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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 EU reflection paper about security and defence

18 days ago

On June 7, 2017 the European Commission published a “reflection paper” on the future of Europe’s defence and security policy.1 This is the fourth in the series.2 It builds on a number of initiatives that were launched in the second half of last year regarding the further integration of European Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), as well as the White Paper on the future of the EU. The overarching theme is to lay the foundations of a holistic re-imagination of the European project once this election year is over and to proceed towards the next phase of [deeper] integration by 2025.

The reflection paper itself offers precious little in terms of new content and fresh ideas. Everything it touches on has been covered at greater length in previous publications, notably the EU Global

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On the EU reflection paper about euro reform

22 days ago

On May 31, 2017 the European Commission published its third reflection paper about the future of the integration process.1 This one concerns the reform of the Economic and Monetary Union.2 Overall, it is a decent piece of work, one that combines constructive self-criticism, factual accuracy, and pragmatic suggestions for the way forward. The Commission has recognised the shortcomings of the initial EMU setup, has internalised the relevant debates on past mistakes and future prospects, and is showing willingness to act.

While an official document, the reflection paper on EMU reform, reads like an independent analysis of the state of play and of the potential states of affairs.3 That is a great positive, for it does not commit the fallacy of withdrawing the EU level from scrutiny.

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Thoughts on the future of EU defence

May 24, 2017

In ages past, security and defence were thought about in terms of one nation’s army versus another’s. National borders delineated what could be understood as spheres of security and control. The construct of the nation state provided the political legitimacy and sense of belonging to that lifeworld.

In the modern era, such a symmetric view of security and defence can only hold true if considered part of a greater picture. State versus state is no longer the norm. Asymmetric warfare, such as 9/11 or the recent Islamic State attacks in European cities, point to the diffusion of the dichotomy between internal and external scopes of security and defence.

The lines are blurred even further by the growing importance—indeed the ubiquity—of cyber space. Hacker groups, be they state

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On the EU reflection paper about globalisation

May 11, 2017

On May 10, 2017 the European Commission published its reflection paper on harnessing globalisation.1 It is the second such document in a series (the first one being about the EU’s social dimension).2 The idea is to provide all the information and data that will inform the decisions on Europe’s future priorities. The EU is at a crossroads. All sides seem to agree that the status quo is unsustainable. Disagreements are about the Union’s outlook. Either Europe will proceed with deepening its integration to some degree, or it will have to somehow be refashioned so that national governments regain certain competences. Once this election year reaches its close, the EU is expected to proceed with a range of reforms. The December 2017 European Council will likely provide the impetus for the

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Brexit and the choice between Parliaments or Populism with referenda

May 8, 2017

About Thomas Colignatus
Thomas Colignatus is the science name of Thomas Cool, an econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008), Scheveningen, Holland. His papers on economics are at MPRA and RePEc and papers on mathematics education research are at Zenodo.

I have been in contact with Thomas Colignatus,1 since 2011.2 He is an econometrician, teacher of mathematics, and researcher of mathematics education. My impression of what I have seen of his work is that of an inquisitive and original thinker. The kind of person who can exercise common sense yet still think ‘outside the box’ and use a sound basis in science. That is the sort of approach we need more of. Sensible arguments to diffuse the polarisation of public opinion and to improve the political process.

I was thus intrigued to read his recent contribution on the topic of Brexit.3 In that article Thomas suggests that there is a key problem with the Brexit referendum. The question put for voting was overly simplistic in that it presented a binary that failed to capture the complexity of the issue. But, above all, the underlying political science did not make the crucial distinction that he highlights between voting and deciding.

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Thoughts on the European Pillar of Social Rights

April 29, 2017

On April 26, the European Commission published two much anticipated documents: (i) the recommendation on the European Pillar of Social Rights, and (ii) the reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe.1

The former is meant to be a standalone legal text that will incorporate the basic social rights of European citizens. If adopted, it can be likened to the social policy equivalent of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights—an integral part of European citizenship.

As for the reflection paper, it is the first in a series of complementary publications to the Commission’s White Paper on the future of the European Union.2 Each reflection paper focuses on a certain area of policy, exploring the state of affairs and outlining the options for European integration in the near future. The idea is to prepare for the December 2017 European Council were much about the future of the European integration process will likely be determined.

The EU has the right to act on social policy

Social policy is central to the European project, both in a legal and a normative sense. The Treaties provide for a number of provisions on such matters as gender balance, non-discrimination in the workplace, equal opportunities, and the like, while there already exists a rich corpus of relevant legislation.

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On the new conservative narratives

April 24, 2017

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 muster the voting strength to influence the agenda.

The Trump presidency, Brexit and the exaggerations underpinning it, the rise of ‘illiberalism’ within the European Union—with ‘illiberalism’ being a euphemism for legally refined fascism—, the strong presence of the extreme right in France. The narratives that define right wing politics, and by extension the public debate are shifting. Nationalist sentiment is on the rise, even if the model of the Westphalian nation-state is no longer as relevant.

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Comment on the Summit of Southern EU countries

April 11, 2017

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 remains open to major reforms

Naysayers may argue that this Summit is a few years late, particularly on economic issues. Austerity was allowed to became the default EU agenda. The Fiscal Compact and the legislation underpinning economic governance are all focused on budgetary discipline and fiscal rigidity. For some, the euro itself is the embodiment of neoliberalism, at least insofar as the lack of monetary sovereignty at the national level forces the government to cope with macroeconomic adjustments by relying on fiscal means (i.e. spending cuts).

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War in Syria: what can the EU do

April 7, 2017

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 thorough investigation into the matter is needed, following approval by the United Nations. A failure to do so carries great risks, not least the ad hoc substitution of international cooperation by superpower unilateralism. The claims of the US administration, just as those of all the other sides involved in the conflict, cannot be taken at face value. Sufficient evidence is a prerequisite.

Secondly, President Trump’s ambiguous rhetoric and self-contradictions regarding foreign policy suggest that no long term plan exists, at least not one that the public is aware of.

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ECB independence: concept, scope, and implications

April 2, 2017

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 Central Banks, while it coordinates the operations of the Eurosystem, which consists of the central banks of countries whose currency is the euro. The presence of these systems is important to note, as the provisions of the Treaties on independence cover them as well, thus removing the relevant power over national institutions from national will-formation.

1.1 Legal foundation of independence

Article 130 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides the legal basis.

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Treaty for Euro democracy: a four-fold critique

March 28, 2017

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 consideration on their own grounds, rather than from the perspective of foreign policy. The fact that T-Dem is available in English further strengthens this quality. People outside France thus have a chance to read, learn, and comment accordingly.

Proceeding to the gist of the matter, T-dem follows in the footsteps of the Fiscal Compact and the ESM Treaty. It is designed as an ad hoc inter-state agreement that is meant to complement the EMU’s fiscal framework and pave the way for the eventuality of a proper amendment of the European Treaties.

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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 seems rather hesitant to express what it really believes. Instead, it withdraws to an ostensibly neutral role, presenting several scenarios as if they were equal in terms of their desirability.

It is understandable. The White Paper is not a manifesto. The Commission wants to preserve the delicate balance between the Member States. Should it appear to be acting in favour of only one particular agenda, it could be questioned by those with a different opinion on the matter.

That is, prima facie, a plausible view.

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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 their disagreements or differences in outlook, all agree that the EU is the best instrument available to them for coping with the challenges of this century.

Different speeds, different scopes

The Rome Declaration is largely devoid of actual content. That is to be expected given the celebratory nature of the event. Yet apart from a generic commitment to the usual totemic issues—economic growth, social welfare, peace and prosperity¸ etc.—there is one statement that clearly hints at the modal features of the integration process henceforth.

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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 monetary union epitomised by a single currency. The euro was conceived as—and continues to be—a catalyst for deeper and broader integration between its members. And therein lies both a potential strength and weakness to the renewed impetus to the integration process provided by the Treaty of Maastricht: differentiated integration.

The Treaty of Rome, guided by the pursuit of “ever closer union”, provided for a paradigm of compromise and consensus where all the Member States would proceed to jointly iterate on their plans.

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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 a single neighbourhood of Molenbeek there were 51 active terrorist organisations,2 while the Mayor of Brussels claimed that all mosques are controlled by Salafists.3 The problem is not the Belgian capital per se. Home grown terrorism seems to exist in a number of EU countries. Those news do, nonetheless, remind us of the fact that in a largely borderless Europe, locality is less important and that concerted action at the EU level is very much a necessity.

Salafism is a fundamentalist variant of Sunni Islam which preaches the application of the sharia.

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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. It has allowed them to effectively outsource their responsibilities on the matter, letting the Americans foot the bill. Yet it has also obscured a crucial fact about all such international dependencies: they impose constraints well beyond the narrowly defined confines of their area of application, in this case security policy.

NATO forces its own agenda

Because of NATO, the EU through [at least some of] its Member States is dragged into a mixture of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power tactics and foreign policy that is not of its own making.

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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 vision for Europe and to iterate on it. What the Commission is not doing is propound its own arguments on what should be the direction. It does not express any particular preference, at least not overtly. That is to be expected given the role of this institution as the Union’s implementing executive. It will ultimately turn into policy action whatever plan the European Council—the deciding executive—agrees to.2

And therein lies the main weakness of this document. It does not really tell us anything new.

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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 following sections, I provide some detailed comments on their main themes. I strip away the superficialities or the parts that add nothing to the policy-related field. Suffice to note that I find the document in question to be rather underwhelming in terms of its substance. It is a manifesto embellished with the usual beliefs in freedom, solidarity, and the like, as well as buzzwords regarding innovation, the younger generations, and overall progress. It is not a programmatic take on policy, which is disappointing given that the EPP is anything but a minor political force.

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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 normative foundation of existing constitutional traditions and national lifeworlds. The EU is there to amplify, complement, or otherwise support the political processes at the local level. Nations qua nation states are the founders of the EU. The Treaty on European Union as well as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union reaffirm that from the very outset and through several provisions.

The EU is a system that builds on the nation state and its claims on sovereign authority.

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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 the Union. This entity is known as the High Level Group on Own Resources (hereinafter referred to as “HLGOR”).1 A few weeks ago it delivered its final report, which contains a number of interesting findings and ideas that could already inform the negotiations for the next MFF (prior to 2020).

In the present article, I analyse—and comment on—its main points. That granted, I do recommend studying the original documents to gain a full grasp of the technicalities involved.2

A few words about the MFF

The work of HLGOR is conditioned by the peculiarities of the MFF.

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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 Central Bank (ECB) is concerned—there is an important distinction to be made between (i) price stability and (ii) the actual inflation target. The Treaties define monetary policy as an exercise in controlling the aggregate price level, so that over time money becomes constant or ‘neutral’, or so the thinking goes.

The mandate given to the ECB is to guarantee “price stability”, without any further qualifications as to what that may actually entail. No temporal horizon is envisaged. No methodology. No conditions of any sort.

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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.

Ultra-conservatism is on the rise. It manifests both as the resurgence of overt far-right parties and the dominance of radicals over moderates within the established centre-right. The political centre is shifting rightwards. What we witness is a battle to grab the headlines, often unfolding within the limits of 140 characters. It is about returning to some ostensibly glorious past when the nation reigned supreme. Fiction matters more than facts on the ground and historical experience.

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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. Though it does at least provide a perspective as to what a new French government (and others influenced by those views) could potentially aim for.

The paper, which I consider essential reading, proceeds to examine three realistically applicable models for the future of the euro. In the following sections I proceed to consider each case. That granted, I strongly recommend you read the original publication. What follows is either me paraphrasing or elaborating on my own interpretations and opinions.

Maastricht 2.

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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 personal choice. Openness is their strength, for it reveals new horizons, opportunities for different forms of intersubjective experience.

The modern standard in the EU is for institutions that strengthen and promote this openness. The diversity of opinion is safeguarded by such principles as the freedom of expression and arrangements that foster media pluralism. Differences in political and cultural expression are protected by the very system of politics that is democracy as well as universal principles of law, such as the freedom of religion.

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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, readable text. A carefully crafted and accessible user interface. That is why I am continuously introducing new elements that contribute to the overarching goal of user satisfaction. Sensible design that combines function and form into a singularly effective experience.

To this end, the books sections are being recreated. It is now more obvious that you can read each book online or gain access to its print-optimised page. For the time being, the print pages are procedurally generated. Their content is the combination of the latest version of all chapters.

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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]. A body of appointed members who had the dual mandate of serving their national government and pursuing the interests of the supranational level. The first direct elections to the EP were held in 1979. The notion of a dual mandate has since become irrelevant, at least in principle.

In the decades of the European Economic Community (before it became “European Union”), the legislative process was focused on the Council. The Parliament’s role was secondary. It was typically limited to a cooperation or an assent procedure, whereby it could provide some input or offer approval of a given act.

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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 prime minister, populists have gained a firm grip on power. People in Italy are tired of business as usual and are looking for alternatives, only for those to be preemptively dismissed as ‘populist’. Podemos in Spain is gaining some traction, their appeal is attributed to misleading rhetoric. And so on.

A misguided narrative

What underlies these stories is a combination of self-righteousness and elitism. The former consists in the presumption of the critics of ‘populism’ that their views are necessarily correct and well-informed. They are the enlightened experts.

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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 continues to do so. European integration is a gradual, slow process. It will take at least a couple of years from now to even have some concrete results on ‘Brexit’, let alone the prospect of far-reaching amendments to the Treaties.

In that regard, this very discussion could be considered superfluous at first sight. We still examine the same or closely-related items. And we do not concern ourselves with the day-to-day politics, important as those may be. Our focus is on the broader issues, those magnitudes that remain more-or-less constant. The definitive features of the EU.

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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, of the exercise of supreme authority and self-determination, is the nation state. This view is expressed, or at least implied in the United Nations Charter, in particular Article 2, as well as various sections of the Treaty on European Union.

Headline vs effective sovereignty

The very fact that relations between states are termed “inter-national” is indication of the perceived intrinsic link between nationality and sovereignty. Only nations can participate in inter-state politics. Against that backdrop, the European Union presents an anomaly.

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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, of the exercise of supreme authority and self-determination, is the nation state. This view is expressed, or at least implied in the United Nations Charter, in particular Article 2, as well as various sections of the Treaty on European Union.

Headline vs effective sovereignty

The very fact that relations between states are termed “inter-national” is indication of the perceived intrinsic link between nationality and sovereignty. Only nations can participate in inter-state politics. Against that backdrop, the European Union presents an anomaly.

Read More »