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Protesilaos Stavrou

P. S.


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Articles by P. S.

Leviathan, Sovereignty, Anarchy, and Peace

20 days ago

The polity takes us from the state of nature to prosperity
Special issues of Political Realism (POL422)

31 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar is the third entry in a series about Realism in international relations. The first item was about the myth of the Ring of Gyges and exceptionalism in world politics. The second was about the Melian Dialogue, Power, and Justice. I recommend you study these two before following this presentation, as I will be making references to them.

Today I will talk about the relationship between sovereignty and peace. The main argument is that peace depends on the universal recognition of a supreme political authority by all members

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The Melian Dialogue, Power, and Justice

27 days ago

Order requires a balance of power
Special issues of Political Realism (POL421)

24 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar is the second entry in a series about Realism in international relations. The first item was about the myth of the Ring of Gyges and exceptionalism in world politics. I recommend you study that first, though it is not strictly necessary.

In this episode I will discuss the relationship between the balance of power and the system of justice in international affairs. The main argument is that inter-state conventions are upheld when no side overpowers the rest, in context-dependent or absolute terms. An uneven distribution of power and control

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The Ring of Gyges, Realism, Exceptionalism

May 17, 2018

On the behaviour of states and international law
Special issues of Political Realism (POL420)

17 May 2018

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. This seminar launches the new series on Political Realism in the domain of International Relations, which will consist of three or more episodes. Today I will discuss a topic found in Plato’s Republic that concerns human nature, social convention, and the application of justice. Based on that, I will draw parallels with phenomena that occur between states to see how international covenants come about and what is the essence of international law. Part of the analysis is to understand exceptionalism, or else the idea that one can escape the law

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On the geopolitics of the nuclear deal with Iran

May 9, 2018

Trump’s decision must be seen in its broader context

9 May 2018

President Trump did what was expected of him regarding the nuclear deal with Iran. His allies in Europe have not followed along what seems, on the face of it, an ill-thought decision. While the USA President’s rhetoric and demeanour are a departure from his predecessor’s, his policy on Iran and the Middle East does not really upset expectations. To appreciate Trump’s stance on Iran nuclear outlook, we need to account for the geopolitical dynamics in the broader region surrounding Iran, in particular as concerns the shifting positions on Syria.

What follows is an overview of the forces at play.

Iran’s form of control

At first, Iran’s

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Who can change Europe?

April 29, 2018

EU reform is a complex, multi-faceted series of tasks

29 April 2018

In certain pro-Europeans circles there is this recurring theme of identifying the statesperson who will spearhead the thoroughgoing reform of the European Union. For many, this figure currently is French President Macron, probably with German Chancellor Merkel being his closest ally.

Changing the EU is a proposition many agree with. How to go about it and what to pursue is where things get complicated.

Incremental reforms happen within the ordinary legislative procedure. There the focus has to be on the right coalitions within the European Parliament and the Council, as well as ambitious action by the Commission. But these are not the

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EU integration and “German Europe”

April 12, 2018

We should always keep things in perspective

12 April 2018

Hans Kundnani has a thoughtful analysis of what he perceives as the troubling transformation of the EU (March 28, 2018). The crust of his argument is that reforms in recent years have amplified the influence of Germany, while the EU is being refashioned as an IMF-like body for rule enforcement. Pro-europeans, he opines, need to be aware of the content and consequences of the European integration process. Clinging on to the simplistic narrative of “more Europe” as a necessary good in itself, does not help the cause of a united Europe, because it ultimately benefits German interests.

Kundnani’s advice for looking into the specifics is sound. It

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Thoughts on a New Left

April 4, 2018

Progressives must change with the times

4 April 2018

I read with great interest Rui Teixeira’s Five Theses for a New Left (April 4, 2018). The author argues forcefully for a holistic rethink of the left’s role in modern politics. And while broadly in agreement, I think the left needs a bit more than what he proposes.

At first, we are experiencing a systemic shift in our economies, with services becoming the most important sector. The irreducible factor of this industry is data. Whether we speak about financial services, where information and timeliness make all the difference in investments, or the rise of corporate behemoths such as Google and Facebook, data is the new quintessential enabler

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New publication: Structured Text on Sovereignty, Nationhood, Statehood

March 29, 2018

On the abstract structure of the core tenets of modern politics

29 March 2018

I just updated the books’ section of this website to include my latest work on political philosophy.

The Structured Text on Sovereignty, Nationhood, Statehood (STSNS) explores the core tenets of modern politics—sovereignty, nationhood, statehood—in an attempt to form a better understanding of the bigger picture of political phenomena.

This short book seeks to provide an impetus for further reflection on a series of issues that relate to the following metapolitical research questions:

Who governs?
Where is the locus of power?
Now, you may wonder why bother with political philosophy in the age of ephimeral interest

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ECB reshuffle and the outlook of monetary policy

February 1, 2018

The Executive Board must be representative of the euro area

1 February 2018

The process has already started for the replacement of the current members of the European Central Bank’s Executive Board. There seems to be a lot of inter-governmental bargaining behind the scenes, though nothing specific for legislators to examine. The standard procedure for appointing the new Executive Board is opaque and deprives the European Parliament from adequately scrutinising the nominees.

In a January 23, 2018 article for the civil society platform QE for People, Stanislas Jourdan argues forcefully that the the election of ECB board members is in urgent need of reform:

The nomination process of ECB board

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What positive agenda for EMU reform?

January 30, 2018

Progressives have to take the initiative

30 January 2018

In a January 22, 2018 article for Social Europe,1 László Andor takes a closer look at the vague concept of “austerity”. Its polysemy creates confusion and obfuscates the truth of what policy mix is being pursued or implemented. Austerity means different things to different people and, consequently, is an inappropriate term both for formulating policy as well as criticising certain measures or the conventional wisdom.

Mr. Andor’s scintillating analysis can be read as a partial critique of the powers that be, though it applies just as well to people on the left of the political spectrum. Progressives could not put forward a credible

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Overview of EU legislative priorities for 2018-19

January 28, 2018

Important reforms on the horizon

28 January 2018

Towards the end of 2017, the presidents of the three EU institutions involved in law-making—Commission, Parliament, Council—signed a Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2018-19. This is the second time in a row such a document is agreed upon. It signals the commitment of the institutions to complete ongoing initiatives in line with the Union’s current objectives before the conclusion of the current parliamentary term (new elections in May 2019).

The accompanying working document encompasses seven areas of policy and includes proposals that are carried over from the previous declaration, as well as some new ones. The domains

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On refocusing European integration

January 23, 2018

EU must do more in key areas and leave the rest to the Member States

23 January 2018

On January 18, 2018 the European Commission appointed six members to its task force on subsidiarity and proportionality.1 The purpose of this working group is to develop proposals in line with scenario 4 of the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe.2 This is about the EU level being involved in fewer areas of policy, but becoming more effective at its tasks.

The working group will deliver its findings by mid-July of this year. The expectation is that EU policy priorities will be reordered accordingly. Power over certain issues may be re-delegated to the Member States. The resulting resource savings

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Against economic populism

January 16, 2018

Legitimate criticism should not be grouped together with demagogy

16 January 2018

In a January 9, 2018 column for Project Syndicate, Dani Rodrik makes a strong case for what he terms “economic populism”.1 Populists, he argues, are united by their universal opposition to constraints on the executive. The will of the people, which the government represents, is considered absolute, boundless. Couched in those terms, Rodrik starts by describing the dangers of “political populism”, such as the erosion of the rule of law and the dismantling of fundamental rights. Political populism is a form of tyranny. He then examines the pros and cons of economic populism, to ultimately suggest that there are

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Thoughts on the 4th South EU Summit

January 12, 2018

Pro-europeans must make a strong case for European democracy

12 January 2018

The Summit of Southern European Union countries consists of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. It is an informal platform for coordination on European policy. These states face many common challenges and are united by their largely pro-European ambition to work towards a stronger Europe.

Given the option for differentiated integration (multi-speed Europe),1 it is refreshing to have a group of states make concrete steps towards ever closer union. Pro-europeans have been on the defensive for far too long, having to resist demagogues and reactionaries of all sorts. The future of Europe cannot be

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Differentiated integration and its challenges

January 11, 2018

Complexity favours inter-governmentalism

11 January 2018

The idea of a multi-speed Europe is not new. In fact, it is not just an idea but a general description of the current state of the integration process. We have euro and non-euro countries. Those who are members of the passport-free Schengen Area and those who are not. And so on. More recently, there have been breakthroughs in European defence policy, with an agreement on establishing a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). This too is among a subset of all EU Member States.

The trend will not be reversed any time soon. Differentiated integration is considered standard practice. The Treaties themselves recognise as much, with their

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Why EU financial union is not enough

January 9, 2018

Effective sovereignty must have normative qualities

9 January 2018

There is this view, mostly among economists, which holds that Europe’s real problem is the lack of financial integration. Private capital remains intimately linked to its domestic economy and, by extension, to the nation state. The two become inter-dependent. The resulting feedback loop was evident at the height of the eurocrisis and remains a major concern to this day due to its pernicious side effects. As such, the thinking goes, financial integration at the European level will sever the link between domestic public finances and private capital. Nation states within the EU will no longer find themselves tied to the fate of

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Sovereignty and the vertical separation of powers in the EU

December 31, 2017

Distribution of competences in the EU federal system
Advanced issues of political organisation (POL413)

31 December 2017

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. In this seminar I will talk about the European Union’s vertical separation of powers. It is based on the legal principles of conferral, subsidiarity, and proportionality. These govern the distribution of competences in the EU. They do, in other words, regulate which level of state does what over any given area of policy covered by the European Treaties.

Drawing from the last three seminars on the interlocking aspects of sovereignty and statehood, I will critically assess the function of these principles in relation to the key

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December 8, 2017

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Factors of statehood and the EU as a republic

October 24, 2017

What constitutes a state, federal system, and republic
Advanced issues of political organisation (POL412)

24 October 2017

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. In this seminar I will talk about what makes up a state and what is the impact of its recognition by third parties. Then I will apply the analysis to the case of the European Union, to examine whether it is a state or a “sui generis” entity as some experts suggest.

It should be noted right at the outset that the term “state” is polysemous. In this context, it is used to signify a political order that can ultimately act as a player in international politics. This would typically rule out administrative units of federal systems,

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On sovereignty, nationalism, secessionism

October 16, 2017

About the criteria for national indivisibility and the normative grounds for secession

16 October 2017

Hello, my name is Protesilaos Stavrou. In this seminar I will talk about the parameters of a uniform polity; the normative criteria for maintaining a national compact and the conditions that may justify unilateral secession from a state. To proceed, I shall first describe the desired modality of sovereignty within a political whole: in other words, what exactly provides a moral basis for the exercise of supreme political authority.

The nation state is the unit of sovereignty in global politics. Indeed we refer to politics on that scale as “international”, as being between nations: a reference to the

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How to evaluate international relations

October 12, 2017

Applying the distinction between headline and effective sovereignty

12 October 2017

In this seminar I want to talk about how to evaluate international relations. To present ways of thinking about the effects of cross-border policies; to examine the interplay between states and corporations in an ever connected world. The evaluation is made in relation to the nation state and its capacity to exercise supreme political authority, or else sovereignty.

To proceed with the analysis, we need a concept of sovereignty that accounts for the actual power a state can wield compared to the normative claims it may have. By that I mean that there is a distinction to be made between two facets of sovereignty, namely,

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About Draghi’s Jackson Hole speech

August 26, 2017

Arguments with a depoliticised undertone

26 August 2017

On August 25, 2017, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, delivered a speech at the Economic Policy Symposium of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jackson Hole.1 Mr. Draghi’s theme was the openness of domestic economies to global trade, a prerequisite to realising the potential for sustained growth in the face of technological convergence and structural challenges.

The ECB chief draws from the experience of the European integration process to suggest that openness can deliver the normative ends of fairness, safety, and equity, provided there are shared institutions at the supranational level. The harmonisation of

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New publications (in case you missed them)

August 15, 2017

Summer reading on EU politics and beyond

15 August 2017

I have not posted anything on this blog for about a month. The reason is that I have been busy with other things. I should resume regular blogging towards the end of this month or the beginning of September.

In the meantime, you might be interested in some of my recent publications in the books section of this website.

The first is the Dialogues on EU politics, published on July 1, 2017. This book will appeal to advanced students of European affairs, citizens with a keen interest in the European Union, and even professionals working in the field who are looking for new ideas or perspectives on the integration process. The Dialogues

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July 12: I support #NetNeutrality

July 12, 2017

The United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has plans to put an end to the era of Net Neutrality. The idea is to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate against different types of users or content, in order to allocate bandwidth where they consider it necessary.

This is particularly dangerous. ISPs will be in a position to effectively rig the entirety of communication and exchange to suit their agenda. Consumers who do not qualify as ‘worthy enough’ will have to make do with a slower and smaller Internet, as resources are allocated towards those favoured by the ISPs. You would want to visit, for example, this website only to be notified that it is outside your current data plan.

Net Neutrality is the prerequisite for a free [digital] market. Any

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Amendments to the Tallinn Declaration on e-government

July 11, 2017

Acting on behalf of the Estonian presidency of the EU, the Lisbon Council has opened up a feedback process on e-government in order to gather the input of citizens. The suggestions are collected and will be presented to the EU Member States. The deadline for submissions is July 14, 2017. Chances are that some ideas will make it into the final text, expected to be signed on October 6, 2017.

Below are my extended contributions to the original text. A short notice on methodology is in order. The original is first quoted verbatim and then what follows is either the paragraph written anew or with my additions inline. The latter use strong emphasis (bold typeface). The § section sign is used to reference the number of the paragraph in question. Every amendment of mine starts with either

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New book: Dialogues on EU politics

July 1, 2017

I just published a new book about European affairs: Dialogues on EU politics. Its content is an extension of the work done on this blog. Some of the most pertinent issues of the EU and the integration process are subjected to scrutiny, to draw conclusions of a technical as well as a theoretical sort.

The Dialogues is a series of six fictional discussions between friends. The dialogical format has been chosen as a good alternative to the essay. My intention is to test the hypothesis that the dialogue allows the reader to better follow the line of reasoning and even draw their own additional conclusions from it.

The book is made available as a web-based publication. It looks exactly like a concatenation of blog posts. There is, nonetheless, a print-optimised page for those who prefer

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On the EU reflection paper about security and defence

June 8, 2017

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

June 4, 2017

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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