The CSS Blog Network

The EU’s Democratic Deficit

2009 European Election Campaign Poster. Photo: European Parliament/flickr

The worldwide economic and financial crisis and the subsequent European sovereign debt crisis have shaken the European Union to its foundations. There has always been widespread criticism of the EU’s democratic legitimacy in the broad public and the media, but the discussion is even more salient today. To many – especially the UK tabloids – the EU is an inefficient bureaucratic monster, run by elitist eurocrats who act completely detached from European citizens. The EU takes these accusations seriously and responds with various “myths and facts” collections, where common misconceptions of the EU are corrected (see this example of the EC’s response to budget “myths”). However, it is worthwhile mentioning that some 56% percent of EU citizens are satisfied with “the way democracy works in the European Union” (see Eurobarometer chart below), which is a respectable result, even in comparison to national figures.

So what is it with democracy and the EU? There is of course no simple answer and a lively scholarly discussion is underway about democracy in the European Union, or the lack thereof. » More

Northern Kosovo: Status Quo, for Now

Serbian roadblocks in the divided town of Mitrovica

You choose your borders, we choose ours. Photo: Valerie Sticher

Last week’s outbreak of violence between ethnic Serbs and NATO forces at the border between Kosovo and Serbia may not have been large in scale, but this latest of a number of incidents points toward an escalation of long-simmering tensions in Northern Kosovo. The developments are not just  important symbolically; disagreements over the status of the North are the main obstacle to reconciliation between Belgrade and Pristina. They have implications for the wider region and, in effect, keep Serbia out of the EU and Kosovo out of the UN.

The positions are relatively clear-cut:

  • Belgrade’s motto is ‘partition, then recognition’: it has made clear that the only way it will accept Kosovo’s independence is if Northern Kosovo becomes a part of Serbia
  • Serbs in Northern Kosovo, who make up a large majority of the population, uniformly identify with Serbia and refuse to be part of an independent Kosovo
  • For Pristina, partition is unacceptable
  • The international community also wants to avoid changes to Kosovo’s borders, for fear of destabilizing the western Balkans and playing into the hands of Kosovo’s nationalists. The EU and the US have consistently insisted that Serbia accept Kosovo’s territorial integrity and work with its government on practical matters

» More

Now, Seriously: Financial Transaction Tax

A tax that won't hurt, except for gamblers. Image: artuemuestra/flickr

Liberal-minded economists are usually skeptical of taxation: taxes distort markets and lead to the inefficient allocation of resources. However, some taxes are better than others, and financial transaction taxes, such as the Tobin Tax, are certainly in that category.

Now, the European Commission is getting serious about introducing a financial transaction tax. Their proposal: levy a tax of 0.1% on every financial securities transaction performed by a financial institution based in the EU. » More

The End of European Exceptionalism?

The historical expansion of the EU

The historical expansion of the EU. Image: Ssolbergj/Wikipedia

Ten years ago, people were going long on Europe.  In 2002, an influential article in Policy Review described Europe as “entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity,” even “the realization of Kant’s Perpetual Peace.”  Those familiar with that article, Robert Kagan’s “Power and Weakness,” know that this was praise of a certain kind.  What made this Europe possible, according to Kagan was, actually: “the United States… mired in history, exercising power [out] in the anarchic, Hobbesian world.”  Though Kagan clearly did not believe that Europe circa 2002 was an illustration of Kant’s vision of human progress in history — in which the working out of our “unsocial sociability” would eventually lead to a global alliance of peaceful republics — it was the image he used.  And it was a compelling one.

When that article was written, the idea of Europe as paradise was plausible. The Euro had just entered circulation, membership of the EU was about to reach for the first time behind the old iron curtain, and people were getting used to the prospect of Europe as a second superpower alongside the United States. Perhaps Kagan’s article was so influential because it suggested what few at the time believed: that what Europe had achieved in preceding decades would not easily or inevitably be repeated elsewhere in the decades to come, that European advances were themselves contingent and fragile.  That power was not obsolete. » More

Keyword in Focus: Greece

The Greek Parliament. Photo: SimonC flickr.

After yesterday’s vote and the approval today of legislation allowing for the rapid implementation of new austerity measures, one may legitimately wonder what tomorrow has in store for Greece, a country that will always have special significance in the West.

Few, it seems, have failed to notice the symmetry in the fact that until Wednesday the fate of the latest common European project very much seemed to turn—and perhaps still turns—on events in the birthplace of the oldest one.

Though more treacherous waters lie ahead, for now at least Europe has avoided the ‘Lehman moment’ that it was feared could trigger the unraveling of its monetary union and an even deeper crisis for its political one. No Marathon or Salamis, to be sure — but welcome news nonetheless.

We take this opportunity to showcase the holdings of the ISN Digital Library on Greece

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