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Protesilaos Stavrou

Protesilaos Stavrou

My name is Protesilaos, also known as “Prot”. I was born in Greece, the summer of 1988. I was trained to be a political scientist/economist; a specialist in the European integration process and the governance of the Economic and Monetary Union. I speak and write in English, Greek, and French, while I have a basic understanding of Spanish and Portuguese. Since June 25, 2015, I restarted writing analyses on the European Union, with an emphasis on the euro. I I am always eager to reevaluate—even directly contradict—my opinions in the face of more cogent arguments or upon further reflection.

Articles by Protesilaos Stavrou

On the new conservative narratives

2 days ago

A recent article by Lídia Brun and Mario Ríos about the false dilemma between neoliberal globalisation and nationalist protectionism got me thinking about the emerging patterns of right wing politics, the dominant narratives of our time, the challenges the left is confronted with and, more generally, the direction capitalism seems to be taking.1 It is indeed easy to fall into the trap of being distracted from what really matters. Simplistic, binary thinking greatly diminishes the quality of the public debate. It hampers any effort to formulate a more eclectic, considered position. Nuance is lost as the extremes become louder. Important information and the details of policy are largely ignored as controversies centre on headline issues. Hence the ease with which demagogues manage to

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Comment on the Summit of Southern EU countries

15 days ago

The Summit of Southern European Union countries is an informal platform that brings together the heads of state or government of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. On April 10 it held its third meeting in Madrid. The declaration that came out of it is of particular importance, especially in terms of the symbolic significance of southern EU countries coordinating their actions on the European front.1

As was so readily apparent during the height of the euro crisis, and more recently on issues of migration and asylum, these countries do have many things in common. Working together only improves their chances of finding optimal solutions at the supranational level while contributing to the overall balance of influence and perspectives within the EU.

The EU

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War in Syria: what can the EU do

19 days ago

The USA has struck against positions in Syria, presumably as a response to the latest chemical attack. Given President Trump’s u-turn on military intervention, and the overall unilateralism of the American policy, one cannot be certain as to what happens next. The escalation of the crisis, or anyhow the deterioration to an even worse state of affairs, cannot be excluded. In the face of this new chapter in the tragedy that is the war in Syria, the European Union should unequivocally stand for the respect of international law and only promote multilateralism as a means of arriving at a compromise agreement that will end hostilities.

There are a number of reasons calling for restraint and deliberation.

At first, the responsibility over the chemical attacks has not been clarified. A

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ECB independence: concept, scope, and implications

24 days ago

Over the last year or so, I have written at length about the independence and accountability of the European Central Bank. In the present article I consolidate my criticism of the status quo and further expand on it. The analysis centres on the particularities of the ECB’s institutional position and tackles the various arguments in support of it. Each point is addressed in its own section. The contents are outlined as follows:

definition of independence;
medium term outlook and election cycles;
narrow mandate and accountability;
statelessness and heterogeneity of the euro area.
1. Definition of independence

The European Central Bank is the institution of the European Union tasked with performing the monetary function. The ECB is part of the Union-wide European System of

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Treaty for Euro democracy: a four-fold critique

29 days ago

Benoît Hamon, the socialist candidate for the French Presidential elections, has furnished a proposal for democratising the euro area. It comes in the form of a draft treaty, which has been put together by a group of eminent scholars, with Thomas Piketty probably the most famous among them. The document, titled “Treaty on the democratization of the governance of the euro area (T-Dem)” (here is the download link to the text in pdf format), aims to provide a framework for the near future reform of Europe’s economic governance, specifically as concerns the euro area.1

Such contributions are most welcome. They broaden the debate on Europe’s future and can, by that token, enrich it even further. It is encouraging that in light of national elections, European matters are given serious

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Open comment on the Commission’s White Paper

March 27, 2017

Context: The European Commission recently published a White Paper on the future of the European Union. It now asks for citizens to send them their comments via an official form. As my blog commentary on the White Paper greatly exceeds the 2000 character limit they have set, I have decided to write a summary of my main points, submit it, and also share it with the public. I urge you to send the Commission your own thoughts. If you find any of the following useful, feel free to copy/paste accordingly.

The White Paper succeeds in its function: it engenders a debate about the EU’s future. Its timing is appropriate, while the plan of complementing it with a series of specialised reflection papers does hold promise.

Where the Paper could improve is on its overall ambition. The Commission

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On the Rome Declaration

March 26, 2017

On March 25 European leaders gathered in Rome to celebrate the sixty years since the Treaty of Rome. The event itself was unlike the typical high level meeting of the European Council, in that the emphasis was on forms and symbols. Europeans needed to show unity in the face of growing scepticism as to the viability of the integration process. The Rome Declaration is meant to dispel any such fears.

The EU is here to stay. The eventuality of Brexit is already treated as a special case. These are confirmed by actual policies: European politics continues to deliver new measures and/or reforms to existing programmes, with much more expected once this election year is over. Nevertheless, the importance of all European leaders standing behind this project cannot be underestimated. In spite

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Comment on the 60 years of European integration

March 24, 2017

March 25 marks the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome; the treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC). Its ambition was to create a single market among its member countries. Either by political initiative or the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, trade barriers were gradually dismantled, while a rich corpus of rights for individuals was developed. The former contributed to the ultimate telos of free trade, while the latter provided the foundation of the European citizenship.

In the 1990s the EEC gave way to its successor organisation: the European Union. What once started off as a technocratic exercise in trade policy evolved into an overarching vision for the eventual political unification of Europe. Spearheading the shift in scope was a plan for a

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Comment on the EU strategy against Da’esh

March 23, 2017

A year after the Brussels attacks, the European Union’s External Action Service published a fact sheet documenting the Union’s efforts against terrorism.1 For the most part, these involve targeted funding to third countries that seem to have a higher likelihood of fostering Jihad-inspired terrorist activity. As per the fact sheet:

The total amount of EU funding for projects aimed at Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) today is €300M. The focus of such projects is primarily on the Middle East and North Africa, but the Western Balkans, Turkey, Central Asia and Pakistan also fall within the geographical scope.

What stands as a glaring omission in this context is the Union’s strategy against home grown terrorist cells. For instance, recent news items highlighted that in

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NATO is not enough for the EU

March 15, 2017

The war of words with Turkey, regardless of who started it, what are its merits or demerits, is a stark reminder that NATO is just a military alliance. It is largely indifferent to constitutional norms and democratic standards or, to put it differently, it neither shares nor promotes the values of the EU. For NATO that should not be of any concern. It was conceived as a defence organisation and remains exactly that. Whereas the EU—the euro area in particular—has ambitions for a political union, a European sovereign with a common constitutional order that rests on—and expands upon—the connatural values of democracy, fundamental rights, and the rule of law.

The EU is dependent on NATO for its defence. Europeans have arguably benefited from the ever-growing war machine of the United States.

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Thoughts on the White Paper about the future of Europe

March 9, 2017

In preparation of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the European Commission published a White Paper on the future of the European Union.1 The document is specifically about the EU27, with Brexit considered a done deal. It reflects on five scenarios about the shape of European politics by 2025. These namely are: (1) persisting on the current path, (2) focusing on the single market, (3) multi-speed and multi-tier integration with coalitions of the willing leading the way, (4) a clearer, yet narrower role for EU policy action, (5) the EU27 does more as a whole.

In itself, the Commission’s paper is interesting and fecund. It invites reflection on the specifics of the integration process at a time when so much seems to be at stake. It calls upon the Member States to put forward their

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Thoughts on the EPP position about EU reform

February 16, 2017

Given the prevailing conditions in European politics, the position of the European People’s Party (EPP) on the reform of the European Union is of particular importance. Their members are established at the highest levels of all the policy-making institutions of the Union: the presidents of the European Commission, European Parliament, and European Council. The EPP has the capacity to mould the integration process to its own liking or, at the very least, to have a decisive say on what gets to be done. Any position paper coming from their side must, thus, be treated as a clear indication of where things are going. One such paper was published on the 15th of February.1 It consists of five sets of proposals, though there is an emphasis on security, defence, and concomitant issues.

In the

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On EU differentiated integration

February 8, 2017

It has been 25 years since the Treaty of Maastricht. That is when the European Union was established as the successor organisation to the European Economic Community. It also is when the euro was envisaged as the final stage of the nascent Economic and Monetary Union. The Treaty of Maastricht can be considered a milestone. It signalled the change in scope of the European integration process and, most importantly, set the ambition to proceed towards political union.

While political union remains a laudable objective, the Treaty did not change the overarching theme of post-war European politics: inter-state cooperation, with the supranational level being an extension of the collective will of the participating nation states. Whatever the unity among Europeans, it is one based on the

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On the near future financing of the EU

February 4, 2017

Reform in the European Union typically involves a long period of reflection and deliberation. To explore the possibilities provided by the Treaties. Evaluate the overall political climate and the position of Member States. Assess the likely impact of the reform. Such gradualism can prove an impediment under certain circumstances though it typically improves the openness of the European integration process.

A case where reform is proceeding at a slow yet steady pace is on the EU’s system of own resources and the corresponding budget, formally referred to as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). In February 2014, an inter-institutional body representing the European Commission, the Council of the EU, and the European Parliament, started its work on the current and future financing of

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ECB independence and inflation targeting

January 26, 2017

There is this view, particularly among economists, that a central bank’s commitment to an inflation target is a sufficient benchmark for its accountability and institutional independence. A view along those lines is expressed by Lucrezia Reichlin in her recent opinion piece for Project Syndicate:1

While some central banks have more flexibility than others in managing price stability, they have all publicly committed to numerical targets. Without such accountability (and transparent communication), their independence would be hard to justify.

In the following sections I explain why this approach needs to account for the specifics and why it remains inadequate in its current form.

Difference between price stability and inflation

In the European Union—and insofar as the European

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Thoughts on left wing populism

January 17, 2017

Brexit, the recrudescence of nationalist sentiment throughout Europe, rule of law crises in at least a couple of EU Member States, rising xenophobia and euroscepticism, and growing support for a securitarian agenda in the struggle against jihad-inspired terrorism. The items that dominate the public debate are [anti-]migration, an oversimplified question of how to roll back the powers of ‘Brussels’, and how to calcify Europe’s borders while reinforcing the security and surveillance apparatus. Politics in Europe seldom are about practical ways to ensure transnational solidarity, provide for system-wide macroeconomic stabilisation, guarantee openness and foster democracy on a continental scale. These are dismissed as the fancies of “rootless cosmopolitans” or some naive liberals.

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What future for the euro area?

December 23, 2016

A recent paper by France Stratégie tackles the persistent questions surrounding the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, in particular as pertains to the institutional framework underpinning the euro.1 The document comes at a critical juncture, with elections in France and Germany in the horizon and the expectation that much will start happening towards the end of 2017.

Moreover, it provides much needed stimulus—and cogent arguments—to the overall debate about the future of the EMU about a year and a half after the European Commission published its so-called “Five Presidents’ report”.2 Not much has happened to date, at least not insofar as the incoherence of the present system is concerned. This paper is unlikely to alter that trend in and of itself. That is not its purpose anyhow.

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Can European open societies deal with terrorism?

December 22, 2016

What happened in Berlin is the latest in a concatenation of events that share a common theme. They are attacks against the very openness of the societies affected. In the twisted worldview of fundamentalism, in this case of the jihad sort, there can be no such thing as a plurality of views and attitudes towards life. Everything has to conform to a certain binary. ‘Followers’ and ‘apostates’. It is an absolute “we against them”, which culminates in hatred and violence towards the ‘other’, the aberration as they see it.

Europe has a past filled with that kind of absolutely exclusivist mentality. Two World Wars, fascism, and nazism, come to mind as recent cases. Societies have since evolved. They have learned to tolerate differences in opinion, political and cultural outlook, lifestyle and

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My website’s plans for 2017

December 20, 2016

We are fast approaching the new year. And I am more excited than ever. The reason is that I have been doing a lot of background work in preparation of what is to come. Today I will share with you some details.

Let us start with the first piece of the puzzle: secure protocol. This website is now served via a certified connection. The indication of a lock button should be displayed on your browser’s url bar. That means safety. You know that the content presented herein is indeed legitimate. You can also trust that any action you perform on these pages will be protected from external interference. A secure website is one that respects its users.

Speaking of users, your experience on protesilaos.com is my priority. I want it to be easy to browse through these pages. Fast loading. Clear,

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Is the European Parliament under-powered?

December 11, 2016

What is the institutional role of the European Parliament? Is it under-powered?

I got this set of questions from a university student. Their professor assigned them a project where they had to explore the European Parliament’s institutional functions, whether it is powerful or not, and why that may be.

So here is my approach for current and future students of European politics and for citizens in general.

Reaching the ordinary legislative procedure

Historically the European Parliament (EP) was a weak institutional actor. Its participation in the legislative process was not always on an equal footing to the other legislative institution of the Union, the Council of the EU (Council).

What we know today as the EP is the successor to the Common Assembly [of the European Communities].

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On populism and saving the euro

December 7, 2016

Anyone who followed the EU-related news over the last few days must have gotten the impression that the euro area is facing imminent breakdown. Presidential elections in Austria and the referendum over constitutional reform in Italy threatened to jeopardise Europe’s single currency.

Every time a body of citizens is about to perform their democratic right of casting their vote, a significant portion of the commentariat or official sources raises the alarm on the viability of the EU or some of its institutional arrangements. The implicit suggestion is that Europe only stands with pro-establishment forces in government. Democracy is thus reduced to a simplistic binary of “EU or chaos”.

There is a clear pattern here. The Greeks go to vote, a ‘Grexit’ is about to happen. Tsipras becomes the

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On Europe: federation and republic

December 6, 2016

About Jakub Jermář
Jakub is a software engineer. He loves history and is a contributor to free and open source software. On the political front, he is the translator of the European Federalist Papers into Czech. His views on Europe, expressed through blogs, seminars, and social media, are outright federalist. The current model of the European Union does not conform to his ideal. It is a confederation, not a union of citizens. Jakub holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

About a year ago, Jakub and I had an exchange of views on the notion of the European Union as a confederation. In the meantime, not much has changed in terms of the overall architecture of the EU. What applied then

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Is the European Union sovereign?

November 20, 2016

Sovereignty is the supreme authority within the polity. The legitimacy of officials, the legality of the legal system, the specifics of the institutional order, are all predicated on it. In the absence of a recognisable sovereign there can be tensions, disputes, or even conflict as to who or what may rightfully control the means of governance. In that regard, sovereignty can be understood as the basis of a ‘social contract’.

A tradition that traces its roots in history to at least as back as the French Revolution, holds that sovereignty essentially resides in the nation. Only the nation state is sovereign. It is the entity that embodies the national will. It defines its constitutional identity: the framework of practical morality for the organisation of society. The locus of sovereignty,

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Is the European Union sovereign?

November 20, 2016

Sovereignty is the supreme authority within the polity. The legitimacy of officials, the legality of the legal system, the specifics of the institutional order, are all predicated on it. In the absence of a recognisable sovereign there can be tensions, disputes, or even conflict as to who or what may rightfully control the means of governance. In that regard, sovereignty can be understood as the basis of a ‘social contract’.

A tradition that traces its roots in history to at least as back as the French Revolution, holds that sovereignty essentially resides in the nation. Only the nation state is sovereign. It is the entity that embodies the national will. It defines its constitutional identity: the framework of practical morality for the organisation of society. The locus of sovereignty,

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Essays on Sovereignty

November 14, 2016

1. Introduction
This book represents an attempt to analyse and in some ways interpret sovereignty. What it is. Its factors and scopes. The shortcomings of its mainstream conception. The distinction between its headline presence and the effective control over the means of governance.

Sovereignty is one of the fundamental concepts of modern political thinking. It also is the one most likely to be revised in light of developments in international relations, the integration of global and regional trade, advances in information technology, and the emergence of cyber as the irreducible factor of many an activity and social experience.

Essays on Sovereignty (hereinafter also referred to as “Essays” or “this/the book”) is for the most part a piece of political theory. The very

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Conclusion and special thanks

November 14, 2016

Essays on Sovereignty is referred to as a ‘book’ for the sake of convenience. A more appropriate description would be a collection of articles that share a common theme. The distinction is subtle, just like many of the points covered herein. It is meant to suggest that the parts of this piece of labour can stand on their own right, save some references to their context (e.g. “in the previous chapter…”).

Articles such as the Factors of effective sovereignty, The market as a political agent, On self-determination could easily be posted as standalone blog posts. Reading them on their own will not detract from the analysis into their individual issues. But just like society, where each individual person can be treated in their own right, one may not appreciate the full extent of certain

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On the political relevance of cyber

November 14, 2016

The term “cyber” with its various derivatives is gradually becoming part of political parlance. Usually it is in relation to some malicious attempt to deny or sabotage an online service, leak sensitive information from a remote database, and the like. Attackers of that sort are often referred to as “hackers”, while their acts qualify as “cyber attacks”. The discussion surrounding the topic is heavily influenced by military notions of offence and defence, and by an emphasis on the kind of issues peculiar to the maintenance of public order.

While there is truth to be had in those security-focused themes, cyber cannot be conceived as merely another domain for the conduct of what effectively amounts to war. A simple way of putting it is that cyber is the extension of collective human

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The market as a political agent

November 14, 2016

This chapter starts with a seemingly problematic proposition: its very title. The market, an inanimate system of economic relations, is claimed to be a political actor, a subject of the political process. We tend to think of [democratic] politics as the theatre of voters, their representatives, media outlets, vested interests; the forum where the plurality of society’s perspectives on life is expressed (more or less). And in so doing, we may be assuming that the subject of politics is necessarily a person or group thereof. What about systems as such? Can the parameters that otherwise define a certain group themselves partake in political life?

The train of thought leads us to a question about method. It is a matter of defining the agent of politics. Agency or structure. This is the binary

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Factors of effective sovereignty

November 14, 2016

There is a distinction to be made between headline and effective sovereignty. The former concerns the formal aspect. The surface level. It is limited to the historically legal-political conception of sovereignty as the normative foundation of an internationally recognised and self-determined nation state. Whereas the latter is substantive. It treats sovereignty as supreme authority within a political whole. This amounts to the control over the means of governance, broadly understood. The two can be decoupled. There can be instances where on paper a state is considered sovereign, when in actuality it has little to no margin for its self-determination. And vice-versa.

Headline sovereignty is the kind one finds at the formal level of international relations, such as the United Nations. The

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Scopes of sovereignty

November 14, 2016

Nations choose to distribute authority within their jurisdiction in accordance with their historical-cultural experiences. In its simplest form, this is a unilateral practice. It only involves the given people. In the modern era states seldom are isolated. The margins for unilateral action are narrower than what they were once perceived to be. In this age, where information technology, global finance and trade, the ever growing significance of cyber, contribute to heightened global awareness and inter-connectedness, the default venue of self-determination is through multilateral relations.

The sovereignty of a nation is as much a function of its own collective will as well as the product of the conditions or parameters of its association with other states. To speak of sovereignty as a

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