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Craig Willy

Craig Willy

This is the blog of European affairs writer Craig James Willy. Elite and popular discourse on the European Union tends to have a weak relationship with reality. Both pundits and politicians – whether American liberals or conservatives, British eurosceptics or simply French – tend to project their national dreams and nightmares upon it. I have a nuanced analysis of Europe based on the primacy and diversity of national realities and on actual EU decision-making practices.

Articles by Craig Willy

The Romanian Palimpsest

March 12, 2016

The foreigner in Romania is immediately struck by the country’s hybrid culture. This is obvious from the first words one learns to garble:  piața (very close pronunciation to Italian’s piazza), mersi (from the French merci, though the “r” is a little more rolled), da (yes…), or even bacşiş (baksheesh). We then have a mysterious mélange of Western and Eastern Europe, the Romanian roots are decidedly mixed.

Like in any country, the stages of Romanian history form layers which are always visible, as with sedimentary rocks accumulated by water. But perhaps this is more visible in Romania, for reasons which will become apparent.
These layers are often very beautiful. Around the Danube delta, in the east of the country, we find ruins of settlements built by the Greeks, Romans, and later the Genovese (who, seeking Black Sea trade, ended up remarkably far from their native Italy).
In the north, there is the blue monastery of Voroneț, built during the Middle Ages by Stephen the Great, Prince of Moldova, whose wall paintings show and glorify the saints’ innumerable heroic martyrdoms. Stephen was declared Athleta Christi (“champion of Christ”) by the Pope in recognition of his military resistance to the Turks.

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Krugman Vindicated?: Eurozone Debt Apparently Falling

October 27, 2015

To be precise: the Eurozone’s (and the wider EU’s) debt-to-GDP is apparently declining, falling 0.5 points to 92.2% between the first and second quarters of this year. Apparently this was thanks to growth in Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, and especially Germany.

But I don’t quite understand how this is possible given that Eurozone growth on average is still very low, almost certainly too low to make up for continuing deficits.
Eurozone GDP grew by 0.5% in first quarter of 2015 (annualized 2%?), while the most recent deficit figures for 2014 show the Eurozone with a 2.6% public deficit (lower than the 3% deficit rule, but that’s mostly because Germany has a small surplus).
With my little calculator here, I find that 2% growth would have reduced debt-to-GDP of 92.7% by 1.8 points. Which is quite a bit lower than the Eurozone’s 2.6% deficit in 2014. So, unless there was a big decline in the deficit, in the first quarter of 2015, you would think debt-to-GDP would still be increasing or stagnant, not dropping by 0.5 points.
So I do not know what is going on. Perhaps the deficit really went down a lot in Q1 2015. Quarter-on-quarter Eurostat data also can have weird glitches. For example, Poland once had a big drop in debt-to-GDP because of an accounting move which shifted pensions from a public to a private plan.

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ECB’s Cœuré Calls on Politicians to Hurry Up and Build the Eurozone Superstate and Federal Budget

October 19, 2015

Credit: Politico/European Voice

Speaking at an Interparliamentary Conference “Towards a Progressive Europe” organized by the German Social Democrats (presumably an event with MPs from different countries), the European Central Bank’s Benoît Cœuré has fleshed out his vision of the Eurozone some more.
Cœuré was candid about his “frustration” in attending high-level Eurozone meetings and urged the politicians (which presumably included MPs from different countries) to come up with a positive narrative for a kind of Eurozone Federation – as opposed to a reactive, negative narrative focused on greater Eurozone powers for narrow crisis management – as “an opportunity for Europe to move forward in the Weberian sense.” Sic!

I am glad to see that Parliaments are at the forefront of the debate on the future of Economic and Monetary Union or EMU. You may wonder what an unelected central banker has to say about the political foundations of EMU. After all, the European Central Bank (ECB) is not a political institution. Indeed, for our work to be effective, the “M” in EMU must be kept free from political interference. But to secure this in the long term, we need to develop the “E”, so economic union, further. I will argue today that the political dimension of economic union will be crucial.

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Why is so much official EU art ugly?

October 8, 2015

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi recently spoke at an art competition organized by his institution the themes of “Stability and Independence” (which may as well be the ECB’s motto) and “United in Diversity” (the European Union’s official one):

“If I had to do it again, I would begin with culture.”
This quote is often attributed to Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. There is a debate whether he actually said it. But whether he did so or not, it is a great point. Art abolished borders well before they began to be removed from maps through the European project. […]
Artists are often ahead of their time. Their artworks tend to escape political constraints, to denounce nationalism, and overcome wars. […] Art is part of European history, of European heritage at its best. It also reminds us that values are not only monetary.
This is why the ECB, like most central banks around the world, collects works of art. Since the beginning our focus has been on contemporary art. Today, our collection consists of 320 works created by 170 artists from 20 countries. It includes paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and object art.
One of the latest additions is the installation in the market hall, “Frankfurters, 1980”, by Thomas Bayrle, whom I would like to warmly welcome tonight as well.

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Draghi: EU is “most advanced experiment” in transnational government

October 7, 2015

The Atlantic Council – a Washington-based NATO-spirited think-tank – has given a “global citizen” award to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, providing the chief with an opportunity to expound on the significance of the European Union:

The fate of Europe is naturally of immediate interest to its citizens. But it is also indeed of direct relevance to the world at large. The European Union and its monetary union are regional projects with global implications. [. . .]
To my mind, however, there is another reason why the euro area is crucially relevant to the global economy. It comes from the fact that European integration is by far the most advanced experiment in managing issues that cut across borders, through a combination of international and supranational arrangements. [. . .]
But now, the nature of the many challenges we face shows how right this approach fundamentally was: think of migrants seeking refuge in our countries, the threat of terrorism, the consequences of climate change, the recent succession of financial and economic crises. And these challenges are not specific to Europe. They are global.
I am certainly not suggesting that the path followed by Europe to manage them is replicable at a global level.

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Eurostat: Women Outnumber Men 2-to-1 in Teaching Across Europe (But Still Under-Represented in Universities)

October 6, 2015

Eurostat has published some interesting data on women and age in teaching.
In 2013, 8.3 million persons worked as teaching staff (from pre-primary to tertiary level) in the European Union (EU), of which 5.8 million (70%) were women. Women were largely predominant in the early stages of education, representing 95% of all teachers at pre-primary education level and 85% at primary level. In contrast, the majority of teaching staff at tertiary education level were men (59%).

This pattern is remarkably consistent, north and south, east and west. The former communist countries in general have more women teaching, but this is not particularly marked. Many supposedly egalitarian Nordics also have a notable lack of men teaching (Iceland: 86.4% female, Sweden: 74%).
Feminists will see proof of the shocking extent of the pervasive patriarchal culture preventing women from becoming an equal share of rocket scientists and CEOs – despite the West being by far the most gender progressive civilization today (and arguably historically). Evolutionary thinkers will see confirmation that women continue, despite anti-stereotyping efforts, to have an adaptive predisposition to liking the idea of nurturing children (rather than, say, getting into stupid arguments about abstract stuff on blogs).
Interestingly, the most gender-egalitarian nation in terms of teaching is Turkey with only 53%.

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Why is free Kosovo providing highest number of “asylum-seekers” to the EU?

September 3, 2015

According to the most-recently published statistics, there were 185,000 first-time asylum-seekers in the EU in the first quarter of this year. Contrary to what you might think, the biggest group was not  the highly-publicized Syrians or Eritreans, but Kosovars, whom we purportedly liberated in 1999.
Who are these 49,000 Kosovars? Are they ethnic Serbs suffering under ethnic Albanian rule? Or are they ethnic Albanians, because being ruled by a corrupt ethnic mafia of terrorists and organ-traffickers is sufficient grounds for seeking asylum? How many are seeking Western European goodies rather than “fleeing persecution”?

Incidentally, this is a good example of how Open Borders do not solve the poor country’s problems as “more than two-thirds of Kosovar Albanians already living outside Kosovo, most of them in EU countries.” And yet, more are still coming.
Will the last person in Kosovo please turn off the lights? Maybe the last person could also give the keys to the province back to Serbia.  Was it really worth violating international law to bomb Serbia, and worth breaking our promise* not to unilaterally amputate Kosovo, if the overwhelming majority of Kosovars cannot be bothered to stay there and develop the country?
By the way, the Prime Minister of Albania has said “unification” of Kosovo and Albania is “inevitable.

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Eurostat: Non-EU migrants less educated, more idle than average

September 1, 2015

The People have demanded more coverage of EU/Eurozone politics, migration and race relations in Europe, and European history (in that order). Basically, more of the same. Let it be done.
Eurostat is launching “a series of publications on migrant integration.” A first press release shows that non-EU migrants are quarter less likely to be higher-educated, almost two times as likely to be idle “NEETs,” and over 2.5 times as likely to not have a high-school diploma as the native-born. This is considerably worse in all spheres than EU migrants.

Eurostat goes on to note:

Low education level prevails among the non-EU population living in the EU
In 2014 in the EU, more than 40% (43.9%) of non-EU citizens aged 18 to 64 had a low education level, while this proportion was around 25% for both citizens of the reporting country (nationals) and for citizens of another EU Member State (23.4% and 25.9% respectively). Discrepancies were however lower for the share of the population with a high education level, which stood at 23.0% for non-EU citizens, compared with 27.3% for nationals and 31.0% for citizens of another EU Member State.

EU migrants (i.e. EU citizens living in another EU country) tend to be significantly more-educated and more-likely to be working or learning than non-EU migrants.

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Viviane Reding’s Case for the United States of Europe (and her Critique of EU “Neoliberalism”)

August 30, 2015

In November 2012, then-European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding (mainly known to the general public for her tiff with France over Roma deportations and her advocacy of feminine quotas on corporate boards) gave a noted speech advocating a “United States of Europe.” The speech presents a history of the idea of a European federal State (mainly citing Victor Hugo, but also mentioning Washington, Bonaparte, Mazzini, Coudenhove-Kalergi, and Spinelli), and the (now common) rationale for a quasi-federal economic government to stabilize and democratize the Eurozone.
I have to admit that when Reding first made her speech I did not read it. Having been a reporter in Brussels for EurActiv, I was put off by too many moralistic exhortations for “more Europe” from the Guy Verhofstadts, the Daniel Cohn-Bendits, and other professional moralizers. This was a mistake, as Reding’s speech is interesting in presenting an account of Germanic (Luxembourgish/German) ambition and reasoning for a United States of Europe in the 1990s, and for an interesting critique of the existing European Treaties’ failures (“neoliberalism” and “national sovereignty”).

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Actual poll: What do you want?

August 28, 2015

As is getting a new lease on life, what better time to consult the People on which direction to go? As such I have decided to indulge in a rare exercise of democracy. You get three (3) votes. Use them wisely!

Fine print: Results are non-binding and may be abrogated at any time should the People vote wrongly.

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ECB’s Cœuré on the Future of the Eurozone

August 27, 2015

European Central Bank Executive Board Member Benoît Cœuré has made another highly-interesting speech on the future of the Eurozone (également disponible en français, und auf Deutsch) to the annual assembly of French ambassadors in Paris (see previously his interview with Le Monde). Cœuré covers a lot of the problems, paradoxes, and subtleties of the current situation well, and does not sugarcoat things. (Presumably because, as an unelected expert taking taking almost monarchical sovereign decisions, he doesn’t have to pander or simplify like your average politician, nor, apparently, do ECB speeches require as many OKs and approvals as do Commission speeches.) A few money quotes.

On the paradox of the Eurozone’s relative economic failure and continued popular and elite support:
[T]he people of Europe and their governments are far more attached to the single currency than certain observers have suggested. […] [O]ur institutional framework is not yet sufficient to complete Economic and Monetary Union when it comes to economic, fiscal and financial matters. The ECB does not currently have a strong political counterpart in these areas. Thus, our monetary union will remain imperfect, will not be as prosperous as it could be and will face the risk of repeated crises if we fail to address our economic and political differences.

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