The CSS Blog Network

What Is So Special About Poland?

Image: Rock Cohen/flickr

The Center for International Studies at ETH Zurich hosted a number of lectures on Thursday March 8, 2012 focusing on Poland and European integration. This was an excellent opportunity to learn about and discuss several important topics presented by Polish scholars, covering the following four themes: how Polish euroskepticism has changed over the past decades (Krzysztof Zuba); how differentiated integration might play out in the case of Poland (Paweł Frankowski); how the European Parliament socializes its Polish members (Anna Paczesniak); and, what distinguishes European parties from national parties (Wojchiech Gagatek). More broadly, however, what is there in particular that distinguishes the case of Poland from that of other new member states?

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Views From Greece: Europe’s Paradigm Shift

Photo: opendemocracy/flickr

In a recent article, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio pointed out that Europe, in deciding to move toward a common currency back in the late 1980s, made its “greatest miscalculation [in that it accepted] the assumption of stability while on the verge of a systemic transformation impregnated with volatility.”

Palacio’s words may sound obvious today with the help of hindsight, especially since the European Union is reeling from the impact of the sovereign debt crisis and the persistent confusion over what to do to correct the mess. And correctly Palacio suggests that what Europe needs is a new political paradigm that will allow it to rise to the requirements of a fast changing world order.

This is the greatest challenge that the nominally “united” Europe has come across since its inception. In the recent past, European leaders appeared to assume that enlargement by itself would somehow automatically trigger processes for the “deepening” of European political integration. But, just like in the case of adopting the euro, Europeans again made the incorrect assumptions of a universe operating according to wishful thinking and not according to the laws of Nature. » More

Empowering Europe’s Electricity Market

Unlike humans some jellyfish are self-sufficient electricity providers. Courtesy of x3nomik/flickr

Europe is talking energy and there is no easy way out of existing dilemmas: While nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants entail considerable risks, most sources of alternative energy are not yet considered mature enough to fuel Europe’s economies on their own. Like elsewhere across the globe, Europeans are facing tough challenges in their attempt to secure a clean, reliable and affordable power supply.

As in every crisis, the risk looms that countries just look after their own narrowly-defined national interests and either ignore or forget the advantages of a regionally coordinated approach. In their struggle for secure energy, European nations should not lose sight of the potential of the common electricity market. In the long run, it could play a crucial role in enabling a more efficient energy future both from an economic and an ecological point of view. Yet, many obstacles still need to be overcome at the moment.

In an integrated market, electricity could be exchanged efficiently across the continent, connecting demand to the most inexpensive supply no matter where in Europe. Consumers could benefit from choosing from a wide range of suppliers, which in turn would boost competition and innovation. Currently, however, the European electricity markets remain regionally fragmented. Countries and companies are not investing enough in transmission capacities across national borders because they struggle to agree on the financial burden-sharing of these expensive projects. As long as national grids are not fully interconnected, trade cannot evolve.

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Europe’s Pariah People

One man in ten million, photo: Zsolt Bugarszki/flickr

With over 10 million members, the Roma (also called Romani) constitute today’s largest EU minority group. Scattered across a dozen countries, with their largest concentrated populations in Central and Eastern Europe, they have become Europe’s current pariah people.

In July of this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his government’s plans to deport thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma migrants back to their home countries. Already in 2009, roughly 10,000 Roma were expelled from France, and around the same number has been driven out thus far this year. In Italy, where authorities already started to deal with the ‘Roma question’ back in 2008, large-scale evictions of Roma from settlements across the country are already taking place. In Milan alone, officials have expelled over 7,000 Roma over the past two years.

France and Italy are, however, not alone in evicting the Roma. Across Western Europe, politicians and public officials are tripping over themselves with declarations proclaiming that Roma as an ethnic group are dangerous and predisposed to crime and other antisocial behavior, and must therefore be removed from society as quickly as possible. In light of this, numerous Western European countries (namely Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the UK) have either already moved to expel the Roma, or intend to do so in the nearby future.

In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, where most Roma live, the situation has never been anything but hideous. Across the region, Roma communities are denied equal access to adequate housing, education, health, water and sanitation, and thus remain deprived of all prospects. In addition, anti-Roma violence remains a serious and, in many places even an increasing problem, exacerbated by the fact that most perpetrators of violence against Roma continue to act with impunity.

However, discrimination against the Roma is not a new phenomenon. » More

On Course with European Identity

Pieces of a European puzzle, photo: Cemre/flickr

South Wales is not renowned as a symbol of European identity. Indeed, if you were fortunate enough to watch the drama unfold at the 38th Ryder Cup last week – the biennial golfing contest between Europe and the USA – you might have missed the phenomenon occurring beyond the playing area.

Yes, what might just have passed for a raucous band of Brussels bureaucrats on tour was, in fact, a crowd of 50,000 European golf fans (many of them British) bedecked in blue and yellow – many literally wrapped in the EU flag – cheering on their team with endless chants of ‘Europe, Europe’. For this supporter, bred on a British media diet of fear and skepticism regarding the Brussels ‘takeover’, the passionate display of ‘europeanness’ was faintly startling.

Put the tournament in its proper context as the one event where Europe is represented as a single team and with a television audience of one billion people (making this the third largest sporting event in the world) and you’ll understand why President Barroso of the European Commission was positively giddy as he opened proceedings.  Remember, this is also from the perspective of a country where 71 percent want a referendum on EU membership, and of a Union to which less than half its members’ populations feel any attachment.

But what does it say about European identity when its most fervent popular expression is in a sport characterized by birdies, bogeys and bunkers? » More

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