„The future of the EU in the face of Brexit, migration crisis and the hostile policy of Russia” presentation by Jerzy Buzek

Barbara Zak

On the 20th of March 2017, the conference entitled „Students’ Business Forum” was held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin with one of the most remarkable figures of both Polish and European political sphere : Jerzy Buzek, former Polish Prime Minister and former President of the European Parliament, addressed the audience about issues that may endanger the future of the European Union (EU) : Brexit, the migration crisis and the aggressive foreign policy of Russia.

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The current MEP started his speech by briefly reminding us the history of the EU from the European Coal and Steel Community. He then highlighted the present crises the EU is facing and struggling to overcome. In his opinion, the EU is taking a new direction for its future, which does not suppose „european integration”. People have a bigger faith in the national identity rather than the European identity, which illustrates a new psychological situation of the voters that may have negative effects on the future of the organisation. He stressed the fact that our European civilization is gradually weakening. Concerning the three crises, he declared that for Brexit, there will be no win-win results – both parties will suffer from this divorce – and there is a need to somehow strengthen the relations between the USA and the EU, which is a signifcant partner if talking about NATO, as the UK was an important contributor to the good maintaining of these relations. As for the migrant crisis, he recalled Pope Francis’ speech about our role in welcoming migrants and refugees, underlining the Christian roots of the EU. He also reminded that Russia’s foreign policy is becoming more and more aggressive, but that is because of its ruler rather than its society. Jerzy Buzek then described some possible scenarii regarding the future of the EU : the first one would be not to change anything about it, which is dangerous. Another scenario would be a Europe of different velocity : States are not walking together towards the same goal but individually – they choose what policies they want. The last scenario is the federation of the EU but it is a project for the future decades. The former President of the European Parliament finished his speech by quoting „unity in diversity”, a watchword that is currently at risk.

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Prof. Jerzy Buzek (born in Śmiłowice (actual Czech Republic) on the 3rd of July 1940) is an eminent Polish politician and fervent pro-EU European deputy. His main position in the Polish political sphere was Prime Minister of Poland (Prezes Rady Ministrów) from 1997 to 2001, under the presidency of Aleksander Kwaśniewski. He was the leader of the political party Solidarity Electoral Action (Akcja Wyborcza Solidarność) which was dissolved in 2004. Nowadays he is a member of the Civic Platform party (Platforma Obywatelska). At the European level, he is a member of the European Parliament since 2004, affiliated to the European People’s Party. He was elected President of the European Parliament for the period 2009-2012. He is to this day the only President of the European Parliament from the Eastern Bloc of the EU. He is currently the chair of the European Parliament Industry, Research and Energy Committee since 2014, following his election. He is also a professor of technical science since 1997.

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Barbara Zak and Dorota Kowalska with Prof. Jerzy Buzek

Follow Jerzy Buzek on Facebook and Twitter

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Sources :

http://www.buzek.pl/node/5564

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/28269/JERZY_BUZEK_home.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jul/14/european-parliament-elects-president

Conscription in the European Union

Barbara Zak

The mandatory military service may seem to be outdated since the majority of the Member States of the European Union (EU) base their military capacity on professional soldiers and volunteers, rather than conscripts. Nevertheless, with regards to the actual sensation of instability of security in Europe, it appears that having a competent army able to defend the nation may play a huge role at the international level in the long run.

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Soldiers from Sweden’s Skaraborg regiment patrol during a military manoeuvre in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photograph: Soren Andersson/EPA

At the beginning of March 2017, the Swedish government has decided to re-activate conscription from January 1st 2018, a decision that has been backed by the country’s MPs (70% of the Parliament). This decision concerns 4,000 young men and women (because of gender neutrality) out of 13,000 young people born in 1999, who will serve for 12 months. Obviously, the voluntary recruitment to the Armed Forces is still maintained. The reason for this change given on the website of the Swedish government is that“the security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness”. We can understand that this choice has been made following the security change in the Baltic region and the increased military activity by Russia (war in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea). We should note that conscription system was abolished in Sweden in 2010.

As the EU is defined as an economic free-trade area with a single market (that is to say that it is primarily an economic union), it does not have any EU army. Member States have their own army which serves in case of an attack against the nation. The national armies can be implied in national or international conflicts following the decision of the government or parliament. Laws concerning military conscription are then regulated by the national law-making bodies. Military service is mandatory in Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece and Lithuania. In the majority of cases, it is compulsory for all male adult citizens, while women have the choice of enrolling into the military service. They can choose between military or civilian service. Germany considered in 2016 to have conscription returned in case of national emergency, as provided by the constitution. Interesting fact, for instance, in 2013, Austria held a referendum which result was that Austrians, with around 60% of the voters, were in favour of retaining compulsory military service.

civilian and military.

Copyright : Matt Hinsa || Creative Commons

Austria being an original case, mandatory military service still suffers from a social lack of support. The youth clearly declares their preference of starting their careers and families, rather than spending months as a conscript. There is a risk of the acceleration of youth emigration, as it was the case in Lithuania when it reintroduce conscription. Some opinions state that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could be considered as the best solution for the defence of European countries since its member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. However, the majority of the states in which military service is mandatory are not part of NATO : Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden. As a result, increasing the army troops by changing the voluntary recruitment into a mandatory military service does not seem an irrational decision.

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Sources :

http://www.government.se/articles/2017/03/re-activation-of-enrolment-and-the-conscription/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/28/sweden-bring-back-conscription-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/02/sweden-reintroduce-conscription-amid-rising-baltic-tensions

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39140100

http://4liberty.eu/mandatory-military-service-a-solution-for-national-defence-in-eu-member-states/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/24/lithuania-reinstate-compulsory-military-service

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/lithuania-reintroduces-compulsory-military-service-to-counter-russian-threat-53376

http://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_publishes_2016_conscription_lists/

http://en.delfi.lt/lithuania/defence/conscription-boosted-emigration-lithuanian-pm-says.d?id=70086058

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/23/germany-considers-plan-to-bring-back-conscription/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21110431

http://www.css.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/gess/cis/center-for-securities-studies/pdfs/CSS-Analysen-75-FR.pdf

http://www.leparisien.fr/espace-premium/actu/interactif-service-militaire-qui-fait-quoi-en-europe-15-02-2016-5547853.php

Towards a research career? An interview with Dr Tatiana Coutto

Barbara Zak

Dr Tatiana Coutto is an active researcher who has regularly published articles and participated in the writing of books. Her current research activities deal with the EU institutions and policy-making processes as well as public diplomacy of middle powers. She is also a teaching fellow at the University of Warwick  (Department of Economics) and at the Catholic University of Lille (Faculté Libre de Droit). For more information about Dr Tatiana Coutto,  click on the link here.

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Dr Tatiana Coutto

1 – Could you tell us about the studies, interesting internships, volunteer work you have done? At that time, did you already know about the career you wanted to pursue?

I had quite an interdisciplinary background, maybe because I was interested by many different things. I began my studies in Brazil (where I am originally from): I did Biology/Genetics during my undergraduate studies, and then I took a Business Management major. I was clearly interested by research work, but was not very sure about what exactly I wanted to do. I also thought of passing an exam to become a diplomat, but I was admitted to a Masters in International Relations in Rio de Janeiro. Then I realized I wanted to keep studying and learning for my whole life. I remember when the Berlin wall came down, when Maastricht was signed and when the Eurotunnel was opened. These events had a strong influence on me – I was really fascinated by the idea of bringing European states together and building solid peace.

My first internship was as a research assistant in a Biochemistry Laboratory, but I did not enjoy it very much. I also worked with Publicity Marketing when I was studying Business Management. During my PhD I worked as a stagiaire to the Brazilian Mission to the EU, in Brussels, and worked as a voluntary translator for a website about undocumented workers, PICUM.org.

 

2 – The profession of researcher may not be very clear to everyone. Could you explain what it consists in? How do you prepare to a research career after completing your PhD?

I think a research career starts well before you finish your PhD. It starts with curiosity to know more about things, and a pleasure to learn new things, too. A research career involves research work (field work, interviews, cleaning databases, writing articles, presenting them at conferences, submitting it to journals, applying for fund), teaching (+ preparing courses, office hours, marking and invigilating exams – the last two are not very exciting, I must say). Research funds are becoming more scarce, and the career is now very competitive. My advice is to try to work as an assistant since your undergraduate studies, and to get experience from internships as well. During your PhD do engage in teaching activities, and try to publish at least one good article. Again, working as an RA (research assistant) is an excellent option – you get research experience, and it will help you with contacts and reference letters in the future. If possible, spend one semester in another country to gain international experience. Do not wait to finish your PhD to start academic career – it does not work this way. Oh yes, make sure you finish your PhD with at least a basic knowledge of statistics (even Law scholars need that!).

 

3 – You regularly publish articles and participate in the writing of books. Do you have any favourite piece of work and/or a subject of preference?

I am now working on a project about British media and public attitudes towards the EU. The project is financed by the European Social Research Council (ESRC). I do not have articles on the topic yet, but we have a final conference coming up on 19 January in London. If you can make it to London feel free to register at ukandeu.ac.uk („events” page). Please spread the word!

So far most of my published articles are about Brazilian foreign and nuclear policy (published in the International History Review), biological weapons (in the Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals) and about the EU as an environmental actor. I published varied articles because I was involved in different projects – most scholars focus on one or two research domains only.

4 – How is the profession of researcher related to the profession of teacher?

They could not be more interrelated. It is important that teachers engage in research so they can remain updated about recent developments in their field (this is valid for any area of knowledge). I have the chance (whenever possible) to talk about my projects to my students, so the lecture becomes more engaging. Sometimes I also discuss articles I am working on with the students, so I can get a fresh view on my work. There is a tendency to undervalue teaching activities, but I think this is a mistake. Teaching is extremely important, even though it is a very tiring activity (of course you don’t realize that when you are a student – I didn’t use to!). You also have the opportunity to advise dissertations and thesis, which lies between teaching and research. I personally enjoy teaching a lot, but this is not a general rule in academia.

 

5 – What would you advise to students who aspire to pursue an academic career?

Do more than what the teachers and the programme require. Focus (easier said than done), get publications out before you finish the PhD. Everybody will face some difficult moment at a certain point of the career – you are not the only one. Limit the time you spend on facebook, snapchat, WhatsApp (they can be very disruptive). Stay informed (don’t rely only on newsfeed), and do not be afraid of feedback – feedback may not always be nice to hear, but your work improves a great deal.

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Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 2)

Barbara Zak

Brussels’ response : you can’t have your cake and eat it too

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain's exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) welcomes President of the European Council Donald Tusk (R) to 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 08 September 2016. May and Tusk held talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Following the announcement of the results of the referendum on the membership of the United Kingdom (UK) to the European Union (EU), it was understood that the EU respected the change of heart of the majority of the UK citizens. EU leaders do not want to go back in time but agree on the UK leaving the EU as soon as possible. Brussels is simply waiting for the formal notification of the UK to trigger the article 50 of the TEU. Even Donald Tusk (the President of the European Council) told Theresa May “the ball is in your court”. However the EU refuses to negotiate with the UK until the government has triggered the article. The reason may be the fear of contagion of a “Brexit” in other EU member states – Brussels is afraid of the ripple effect. With the rise of nationalism and populism, we can expect from far-right ruling parties to hold a referendum about leaving the EU in their countries. Moreover, the current uncertainty around the economy of the UK can have repercussions on the EU’s trade. The decrease of investments in the UK can be contagious to the European continent. There is an economic and ideological cost to the delay of the withdrawal of the UK.

            The heads of the member states, without the head of state of the UK, met informally on the 16th of September 2016 in Slovakia in what is called the Bratislava summit. The aim of this meeting, which was already planned before the referendum, was to discuss the stability and security of the EU. The withdrawal of the UK was not on the agenda of this gathering. However, it was more a way to show the unity and thus the strength and solidarity of the EU. However, on the inside, the EU is at a crisis – it is only a matter of time before another member state reveals its intention to withdraw from the Union. For instance, a referendum on the EU relocation plan will be held in Hungary on the 2nd of October 2016, which goes against the EU refugee policies. This “EU Quotas Referendum” illustrates the fact that some members of the EU disagree with the policies of the EU – it may be the beginning of their rebellion. As a matter of fact, the heads of states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia recently met several times as the Visegrád Group in order to discuss the issues related to the EU. As a consequence, the EU cannot be too soft towards the UK in order not to incite other member states to do the same. The argument of the economy is the strongest: the single market can be open to the UK only if they accept the free movement of people. Leaving the EU does not mean abandoning its drawbacks while still benefiting from its advantages.

The conundrum of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar

            Even though the “leave” won over the “remain” in the EU referendum, anti-Brexiters still cannot recover from the results, in particular in the parts of the UK where the “remain” was overwhelming: Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (55.8%) and Gibraltar (95.9%).

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (Photo: GETTY)

            Many Scots, right after the announcements of the results of the UK referendum, were asking for a second referendum on this topic. However May’s government declared that a second referendum will not be held. There are some possibilities about a second Scottish independence referendum though – but not before the article 50 of the TEU is triggered. Nevertheless, both Labour and Liberal Democratpoliticiansalongwiththe polls are against the will of the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon to have a second independence referendum. The “Reverse-Greenland” concept may be the solution for Scotland as they wish to stay in the UK and in the EU. Parts of the UK can maintain Britain’s membership of the EU. This means that Scotland does not need to apply to access the EU. The Greenland solution refers to the Greenland treaty which entered into force in 1985, following the Greenlandic referendum of 1982: Greenland, at that time part of Denmark, could leave the EU while Denmark was still a member state of the EU. In the case of Scotland, it is the opposite situation. Scotland would have an associate membership of the Union, namely the access to the single market, EU citizenship and free movement of goods/people/workers/students. They will pay membership dues. In a nutshell, they would take the seat of the UK in Brussels.

The case of Northern Ireland is a bit different from Scotland. Leaving the EU would mean too big economic consequences for Northern Ireland in comparison with Britain. There is the fear of losing the agricultural subsidies that are actually much needed and in demand by farmers. In addition, the transaction costs for trading in the EU (that did not exist before) would be overwhelming for Northern Ireland. Instability would resume Northern Ireland’s situation. Another problem, that is geographical this time, would be the border with Ireland, which is a member state of the EU. Irish people are afraid to turn back in time to the Troubles period (conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century). Thus they aspire to keep the free movement and the customs union across the border – the trade between two states decreases the possibility of them being at war. However, everything is in the hands of May’s government and the EU’s willingness to be flexible during the future negotiations. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister stays confident – May should not negotiate a Brexit that simply suits English interests. Yet the best option for Northern Ireland would be the same as Scotland: the Reverse-Greenland solution, that is to say to remain in the UK and in the EU.

Gibraltar was one of the territories where the “remain” vote was strong: nearly 100%. The main reason is the economy: Gibraltar imports exclusively from the EU. The transaction costs for trading with the EU would be utterly crushing Gibraltar. The Reverse-Greenland solution could be effective, only if there was no hiccup – more precisely, a Spanish hitch. In fact, Spain has a sovereign claim over Gibraltar due to its history. If the UK leaves the EU, Spain could isolate Gibraltar from Europe by building a wall alongside the border. Crossing the wall would mean paying border fees. In the case of applying the Reverse-Greenland solution, Gibraltarians are afraid that Spain would not accept it and veto it. The Spanish Government could veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar. Indeed, Spain is fully entitled to do so: as soon as the UK activates the withdrawal process, the European Council must agree the broad terms of the withdrawal negotiation by unanimity. Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo is resolute and says Spain will not leave the case until it receives at least the joint control of Gibraltar. As a result, Gibraltarians call for a second referendum explaining that the “leave” option was not clear enough – yet it is well understood that it is probably their last hope to stay in the EU.

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Sources:

Brussels’ response

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/08/donald-tusk-theresa-may-article-50-brexit-negotiations-eu

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/25/uk-faces-brexit-crisis

https://theconversation.com/brexit-et-dependances-61830

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/bratislava-summit-donald-tusk-urges-eu-leaders-not-to-waste-brexit-crisis

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/15/bratislava-summit-what-is-on-eu-27s-agenda—and-what-is-not—a/

http://www.france24.com/fr/20160916-sommet-bratislava-ue-relancer-apres-brexit

Scotland

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/683056/Brexit-will-Scotland-leave-UK-Britain-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-break-up

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-scotland-nicola-sturgeon-eu-uk-theresa-may-scottish-veto-block-withdrawal-a7141231.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-3805290/Sturgeon-call-second-Scottish-independence-referendum-autumn-2017.html

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/17/nicola-sturgeon-would-consider-2017-scottish-independence-referendum-brexit

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/706467/Nicola-Sturgeon-humiliated-Scots-second-independence-referendum-vote-Brexit-EU

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/28/the-guardian-view-on-a-second-scottish-referendum-sturgeon-has-no-choice-but-caution

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-08-13/uk-could-do-a-reverse-greenland-to-allow-scotland-to-remain-in-the-eu/

Northern Ireland

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/10/northern-ireland-leaders-set-out-brexit-demands-to-theresa-may

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/25/theresa-may-hard-border-fears-northern-ireland-visit-brexit

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/brexit-beginning-end-northern-ireland

http://www.lemonde.fr/referendum-sur-le-brexit/article/2016/07/27/l-irlande-casse-tete-de-l-apres-brexit-pour-theresa-may_4975155_4872498.html

Gibraltar

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/665033/EU-Referendum-2016-What-Brexit-Mean-for-Gibraltar-Rock-British-Territory-Spain

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/650355/Brexit-threat-Spain-will-control-Gibralter-soon-as-Britain-leaves-EU

http://chronicle.gi/2016/07/spain-could-veto-brexit-talks-margallo-says/

http://chronicle.gi/2016/03/britain-must-include-gibraltar-in-post-brexit-negotiations-report-says/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36618796

https://www.ft.com/content/bea8ecf4-452a-11e6-9b66-0712b3873ae1

Read more:

https://theconversation.com/the-eu-bratislava-summit-explained-65604

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/13/expel-hungary-from-eu-for-hostility-to-refugees-says-luxembourg

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-scotland-greenland-idUKKCN0ZJ0A1

Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 1)

Barbara Zak

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

On the 23rd of June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) held a referendum on its membership to the European Union (EU). The turnout was the highest ever in the UK : 72%. Incredible, yet not surprising as it deals with the future of the country. The citizens of the UK had to choose between staying in or leaving the EU. With 51,9% of the votes, the “leave” won, especially in England and Wales while the votes for the “remain” took over Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. However, many highlight the fact that the referendum is not legally binding – yet it is definitely socially binding. As it was not a poll but rather the decision of the people, politicians cannot put aside its results. In order to start the process of leaving the EU, the Member State shall invoke the article 50 of the Treaty on the EU on the withdrawal of any Member State. However, the new Prime Minister Theresa May (who succeeded to David Cameron (who was in favour of remaining in the EU) after his resignation) predicted the date of the withdrawal of the UK not to occur before 2019.

Economy, immigration and sovereignty : the main issues of the IN vs OUT campaign

            The dispute between the parties of the “remain” and “leave” were based on three principal arguments. Both parties saw positively and negatively the effects of the UK’s membership to the EU on the national economy, on the growth of immigration since its accession and on its sovereignty.

            While the pro-Brexit people depicted the EU as an institution sucking endlessly a huge amount of pounds that could directly go into the public services, anti-Brexit people were persuaded that the EU added to the UK’s prosperity. EU countries are still the biggest buyers of English goods – being a member state of the EU gives the UK’s companies access to over 500 million consumers in a tariff-free trade area. In a nutshell, it is easier and cheaper to sell to the EU market. As a consequence, if the UK leaves the EU, it leaves this golden market. However, it was quite unexpected to see that the British economy was doing fine a few weeks after the announcement of the victory of the “leave”: the fact that the pound lost 10% of its value was counterbalanced with the increase of the number of tourists, especially from outside Europe. Against all odds, it seems that the UK’s economy could still manage its survival without having a direct access to this Eldorado that is the European single market. But it shall be noted that in the years to come, the uncertainty of the status of the UK in the EU could frighten investors. In addition, the trade barriers between the UK and the EU are likely to lead to job losses – at least three million of jobs in the UK are linked with the trade with the EU. The anti-Brexiters also tried to convince the population that the cost of living is lower with the UK being part of the EU (e.g. flights, roaming charges, healthcare in other EU countries). Nevertheless, in order to compensate for this eventual loss, pro-Brexiters believe in the possibility of the UK having its own trade deals with the EU, following the example of Norway in the European Free Trade Association (yet Norway is said to be against its attempt to rejoin the EFTA since the UK, as a big country in terms of population thus of power, would shift the balance). Regarding trade deals with other major economies, the idea of establishing a free trade area within the Commonwealth is a project close to the hearts of the parties that advocated leaving the EU. The UK was unable to negotiate its own free trade agreement while being a member state of the EU.

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Concerning immigration, it was a piece of cake for pro-Brexiters: the best argument in order to incite the people to vote against the EU is to persuade them of its responsibility in the constant rise of the number of immigrants in the UK. It was a recurrent argument of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the eurosceptic UKIP (UK Independence Party).Yet the UK has been privileged among the Member States of the EU – it won exemption from several EU asylum rules. Moreover, the former Prime Minister David Cameron assured that the UK will not accept any quotas of refugees. Compared to other Members States of the EU, the UK does not directly suffer from the migration crisis. So far, only illegal immigration (coming especially from the Calais Jungle) can be considered as a problem – even so, Le Touquet treaty under which British border checks are carried out on French soil has been restated between France and the UK. The idea of completely controlling the borders can berelated to the sovereignty of a country. Another famous argument in favour of a Brexit that was long ago advocated by Eurosceptics is the loss of sovereignty. The implementation of the huge amount of EU regulations is seen by the population as a diktat from the EU, as well as a loss of money and time. For example, farmers blame the endless bureaucracy of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The British wish to have more of its own laws. Being a member of the EU now means that it underminesits national sovereignty.

The arguments of those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU have not completely convinced the majority of the population. It appears that the increased opportunities given by the EU (for instance the right to live, work, study in another EU member state) are not the priorities anymore. Leaving the EU may jeopardise the national security as the UK will not have access to the European criminal database for instance. The UK will not be safer anymore without its membership to Europol. Nevertheless, these arguments were not sufficiently convincing in the eyes of the majority of the voters, unlike the arguments of pro-Brexiters. The pro-EU arguments are not popular anymore. Eventually, the ‚ultimate Eurosceptic fantasy’ became real.

 

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Sources :

http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36788782

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-vote-leaves-key-claims-about-brexit/?playlist=structure%3Anews

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-key-claims-of-the-remain-campaign/?playlist=structure:news

http://forwardkeys.com/revenue-management/article/brexit.html

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/06/25/20002-20160625ARTFIG00015-sept-consequences-economiques-a-retenir-sur-le-brexit.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/08/09/20002-20160809ARTFIG00027-le-brexit-booste-le-tourisme-au-royaume-uni.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/decryptage/2016/08/22/29002-20160822ARTFIG00197-brexit-l-economie-britannique-dejoue-les-pronostics.php

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/uk-plays-down-calais-border-tensions-with-critical-ally-france

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2015/05/13/quotas-refugies-europe-solution-qui-fache-royaume-uni-peut-refuser_n_7266868.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3705524/Finally-EU-offers-deal-immigration-Plan-offer-Britain-seven-year-emergency-brake-UK-access-Europe-s-single-market.html

https://www.ft.com/content/3282746e-11d8-11e6-839f-2922947098f0

https://realtruth.org/articles/160815-001.html

 

Read more :

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/uk-immigration-minister-confirms-work-will-begin-on-big-new-wall-in-calais

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37387162

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/norway-may-block-uk-return-to-european-free-trade-association

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/18/theresa-may-to-tell-world-leaders-that-britain-has-a-right-to-pr/

Working in the European Commission – an interview with Jindrich Kloub

Barbara Zak

 

Professor Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

Jindrich Kloub, DG Competition, European Commission

As a former student at the Catholic University of Lille, I had the opportunity to meet Mr Jindrich Kloub who was my teacher of “Competition policy in the EU”. However, he firstly works as an EU civil servant at the Directorate-General for Competition (DG for Competition). He kindly accepted my request for doing a short interview about his career which may be helpful for students who aspire to work in the EU.

1- Could you tell us about your studies and the internships you have done? Was it in accordance with your career in the European Commission?

I studied law at the Charles University in Prague. Following graduation I worked as a lawyer for the City of Prague and later as an associate at a Prague office of an international law firm. In both of these jobs I dealt with commercial and corporate law. In parallel, I volunteered as a pro bono attorney at a human rights NGO in Prague, dealing with cases of international child abduction. To make a long story short, my studies and career prior to me joining the European Commission were almost completely unrelated to EU law and institutions.

2- How did you apply for the DG for Competition ? What was the procedure to enter this institution?

In 2003, shortly after my graduation from law school I applied for the EPSO competition that was organized in connection with Czech Republic joining the EU. Having passed the competition, I was placed on a reserve list and eventually found a job at DG Competition.

3- What does your work consist in at the DG for Competition?

I handle investigations into major European and international cartels, focusing mainly on cartels in the financial sector. My daily work is varied and encompasses handling investigative steps such as organizing and conducting dawn-raids or drafting requests for information, as well as prosecutorial and adjudicative tasks such as analysing evidence, drafting Commission prohibition and fining decisions, calculating fines and so on. In addition to my work on cases, I work on several policy projects related to fines, private damage litigation and others. Thanks to this variety of different tasks I keep enjoying my work for more than 8 years now.

4- While working for the EU, you are also teaching competition at the Catholic University of Lille. Do you have any other involvement in other fields or associations?

Between my work at the Commission, teaching commitments at the Catholic University, occasional participation at conferences and publications I find very little time for other professional engagements.

5- What would you advise to students who aim to work in the EU institutions?

As I see on my own story and the stories of my colleagues, there are many paths to a job at the European Institutions. The one element they all have in common is a proficiency in a foreign language. That is an absolute must. Therefore, I would urge students to work on their language skills so as to be able to comfortably work in another language.

Also, a great way to find out whether the work of an EU civil servant is something that one really likes is a traineeship at one of the EU institutions. This is a unique opportunity to see the inner workings of the EU institutions, make new friends and grow professionally.

Finally, I would advise them to pursue their interest and don’t be afraid to try different internships and work engagements. That way they will see what they truly enjoy in practice and not only in the abstract. And if that leads them to the EU institutions, they will be all the more valued for their experience.

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The Incessant Spanish Political Crisis

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy (photo: JUAN MEDINA/REUTERS)

Since the last parliamentary elections, Spain has been suffering from an institutional impasse as the leader of the winning party People’ Party (Partido Popular – PP), Mariano Rajoy, turned down king Felipe VI’s offer to form a new government. He explained his decision by stating that he does not have the absolute majority in the parliament but rather a majority of negative votes that would be against any of his proposed list of a government. As a result, the leader of the second placed party Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, was asked by the king to form a new government instead of Rajoy. However, as the PSOE party neither has the absolute majority, negotiations with other parties are necessary. Thus its leader asked for a period of a month before handing over his list of the ministers. In order to fully understand the actual political situation in Spain, we should focus on the results of the previous parliamentary elections.

 

Summary of the 2015 parliamentary elections’ results

Source: BBC (http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/05C9/production/_87318410_spain_elections_v2.png)

Source: BBC

On the 20th of December of 2015, the results of the parliamentary elections have revealed the end of the two-party system that was well-established as the seats have been shared between four parties. The party with the most votes casted was the right-wing and conservative People’s Party with Mariano Rajoy as their leader (who was the previous head of the government). They earned 28.7% votes and 123 seats won in the Congress of Deputies. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party was the second party to have the most votes casted : 22% with 90 seats earned. The third party that received 20.7% and 69 seats was the left-wing party created in 2014 Podemos (translated from Spanish as „We can”), with Pablo Iglesias Turrión as their leader. The 2015 parliamentary elections were their very first election. The fourth party that earned a decent number of votes is the centre-right party C’s which stands for Ciudadanos (translated into English as „Citizens”). They won 40 seats with 13.9% of the votes. The parties that arrive in fifth and sixth places are Catalan nationalist parties : Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – ERC) and Democracy and Freedom (Democràcia i Libertat – DiL). They have earned less than 3% out of all of the votes. This considerable split of the votes has a consequence : no party has the absolute majority, that is to say none of them have received at least 176 seats (half of 350 seats plus one seat).

 

The necessity to find an agreement through negotiations

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Pedro Sánchez (Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though the PP has won the highest number of votes and thus the possibility to form a government, no other party wishes to form a coalition with it since it is said to be utterly corrupted. This led to Rajoy’s refusal to form a government. As a result, we could say that the fate of the political issues is now in Sánchez’s hands. However, it is not the case because even if he forms a coalition with one of the young parties Podemos or C’s, they would still not have the absolute majority. Sánchez could count on a coalition with the socialist electoral alliance Popular Unity (Unidad Popular), but they have only won two seats in the Congress of the Deputies – hence the necessity to have a coalition PSOE-Podemos-C’s. However, the problem is that these parties have different opinions concerning the Catalan independence. Basically, Podemos is in favour of organizing a referendum concerning the independence in this region, unlike C’s. Yet Sánchez does not seem to want to surrender as he may intend to have a consent regarding the fight against unemployment, social inequality and corruption, and he might propose a constitutional reform to move towards a federal state in order to regulate the Catalan issue. On the other hand, if Sánchez plans to leave C’s out of its negotiations and rather have a left-wing coalition PSOE-Podemos-Popular Unity, which would be more plausible and feasible, they would still not have the absolute majority. In the end, they would need the votes of the Catalan nationalist parties to be added to their votes, which would request the independence of Catalonia. But these are only suppositions – at this time of the year, we cannot make clear statements.

The transition from a two-party system to a multi-party system illustrates the lack of trust of the Spanish people towards the long-standing parties as they cast their vote for recently created parties. This switching means that the people have no longer put their faith in the „incompetent” politicians of the well-established parties but rather in young political parties, with leaders showing their will and vigour to change the country, yet without the experience of the political field. This political crisis is the inevitable consequence of the economic crisis that has affected Spain since 2008.

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SOURCES

The United Kingdom:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35147266

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/22/spanish-prime-minister-rajoy-kings-petition-new-government

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/02/spains-king-picks-socialist-chief-to-try-to-form-government

 

France:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/12/20/01003-20151220ARTFIG00156-espagne-rajoy-face-au-casse-tete-des-alliances.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2016/01/22/01003-20160122ARTFIG00394-espagne-rajoy-renonce-a-former-un-gouvernement-pour-l-instant.php

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2016/02/03/en-espagne-les-socialistes-vont-essayer-de-former-un-gouvernement_4858287_3214.html

 

Spain:

http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2016/02/02/actualidad/1454437134_638707.html?rel=lom

http://www.thelocal.es/20151223/spains-socialist-refuse-to-back-rajoy-bid-to-form-new-government

http://www.elcorreo.com/bizkaia/politica/201602/05/pablo-iglesias-ofrecera-apoyo-20160205024739-rc.html?ns_campaign=noticias-relacionadas&ns_mchannel=bottom&ns_source=politica&ns_linkname=noticia&ns_fee=0

Polish Parliamentary Elections seen through Western European Countries’ Eyes

Barbara Zak

Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Jarosław Kaczyński (Leader of PiS), JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Jarosław Kaczyński (Leader of PiS), JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

It has been almost two months since the results of the Polish parliamentary elections have been revealed to the public. The overwhelming victory went to the Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) which earned 37.58% of the total votes. The consequence of this success is translated into the party having 235 seats out of 460 – that is to say that they managed to seize the absolute majority of the Sejm (one of the Polish chambers) which is 230 seats plus another seat. The party also gained the absolute majority in the Senate with 61 seats out of 100. What was also amazing was the fact that the second party on the list of the election results, which is Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO), the party that gained the two previous elections, has gained only 24.09% of the votes, namely 138 seats out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 34 seats out of 100 seats in the Senate. The third and fourth parties’ results do not exceed the 50 seats mark and have no seats in the Senate. It is important to note that no left-wing party has won any seat in the parliament – something that is utterly inconceivable for Western European democracies. The significant difference between the results is not to be taken lightly since it illustrates the position of the Poles towards the administration of their country : they have entirely trusted PiS with its promises and have given it all the tools needed to rule the country (we should not forget that the political affiliation of the incumbent President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, is PiS). To sum up, PiS has received enough seats to govern alone.

Every victory shall be congratulated, particularly when it is an overpowering victory. Polish press magazines have mentionned the party PiS as the main winner and have praised its considerable success. However, words of congratulations could not be found in Western European countries’ newspapers. I remember watching live broadcast from the parliamentary election results and my naive feelings of joy as PiS was declared the main winner. Truthfully, I was glad that a party was able to convince the majority of Polish people that they are willing to change Poland and Poles’ lives. But I also remember how this innocent hope of change for the better had been smashed as soon as I saw the headlines in French, English, Spanish and Italian newspapers. The common words that were basically mentionned everywhere in a very negative perception were „Eurosceptic, conservative, nationalist, ultranationalist, populist, extremist, extreme right-wing, far-right party”. Even the harsh word „xenophobic” was used to depict the winner of the elections. I was quite astonished to find such adjectives, but then I understood that the meaning of these words is perceived in a different way between Western and European countries.

The Western European countries’ opinions

(AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)

Jarosław Kaczyński and Beata Szydło celebrating its victory (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)

Western European countries’ newspapers have defined the key to victory as the result of an anti-migration campaign, of the anti-internationalisation of the country but rather the promotion of „what is our is better”, of the promise to keep young Polish people from moving to other countries because of unemployment, of a coming back to the nuclear family and a ban of the modern Western family, of the support of the Roman-Catholic church, of a pro-rural campaign and helping promises to poorer areas of the country. They have warned that the possible constitutional reforms could immerse the country into disastrous relations with the European Union (EU). The medias in these countries have shared their worries about the future of Poland regarding its membership of the EU. The tensions bewteen Paris-Berlin and Warsaw may arise. Since the pro-European Polish government (made of PO members) is no longer in office, the relations between the EU institutions and the new „excessively” conservative and nationalist government could be turbulent. Moreover, the fact that PiS claims to be more of a pro-American party is very worrisome in the eyes of Western European countries. Poland is gradually looking towards the United States of America in the sense that it seems to be willing to protect itself from the „permanent Russian threat”. Poland asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to focus on providing it with missile shield on Russia – as the EU does not have a common army, the only solution found by Poland was beyond the Atlantic ocean.

Source: ALIK KEPLICZ / AP

Jarosław Kaczyński (ALIK KEPLICZ / AP)

The media of Western European countries assimilate the electoral campaign of PiS as propaganda, using fear as its main tool. Every means is good to illustrate how dangerous this party is for the sake of the future of the EU. The most quoted sentence by Jarosław Kaczyński that can be found in the newspapers is basically that immigrants are like parasites and that they will bring various diseases. The medias remind to the population that this kind of xenophobic speech was used against Jews during Hitler’s ascension to the power. The leader of the Polish party is compared to the totalitarian personalities of the XXth century. The media say they foresee his eventual coup d’etat because of his undeniable thirst of power – Beata Szydło, the Polish prime minister, is more of a screen to Kaczyński’s actions rather than an independent figure. During his speech after the results of the parliamentary elections were out, Mr Kaczyński’s first words were a tribute to his late twin brother who died along with his wife in a plane crash while he was President of the Republic of Poland. In addition to the fact that their daughter was also present, the media of Europe perceived this as a means to move the population by reminding them of their late well-liked President. He did not speak of the promises they made.

Online version of the Italian nawspaper "La Stampa" right after the results

Online version of the Italian nawspaper „La Stampa” right after the results

The media said his speech was not appropriate for a winning speech. Moreover, Mr Kaczyński’s admiration for the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is percieved to become Hungary’s next dictator in the occidental part of Europe, worries the Western European journalists. They are afraid Poland’s politics and diplomatical relationship with other European countries will become similar to Hungary’s. The fear of authoritarian government and the weakening of democracy values can be found in every article talking about this subject. The constitutional reforms were the first step Orbán took to cement his position. „Kaczyński’s party is willing to do the same” can be seen in the press of Western Europe. PiS political affiliations that are partisan to sovereignty alerts considerably the West of Europe. Furthermore, the medias tend to remind that Poland needs the European funds in order to develop itself. Thus the idea of electing a Eurosceptic government should be unthinkable for Poles. The French researcher, essayist and political commentator Jean-Yves Camus has said in an interview with Le Figaro (French newspaper) that the member states from the Eastern part of Europe think they are like lower-ranking associates – but it is untrue because they are represented by important European commissionners (the former prime minister Donald Tusk (PO) is a revealing example of it), he says.

 Poland’s response to the accusations

"Indestructible - what will Jaroslaw Kaczynski do now?" says Polish magazine Do Rzeczy

„Indestructible – what will Jaroslaw Kaczynski do now?” says Polish magazine Do Rzeczy

Nevertheless, all of these negative views of the winning party are not shared by the Polish people nor Polish media. In theory, PiS is a right-wing, national-conservative party. PO is also a right-wing party. The true far right, Eurosceptic party of Poland is KORWiN (Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic – Liberty and Hope). But PiS’ campaign was to rather care about the interests of Poland and of Polish people. Poles say that since the integration of the country into the EU, Poland has received a huge amount of funds but in return their political moves were dictated by the EU’s most powerful government, which are Western European countries. Poles say that the PO government has sold everything (especially banks and supermarkets) to the foreigners and speculators, thus Polish little companies have perished. The reason why Polish people have voted for PiS is that they wished for some changes from the PO government. PO being pro-EU was not well-received by Poles in the end. Harsh critics has been made against the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the former primer minister Ewa Kopacz depicted as puppets of the German chancellor Angela Merkel. Poland is starting to refuse the authority of Western Europe, for instance regarding the quotas of migrants it is told to welcome. The new government promised to make the voice of Poland be heard so people are looking forward to what it has in stores. Right after the elections, Polish newspapers have written that Poles are looking at the new government with hope for a better change.

The main motto of the Western European medias is „be aware of PiS governing Poland”. It is not well perceived that a conservative, Eurosceptic and xenophobic party, as they call it, was allowed to form the new government. These are the statements that can be found in Western European countries’ newspapers and their influence on the population is huge. They know they play an important role in forming the public opinion. The position of these medias will divide the EU more and more. However, we cannot hide the fact that this government has been elected in a democratic way. This is the answer of the Polish people towards their difficulties and worries. So rather than being a Polish crisis, as we can read in the medias of the Western European countries, it should be called a European crisis, and more specifically a European identity crisis : Poles feel above all else Polish rather than European. The national values got the upper hand on the European unity. We could feel it during Poland’s new prime minister Beata Szydło’s speech : only Polish white-red flags could be seen. No European flag. Not anymore.

Belgium

http://www.rtbf.be/info/medias/dossier/vu-sur-le-web/detail_des-populistes-remportent-les-elections-polonaises-selon-la-vrt-theo-francken-les-corrige?id=9121033

France

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2015/10/25/pologne-la-droite-conservatrice-remporte-les-elections-legislatives_4796630_3214.html

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2015/10/23/pologne-la-fin-du-bon-eleve-europeen_4795312_3214.html

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2015/09/15/face-aux-refugies-des-opinions-europeennes-profondement-divisees_4757942_3214.html

http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2015/10/27/l-ue-inquiete-de-la-victoire-du-pis-en-pologne_4797652_3214.html

http://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/monde/2015/10/27/31002-20151027ARTFIG00346-legislatives-en-pologne-ce-que-revele-la-montee-de-l-euroscepticisme-a-l-est.php

United Kingdom

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34631826

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34640535

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34638483

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/26/poland-election-idUSL8N12Q08J20151026

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/22/polish-elections-2015-a-guide-to-the-parties-polls-and-electoral-system

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6959c838-77fb-11e5-a95a-27d368e1ddf7.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/23/poland-election-law-and-justice-party

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-16390574

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21748878

Spain

http://elpais.com/elpais/2015/10/26/opinion/1445893343_097387.html

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/10/26/actualidad/1445861367_552444.html

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/10/25/actualidad/1445764644_924199.html

http://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2015/10/26/562e145322601dbc1e8b45bf.html

Italy

http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2015/10/25/news/elezioni_polonia_-125883255/?ref=search

http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2015/10/24/news/polonia_intervista_czarnecki-125812685/?ref=search

http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2015/10/24/news/elezioni_polonia-125809157/?ref=search

http://www.corriere.it/esteri/15_ottobre_25/elezioni-polonia-primi-exit-poll-avanti-destra-anti-unione-europea-cccbd0a4-7b53-11e5-901f-d0ce9a6b55d1.shtml

Poland

http://www.fakt.pl/swiat/wybory-parlamentarne-2015-okiem-zagranicznej-prasie,artykuly,586388.html

http://www.wprost.pl/wybory-parlamentarne-2015/

http://www.wprost.pl/ar/523739/Zagraniczne-media-o-wyborach-w-Polsce-Prawicowa-zmiana/?pg=6#strona-komentarzy-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_parliamentary_election,_2015

Newspaper wSieci nr 46 16-22 november 2015 : article „Niezły rząd wielkich nadziei”, Piotr Zaremba

Bonus:

United States of America

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/26/europe/poland-election/