Category: European Politics (Page 1 of 3)

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The curious case of Ladislav Basternak

After spending a recent year in Italy and stopping in the UK on the way back, the long journey to Slovakia necessarily felt a bit anxious. Not only that there would be a lot of studying for the upcoming final state exam, together with all PhD applications and job/internship search; I have been also particularly curious about the state I will find my homeland in.

This summer, Slovakia has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Slovak representatives have started to unusually frequently inflect the adjective ´democratic´ in relation to the country. As if there´s the need to convince domestic and foreign publics of the nature of the Central European state. I am always suspicious when statesmen suddenly come to stress and overemphasize a single issue. And I have had a nagging feeling that instead of comforting increasingly distrustful Slovak citizens, leading politicians have rather been reassuring themselves of persistently democratic character of the Slovak Republic. Or, they have been painstakingly trying to conceal a maturing bummer. It would be a shame if a large- scale scandal in the Slovakia´s domestic politics breaks out right during the Council Presidency. Such an instance would deal a major blow to the country´s prestige and could even lead to a fragmentation of coalition. The growing incidence of and frequency with which the collocation ´democratic- Slovakia´ appears in the media recently calls for further investigation.

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PODCAST: Let no one say Politics is boring…

Tweets that didn't age well.

Tweets that didn’t age well.

 

What a week, and it is not even Thursday!

I have written about politics since 2008, covered US, NZ, Indian, Fiji, and British elections, fair to say, I haven’t covered a week like this, as a columnist. And the week is not even over yet.

British politics just officially out Game of Throned, Game of Thrones.

CmM3S0KWIAAaDsDTo sum it up, Boris is out of Tory leadership as he realised, that he got outplayed by Michael Gove. For all his Roman scholarship, he never saw that coming. So, he is now dodging the bullet, putting himself in a kingmaker position, wait for Theresa May or Gove to come for his support, positioning himself for the ultimate leverage, and wait for the next person to clean up the mess. Boris lives to fight another day.

Michael Gove and Theresa May in, Labour is turmoil, and Brexit a fact, as Cameron wants India, China and US to replace EU investment and partnerships with UK.

And it’s not over yet! Listen to me here…and watch this space for more to come!

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Brexit, Slovakia, and direct democracy

However unpleasant and undesired the British popular decision to leave is, the post-referendum analyses only confirm the long held EU-wide trends.

In the light of the decades of survey reports shelved in the EU archives, the outcome should not have caught anyone by surprise. The fact that it did, indicates the lack of attention to public opinion expressed by the means of surveys and polls. Local and national experience could have been similarly utilized to avoid repeating the common miscalculation in national strategies which do not address the faltering public interest in politics. The Union has been investing in Eurobarometer surveys for over four decades without actually delivering the message to national governments; and sadly, also without actively committing itself to solving identified problems. Worse, in line with the knowledge collected through polls, misinformed public involvement sprinkled with a pinch of frustration normally has catastrophic longer-term repercussions. The British referendum, power of Robert Fico´s faction stretching over the third consecutive term and penetration of the Slovakian decision-making structures by far-right neonazi party, all illustrate the dark side of neglect of public opinion and subsequent misinformed participation in major decisions.

If sufficient attention had been paid to polls, it would have been clear that on the European scale, most people feel insufficiently informed about what happens in the Union. Low EP election turnouts confirm the survey´s conclusion; lack of knowledge and information on processes and impact on an individual and the country results in one of the two possible scenarios. The first is a neutral attitude towards the Union and related lack of interest in participation due to the uncertainty regarding the individual´s role. The second scenario is the opposition to integration based on circumscribed or misrepresented information and the lack of more in-detail knowledge on internal functioning. The general trend then goes as follows: the more interested the one is in developments unfolding in politics, the more positive attitude towards the Union he harbours. The higher the education he acquired, the more supportive of the EU and further integration he is. This relates not only to better information regarding overall benefits the Union offers to its member states, but more specifically to a personal gain from skills in the larger market. Full-timers are generally more optimistic about the integration prospects. Further, the older the individual is, the less enthusiastic about the whole European project he is likely to be. Local and national political elites influence public opinion and the attitude towards the European Union tends to reflect the one held towards national government.

Finally, media should responsibly fill in the knowledge gap; however, the record of fulfilling the function is rather vague. 

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Is racism really on the rise after Brexit?

Post Brexit, this is the question on everyone’s lips: Is racism on the rise in UK? Certainly, people will be more aware of it and are eagerly looking for any evidence to support their fears. Extremists play on fear. They weaponize it. Which is why we should not allow any far right cynical agitation, to actually agitate us. Ukip and Farage did not win Brexit. Boris Johnson, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom did. I believe that with Brexit, we can we fight rising Euro Neo-fascism head on.

The far right has been in the ascendant in the European Union for many years. It has been facilitated by EU open boarders and compounded by the refugee crisis.  A vote to Remain would not have stopped this. Brexit, however, just might. It makes Farage and Ukip redundant.

Many liberals however do not see this opportunity, they are having too much fun indulging their hysteria. They consistently dismiss Brexit voters as ignorant peasants. It’s precisely this attitude which has been their undoing.

The danger in their refusal to listen to the issues of grass roots, working class voters is the danger that when people see themselves being labelled racist and xenophobic (when they aren’t) is that they then believe the racists and the xenophobes are the only ones who will listen to them. And very often, for political ends, they are.

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A typical British Revolution: dispatch from UK

(A shorter version of it published previously as part of my weekly columns. Too important not to republish it here.)

It is not an easy column to write, not because every columnist here is drained after being awake for almost over two days now, but due to the sheer amount of events that happened that is difficult to note down. No adjective is worthy of use; seismic, political earthquake, an event unparalleled in modern history, all seems cliché. Journalists, policy makers, pollsters stunned, BBC, SKY, ITV, every channel and newspaper predictions failed showcasing how out of touch everyone was with the British masses. Even at 2:30 at night, YouGov was showing Remain a comfortable win, by 5:30, England and Wales voted Out, London, Scotland and Ireland voted In. My panicked EU colleagues calling and texting, students crying, pubs bizarrely full at 6 in the morning.

David Cameron came out hoarse and gaunt, his voice breaking, a shattered man, standing next to his wife, herself barely remaining composed, the fabled British stoicism failing on occasions. Cameron resigned, saying that though he will be there to steady the ship, the captain needs to change, in what might go down in history as the most lyrically poignant speeches ever given. Within the next three hours, the GBP went down in the single strongest recorded fall in a day, Northern Irish and Scottish nationalists demanded referendums on independence, Populists and Eurosceptics across Europe, from France to Italy and Netherlands, demanded their referendums to go out of EU, Juncker, Merkel, and Hollande said they respected British voices, Boris Johnson was tipped to be the next PM of Britain, and the Labour party of UK demanding a no confidence motion for Jeremy Corbyn. And it was not even 9:30 in the morning. 

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The Day After The Referendum

There is still a somewhat stunned silence around in relation to the referendum results. I have the pleasure of working in an environment where everyone was very vocal about their hatred of the European Union and have not spared their words on the topics of immigration and governance. Yet yesterday, when the results were confirmed and the markets started plummeting, there was a distinct silence around. The resounding feeling quietly expressed was ‘what have we done’. This juxtaposed with the roar on social media from those of us who are linked with academia, raging about lost opportunities, fearing for funding, and like myself, wondering how long it is before us ‘unwanted drains of the society’, the EU migrants, were marched out of the country by Farage and his team. All this was mixed with the Brexit campaigners glee of a victory many did not believe would not happen.

There is so much that could – and will – be said about the campaign and the politics behind it. The discourses on immigration were especially interesting as they dominated the campaign, leaving economic concerns behind. However, for the politically and legally minded, the situation now gets very interesting. The next official step in the process is the activation of Article 50, which in itself poses one rather interesting question in regards to departure of Britain from the EU. David Cameron has stated that the Article should only be activated once the Conservative Party gets a new leader, which is likely to happen in October this year. the EU leaders, however, want Britain out as soon as possible.

What is it that is so interesting about the Article 50?  The Lisbon Treaty states as follows:

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

During the process the country withdrawing is not allowed to be present in the negotiations. Those countries that remain decide among their own group the kind of an offer they will put on a table.  Although the discourses that can be read across different EU states are concentrating on keeping a close alliance between Britain and the EU even after the split, the question does remain: will Britain be made as an warning, the example of what happens if you leave?

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Photo by Jeff Djevdet of speedpropertybuyers.co.uk

6 things to read to understand #Brexit before the vote

The Brexit vote is almost here! Brits vote on June 23 on the decidedly less sexy-sounding issue of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, aka #Brexit (it needs a hashtag). Over the past half year, we at Bombs and Dollars have written a lot about Brexit, EU politics, and Euroscepticism in general. Here are six must-read articles to understand the issues at hand in the vote.

Why B+D reluctantly supports “remain”


“The EU is a vile organisation, and I loathe a superstate, which throws its weight around, has blatant disregard for nation and borders and national interests, and is a Byzantine unelected technocracy, and I despise it as a Realist, a democrat and as a free market proponent. But the question that plagued me for so long is what after? I will be stable in my position, as an educated urban metropolitan elite. But do I want to live in a country ruled by the likes of Nigel Farage and Jayda Fransen? Where “expert” is a reviled word? Do I want break up of a union which has guaranteed the longest peace of our times?

The answer is No.”
Read full article

Brexit and the art of deception


Brexit campaigners make a strong case for why Britain would be better off on its own. The problem is their claims are not accurate.

As Daniela Zordova writes, EU countries and their citizens still have a big say in what the EU does. Major treaties need to be approved by countries, and integration proceeds at the behest of the countries.

“The European Union is not a state. It might become one in the distant future but the recent developments suggest that even if the Union is heading that direction, it will take longer than predicted and desired by its Founding Fathers. The European Union does not have the powers of the state. Its Member States voluntarily conferred competences to the Union through the medium of the treaties. The power the Union enjoys has thus been delegated to it by means of the legal process, in contrast to unwritten social contract governing the relations between the state and citizens. Member States retain their sovereignty and the Union can only exercise its feeble enforcement power in case of non-compliance with laws in areas under its competence.”

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Barry crashes the Brexit party!


Foreign leaders from around the Western world are trying to convince Britain to stay. From the embarrassing, like foreign legislatures reading poems, to the irrelevant, like Dutch newspapers carrying anti-Brexit covers, it is questionable how much of an impact many of those actions will have.

U.S. President Barack Obama decided to get into the act, too, urging Britain to stay. While Maitra said Obama had made some good points, at the end of the day, it might not be taken kindly by many Brits; “it is unbelievable to think any country, or even the British PM urging Americans to sign and ratify UNCLOS, or form a borderless union with Mexico and Canada, or join AIIB led by China. Not going to happen. Ever.”
Read full article.

THIS…is what majoritarian ultra-nationalism looks like


Sumantra Maitra says, following the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox, “Never since the early 1980s, had it been so toxic.”

And: “For far too long, British white nationalists has been regarded as stupid idiots who can’t spell or construct a single English sentence, but not anymore. They are a threat, just as much as ultra nationalism across Europe and US, and they need to be identified and dealt with firmly, with extreme prejudice, if necessary.”

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Exclusive: Greek far-right organising violent anti-refugee rallies


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The controversy over huge numbers of refugees and migrants in Europe has fueled the right-wing. Across Europe,

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“I’m European, and the Leave campaign is wrong about EU”

Brexit and the art of deception : Why Jacob Rees-Mogg is wrong


 

The chances of the Great Britain leaving the European Union have never been as high as in the aftermath of the decision to hold a referendum. Preceding the involvement of public opinion in the issue, had been the great political power game of threatening the EU with the aim of extracting concessions on questions of British concern.

reesmogg_2781411bWith the D-day just behind the corner, campaigning activity is apparently gaining momentum. Particularly striking is Jacob Rees-Mogg´s speech on Brexit; much less for the theatrical glimpse of pain on his face when he speaks about the catastrophe of common policies and 1973 tragedy of British membership, than for the way the knowledge of procedures and overall functioning of the Union can be precisely twisted and manipulated to serve specific ends. People deserve to have a say in politics producing outputs with a direct impact on population, however, their decision should be well-informed and grounded on facts. The European Union is a complex entity characterized by even more composite structures and procedures; thus complicating the full understanding by citizens. Speeches should help fill in the knowledge gaps, however, deceptive and misleading quotes as the one delivered by Rt Hon Rees-Mogg only enhance masses´ misunderstanding about the Union. The repercussions for the final decision might be severe. Here’s why. 

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Why we reluctantly support “Remain”

I have agonised over this issue, and waited till the last instance to decide on the Bombs and Dollars endorsement.

I have also written extensively, on Obama’s Brexit intervention, on Nationalism and the Euro 2016 riots, and most recently on why EU in its current form is an abomination of what was intended and is indefensible.

Raging debates are online, and I have nothing to add than what have already been said. Major publications like Spectator, Telegraph, and Times are for Brexit; FT, Economist and predictably Guardian are for Remain. The British isles have never been split before, both emotionally and intellectually like this since I started covering politics.

An MP was murdered.

Photo from google, by Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

The EU is a vile organisation, and I loathe a superstate, which throws its weight around, has blatant disregard for nation and borders and national interests, and is a Byzantine unelected technocracy, and I despise it as a Realist, a democrat and as a free market proponent. But the question that plagued me for so long is what after? I will be stable in my position, as an educated urban metropolitan elite. But do I want to live in a country ruled by the likes of Nigel Farage and Jayda Fransen? Where “expert” is a reviled word? Do I want break up of a union which has guaranteed the longest peace of our times? 

Read More

355B09E700000578-3644847-Batley_and_Spen_MP_Jo_Cox_has_been_shot_in_Birstall_near_Leeds_a-m-138_1466087548363

THIS…is what majoritarian ultra-nationalism looks like

355B09E700000578-3644847-Batley_and_Spen_MP_Jo_Cox_has_been_shot_in_Birstall_near_Leeds_a-m-138_1466087548363Labour MP Jo Cox, was shot, and stabbed by a white nationalist shouting “Britain First”, and is in critical condition under care as she was hospitalised in emergency.

Ms Cox, who supports Britain to stay in EU, has been campaigning with her husband and two little kids and has been a strong supporter for intervention in Syria as well, as well as campaigned for Britain to take in more refugees.

Britain, as a nation desensitized by violence, has a reputation to keep calm and show fortitude, as compared to the cousins across the pond.  British politics is good humoured, debated in Parliament in PMQs, and chases in boats across the Thames. Never since the early 1980s, had it been so toxic. 

For far too long, British white nationalists has been regarded as stupid idiots who can’t spell or construct a single English sentence, but not anymore. They are a threat, just as much as ultra nationalism across Europe and US, and they need to be identified and dealt with firmly, with extreme prejudice, if necessary.

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