Pepijn Bergsen

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The recent withdrawal of the Baltic countries from the ‘17+1’ format displays changing perceptions of China due to its ambiguity towards the war in Ukraine.

While the Russian invasion of Ukraine only confirmed Central and Eastern Europe’s views of Russia, it is also affecting their relations with China. Although the relationship was already complicated due to unfulfilled Chinese economic promises to CEE countries and growing indications of efforts to influence their domestic politics, China’s support for Russia is pushing Central and Eastern Europeans even further away.

This shift was highlighted, and formalized, recently by several countries in the region leaving the ‘17+1’ format, through which China cooperates with a group of countries from the region. The shifting attitudes towards China will also influence the relationship between the European Union as a whole and China.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thousands of Poles at a rally in Krakow to support Poland's membership of the EU after the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the primacy of the constitution over EU law. Photo by Filip Radwanski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling that several articles of the European treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution is prompting much debate, especially in terms of both the similarities and differences between it and rulings by the German constitutional court which have also challenged the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Pro-Europeans are keen to draw a sharp distinction between the reasoning deployed by the two courts. They see the Polish court’s challenge as an exceptional case which the European Union (EU) cannot ‘tolerate’ because it would lead to the ‘demolition of the EU’s legal order from within’ and argue the EU must take a tough approach to Poland by re-asserting the supremacy of EU law.…  Seguir leyendo »

Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD), Annalena Baerbock co-leader of Germany's Greens, and Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) prior to a 2021 election TV debate in Berlin. Photo by MICHAEL KAPPELER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

If the polls are to be believed, the German Bundestag will be more fragmented after the election on 26 September than ever before in German post-war history. Even the largest party is likely to get less than 30 per cent of the vote.

In the public debate this is equated with a setback for democracy and the suggestion that it might herald the return of the failed Weimar democracy. The fear is of endless coalition negotiations and political paralysis. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The emerging fragmentation can also be seen as an opportunity for democracy.

In many ways, Germany is going through a development that has long been in full swing in neighbouring European countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protest at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin supported by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party against lockdown measures and government policies for tackling the pandemic. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

The public health and economic response to the first wave of the pandemic appeared to provide some vindication of centrist technocrats against claims from anti-establishment populists in Europe, and this was supported by opinion polling in the first half of 2020.

During the first wave, populist challenges floundered as there seemed little relation between the approval ratings of heads of government and countries’ relative performance on health outcomes or economic metrics.

Leading radical right populist parties such as the Alternative for Germany, the Sweden Democrats and the Lega in Italy saw decreases in their support in polls, with one poll pointing to a decrease in populist attitudes across a number of European countries, seemingly due to an increase in trust in experts, scientists and politicians.…  Seguir leyendo »

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron (via video) announce a joint EU recovery initiative to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Photo by Andreas Gora - Pool/Getty Image.

We don’t know yet exactly what Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron's proposed temporary fund of €500 billion will be spent on, but it will likely include investment in green infrastructure, research and support for the hardest-hit sectors.

Although the money will flow through the EU budget, it is likely to be spent early in the next budget period from 2021 to 2027. There are different options for dealing with the debt load created by the fund - it could be paid back over a long period, or continuously rolled over. The latter option is preferable given the likely high demand for these safe assets in financial markets.…  Seguir leyendo »

EU President of Council Charles Michel chairs the coronavirus meeting with the leaders of EU member countries via teleconference on March 17, 2020. Photo by EU Council / Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus - in particular social distancing -  come with significant economic costs, as the drop both in demand for goods and services and in supply due to workers being at home sick will create a short-term economic shock not seen in modern times.

Sectors that are usually less affected by regular economic swings such as transport and tourism are being confronted with an almost total collapse in demand. In the airline sector, companies are warning they might only be able to hold out for a few months more.

Building on the calls to provide income support to all citizens and shore up businesses, European leaders should now be giving explicit permission to the European Central Bank (ECB) to provide whatever financial support is needed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Voters cast their vote as part of the Dutch general elections on March 15, 2017 at a polling station in a mill in Oisterwijk. Photo by ROB ENGELAAR/AFP via Getty Images.

In recent decades, political party systems across Europe have fragmented and electoral volatility has increased. The number of parties represented in parliaments across the continent has grown and the formerly dominant mainstream parties have seen their support base collapse, forcing parties into often uncomfortable and unstable coalitions.

From the United Kingdom to Germany, politicians and commentators talk of such scenarios in often apocalyptic terms and associate it with political instability and policy paralysis.

They shouldn’t. Instead they should focus their energy on making these increasingly competitive political markets work.

The Netherlands is frequently held up as a prime example of this process, which is therefore sometimes referred to as ‘Dutchification’.…  Seguir leyendo »