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Evidence from Italy: How local governments manipulate tax and spend policies to help win re-election

3 days ago

There is a clear incentive for politicians to manipulate tax and spend policies in advance of an election to help boost their electoral chances. Yet while this phenomenon has been studied extensively at the national level across Europe, there is relatively little evidence of it at the level of local politics. Drawing on a study of Italian municipal elections, Massimiliano Ferraresi demonstrates that both tax policies and spending appear to be tailored to the electoral cycle, with local authorities showing a bias toward less visible tax instruments in the leadup to an election. These findings are particularly important given the role of local actors in implementing the EU’s Covid-19 recovery package.
In a well-known book published in 1936, Harold Lasswell claimed that politics is all

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The needs of disabled fans must not be ignored when sports stadiums reopen to spectators

4 days ago

Most professional sport in Europe has taken place in empty stadiums since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the proposed return of spectators upon us, Connor Penfold, Paul Kitchin and Paul Darby argue the sports industry must facilitate a disability-inclusive restart for spectator sports. Drawing on a recent study, they outline a series of recommendations that could be used by stadium operators to ensure the pandemic does not lead to further neglect of the needs and rights of disabled people in the context of sport.
During the Covid-19 pandemic disabled people have been disproportionally impacted. A recent survey of the lived realities of disabled people conducted by Inclusion London concluded that they have been abandoned, forgotten and ignored by policymakers,

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Group collapse and strategic switching: Why MEPs change their affiliations in the European Parliament

5 days ago

It is relatively common for MEPs to change their political group in the European Parliament, but what explains this behaviour? Drawing on a new study, Aaron R. Martin writes that while group switching is often assumed to be a strategic choice, over half of the switches that took place in the European Parliament between 1979 and 2009 were non-strategic moves triggered by the collapse of an existing group.
Across the first seven European Parliament terms, around 10% of members changed their labels, a frequency of party group switching that is significantly higher than in most national parliaments. Therefore, it is pertinent to ask: why have MEPs switched party groups so often?
The answer to this question is deceptively simple. As I show in a recent study, party group collapse caused

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Innovative, digital, green, smart: Setting out a new growth model for Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe

9 days ago

Covid-19 has amplified the structural challenges that economies in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe are facing. Áron Gereben and Patricia Wruuck write that the region needs to shift its approach to leave the threat of the middle-income trap behind and boost growth prospects in a post-pandemic world. Innovation, digitalisation, climate-change mitigation and a focus on skills should form the foundations for this new growth model.
The ‘old growth model’ of Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, which drove convergence following EU accession, relied on exports, low labour costs, and capital inflows intermediated through foreign direct investment. This model has become less and less sustainable.
Productivity growth has slowed, while labour costs have increased. Lower capital

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The EU’s Political and Security Committee: Still in the shadows but no longer governing?

10 days ago

The Lisbon Treaty introduced the most far-reaching reforms to EU foreign and security policy cooperation since the 1990s. In the years since, much attention has been focused on the role of the High Representative/Vice President and the European External Action Service. Yet as Heidi Maurer and Nicholas Wright explain, there has been little attention paid to the impact the Lisbon Treaty had on the EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC), which brings together Ambassadors from the EU’s member states to help manage foreign policy cooperation. Drawing on a new study, they reveal how the PSC, which once sat at the centre of EU foreign policy-making, is now battling to maintain its influence in a much-changed institutional landscape.
The EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC) was

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The last piece of the puzzle? Making sense of the Swiss town of Moutier’s decision to leave the canton of Bern

11 days ago

The Swiss town of Moutier has voted to leave the canton of Bern and join the neighbouring canton of Jura. Sean Mueller explains the complex history surrounding the decision.
On 28 March, a majority of 55% of voters in the Swiss town of Moutier decided to leave the canton of Bern behind and join the canton of Jura. You are forgiven for thinking we have all been here before, for we have – almost four years ago.
A slightly smaller majority of voters reached the same conclusion in the summer of 2017, but that result was later cancelled because too many irregularities had taken place before and during the vote. The voting booth is no stranger in this corner of the world, but more so than elsewhere in Switzerland, Moutier is connected to some peculiarly heated issues.
History, identity

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How personality traits shape our tendency to engage in political consumerism

12 days ago

Many people choose to consciously purchase or boycott products for political and ethical reasons. Indeed, as Kathrin Ackermann and Birte Gundelach explain, political consumerism now ranks as one of the most frequently used forms of political participation in western democracies. Drawing on new evidence from Switzerland, they examine the role of personality traits in shaping the decisions of individuals to engage in this form of political behaviour.
People are increasingly expressing their political opinions through their purchasing decisions. For example, they may consciously buy fair trade chocolate or avoid products made by corporations that are publicly criticised for their production methods. Indeed, the conscious purchase (buycott) or non-purchase (boycott) of products for

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What will trade and global value chains look like in a post-pandemic world?

13 days ago

The economic disruption generated by Covid-19 has prompted many observers to ask whether globalisation has increased our vulnerability to economic shocks. Anna Maria Pinna and Luca Lodi examine what the future of trade and global value chains may look like once we emerge from the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic arrived at a time when many citizens across the world were already harbouring doubts about the benefits of globalisation. Indeed, since the start of the financial crisis in 2007-8, we have been living in what Douglas Irwin has termed an era of ‘slowbalisation’, with global economic integration grinding to a halt. The rise of populism has rekindled interest in protectionist policies, while China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies, have been engaged in a

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Book Review: The Asset Economy by Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper and Martijn Konings

14 days ago

In The Asset Economy, Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper and Martijn Konings retell the story of neoliberalism through the lens of assets, showing how asset ownership and asset inflation have been driving forces behind inequality and new class divides. This book is a highly readable and timely intervention in the burgeoning debate on rentiership and will inspire future research in showing the importance of putting assets at the centre of analysis, finds Nils Peters. 
The Asset Economy. Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper and Martijn Konings. Polity. 2020.
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With 700,000 people leaving the capital in the last six months of 2020, London is witnessing an exodus. Those turning their backs on the capital are mostly non-UK born and typically lost their jobs in the

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Understanding the role of European Council summits in reaching the Good Friday Agreement

16 days ago

One of the most sensitive issues during the Brexit process has been the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on Northern Ireland. Darren Litter argues that against this backdrop, the important role that European Council summits played in the Northern Ireland peace process has largely been overlooked.
The European Council is currently holding a two-day summit focusing on diverse challenges such as Covid-19, setting priorities for the single market, and relations with Russia. European Council summits are, of course, highly important affairs, where the national representatives of the EU’s member states have their say on the policy issues of the day. The other dimension to these summits, however, is the unique opportunity they provide to engage in bilateral business in

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Has the UK really outperformed the EU on Covid-19 vaccinations?

17 days ago

The EU’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout has received intense criticism for failing to keep pace with the vaccination programmes of other countries, notably the UK. Gareth Davies argues that while the UK has undoubtedly managed to vaccinate a greater share of its population than EU states thus far, the facts are more nuanced than the headline figures suggest.
The media is full of comparisons between Britain’s speedy vaccine rollout ‘success’ and the EU’s slowness. Britain’s early decision to scale up production, and its effective procurement is compared with the EU’s slow decision-making and clunky contracting.
The facts are more nuanced. Both Britain and the EU began investing in vaccine production in 2020, with the EU providing 336 million euros to producers to scale up facilities,

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What Blanchard gets wrong: The puzzling persistence of managerialism in EU fiscal governance

17 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted renewed debate over the architecture of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union. Marco Dani, Dario Guarascio, Joana Mendes, Agustin José Menéndez, Harm Schepel and Mike Wilkinson respond to a recent proposal to overhaul the EU’s current fiscal framework. They argue that while the EU’s fiscal rules should undoubtedly be reformed, a more radical solution is required that puts democratic politics at the heart of the EU’s fiscal governance.
When, after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU’s finance ministers decided to trigger the “general escape clause” of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), they expressed a “full commitment” to the SGP. Even if temporarily suspended, it seemed beyond the pale, politically and legally, to doubt that Economic and

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What to expect from the 2021 Bulgarian parliamentary election

18 days ago

Bulgaria will go to the polls on 4 April for a parliamentary election. Petar Bankov previews the vote and assesses the prospects for each of the main parties.
On 4 April Bulgaria will hold its first regular parliamentary election following a decade of snap votes. This election, however, will not spell the end of political instability for the EU’s poorest member state, as it will occur in the aftermath of a major anti-government protest, an ongoing pandemic, and ahead of a key presidential election in the autumn that may redraw the Bulgarian political map.
In fact, such a redrawing is already happening. Contemporary Bulgarian politics remain firmly associated with Boyko Borisov, the leader of the centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB). Borisov, who has

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Putting the China-EU investment agreement in perspective – and assessing the lessons for the UK

19 days ago

At the end of last year, China and the EU reached agreement on a new investment deal, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). Robert Basedow examines the content of the agreement and assesses what lessons the UK can draw from the negotiations as it seeks to establish its own post-Brexit relationship with China.
In late December, the European Commission and Chinese government announced they had reached an agreement in principle on the so-called Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). This news drew considerable attention not only among European and Chinese observers but also in the United States and UK. Many commentators expect significant economic gains from the CAI, while others see it as a geopolitical coup and a message from Brussels and Beijing to post-Trump

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What former party leaders can tell us about Enrico Letta’s prospects with the Democratic Party

20 days ago

Enrico Letta has been elected as the new leader of the Italian Democratic Party, with almost unanimous approval at the party’s national assembly. But do party leaders that win large victories in leadership elections last longer than those who win close contests? Drawing on a new study, Giulia Vicentini and Andrea Pritoni identify how five key conditions present in leadership contests can be used to assess the likely fate of party leaders.
The centre-left Italian Democratic Party (PD) has just appointed its eight leader since its foundation in 2007, following the unexpected and contentious resignation of Nicola Zingaretti, elected barely two years ago with 66 per cent of the vote in an open primary.
With the exception of a 15-month period between 2018 and 2019, the PD has effectively

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Book Review: The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: Intimate Citizenship Regimes in a Changing Europe

22 days ago

In The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: Intimate Citizenship Regimes in a Changing Europe, Sasha Roseneil, Isabel Crowhurst, Tone Hellesund, Ana Cristina Santos and Mariya Stoilova explore the durability of the ‘couple-norm’ as an institutionalised norm backed through legal regulations, social policies and everyday practices, focusing on the experiences of individuals living in the UK, Bulgaria, Norway and Portugal. Showing how the couple-norm is both tenacious and intricate, varied and always in motion, this book will be invaluable for academics and students who study intimate citizenship regimes, intimate and couple relationships and the ways such relationships accept or resist the norms of intimate citizenship, finds Laura Makhulbayeva. 
The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: Intimate

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What next for Angela Merkel’s CDU after two regional election defeats?

23 days ago

Disappointing results in two regional elections on 14 March have raised doubts about the potential for the CDU to remain in power at Germany’s federal election in September. John Ryan writes that with the party suffering from accusations of corruption and growing public dissatisfaction over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is no longer unthinkable that an alternative coalition without the CDU could form the next German government.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the ruling party of German chancellor Angela Merkel, has been dealt bitter blows in two important state elections. While the results are in part a reflection of regional politics, they also function as a practical indicator ahead of September’s federal election. The results also raise questions for the new

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It is time to seriously consider the advantages of a world federal government

24 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis, yet it has largely been managed by states acting independently. Arvind Ashta argues that in light of the pandemic, we should seriously consider the potential advantages of moving toward a world federal government.
In a previous EUROPP article written during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, I examined ways of financing measures to tackle Covid-19 and the relaunch of the global economy. In the concluding paragraph, I proposed a world federal government.
Federalism has many advantages, as explained in the Federalist Papers more than two centuries ago, including peace and free movement of people and capital within defined borders. The inability of states to deal with the pandemic should encourage us to explore new approaches to

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Holding frequent national elections may lead to lower turnout in European Parliament elections

25 days ago

If citizens are frequently called upon to vote in elections, are they less likely to participate? Drawing on a new study, Jeffrey Nonnemacher investigates whether the number of national elections held in a country has an impact on turnout levels in elections for the European Parliament. He finds that when states hold several national elections across a short period of time, there is an observable decline in turnout in the following European Parliament election, particularly among low interest and low propensity voters.
In the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, turnout rose from a historic low in 2014 of 42.6 per cent to 50.7 per cent. Despite this increase, turnout is still low relative to turnout in national elections and varies drastically across the European Union, with

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Capitalising on a crisis? Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on populist parties in western Europe

26 days ago

The tendency for citizens to ‘rally round the flag’ during a crisis led many observers to assume the Covid-19 outbreak would be a negative development for the electoral fortunes of populist parties. Yet as Brett Meyer explains, this pattern has been far from uniform across western Europe. Drawing on a new study, he highlights several structural changes brought on by the pandemic which may ultimately play to the strengths of populist politicians.
It has become clear that Covid-19 hasn’t been the severe blow to populism that some commentators had predicted. And this is in part because, contrary to the experience with Donald Trump in the United States, most populist leaders around the world took Covid-19 seriously. But populist leaders who took Covid-19 seriously still varied in how

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What happened to the Dutch left?

27 days ago

Opinion polls ahead of the Dutch general election have presented a bleak picture for the country’s three classic left parties. But were these parties ever that strong and, if so, when did they decline? Cas Mudde addresses some popular myths about the Dutch left’s past and the challenges now shaping its future.
What is happening to the Dutch left? This is a question that has been asked several times in recent weeks. It is often a response to a new poll in the run-up to the parliamentary election this Wednesday, which have consistently shown stagnation at low levels. The most recent aggregate poll (Peilingwijzer) has the country’s classic left parties at a combined strength of between 21.2 and 25.6 percent. Where has the Dutch left gone? Was it ever that strong and when and why did it

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Book Review: Statelessness: A Modern History by Mira L. Siegelberg

28 days ago

In Statelessness: A Modern History, Mira L. Siegelberg traces the emergence and codification of statelessness – the condition of not possessing citizenship and the rights and benefits attached to it in any state – and its impact on the boundaries of the interstate order during, in between and following the First and Second World Wars. This is a compelling and impressive contribution that demonstrates how statelessness intertwines with other foundational political concepts, such as sovereignty, citizenship and human rights, and invites readers to think about the predicament of stateless people today, writes Isadora Dullaert.
Statelessness: A Modern History. Mira L. Siegelberg. Harvard University Press. 2020.
Find this book (affiliate link):
Citizenship matters. As Maha Mamo, a

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Covid-19 vaccination programmes are showcasing the merits of digital healthcare

March 12, 2021

The global effort to implement Covid-19 vaccination programmes poses substantial logistical challenges. Shane Markowitz argues the early evidence from successful vaccination rollouts highlights the value of digital healthcare approaches.   
As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout steadily gains steam globally, a wider range of groups are becoming eligible for inoculation. Yet confusion and frustration are rampant, with governments encountering logistical obstacles in reaching populations and individuals struggling to navigate vaccine hotlines, websites, and clinics to secure appointments.
Compared to the US and the UK, the European Union, moreover, is hampered by severe supply constraints prompted by vaccine production delays and under-procurement. The bloc’s vaccine provisions

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Covid-19 vaccines and the competition between independent and politicised models of regulation

March 11, 2021

The regulatory approaches used to approve Covid-19 vaccines vary substantially across different countries. While some states assign responsibility for vaccine approval to independent regulatory agencies, politicians in other states have greater scope to influence decision-making. Eva Heims and Slobodan Tomic write that the current push to roll out vaccination programmes as quickly as possible is shining a light on competition between these independent and politicised models of regulation.
A good deal of commentary on the approval and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines has taken a geopolitical lens in which the focus has been on the ‘race’ between nations, or more broadly, between what can roughly be called the Eastern and Western bloc. Yet one aspect that has been insufficiently

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How transnational party alliances in the European Union facilitate learning between national political parties

March 10, 2021

Many political parties in European countries belong to transnational party alliances, which are most visible in the party groups of the European Parliament. But do these alliances influence the policy platforms adopted by parties in domestic politics? Drawing on a new study, Roman Senninger, Daniel Bischof and Lawrence Ezrow illustrate how transnational alliances help facilitate learning and policy emulation between national political parties.
Research on party competition usually focuses on domestic factors driving party behaviour, such as public opinion, rival parties, and economic conditions. More recently, scholars have started to look beyond the domestic level by examining how foreign factors – such as the world economy – impact on the behaviour of political parties.
As part of

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Supporters of populist parties exhibit higher levels of political engagement than non-populist voters

March 9, 2021

Supporters of populist parties are often assumed to have low levels of political engagement. Drawing on a new study of voters in nine European countries, Andrea L. P. Pirro and Martín Portos argue that this perception is largely misguided. When non-electoral forms of political participation are considered, those who vote for populist parties exhibit higher levels of engagement than supporters of non-populist parties.
Populism is all the rage. Few European countries remain immune from populist parties (we now count Malta and Ireland) and in at least a handful of countries (e.g. Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, and Poland) populist parties hold the majority of seats in national parliaments. The recent performances of Vox in the 2019 Spanish general election and Chega in the 2021 Portuguese

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What Thomas Hobbes might say about Boris Johnson and the Northern Ireland Protocol

March 8, 2021

The EU has indicated it intends to pursue legal action against the UK over the extension of grace periods for post-Brexit checks on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain. Vittorio Bufacchi argues that while the UK’s approach may bring short-term benefits, these will be insignificant when set against the long-term reputational costs that come with breaking international agreements.
Pacta Sunt Servanda: “commitments must be honoured”. We owe this phrase to the 17th century Dutch natural law philosopher, jurist, and diplomat Hugo Grotius. It would seem that the tutors behind the expensive classical education Boris Johnson received at Eton and Oxford skipped over this lesson, or perhaps it was Boris Johnson who skipped this class. In any case, his decision to unilaterally

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The one glaring omission in Draghi’s plan for Italy: collective action

March 8, 2021

Italy’s new government, led by the former President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has pledged to confront the key problems facing the country. Andrea Lorenzo Capussela argues there is nevertheless one notable omission in the plan Draghi has set out: collective action. To break from the inefficient equilibria that structure Italian society, citizens and firms must receive credible signals that change will be sustained. Sending them, however, would be an eminently political act.
Rome’s new government has been praised for its programme and the quality of some of its members, and decried as ‘technocratic’. ‘Technocratic-led’ seems a better description, adopting the term from a useful analysis published on this blog: but this cabinet does mark a departure from the ordinary

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Book Review: Unsustainable Inequalities: Social Justice and the Environment by Lucas Chancel

March 7, 2021

In Unsustainable Inequalities: Social Justice and the Environment, Lucas Chancel demonstrates the role that economic inequality plays in maintaining social injustice and environmental unsustainability, exploring ways to better balance the reduction of socio-economic inequality and the strengthening of environmental protections. This is an accessible, relevant and thought-provoking analysis that uses well-presented facts and figures to unpack the intricate relationship between social injustice and environmental harm, finds Gayathri D. Naik. 
If you are interested in this book, you can listen to or watch author Lucas Chancel in conversation with LSE’s Dr Alina Averchenkova, recorded at an October 2020 online event hosted by LSE’s International Inequalities Institute.

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Forgotten key workers: Why migrant domestic carers deserve greater support

March 5, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the role of key workers in providing essential services. Michael Leiblfinger and Veronika Prieler examine the case of migrant domestic carers, who perform a vital service in many European countries. They argue that while there has been a great deal of discussion about the service live-in carers provide, there has been relatively little done to improve their working conditions.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted some employees as critical or key workers who are typically not highly regarded. Food and other necessary goods workers, including agricultural labourers and supermarket staff, transportation workers, parcel delivery staff, and health and social care workers, received increased public attention when the pandemic first spread

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