of men who have limited political influence. The reversed education gender gap or the life expectancy gender gap are good examples of this. Finally, the perpetuation of such narratives most likely damages the reputation of the European Union among young men who may see it as hostile towards their gender.


Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Christian Rauh, who generously shared the dataset of press releases of the European Commission.



Michał Gulczyński is a PhD student in Public Policy and Administration at the Bocconi University. His main research interest are European integration and the relationships between gender, politics and policies.

Twitter: @gulczynskim




The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.



The post Europe is a Woman. And What Does She Say about Men? appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Further grace periods

jeu, 01/07/2021 - 14:49

The past week has seen two important grace periods extended.

These periods have been used in both the TCA and WA to allow the UK and EU enough time to make necessary preparations for full implementation, or that is at least the EU’s line.

The less-remarked of the two has been the granting of data adequacy to the UK’s rules for a four-year period to 28 June 2025, meaning that data can continue to move freely across the border. However, this has come with an unprecedented sunset clause and explicit powers to revoke it should the UK change those rules, which currently remain much as they were during membership.

As such, the discussion about reforming the UK’s regime might well end up bringing adequacy back to the table sooner rather than later.

The more-remarked was yesterday’s confirmation of a three-month extension to the chilled meat products exemption for Northern Ireland (UK declaration and EU response). This is problematic in different ways from data, in that the issue has been a failure by the UK to make conspicuous movement towards full implementation and the concern that this extension might be a prelude to an effort to get a semi-permanent delay to that occurring.

As a result, the EU’s comments on conditions and expectations are worth noting.

In a sense, both cases highlight the difficult road that this relationship is following. The degrading of trust during and following negotiations leads the EU to be very attentive to compliance, even as it makes efforts to avoid looking too inflexible. In that regard, the bundling of the chilled meats extension with other work on flexibility on the Protocol is as important, even if still most promissory.

For the UK, the almost permanently aggravating behaviour of the fist half of 2021 has soften a bit. The decision to ask for the chilled meat extension, rather than just announcing one, counts as a win here. Likewise, the signing of a bilateral agreement with Germany on security points to other paths for showing good faith is possible.

However, this path will be a very long one. There are clear issues with all the remaining grace periods, plus the negotiations and reviews, in the coming six months, not least the operationalising of the new format for fisheries quotas to be completed by New Year.

And that’s not even getting into the end of the application period for EU nationals to acquire Settled Status in the UK and the scope for removals.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as they say.

PDF: https://bit.ly/UshGraphic65


The post Further grace periods appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Why the Nordic states maintain differentiated foreign policies

mer, 30/06/2021 - 09:40

Nordic governments frequently broadcast their ambition to do more together on the international stage.

Kristin Haugevik and Ole Jacob Sending explain why we still shouldn’t expect to see any profound increase in joint Nordic foreign policy positions and actions – and especially not when it comes to relations with greater powers.

While Nordic officials often speak warmly about more integration and greater unity, they usually prefer individualised – and differentiated – foreign policies in their relations with major powers, most notably the United States. Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times/NTB

In their Vision 2030, the five Nordic states – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland – aspire to make ‘Norden’ the most integrated region in the world. The vision invokes the longstanding narrative about successful intra-Nordic collaboration, ‘the Nordic peace’ and the Nordic region as a lodestar and role model for other sub-regional groupings.

In recent years, the Nordics have also raised the bar with respect to foreign policy collaboration. ‘The Nordics are a superpower’, claimed Finland’s president in 2016, following a Nordic joint summit with US President Barack Obama. The ensuing year, the Nordic Council published its first international strategy, urging the five governments ‘to exploit the opportunities inherent in Nordic co-operation to a far greater extent’.

The Nordic populations are also supportive: In a 2017 poll, more than 90 percent deemed Nordic cooperation ‘important’ or ‘very important,’ and around two-thirds would like to see increased cooperation.

The recurring message from Nordic officials has been that the five states are stronger when they work together in the international arena. Yet, and as the Nordic states’ largely nationalised management of the Covid-19 pandemic exemplifies, joint visions and ambitions do not necessarily translate into corresponding policies and action.

Nordic repertoire

Why does the ‘Nordic dimension’ not feature more prominently in the everyday foreign policies of the individual Nordic states? Why do we observe that even on seemingly shared objectives – such as on human rights and peace and reconciliation – the Nordics typically pursue distinct foreign policies?

In a recent research article, we address these questions by zooming in on the continued “pull” of the distinctive foreign policy repertoires of each of the five states, and how these repertoires are mobilized as the states seek recognition and support from more powerful states.

Why states go solo when they advocate integration

Following sociologist Charles Tilly’s definition, repertoires can be understood as ‘a limited set of routines that are learned, shared, and acted out through a relatively deliberate process of choice’.

In the context of foreign policy, repertoires thus summarise the structural constraints, along with self-perceptions, resources, and established routines, which shape what a given state can do, what it knows how to do, and what others expects it to do. Think of it as a foreign policy “culture” or how foreign policy is practiced in a given context.

The explanation is relatively straightforward: In the early Cold War years, the Nordic states’ geopolitical location, war experiences, geographical proximity to and relationship with dominant powers led them to pursue different paths in the formulation of foreign and security policies.

As Arne Olav Brundtland noted in an influential article published more than half a decade ago, the different alliance choices of the five states came to constitute a ‘Nordic balance’, which helped diminish great power tensions in the region as a whole.

In other words: Sweden’s neutrality, Denmark and Norway’s NATO membership and Finland’s Friendship, Cooperation and Assistance Treaty with the Soviet Union served to situate each Nordic state in an institutional setting that balanced between competing concerns.

While the idea of the Nordic balance appeared less relevant as a conceptual lens in the post-Cold War era, we find that it remains important for understanding how, over time, distinct repertoires for how to assess and respond to broader international dynamics emerged in each Nordic state.

Third-order priority

The oft-stated rationale for increased Nordic foreign policy collaboration is that the five states in question share many basic traits and foreign policy objectives. This includes an explicit and steadfast commitment to upholding the ‘rules-based international order’ and its accompanying institutions and belief-systems.

Old barriers to cooperation have also been (partly) removed: Different formal associations with NATO and the EU seem less relevant than before, with Norway and Iceland closely aligned with the EU, and Finland and Sweden entering into formal partnership agreements with NATO.

On the other hand, the individual power repertoires of Nordic states involve not only expertise built up over decades within each foreign service, but also its international networks and reputation in the eyes of other states. This can help to explain why the “Nordic” dimension often remains “a third-order priority” when the individual states manoeuvre their relations with major powers such as the United States, Russia and China.

Standing out from the crowd

But there is also something else going on here: all states – and small states in particular – seek recognition from significant others.

This search for recognition is rational; to be heard and have the ability to influence important decisions, you need to be invited, listened to, and bring something to the table. To succeed in this recognition game and secure access to more powerful states, there is often a premium on differentiating yourself from your neighbour, even when you share the same foreign policy objectives.

While often advocating the Nordic brand, the Nordic states are at the same time competing for attention, visibility, and influence.

In the quest for recognition from significant others, therefore, there is a not insignificant element of the ‘narcissism of small differences’ involved: While often advocating the Nordic brand when they meet on the international scene, the Nordic states are at the same time competing for attention, visibility, and influence.

The best example would perhaps be the Nordic states’ relations with significant other states – and most notably the United States. Seeking access to policymakers in Washington, Denmark has for example foregrounded its ‘super-Atlanticism,’ while Norway has built a brand around its proficiency in peace and reconciliation.

Going informal

Because of these niche strategies of each Nordic state, there are few indications that a discernible or overarching ‘Nordic’ foreign policy is in the making.

While Nordic officials often speak warmly about the potential for more integration and greater unity, the five states usually prefer individualised – and differentiated – foreign policies in their relations with major powers.

To the extent that a ‘common Nordic order’ exists, it is characterised by low-key practices for coordination and information exchange, practical and technical collaboration, rather than by bold foreign policy statements, shared positions and policies.

Faced with a rising China, an assertive Russia or a rapidly evolving global pandemic, the Nordic states will willingly exchange views and information. However, when carving out responses, they will in most cases prefer to draw on their national foreign policy repertoire rather than a joint Nordic one.

The post Why the Nordic states maintain differentiated foreign policies appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

International research collaborations: arranged marriages, old boys’ networks, and alternatives

mer, 30/06/2021 - 09:38
Inga Ulnicane

Science has traditionally been one of the most international activities. Long before political and economic European integration started in the mid-20th century, researchers were collaborating and exchanging knowledge across national and organisational borders. During the past decades, international research collaboration has increased due to a number of processes internal and external to science such as increasing complexity and specialization of research, interdisciplinarity, need to address Grand societal challenges, increasing costs as well as institutional and policy incentives and funding schemes such as the European Union’s (EU) Framework Programme for funding research and innovation.

As international research collaboration has been increasing and more national and EU public funds are being invested to facilitate it, questions of how, when and why such collaborations work and do not work become increasingly relevant. How, why and by whom are collaborators chosen? How the aims and topics of collaborations are defined? And how are collaborations organized? These are some of the topics that I address in my recent publication Self-Organisation and Steering in International Research Collaborations (Ulnicane 2021). My contribution is part of an edited volume Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences (Kastenhofer and Molyneux-Hodgson 2021) which benefited from discussions and exchanges at the workshop in Vienna in 2017.

My chapter in this volume builds on my longer term research on international scientific collaborations and extensive empirical research including analysis of scientific publications, organisational, project and CV data as well as 61 interviews and 31 site visits to research institutes in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom (Ulnicane 2015).


Arranged marriages & old boys’ networks

While international research collaborations are often seen as something positive and desirable, they can also have more problematic aspects such as those related to power dynamics and funding pressures.

Increased funding and support for collaborations from the EU, national agencies and universities can face some backlash when it comes with instructions with whom and how to collaborate prioritizing certain countries, organizations and topics. Researchers often seen such conditions attached to funding as ‘arranged marriages’ or even ‘forced marriages’ that require them to collaborate with partners who are not scientifically the most interesting and relevant ones. They see it as an interference and argue that it leads to ‘artificial networks’ brought together by funding and institutional requirements rather than intrinsic scientific motivations.

A strong dislike among many researchers towards policies that lead to ‘arranged marriages’ sometimes make them nostalgic about ‘good old times’ which are remembered as providing scientists with a lot of freedom to choose their collaborators as well as topics and modes of collaboration. This nostalgia is characterised by a sentiment that ‘scientists know best’ how to collaborate among themselves, while policy-makers and administrators would do best not to interfere apart from providing unconditional support for such endeavours, in particular if they are scientifically productive.

While this approach might have indeed produced interesting scientific results on many occasions, it has not been unproblematic. One well-known problem is that many scientists prefer to collaborate with partners similar to themselves leading to creation of ‘old boys’ networks’ that exclude women and researchers of other ethnic and racial origin. While supporters of free collaborations claim that they are only interested in most scientifically relevant partners, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that collaborator choice can also be based on stereotypes about who is perceived as competent.


Beyond ‘good self-organisation’ and ‘bad steering’

My research on international research collaboration (Ulnicane 2015; 2021) suggests that in productive collaborations self-organisation and steering can interact and even reinforce each other when expansion of self-organised networks is supported by funding which encourages diversity in terms of disciplines, nationalities and gender. Rather than seeing self-organisation as always good for collaboration and steering as counterproductive, both of them have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-organisation can offer a lot of scientific freedom in choosing partners, topics and modes of collaboration but it can also suffer from limited network and resources. Steering can come with conditions and compromises as well as with heavy administration but it can provide resources for growth and opportunities to learn from new and unusual collaborators. It is important how these different factors interact in a way that is reinforcing and productive rather than hampering and hindering for collaborations.

While it is important to understand and observe dynamics of self-organisation and steering and their interaction, there are many other things to consider when examining collaborations. Rather than assuming that collaborations are good and coming up with simple recipes, it is crucial to reflect carefully when and what kind of international research collaboration can achieve certain purposes. And when it might also be necessary to provide a space for individual research that involves closer or looser interactions with relevant scientific communities.

Dr. Inga Ulnicane is working on science, technology and innovation governance, politics and policy. Her publications and commissioned reports focus on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, dual use, Grand societal challenges, and European integration in research and innovation.



Kastenhofer K. and Molyneux-Hodgson S. (eds) (2021) Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 31. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61728-8

Ulnicane I. (2021) Self-Organisation and Steering in International Research Collaborations. In: Kastenhofer K., Molyneux-Hodgson S. (eds) Community and Identity in Contemporary Technosciences. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 31. Springer, Cham. pp.107-125 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-61728-8_5

Ulnicane, I. (2015) Why do international research collaborations last? Virtuous circle of feedback loops, continuity and renewal. Science and Public Policy 42(4): 433–447 https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scu060


The post International research collaborations: arranged marriages, old boys’ networks, and alternatives appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

What can ECB credit lines to central banks tell us about European Integration?

mar, 29/06/2021 - 15:37
by Lukas Spielberger This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)


The European Central Bank (ECB) is a strange creature. Since the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, it has been a supranational EU institution that is jointly owned by all member states. But when it comes to its policy tasks, it acts mostly as the central bank of the Euro Area. As I show in a , these two roles can conflict with one another and the ECB’s choice of which one to take more seriously is mostly the result of its internal politics.

I compared the ECB’s credit lines to central banks from member states outside the Euro Area (like Denmark or Hungary) during the Global Financial crisis in 2008 and the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. In both instances, several central banks reached out to the ECB and requested support to be able to stabilise their financial markets. Intriguingly, the ECB did not treat all requests the same way and allowed some central banks to borrow at better conditions than others.

A clear economic rationale exists for applying different credit conditions.   lines, the most common instrument, are secured against nothing but trust in the borrower’s ability to repay; repos, by contrast, protect the lender against losses, but are less useful for the borrowers. If the ECB acted as the Euro Area’s central bank, we might expect that it sets lending terms based on the technical merits of both instruments. This would mean that it demands tougher borrowing conditions from member states with weaker sovereign credit ratings to reduce the financial risks to its own balance sheet.

In 2008, sovereign credit risk indeed seemed to have been the ECB’s main consideration. Sweden and Denmark – two member states with perfect credit ratings – received swaps, while Hungary, Latvia, and Poland (all of which had lower ratings) could only borrow under more stringent terms. Additional interview evidence confirms that the ECB rejected the Hungarian request for a swap line primarily due to opposition from its Economics department because of concerns regarding credit risk. As Eastern European members states faced financial meltdowns, the ECB was primarily concerned with limiting its own liability.

But in 2020, the ECB seemed less worried about credit ratings alone. Croatia and Bulgaria received swap lines, even though they had the same weak credit ratings as Hungary and Romania, to which the ECB only provided repos. Why did the ECB seemingly put aside its worries about financial risks for only two countries during the COVID-19 crisis?

To understand this shift I argue that we have to look more closely at the ECB in its role as supranational EU institution. As such it has a special relationship with that want to enter the Euro Area. Before a member state can adopt the euro as its official currency, it has to spend at least two years in an exchange rate arrangement called the ERM II, where it promises to keep its exchange rate relatively fixed to the euro. All member states except Denmark are legally obliged to adopt the euro eventually. But several Eastern European member states have delayed this process by not joining the ERM II.

What set Croatia and Bulgaria apart in 2020 was that they were on the cusp of joining the ERM II and had solid macroeconomic records to back up their decisions. Nevertheless during the overall financial market panic, their currencies were suddenly attacked by speculators and failure to defend their exchange rates would have delayed their ERM II entry. By backing up both central banks through swap lines, the ECB, however, sent an unequivocal sign that speculation was futile. Consequently, the market pressures dissipated immediately after the credit lines were announced. In the summer of 2020, the entry of Croatia and Bulgaria into the ERM II was fast-tracked and now both countries are one step closer to Euro Area membership. By contrast, Romania’s ERM II entry is not anticipated before 2024 and it remains doubtful that Hungary will ever want to follow.

The ECB’s proactive and informal support for Euro Area aspirants contrasts with its disciplinarian stance during the 2008 financial crisis in Latvia. Back then, Latvia participated in the ERM II and wanted to adopt the euro rapidly but found itself so close to devaluing its currency that it had to request a sovereign bailout from the EU and the IMF. Although the ECB was also opposed to devaluation, it explicitly prohibited the Latvian central bank from using its credit line to prop up the exchange rate. As an ERM II participant, Latvia supposedly had to show that it could withstand such shocks on its own. An internal document (which the ECB disclosed after a public access request) spells out its rationale back in November 2008: “the ECB’s policy line has always been that […] unilateral pegs by third countries are not backed in any way by policy commitments from the ECB”.

The ECB’s policy towards Euro Area outsiders, clearly, has come a long way over the past twelve years. In 2008, its overarching goal was to protect its own balance sheet, while choosing a very restrictive interpretation of its obligations under the ERM II. Last year, the ECB acted more flexibly by supporting aspiring EMU members against currency speculators, apparently irrespective of their credit ratings or institutional obligations. It seems that  the ECB has widened its focus from monetary policy considerations of the Euro Area to a more political logic related to its role as a supranational institution.

To understand the ECB’s reinterpretation of its role as an EU institution and international currency issuer, I rely on literature about international organisations that stresses  changes in leadership are drivers of policy change. Back in 2008, the ECB paid little attention to developments in EU member states outside the Euro Area . Its Executive Board back then was stuffed with career central bankers who held orthodox views on how politically central banks should operate. One Board Member summed up this thinking at the height of the crisis in January 2009 by asserting that “[t]he ECB cannot be a small god for everyone or everything”.

Since then, the ECB has developed its awareness of the political significance of its actions. The current Governor, Christine Lagarde is not just the first female ECB Governor, but also the first one to never have worked in a central bank before. But as a former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, she brings a wealth of experience in dealing with the politics of international organizations during financial crises. For instance, when the crisis called for it, Lagarde knew that a widely with the Bulgarian prime minister would send a strong sign of confidence.

The question whether the ECB is acting too independently from its original mission is currently of concern to many scholars of European integration. A recent piece argues that by taking decisions based on political, rather than technical considerations, the ECB is overstepping its mandate and becoming politicised. But in the realm of international cooperation, it is difficult to point to an easy way out because the ECB may have to balance conflicting imperatives as EU institution and Euro Area central bank. Though its policy in 2008 has been severely criticised, its more politically considerate course of action in 2020 likewise highlights potential legitimacy problems. The ECB seems to be stuck in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation.

I conclude that future scholarship should pay closer attention to the ECB’s internal politics in order to understand its policy decisions in such ambiguous situations. After all, the ECB was originally made independent to shield it from political pressures. If its role as an EU institution requires it to also take into account political considerations, a new rationale might be needed.


Lukas Spielberger is a third-year PhD candidate at Leiden University and a UACES Scholar 2021. In his doctoral research, he studies the cooperation between central banks across Europe during the financial crisis in 2008/09. His wider interests concern EU macroeconomic governance, international central bank cooperation, and the role of the financial sector in national growth models.




The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The post What can ECB credit lines to central banks tell us about European Integration? appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Making the Case for Secession

mar, 29/06/2021 - 11:40
by Carles Ferreira Torres This article is based on research presented at the UACES Graduate Forum Research Conference 2021 (17-18 June, online)

In 2017, the parliament of Catalonia (Spain) unsuccessfully declared the region’s independence after several years of intense secessionist politics. Three years before the Catalan bid for independence, the Scottish people had voted to remain in the UK in a referendum on the constitution. After Brexit, however, this issue is far from settled. Movements of sovereignty are also found in Flanders (Belgium) or the Basque Country (Spain). Although some authors had held that nationalism was a phenomenon of the past that would disappear with globalisation, Europe is living instead an “age of secession” or, at least, an age of secessionist politics.

In democracies, due to the importance of persuading voters for movements to achieve their goals, discourse emerges as a crucial variable with enough potential to trigger radical constitutional change. This post contributes to our understanding of secessionist discourse by outlining how minority nationalist parties frame secession, namely, how they describe and justify independence. In my research, I have identified four main frames that are always present in pro-independence parties’ propaganda: the sense of acting on behalf of a distinct community or nation (communitarian component), the mobilisation around perceived grievances against the host state (remedial component), the desirability of being ruled by themselves (self-government component) and the achievement of sovereignty as means of accomplishing several policy goals such as improving people’s lives (instrumental component).

Regarding the former, secessionist parties always claim to act on behalf of a distinct human group that lives in a perceived Homeland, namely, a nation. This group is allegedly different from the rest of the population of the host state. An example of this situation would be the case of the Scots in the UK or the Catalans in Spain. Therefore, the minority nation they claim to represent is the “imagined community” around which the case for independence is built, that is to say, Scotland or Catalonia – following the same example. Hence, the first strand of discourse stresses nationhood or the existence of a group with an “encompassing culture” as the source that legitimates secession: “we are a nation; therefore, we deserve independence”. Following this rationale, independence is the “normal” state for nations in the world.

However, this distinct human group would have few reasons to undertake the risks of creating its own polity if its current situation were satisfactory. To put it in other words: if the union were positive for the minority group, there would be no need for them to secede. Therefore, a discourse around constructed or perceived grievances is also always present: nationalist entrepreneurs try to mobilise the population through a “distancing rhetoric” from the host state. Achieving statehood would remedy the mistreatment exerted by the central authorities against the minority group. In European democracies, secessionist parties tend to advance “soft” remedial arguments for independence based on an unequal distribution of power, resources, and/or status. it is typical for nationalist parties to complain about the “fiscal plundering” against their region, the inadequate protection of the local language and culture or the central government’s encroachment on regional powers.

Thirdly, the desirability of achieving sovereignty or self-government as opposed to foreign or alien rule also underlies all the movements seeking self-determination. This discourse is the pure “independentist” argument for secession: it will always be preferable to be ruled by ourselves than to be ruled by others. Pro-independence parties state that their group is a permanent minority within the established polity, leading to a feeling of statelessness. In this regard, the minority will never control the state’s apparatus, and thus the majority-alien group owns the tools for ruling the secessionist community. As opposed to this, pro-independence activists argue that the policy decisions over the targeted group – including the decisions around its constitutional future – must be taken by this group, and not by the alien larger community.

Finally, all secessionist movements give their targeted population instrumental reasons to convince them to support independence. Therefore, attaining statehood is a means of obtaining particular goals in one or more policy areas: preserving the group’s culture, boosting the economy, improving the welfare system, etc. From this point of view, sovereignty would simply be the means of building a better country and improve people’s lives – thus, not simply a way to address grievances. As the Scottish government stated before the 2014 referendum campaign, “Scotland is not oppressed, and we have no need to be liberated. Independence matters because we do not have to powers to reach our potential”.

To summarise, we have seen that secessionist parties advance four main arguments to persuade people of the benefits of independence – based on identity and nationhood, grievances, self-government, and policy goals. The next question surrounds the combination of these arguments in independence parties’ propaganda platforms. Preliminary research shows that, maybe counter-intuitively, secessionist parties increasingly focus on the “material” benefits of independence by providing arguments based on improving people’s lives. Conversely, identity and nationhood, although present, are less prevalent in their discourse. Further research should explore why “ethnic entrepreneurs” such as minority nationalist parties do not stress identity-based arguments when making the case for constitutional change. The next developments in places such as Catalonia or Scotland will provide more clues to understand how these actors behave. What we know for sure is that, in Europe, secessionist politics is here to stay.


Carles Ferreira Torres is a Political Scientist, Assistant Lecturer and PhD Candidate in Comparative Politics at the University of Kent. He studies Territorial Politics, Nationalism and Political Parties.

Twitter: @carlesferreira



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The post Making the Case for Secession appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Five years of (some of) Brexit

mar, 22/06/2021 - 17:00

For me, it was the morning after that I remember most vividly.

An early train to London left me wandering into Parliament Square at too-early-o’clock to hunt down the Radio5Live tent on College Green, to sit with Adrian Chiles for a few hours while he interviewed some of the many passing politicians about the result of the referendum.

I remember it a bit because Adrian was very generous in sharing his biscuits, but much more because of what I saw unfolding around me.

Almost to a person, everyone looked as if there had been an explosion and they were now staggering through the dust, trying to work out what had happened. Leavers as much as Remainers carried a look of those who weren’t entirely sure what whether this was real or not, a figment of their fevered imaginations.

And more than this.

There was a vague sense in the air that if this was so, then what else might be possible? For a while, everything seemed uncertain, nothing was fixed. As a good Gen Xer, I was put in mind of Ice Magic: the hard shell of our political institutions being lifted off to reveal a rapidly-melting polity.

No, I hadn’t slept much.

Throughout the 24th, I kept coming back to this strange place, simultaneously fearing that no-one else knew what came next and hoping that no-one did, that they might come up with something calamitous.

But no one did. Just a trail of resignations, of sheepish press conferences, of hours, then days, of drift. Very soon it became clear that no one had really, truly, properly prepared for this.

And this has been the leitmotif of the past five years: an aftermath, a picking up of the pieces, with no sense of whether to whip out the superglue or to stick the mess in the bin.

Ultimately, the referendum was a decision without a rationale or a reason. That’s not wrong – unlike some, I’m not here to call out the quality of the debate beforehand – but it is problematic.

Whatever relationship the UK wants with the EU, it will not be secured in the way that it has been pursued since 2016. The British approach has been driven by what is not wanted, rather than by any coherent sense of what should be, and why it should be so.

My hope in 2013 had been that Cameron’s offer of an in-out referendum might trigger a careful national discussion about such things, although I’ll profess to being dubious it would happen until that offer came good.

My hope in 2015, after the general election, was that now would be the time.

My hope in 2016, after the referendum, was that this was now essential, ahead of any negotiations.

And my hope now, after all my previous hopes have been dashed, is that one positive consequence of the tortured process we’ve undergone is that the case of trying to build an inclusive project for the UK is now easier to make.

Maybe I’m too optimistic on that front, but I do know that I’ll keep on trying to help people make sense of the issues and the options, so that we can work towards a new, stable and resilient relationship with the EU.

PDF: https://bit.ly/UshGraphic84

The post Five years of (some of) Brexit appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

The Council ‘repairs’ EU transparency rules informally

mar, 22/06/2021 - 11:23

Analyses of EU transparency traditionally focus on its legal development with little attention to informality. In such accounts, the Council of the EU is routinely understood as an obstructionist force blocking the expansion of transparency, only to be strong-armed into concessions by external pressure. However, in the Environment Council, a formation of the Council of the EU, transparency policy developed quite differently. Here, the Council actively promoted the expansion of rule-based transparency, while NGOs hardly made use of these legal transparency rights. A close analysis suggests that informality –often dismissed as anomalous or overlooked outright–  takes a central place in explaining this peculiar development.

EU transparency, when conceived as a formal policy, consists of a framework of rules and their implementation. Among the rules, Regulation 1049/2001 on access to the institutions’ documents counts as the central piece of legislation. In the area of environmental policy, the Environment Council went further, with the EU signing up to the UN-sponsored Aarhus Convention, which eventually led to Regulation 1367/2006. This lex specialis, which created a more expansive EU environmental information regime, was adopted without noticeable member state resistance. Most observers, both inside the Council and outside of it, agree that the Environment Council implements these rules faithfully and without undue restrictions, especially when compared to other Council formations. Yet while environmental NGOs (ENGOs) lobbied hard to expand formal transparency rights, they themselves made limited use of them.


Too good to be true?

Based on what we know of the Council’s transparency-sceptical attitude in other policy contexts, as well as ENGOs’ emphasis on transparency, the ‘dormancy’ of a highly developed Environment Council transparency policy is counterintuitive. My recent article argues that the explanation lies in informal norms which the Environment Council and its members mobilise to ‘repair’ elements in the formal transparency framework that they consider either too restrictive or too lenient from the perspective of transparency. As Helmke and Levitsky argue in a seminal publication, to properly understand formal policy frameworks, they must be regarded in light of their interplay with informal solutions. By filling remaining gaps, compensating shortcomings, buffering impacts, or purely contradicting, informal norms can take a structural character that fundamentally alters –or even brackets– the functioning of formal rules. Studying transparency policies without considering the informal norms’ bearing on them will render such policy incomprehensible or provide a grossly distorted picture.

Informality thus serves as a response to certain aspects of transparency rules. In the context of the Environment Council, chiefly three scenarios are imaginable in this respect. First, the Environment Council could perceive a need to balance formal transparency requirements against efficiency needs. This would primarily undermine transparency rules, to the benefit of confidentiality. Second, the Council could subordinate formal transparency duties to functional requirements, tailoring information sharing to its needs at every stage of the decision-making process. This would not result in outright information suppression, but in the strategic timing of disclosure. Third, informal norms could be volatile, as different member states seek to institutionalise informal norms to varying, changing ends. This would translate into informal norm conflict and, for ENGOs, information venue shopping.


Playing beyond the rules

A close analysis shows that informal norms indeed have a major impact on the way in which the Environment Council approaches its formal transparency obligations. Informality does not always limit access to information. For instance, several environmental affairs ministries maintain close contacts with their nationally based ENGOs about ongoing Council legislation, while at the European level, a representative has traditionally been invited to participate on behalf of the ENGO community in the half-yearly informal Environment Council meeting. Some member states even go as far as to engage in the unauthorised sharing of documents with stakeholders, or leaking them to the press. All these activities serve to expand access to information beyond, or even against, what the rules allow, although mostly for privileged groups of outsiders, and often for politically strategic, rather than transparency-promoting ends.

At the same time, various informal norms also limit access to Environment Council information. One of these is the so-called ‘limite’ label, an informal document classification which prevents (legislative) documents from being directly disclosed or shared with outsiders, as well as the internal agreement to withholding the identity of member states suggesting amendments when disclosing documents concerning ongoing legislative negotiations. After this latter practice was struck down by the Court of Justice, the Council decided to leave references to member states out of the document altogether. A different situation occurred with respect to so-called trilogue negotiations, which were originally conceived to create an informal legislative negotiating space between the Council and the Parliament beyond the reach of the transparency rules. Ever since the Court of Justice struck also this legal interpretation down, both institutions have de facto been breaking the rules by continuing this secretive practice.


Governing informally: a volatile affair

Searching for patterns in the above-described informal norms for regulating access to information in the Environment Council, it soon becomes clear that they do not fully match with the first two of the above-described scenarios. Some balancing informality occurs, but remains relatively rare due to member states’ wide divergence on the question how much informal transparency suppression is acceptable. Informal transparency norms also follow to some extent functional patterns, with different norms applying to different stages of the decision-making process. In this regard however, it is unclear why ENGOs should be involved in Environment Council meetings. Both scenarios moreover fail to explain the very preponderant practice of document leaking. It would seem that document leaks serve as a ‘release valve’ from the information control created by the formal transparency rules and informal norms.

The empirical picture shows most congruence with the volatility scenario. This scenario places the emphasis on change and incoherence in the Environment Council’s informal handling of the transparency question. Developments such as the 2004 EU enlargement, and two transparency court cases that rendered previously ambiguous norms explicitly illegal, did indeed alter interactions within the Environment Council and between member states and ENGOs, leading to revisions in informal responses. Conflicting but simultaneously operating norms such as transparency suppression through the ‘limite’ label and document sharing through member states moreover highlight that such revised norms were underpinned by clashing motives between different actors in the Environment Council.

In sum, the informal aspect of Environment Council transparency policy clearly paints the formal legal access regime in a different light. Various informal norms allow the Environment Council to ‘repair’ transparency rules where the member states consider them difficult to cope with. This helps to explain why the Environment Council has not proved very reluctant to expand formal transparency rights over time. Informal limits on formal transparency rights also explain ENGOs’ limited reliance on these rights: for the purpose of advocacy, they offer too little, too late. Instead, ENGOs walk informal roads in search of useful policy information related to Environment Council decision making. The fact that they often find insiders willing to informally provide them with such information illustrates that contesting notions of ‘repairing the rules’ are prevalent in the Environment Council.


This blog post draws on the JCMS article “Access to Environmental Information in the EU: A Great Policy No-One Needs?

Maarten Hillebrandt is postdoctoral researcher at the Eric Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, University of Helsinki (@intlaw_eci). His research interests include government transparency policy and governance of the Council of the EU. Maarten is a member of the Standing Committee of Experts on International, Refugee and Criminal Law (@ComMeijers).

Twitter: @mzhill


The post The Council ‘repairs’ EU transparency rules informally appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union

New Partners? The EU and China in international climate governance

mar, 22/06/2021 - 11:15

In current international climate governance many eyes are on the EU and China as two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Since the Trump administration announced the US’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement their relationship in the climate realm has changed considerably. But how do they view their own roles as ‘partners for the planet’? Julia Gurol and Anna Starkmann analyze this question from a role theoretical perspective. They argue that EU-China relations bear a lot of potential for closer collaboration on climate issues.

With the global pandemic ravaging economies worldwide, questions of climate change and how to address it, have slightly got out of focus. Yet, with the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) in the UK, the adverse effects of the deteriorating climate are brought back to the table of international negotiations and discussions. In that context, all eyes are on China. As one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, a rising power yet also a still developing economy, the People’s Republic plays a crucial role that might determine the failure or success of many international climate measures. Ever since the Trump administration announced the withdrawal of the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement (PA), China’s role in international climate governance has been brought to the fore. Together with the EU, China had been eager to fill the resulting leadership vacuum left by the US in 2017. The two major emitters reaffirmed their commitment to the PA and intensified their cooperation on climate change. Despite prevailing tensions in other policy fields, EU-China climate cooperation has evolved over time from rather technical to high-level political cooperation. In our article, we discuss the complex relationship between the EU and China in international climate governance and seek to answer the question of how they view their own roles and responsibilities to combat climate change. In a nutshell, we argue that none of the two can tackle this issue unilaterally and that therefore, they have become new ‘partners for the planet’ – albeit with a complicated relationship.


Role-theory as a useful approach to climate cooperation between the EU and China

Applying role-theory to the analysis of this relationship helps us to identify three things. First, we can shed light on how the EU and China regard themselves as actors in international climate governance. This is called ‘self-conception’. Second, we can identify the external expectations of other actors concerning how the EU and China should navigate in international climate governance. And last but not least, role-theory helps to uncover the changes of these self-conceptions and expectations over time and therefore also to explain the changing relationship between the EU and China. In short: by using this approach, we seek to take into account both external factors as well as the actors’ positions and thoughts.


The roles of the EU and China from Copenhagen to the US withdrawal from the PA

EU-China climate relations are heavily influenced by critical events in global climate politics.  Specifically, we identify three events that contributed to the recent increase in climate cooperation and a development from technical towards political cooperation, despite the overall political constraints in EU-China relations: the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, the PA in 2015, and the US’ announced withdrawal from the PA in 2017.

How did these events shape the roles of the EU and China in climate governance? The EU has considered itself a leader since the beginning of international climate cooperation. It has asserted its normative power status by a strategy of “leading by example” and advocating for strong international rules and binding agreements. However, the 2009 COP in Copenhagen revealed a discrepancy between the EU’s self-conception as unilateral leader and external role expectations and recognitions. At this conference parties failed to agree on a follow-up agreement for the Kyoto Protocol, and the EU was sidelined in the negotiations. Consequently, the EU had to adapt its role performance. It became a “leadiator”, a combination of a leader and a mediator, actively building bridges between other actors.

China, on the other hand, has long understood its own role as that of a developing country, with the right to economic growth and development, and hence claimed a “right to emit”. Consequently, it placed the responsibility to mitigate climate change and curb emissions exclusively on the historical culprits for climate change, i.e. the US, Europe, and other highly industrialized nations. While China still makes strategic use of this weak power face, China has since the run-up to the PA undergone a tremendous role change, towards a more proactive policy creator, willing to accept responsibility and peak its emissions. This role change was affected by ambiguous internal role conceptions between developing country role and great power aspirations as well as clashing external expectations to play an active role as the world’s largest emitter of CO2 emissions since 2006.

Consequently, the first critical juncture was the 2009 COP, which led to a to a role adaption of the EU role towards a bridge-builder supplementing its leadership claims in international climate governance. The second critical event was the PA, which became possible due to the of role change of China from a policy-taker or even policy-negator towards a policy-maker in climate change. The third critical juncture was the US’s withdrawal from the PA, which created a leadership vacuum, opening a window of opportunity for the EU and China to readjust their positions in the international climate governance system and fostered EU-China cooperation.


Conclusion and Outlook

In short, we argue that internal role conceptions influence the behaviour of the EU and China in international negotiations and bilateral cooperation. Also, conflicts between different self-perceptions of actors (the conflict between China’s developing country and major power role) or between internal conceptions and external expectations (the EU’s international leader role conception, which turned out not to be widely shared in Copenhagen and external expectations on China as major emitter that stood in contrast to China’s self-conception as developing country) led to a change in role performance.

Thereby, the roles of the EU and China have become more compatible which led to increased cooperation efforts in the realm of climate change. However, this does not mean there are no disagreements between the two actors. While the 2019 EU Strategic Outlook on China underlines the need for cooperation between the EU and China because the “partnership is essential for the success of global climate action”, there is also criticism of China’s investments in coal energy and a clear call to swiftly peak its emissions. This implies that the EU is unsure whether China lives up to its role as a leader.

What can we expect from EU-China relations in the realm of climate policy looking forward? With the European Green Deal, the EU firmly reaffirmed its role conception as a global leader. The communication also expressed the EU’s ambition to reinforce bilateral cooperation and explicitly pointed to opportunities for strengthening the partnership with China. Thus, much hints at deepening ties in the future despite existing disagreements. Accordingly, the EU and China could indeed be new partners for the planet when it comes to mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. The future will show whether the US under the new Biden administration, who has already announced to re-enter the agreement, will join this partnership or alter the EU-China relationship on climate issues.


This blog post draws on JCMS article, “New Partners for the Planet? The European Union and China in International Climate Governance from a Role-Theoretical Perspective.”

Dr Julia Gurol is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Chair for International Relations at Freiburg University. Her research focuses on global governance in the Global South, EU-China (security relations), Chinese foreign policy and transregional authoritarian practices.

Twitter: @JuliaGurol


Anna Starkmann’s research focuses on international climate and environmental governance, EU external climate policy, regional organizations and comparative regionalism.

Twitter: @anna_starkm



The post New Partners? The EU and China in international climate governance appeared first on Ideas on Europe.

Catégories: European Union