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Book Review: Project Europe: A History by Kiran Klaus Patel

2 days ago

In Project Europe: A History, Kiran Klaus Patel offers a new critical history of European integration, focusing on the period between 1945 to 1992. This book offers many fresh insights on the ways that European nations have cooperated and integrated in the post-war period and is a great read for academics and general readers alike, writes Jacob van de Beeten.
Project Europe: A History. Kiran Klaus Patel. Cambridge University Press. 2020.
Deconstructing conventional narratives of European integration
Anyone who has visited the House of European History, located in Parc Léopold just behind the European Parliament (the driving force behind the museum’s creation), will have noticed the implicit narrative present in the building’s architecture. Starting off on the dimly lit ground floor,

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The fate of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime rests on the loyalty of his security apparatus

5 days ago

Despite widespread protests, Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth term as President of Belarus on 23 September. Olena Nikolayenko writes that while there have been a small number of resignations by rank and file police officers over the state’s handling of the protests, the security apparatus has largely remained loyal to the regime. Unless this situation changes, it will be difficult for the opposition to gain the upper hand.
On 23 September, Alexander Lukashenko took the oath of office, declaring the start of his sixth term as President of Belarus. In a room filled with people in military and police uniforms, the autocrat reiterated the idea that Belarus would not have a colour revolution. This surreptitious inauguration ceremony was held in violation of existing legislation,

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Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on the EU’s response to irregular migration

6 days ago

Covid-19 has once again put EU solidarity to the test. Nadia Petroni writes that while much of the focus has been on the pandemic’s impact on healthcare and the European economy, it has also pushed states further apart on the issue of irregular migration.
Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the issue of irregular migration had been at the top of the EU’s political agenda for over a decade. At the same time, the governance of migration proved to be the most complex and problematic area of governance in the EU due to the multiplicity of interests within the Union which are in constant flux.
Disagreement between EU leaders was brought to the fore during the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015-17 when the EU received the largest influx of irregular migrants since the end of the Second World War.

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Governments will soon be talking about ‘benefit cheats’ and ‘scroungers’ – political scientists should do the same

7 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to create significant unemployment across Europe. Carlo Knotz writes that if past-crises are anything to go by, there is a high likelihood this could revive political debates about benefit fraud and disincentives to work. He argues that political scientists should aim to play a central role in these debates to explain the trade-offs that come with reforming benefit systems, and the dynamics and drivers of public concern about the unemployed.
Concerns about benefit abuse among the unemployed are as old as unemployment benefit programmes themselves, and potentially even older. A considerable amount of political research suggests that these concerns are particularly likely to surface in the context of high unemployment rates and significant government budget

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Why far right party success is about alliances between voters with different immigration grievances, and not just about culture

8 days ago

Support for the far right is often explained with reference to a ‘cultural backlash’ against cosmopolitanism, globalisation and immigration. Drawing on a new study, Daphne Halikiopoulou and Tim Vlandas explain that while these cultural explanations have some merit, there has been a tendency to overlook the importance of economic concerns about immigration for the electoral success of far right parties.
Academics and pundits alike often attribute the rise of the far right to cultural threats. This argument is based on the strong empirical association between anti-immigration attitudes and far right support found in many studies. In short, far right supporters tend to be individuals who fear immigrants because they see them as a threat to their nation’s cultural norms and values.
The theory

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Book Review: Territorial Politics and the Party System in Spain: Continuity and Change since the Financial Crisis by Caroline Gray

9 days ago

In Territorial Politics and the Party System in Spain: Continuity and Change since the Financial Crisis, Caroline Gray offers a new analysis of how and why the territorial dimension has contributed to shaping Spain’s politics and party system following the 2008 financial crisis. This in-depth account deserves to be read widely by area studies scholars and students interested in the particularities of Spanish politics and by comparative political scientists looking to situate Spain within contemporary party systems in Europe, writes Georgina Blakeley.
Territorial Politics and the Party System in Spain: Continuity and Change since the Financial Crisis. Caroline Gray. Routledge. 2020.
Caroline Gray’s new book, Territorial Politics and the Party System in Spain, aims to explain how and why the

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Europe and the Digital Cold War: Is the EU technologically vulnerable?

11 days ago

The tech rivalry between China and the United States has been characterised by some observers as a ‘Digital Cold War’. Dimitar Lilkov argues that in the technological arms race of the future, the EU may quickly find itself falling behind.
In a seminal article, Swedish polymath Nick Bostrom posits the ‘vulnerable world’ hypothesis. It is a complex premise which assumes that the chance of a destructive event occurring globally is quite likely if technological advancement continues in a prolonged timeline. He compares human progress to drawing different balls from a giant urn – most of them are beneficial or mixed blessings but there are also ‘black ball’ events which might destabilise civilisation. According to Bostrom, the preventive mechanisms against a potential technological or military

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Italy’s constitutional referendum: The right solution to long-standing problems?

12 days ago

On 20-21 September, Italy will go to the polls for a referendum on reducing the size of both chambers of the Italian Parliament. Matteo Garavoglia previews the referendum, which opinion polls suggest is likely to result in a strong vote in favour of the proposal. He argues that while the appeal of reducing the number of politicians is understandable, there has been relatively little attention paid to the question of whether or not the reform will actually enhance or diminish the quality of Italian democracy.
Italian citizens will go to the polls on 20-21 September to vote in a nationwide referendum that might result in a drastic cut in the number of elected MPs. As mandated by Article 138 of the Italian Constitution, the legislation that will be put to the scrutiny of the ballot box was

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Why the EU should put innovation at the centre of its recovery plan

13 days ago

Innovation is often viewed as a key driver of economic growth. Yet as Marcel de Heide and Gosse Vuijk write, the recent agreement between EU leaders on a Covid-19 recovery package cut funding for some programmes linked to innovation. They argue the European Parliament should push for innovation to be placed at the centre of the recovery plan.
Europe is facing an unprecedented crisis and as a consequence a threat to its unity. The health, social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak have been felt very differently across the Union. This is exacerbating existing disparities between the member states. The EU’s recovery strategy should therefore not just repair the damage done, but also actively prevent further divergence in the Union.
In July, European leaders agreed on a

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Social distancing: Why has compliance been so different across Europe?

14 days ago

A common response to the Covid-19 pandemic across Europe has been for states to promote social distancing. Yet the level of compliance from citizens has varied substantially between countries. Drawing on data from Switzerland, Neha Deopa and Piergiuseppe Fortunato provide an illustration of the impact cultural attitudes and behavioural norms can have on compliance with social distancing measures.
Rarely in history have we witnessed such a homogeneous policy response to a shock as in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic. In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus and reduce the load on healthcare systems, virtually all European countries have adopted restrictive measures aimed at reducing individual mobility and inducing social distancing.
Interestingly, the rate of compliance with such

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Italy’s constitutional referendum: Yet another reform to improve the country’s governability

15 days ago

Italy will hold a constitutional referendum on 20-21 September which proposes to reduce the size of both chambers of the Italian parliament. Matthew E. Bergman provides the background to the vote and assesses the potential political consequences.
On 20-21 September, Italians will go to the polls for yet another constitutional referendum aimed at reforming the political system – the country’s fourth such referendum since 2000. This referendum specifically targets the size of the legislative branch. The proposal would reduce the size of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber, from 630 to 400 and Senate membership from 315 to 200. Such a move is rare in democratic nations. Between 1945 and 2008, there have been fewer than 20 instances of a democratic legislature decreasing in size by

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Book Review: Narratives of Hunger in International Law: Feeding the World in Times of Climate Change by Anne Saab

16 days ago

In Narratives of Hunger in International Law: Feeding the World in Times of Climate Change, Anne Saab examines the role that the language of international law plays in constructing narratives of hunger, focusing on the case of climate-ready seeds. This consistently well-researched book reveals how international law influences the making of food (in)security, writes Ayse Didem Sezgin.
Narratives of Hunger in International Law: Feeding the World in Times of Climate Change. Anne Saab. Cambridge University Press. 2019.
Dealing with hunger in a globalised world that faces immense climate challenges calls for an international lawyer’s perspective. Anne Saab’s book, Narratives of Hunger in International Law, is one of the most recent contributions in this area that proves the case. Indeed, many

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Team performance and the perception of being observed: Insights from a natural experiment in football

18 days ago

Due to Covid-19, many football matches across Europe have been played behind closed doors. Drawing on recent research, Massimiliano Ferraresi and Gianluca Gucciardi assess how team performance is affected by the presence of supporters. Using data from the top divisions in England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, they find that home teams won fewer points when playing behind closed doors than they would have achieved with supporters in attendance, which potentially offers some insights on the performance of workers when they feel they are not being observed.
To control Covid-19, countries across Europe have announced measures that restrict the movement of individuals and impose social distancing. Following these strategies, a new organisational model of work known as ‘smart working’ is

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The European Parliament and the post-Brexit trade agreement: How long is needed for scrutiny?

19 days ago

The EU and the UK have yet to reach an agreement on their future relationship, but if an agreement is reached, will it be possible to ratify the deal before the transition period expires at the end of 2020? Nicolai von Ondarza and Dominik Rehbaum look at the role of the European Parliament in previous trade agreements, concluding that a deal will likely have to be done by mid-November at the latest.
The negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK are nearing crunch time. In order to avoid a ‘no trade deal Brexit’, an agreement must enter into force by the end of 2020 when the current transition period expires. Most recently, Boris Johnson set mid-October as a deadline to reach a deal. But how much time is there really left to negotiate? One crucial aspect of judging

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‘This country will never be the same again’: Understanding the protests in Belarus

20 days ago

Following a disputed presidential election on 9 August, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Belarus demanding an end to Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. Oleg Chupryna provides an insight on the views of the protesters, writing that while the outcome remains uncertain, the country is unlikely to ever be able to return to the status quo.
Events over the last month in Belarus have suddenly thrown this nation of 9.5 million people into the spotlight of the international media. After presidential elections on 9 August, thousands of people took to the streets in many cities across the country, protesting broadly against perceived electoral fraud committed for the benefit of incumbent President, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.
Branded by western media as

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Seizing the democratic opportunity in Montenegro

20 days ago

On 30 August, opposition parties won a narrow majority of seats in Montenegro’s parliamentary elections. Florian Bieber and Jovana Marović write that while many challenges lie ahead, there is now a real opportunity to pursue a full democratic transition in the country.
The parliamentary elections in Montenegro on 30 August were the tenth time the opposition had sought to defeat the long ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, led by Milo Djukanović. In power since before the mobile phone or the internet became widely used, nobody was holding their breath that the ruling party would lose their majority. After all, there had not been a change of the ruling party since 1945. Yet, the opposition managed to score the narrowest of victories, gaining 41 seats over the DPS and their allies. The

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Italy’s ‘election day’: A preview

21 days ago

Italy will hold a series of elections and a constitutional referendum on 20-21 September. Leonardo Carella previews the votes and highlights some of the key things to watch out for when the results come through.
On 20-21 September, Italians will head to the polls to vote for the presidency of seven regions, the mayoralty of over 1,100 municipalities, two Senate by-elections, and a constitutional referendum over the reduction of the number of MPs. The ballot, held over two days, comes as the first democratic test for the government following the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown, which disrupted plans to hold some of these elections earlier this year. The massive ‘election day’ has already given authorities headaches in terms of ensuring the safety of the procedures, as well as

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Next Generation EU: Why the blueprint for transforming Europe may have been long in the making

22 days ago

In July, EU heads of state and government finally reached agreement on a recovery package to tackle the socio-economic fallout from Covid-19. Daniel F. Schulz writes that although the agreement was unprecedented in its scope, Europe’s recovery strategy will draw heavily on the existing analyses and institutional structures of the European Semester. Ultimately, Europe’s leaders will be betting on the potential of renewable energy and digital services to create millions of jobs across the EU, suggesting that large-scale upskilling programmes may become a prominent feature of member states’ labour market policies.
When July’s marathon European Council summit finally overcame the sharp divisions among European leaders, the prevailing mood among policymakers and commentators was euphoria. ‘Next

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Book Review: The Case for a Job Guarantee by Pavlina R. Tcherneva

23 days ago

In The Case for a Job Guarantee, Pavlina R. Tcherneva argues that a job guarantee that provides an employment opportunity to anyone looking for work, regardless of their personal circumstances or the state of the economy, not only makes good economic sense, but is vital for people’s wellbeing. As discussions of a universal job guarantee have never been timelier, The Case for a Job Guarantee is a deeply thought-provoking book and deserves serious consideration, writes Anupama Kumar.
The Case for a Job Guarantee. Pavlina R. Tcherneva. Polity. 2020.
In The Case for a Job Guarantee, Pavlina R. Tcherneva argues that not only does a job guarantee make good economic sense, it is also necessary to people’s wellbeing.
Tcherneva defines a job guarantee as ‘a public policy that provides an employment

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What to expect from Switzerland’s five referendums on 27 September

26 days ago

On 27 September, Switzerland will hold referendums on five different topics. Sean Mueller presents a preview of the votes, which will include a proposal to end the country’s free movement agreement with the EU.
Things can be said to slowly normalise when the Swiss start voting again. A set of referendums scheduled for May this year had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but on 27 September citizens will finally be able to vote on five very diverse questions.
The most salient one concerns ending the free movement of persons, to which Switzerland has subscribed since 2002 without being an EU member. A popular initiative to that effect was submitted by the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and puts several other ‘bilateral treaties’ between the EU and Switzerland in jeopardy.

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Europeanising ideologies: Understanding the EU’s complex relationship with ‘isms’

27 days ago

For much of its history, the EU has been portrayed as an attempt to move beyond the ideological divisions present at the national level. Yet in recent decades, European integration has increasingly been criticised from the standpoint that it functions as an ideological project itself – whether as an expression of neoliberalism, federalism, or other ‘isms’. Jonathan White argues that to politicise the EU is not just to critique it: by inserting the EU into a larger, more intelligible history, we can better understand its relation to wider political struggles.
One of the striking features of recent talk of the ‘frugal four’ of European Union politics is that it implies ideological disagreement at the core of the integration project. At July’s negotiations on the Union’s future financing,

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What are the prospects for the Polish opposition?

27 days ago

The Polish liberal-centrist opposition’s future prospects depend critically upon how Warsaw’s Mayor builds on the political capital derived from his strong presidential election challenge writes Aleks Szczerbiak. But there are question marks over his proposed new civic movement’s relationship with the main opposition party, and he faces a challenge from an insurgent TV presenter-turned-politician, as well as strategic dilemmas over which model of opposition to adopt and how to develop an attractive alternative programme.
In July, incumbent Andrzej Duda – who was backed by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) grouping, Poland’s ruling party since autumn 2015 – defeated Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski – the candidate of the liberal-centrist Civic Platform (PO), the governing party

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Eurosceptic or Euro-ambivalent? Understanding the positions of far right parties on Europe

29 days ago

Most contemporary far right parties oppose European integration, but is Euroscepticism a natural complement to far right ideology? Marta Lorimer writes that while we now tend to see far right parties as Eurosceptic, this was not always the case. Drawing on an analysis of the Italian Social Movement and French Front National, she demonstrates that ambivalence is an important part of the far right’s approach to Europe.
Far right parties are well-known for their opposition to European integration. Their Euroscepticism is usually presented as a natural feature of their ideology: after all, why would strongly nationalist parties support a transnational construction such as the EU?
In a recent study, I argue that the depiction of far right parties as ‘naturally’ Eurosceptic is misleading. In

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Book Review: Reconstructing Democracy: How Citizens Are Building from the Ground Up by Charles Taylor, Patricia Nanz and Madeleine Beaubien Taylor

August 30, 2020

In Reconstructing Democracy: How Citizens are Building from the Ground Up, Charles Taylor, Patricia Nanz and Madeleine Beaubien Taylor respond to the lack of public faith in the institutions of representative democracy by calling for a ‘bottom-up’ reconstruction of democracy at the local level, drawing on examples of local participatory democracy in action. While the book explores some inspiring initiatives that can have real and lasting benefits for communities and the capacity to solve local problems, Luke Bostian is unconvinced that such programmes alone can address the wider structural forces that jeopardise efforts to reconstruct democracy. 
Reconstructing Democracy: How Citizens are Building from the Ground Up. Charles Taylor, Patricia Nanz and Madeleine Beaubien Taylor. Harvard

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How wealthy lobby groups benefit from a silent media

August 28, 2020

Affluent interest groups are often said to enjoy a greater capacity to influence policy when compared to economically deprived groups. Yet, academic studies find no consensus about the validity of this commonly held belief. Drawing on a new study, Frederik Stevens and Iskander De Bruycker suggest that the role of economic resources for lobbying influence is mediated by the attention that policy issues attract in the news media. Their study shows that wealthy lobby groups are indeed more influential on EU policies, but their competitive advantage disappears for issues which are highly salient in the news media.
Do economic resources enable interest groups to influence democratic decision-making? One answer to this question is that by mobilising their financial resources, wealthy lobby

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Disrupting supply chains: Why leaving the Single Market means systemic breakdown

August 26, 2020

The UK will leave the Single Market at the end of this year, with new rules set to be implemented that will have an important impact on British businesses. Monica Horten writes that these changes have the potential to lead to uncertainties of supply, price hikes and potentially shortages. Prompt action could alleviate the situation, but ignoring it will result in long term damage.
When the UK finally quits the Single Market on 1 January, rule changes will come into effect for businesses. With or without a ‘deal’, new trade barriers will be erected. Customs declarations will be needed for goods going in or out of the country, traders will have to demonstrate compliance with standards and ‘rules of origin’, and depending on the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, a tariff payment will

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The July European Council summit as seen by southern European newspapers

August 25, 2020

At a European Council summit held on 17-21 July, EU heads of state and government reached agreement on a recovery package to tackle the socio-economic fallout from Covid-19. Using text analysis, Tatiana Coutto assesses how the deal was portrayed in southern European newspapers and how this coverage differed in the Dutch and German press. 
European Council meetings periodically bring together the heads of state and government of EU members, but they do not usually arouse much interest beyond specialised media. The recent summit held from 17-21 July, however, received unusual coverage because of its ambitious objectives, its long duration, and because of the cleavage between the wealthy countries from the north and the indebted ones from the south. Accusations of a lack of solidarity and

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Rethinking immigration as an issue in the European Union and its consequences for government accountability

August 24, 2020

The financial crisis and the migration crisis served to heighten the salience of immigration in the EU’s member states. Drawing on a new study, Andrea Fumarola explains how both crises have reshaped not only the policy agendas of governments, but also the dynamics of party competition.
The last twenty years were marked by historical events like the 2004, 2007 and 2013 EU enlargements, the 2008 economic crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis. The combination of these events has increased not only the migration flow to and within the European Union, but also the perceived (economic and cultural) costs of integration, while media attention has greatly contributed to the politicisation of the immigration issue. A number of studies show how even moderate mainstream parties have gradually changed

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Book Review: French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic by Joseph Downing

August 23, 2020

In French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic, Joseph Downing offers a new examination of the lives and experiences of French Muslims in the face of persecution, intimidation and marginalisation. Challenging and deconstructing widespread stereotypes and misconceptions, this well-researched book makes an excellent contribution and will be a good reference for scholars interested in exploring this area, writes Isa Ishaq Ojibara.
If you are interested in this book, you can listen to a podcast of the book launch, recorded at LSE on 27 November 2019.
French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic. Joseph Downing. Palgrave. 2019.
‘…Thus, Muslims have become the threatening internal other

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How gender affects the response rates of politicians to inquiries about healthcare and unemployment support

August 21, 2020

Are women and men equally likely to receive answers when they contact politicians for information about healthcare and unemployment benefits? Drawing on a new study, Zoila Ponce de Leon and Gabriele Magni find that MPs are significantly more likely to respond to women overall, and that female legislators are more responsive, in general, than their male counterparts. Increasing the numbers of women in office would therefore lead to a higher quality of representation.
The spread of Covid-19 has posed severe challenges for governments around the world. The health and economic crises the pandemic prompted in several countries have sparked a widespread need for information, particularly when it comes to accessing essential services such as healthcare and unemployment benefits.
Members of

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