Academic research on the EU, Enlargement, Europe in the news, Euroscepticism, Future of the EU, the Netherlands

The contradictions of the Dutch referendum on the Association agreement with Ukraine

As the day of the advisory referendum in the Netherlands on the Association agreement with Ukraine nears, the bulk of the commentary seems to focus on the campaign, its trends and its context rather than the referendum question and the agreement it addresses. There have been lots of commentaries focusing on the geopolitics of the referendum, evaluating Russia’s possible attitude or role, as for example this recent piece  assessing a potential ‘no’ vote as a symbolic victory for Russia. Many analysts note the passive stance taken by the Dutch government and political parties of the government coalition who, after all, participated in the negotiations of the agreement that started all the way back in 2008. In a highly critical post, Judy Dempsey denounces the lackluster campaign by Dutch and European politicians and the lack of visible commitment to the  treaty and the values it embodies (rather than just trade) by the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte himself. In terms of the implications of the referendum results, there is little agreement on the significance of a potential ‘no’ vote. Some, consider the whole exercise to be meaningless, as given the advisory nature of the referendum, the government could ignore the results if they are negative.This post by Korteweg provides an overview of recent history of both the agreement and the Dutch referendum and of potential scenarios after the referendum.

Yet, as Kristof Jacobs pointed out in the SRV blog and also in a debate we held yesterday, the political consequences of ignoring a possible ‘no’ vote would be much wider  and harder to ignore than the legal ones. Both domestic and international consequences could be quite broad and far reaching. At least one of the government coalition parties, the Social Democrats, has committed to respecting the outcome of the referendum. Changing the wording of the Association agreement to satisfy the Dutch voters would also be quite problematic: in a total of 486 articles and 179 pages without the annexes, identifying which bits would have been found objectionable by Dutch votes in case of a ‘no’ majority would be difficult. The EU’s credibility in other international settings and policies, such as the revised European Neighborhood Policy or even ongoing enlargement process with the Western Balkans, would be compromised.

If we accept that future accessions or associations will become more and more politicized, as found in our enlargement assessment project maxcap (see here), we should try to take the question of the referendum seriously and evaluate, to the best of our current knowledge, what effects the Association agreement might have. Given its scope and the fact that establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Trade Area is quite a novel enterprise, as shown in this legal analysis, effects are difficult to estimate ex ante. The political reform provisions in the treaty, however, are both far-reaching and promising, in the clear commitment to domestic reforms in Ukraine (art 6), extensive requirements for transparency and the planned involvement of civil society (articles 299, 443). All other things being equal (which is not a given in Ukraine’s neighbourhood), the Agreement will provide both a roadmap and a set of incentives for reforms in democratic governance, as the EU has done in the past for countries like Bulgaria, Romania or Slovakia. It will be up to Ukrainian policy makers and politicians to take this opportunity. Yet rejecting the treaty by means of a negative vote in the Netherlands, or letting it exist in some kind of legal and political limbo while the Dutch government decides how to react to a potential negative result, would sap what energy and determination exist for reforms in Ukraine. So paradoxically, if we assume that at least some of the initiators of the Dutch referendum care about democracy and citizens, their democratic impulse might kill the attempts to make democracy mean something in Ukraine. This would be a strange outcome indeed.


Britain, Enlargement, Euroscepticism, Public opinion

Immigration from Central and Eastern Europe fuels support for Eurosceptic parties in the UK

Combining political, demographic and economic data for the local level in the UK, we find that the presence of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is related to higher voting shares cast for parties with Eurosceptic positions at the 2014 elections for the European Parliament. Evidence across Europe supports the connection between immigration from CEE and the electoral success of anti-Europe and anti-immigration political parties.

Immigration has become the top political issue in the UK. It played a pivotal role during the European Parliament elections in 2014 and it is the most-talked about issue in the build-up to the national elections in 2015.

The arrival of Eastern Europeans in the wake of the ‘Big Bang’ EU enlargement in 2004 and 2007  has a large part of the blame to take for the rising political salience of immigration for the British public. Figure 1 shows that ever since the EU accession of the first post-communist countries in 2004, immigration has been considered one of the two most important issues facing the country by a substantial proportion of British citizens, surpassing even concerns about the economy, except for the period between 2008 and 2012.

Data source: Standard Eurobarometer (59 to 82).
Data source: Standard Eurobarometer (59 to 82).

These popular concerns have swiftly made their way into the electoral arena. Some political parties like UKIP and BNP have taken strong positions in favor of restricting immigration and against the process of European integration in general. Others, like the Conservative party, have advocated restricting access of EU immigrants to the British labour market[5] while retaining an ambivalent position towards the EU. Parties with positions supportive of immigration and European integration have altogether tried to dodge the issues for fear of electoral punishment. Arguably, political and media attention to immigration (and East European immigrants in particular) have acted to reinforce the public concerns. In short, British voters care about and fear immigration, and political parties have played to, if not orchestrated, the tune.

But there is more to this story. In recent research we find evidence that higher actual levels of immigration from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) at the local level in the UK are related to higher shares of the vote cast for Eurosceptic parties at the last European Parliament elections in 2014. In other words, British Eurosceptic parties have received, on average and other things being equal, more votes in localities with higher relative shares of East European residents.

The relationship is not easy to uncover. Looking directly into the correlation between relative local-level CEE immigration population shares and the local vote shares of Eurosceptic parties would be misleading. Immigrants do not settle randomly, but take the economic and social context of the locality into account. At the same time, this local economic and social context is related to the average support for particular parties. For example, local unemployment levels are strongly positively correlated with the  vote share for the Labour party, and the local share of highly educated people is strongly positively correlated with the vote share for the Greens (based on the 2014 EP election results). Therefore, we have to examine the possible link between CEE immigration shares and the vote for Eurosceptic parties net of the effect of the economic and social local contexts which, in technical terms, potentially confound the relationship.

In addition, immigrants themselves can vote at the EP elections and they are more likely to vote for EU-friendly parties. This would tend to attenuate any positive link between the votes of the remaining local residents and support for Eurosceptic parties. Lastly, the available local level immigration statistics track only immigrants who have been in the country longer than three months (as of 27 March 2011). Hence, they miss more recent arrivals, seasonal workers and immigrants who have not been reached by the Census at all. All these complications stack the deck against finding a positive relationship between the local presence of CEE immigrants and the vote for Eurosceptic parties. It is thus even more remarkable that we do observe one.

Figure 2: A scatterplot of the relative share of CEE immigrants from the local population versus the residual share of the vote cast for Eurosceptic parties (UKIP and BNP) at the 2014 EP elections

Figure 2 shows a scatterplot of the logged share of CEE immigrants from the local level population as of 2011 (on the horizontal axis) against the residual share of local level vote shares of Eurosceptic parties (UKIP and BNP) at the 2014 EP election (on the vertical axis). Each dot represents one locality (lower-tier council areas in England and unitary council areas in Wales and Scotland) and the size of the dot is proportional to the number of inhabitants. A few localities are labeled. The voting share is residual of all effects of the local unemployment level, and the relative shares of highly educated people, atheists, and non-Western immigrants in the population. In other words, the vertical axis shows the proportion of the vote for Eurosceptic parties unexplained by other social and economic variables.

The black straight line that best fits all observations is included as a guide to the eye. Its positive slope indicates that, on average, higher shares of CEE immigrants are related with higher Eurosceptic vote shares. Formal statistical tests show that the relationship is unlikely to be due to chance alone.

While the link is discernable from random fluctuations in the data, it is far from deterministic. Some of the localities with the highest relative shares of CEE immigrants, like Brent, have in fact only moderate Eurosceptic vote shares, and some localities with the highest share of the vote cast for Eurosceptic parties, like Hartlepool, have very low registered presence of CEE immigrants. Nevertheless, even if it only holds on average, the relationship remains substantially important.

Does this mean that people born in the UK are more likely to vote for Eurosceptic parties because they have had more contact with East Europeans? Not necessarily. Relationships at the level of individual citizens cannot be inferred from relationships at an aggregate level (otherwise, we would be committing what statisticians call ecological fallacy). In fact, there is plenty of research in psychology and sociology showing that direct and sustained contact with members of an out-group, like immigrants, can decrease prejudice and xenophobic attitudes. But research has also found that the sheer presence of an out-group, especially when direct contact is limited and the public discourse is hostile, can heighten fears and feelings of threat of the host population as well. Both mechanisms for the effect of immigration presence on integration attitudes – the positive one of direct contact and the negative one of outgroup presence – are compatible with the aggregate level relationship that we find. And they could well coexist – for a nice illustration see this article in the Guardian  together with the comments section.

Is it really the local presence of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe in particular that leads to higher support for Eurosceptic parties? It is difficult to disentangle the effects of CEE immigrants and immigrants from other parts of the world, as their local level shares share are correlated. Yet, the relative share of non-Western immigrants from the local population appears to have a negative association with support for Eurosceptic parties across a range of statistical model specifications, while the effect of CEE immigrants remains positive no matter whether non-Western immigration has been controlled for or not.

There is also evidence for an interaction between the presence of immigrants from CEE and from other parts of the world. The red line in Figure 2 is fitted only to the localities that have lower than the median share of non-western immigrants. It is steeper than the black one which indicates that for these localities the positive effect of CEE immigrants on Eurosceptic votes is actually stronger. The blue line is fitted only to the localities with lower than the median share of non-western immigrants. It is sloping in the other direction which implies that in localities with relatively high shares of immigrants from other parts of the world, the arrival of East Europeans does not increase the vote for Eurosceptic parties.

It is interesting to note the recent statement by UKIP leader Nigel Farage that he prefers immigrants from form former British colonies like Australia and India to East Europeans. Focusing rhetorical attacks on immigrants from CEE in particular fits and makes sense in light of the story told above.

We (with Elitsa Kortenska) also find that CEE immigration increases Euroscepticism at the local level in other countries as well. In a recently published article (ungated pre-print here) we report this effect in the context of the referenda on the ill-fate European Constitution in Spain, France, and The Netherlands in 2005 and on the Treaty of Lisbon in Ireland in 2008. In ongoing work we argue that local level presence of CEE immigrants is systematically related to higher vote shares cast for Eurosceptic parties in Austria, The Netherlands, and France, in addition to the British case discussed in this post.

Why does this all matter? The process of European integration presupposes the right of people to move and work freely within the borders of the Union. This is not only a matter of convenience, but of economic necessity. People from regions experiencing economic hardship must be able to move to other EU regions with growing economies for economic integration to function. In an integrated economy like the EU or the US, a Romanian or a Greek must be free to seek employment in the UK or in Poland the same way an American living in Detroit is able to relocate to California in search of work and fortune.

This is especially true given the lack of large-scale redistribution between EU regions. Economic Integration creates regional inequalities. One way to respond is to redistribute the benefits of integration. Another is to allow people and workers to move where employment chances are currently high. If none of these mechanisms is available, economic and political integration are doomed. Therefore, if immigration within the EU indeed fuels Euroscepticism, as our study suggests, the entire European integration project is at risk.

Euroscepticism, Future of the EU, Public opinion

The European Commission vs. the People

The Commission has recently published its vision about the future of European integration. The report is more than ambitious calling for full banking, economic, budgetary and political integration, including ‘dedicated fiscal capacity for the euro area’ which I believe means taxation powers for the EU. Here is the assessment of the Commission about the present state of EU’s legitimacy:

The Lisbon Treaty has perfected the EU’s unique model of supranational democracy, and in principle set an appropriate level of democratic legitimacy in regard of today’s EU competences. would be inaccurate to suggest that insurmountable accountability problems exist. (p.35)

Wow, wait a minute! P e r f e c t e d    the model of supranational democracy?! Appropriate level of democratic legitimacy?! Are the Commissioners living on the same planet as the rest of us? According to data from autumn 2012, fewer than 1 in 3 Europeans said they trust the EU. 60% don’t trust the EU. For only 31% of European citizens the EU ‘conjures’ [sic] a positive image, while for 28% it ‘conjures’ a negative one. In late 2011 only 45% of European expressed satisfaction with the way democracy works in the EU. 43% were not satisfied with the ‘perfected model of supranational democracy’.

And what about the impact of the Lisbon Treaty? Here is a graph of the trust Europeans have in the different EU institutions. By the way, the Commission currently stands at 36% (click to enlarge the graph).

New Picture (1)

The trend is quite clear from a bird’s eye-view, but let’s zoom in on the period after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force:

New Picture

Trust in EU institutions has decreased by more than 20% (from its 2009 levels) so that currently even the directly-elected European Parliament doesn’t get the trust of more than half of the European population. The Lisbon Treaty has perfected things indeed.

Finally, let’s look more specifically at what people think about EU’s expansion into some of the policies mentioned in the report. An absolute majority of Europeans consider that it is only for the national governments to make decisions about public debt (51%), unemployment (58%), social welfare (68%), taxation (68%) and pensions (73%).

If these are not ‘ insurmountable accountability problems’, I don’t know what is. For all its ambition, the Commission offers few answers how the reforms will be pushed through in the face of such strong opposition from the people. There is no way to proceed behind the backs of the citizens, and there is no magic trick to earn their trust overnight. The Commission might be applauded for expressing a bold vision for future Europe, but some reality check is in order.

Euroscepticism, Norway

Why are Norwegians Eurosceptic? For the exact opposite reasons that Britons are Eurosceptic

JCMS has a new article which tries to explain the persistent Euroscepticism in Norway. According to Marianne Skinner, neither economic interest nor identity politics can account for the strong Euroscepticism of the Norwegian people. Instead, the author argues that it is a concern for (1) post-materialist values, (2) a particular political culture, and (3) emphasis on rural society that determine the lack of desire of ordinary Norwegians to join the EU*.

I had always assumed that Norwegian Euroscepticism has a lot to do with the facts that Norway has natural gas and a dislike for the common European fisheries policy. So the interpretation offered by Marianne Skinner is rather intriguing. Let’s unpack the arguments a little bit. The focus on the ideal of rural society is quite peculiar (and as far as I know uniquely Norwegian/Icelandic). I can easily see why idealization of the peasants and the countryside doesn’t sit very well with European integration, so it seems plausible that if one values strongly rural society, he/she would dislike the EU. Political culture in this case refers mostly to emphasis on participatory democracy, anti-bureaucracy, centralization and technocracy feelings, and pride in national independence. Now, pride in (hard-won) national independence and history are definitely not uniquely Norwegian – just ask the Irish, or the Bulgarians – so I am not convinced  that they are incompatible with support for European integration. But the emphasis on participatory democracy seems rather relevant. Finally, post-materialism values imply that ones cares strongly about the environment, equality, solidarity, quality of life and has anti-war sentiments. But in Norway, the EU is associated with liberal economic philosophy, prioritization of economic growth above all else, increased consumption, discriminatory trade policies with the rest of the world, etc**. In short, in Norway ‘opposition to the EU is a question of morality’ (p.432).  Quite interesting!

Now contrast this Norwegian brand of Euroscepticism with the one prevalent in the UK (and in England, in particular). The public and elite (political parties) level Euroscepticism in the UK is fueled by feelings that the EU regulates too much and not too little, that it is not supporting the market and economic growth enough, and that its economic philosophy is not too liberal but too dirigiste. Norway and England are Eurosceptic for the exact opposite reasons! At least this seems to be the conclusion when the regulation/economic policy dimension of Euroscepticism is in focus; both countries share a negativity towards the EU’s democratic process.

*Note that the article is based on analysis of letters to the editor, commentaries and other journalistic materials published in one Norwegian newspaper (1960-1994) rather than a survey of peoples’ attitudes. So it is best described as a study of the Norwegian Eurosceptic public discourse rather than Norwegian Euroscepticism as such.

** This seems a bit paradoxical to me: Norwegians value ‘normal people’s ability to … choose where they live’ but dislike European integration which leads to ‘extreme mobility and economic migration’ (p.433). So you can choose where you live as long as you don’t move?!

Euro, Europe in the news, the Netherlands

Idealen en geen boekhouders maken Europa!

Europa gaat gebukt onder een crisis die vooral het onvermogen van de Europese politiek duidelijk maakt. Omdat iedereen mag meepraten en natuurlijk een eigen visie heeft, worden slechts minuscule stapjes gezet in de hoop daarmee Europa en de euro te redden. Misschien is die ‘slakkenvaart’ het nieuwe wapen in de strijd tegen het afkalvende vertrouwen in de euro en de Europese politiek. Met het opstellen van de nieuwe ‘fiscal compact treaty’ geven de Europese leiders aan meer trots te zijn op hun boekhoudkundige kwaliteiten dan hun visie. Strenge begrotingsregels, schuldlimieten en straffen, geflankeerd door een financieel-economische risicoverkenning aan de hand van de Commissie, is hun ‘oplossing’ voor de huidige impasse. Europese samenwerking wordt daarmee verengd tot ‘afspraken’ en ‘afrekenen’. Voldoe je niet aan je target, dan vlieg je de deur uit, zo lijkt het wel. Misschien een interessant model voor een bedrijf dat snel geld wil verdienen, maar een desastreus model voor internationale samenwerking.

Europese samenwerking moet winst opleveren, zo lijkt het wel. In Nederland heeft de voormalige Minister van Financiën, Gerrit Zalm, hieraan bijgedragen. In zijn pleidooi om de Nederlandse bijdrage aan Europa te verlagen, is samenwerking verengd tot geld verdienen. Nederland zou geen nettobetaler moeten zijn, maar juist aan Europa moeten verdienen. Dat idee van nettobetaler is ten onrechte blijven hangen. Weliswaar geven wij op dit moment ongeveer 150 euro per hoofd van de bevolking uit aan Europa, de voordelen van die samenwerking zijn veel groter. Recent heeft het CPB becijferd dat ons nationaal inkomen hoger is door de gemeenschappelijke markt. Dat voordeel ligt op ongeveer 1500 euro per persoon. Ook is berekend dat de ‘winst’ van de invoering van de euro per persoon wat kleiner is, maar nog wel positief, namelijk ongeveer een weeksalaris (

Meer principieel is de versmalling van Europese samenwerking naar economisch voordeel onjuist. Vraagt u zich ook wekelijks af wat de financiële waarde van uw partner is? Berekent u ook jaarlijks de opbrengsten van uw kinderen? Maak u alleen vriendschappen wanneer die uw maandinkomen vergroten? Ik niet, en ik zou er ook niet aan moeten denken. En daarmee raken we de kern van de huidige impasse. Omdat ieder land zich enorm fixeert op ‘wat levert het mij op?’, is de huidige crisis moeilijk op te lossen. We hebben hierbij te maken met wat vaak een prisoners’ dilemma wordt genoemd: hoewel voor alle lidstaten samenwerking de beste optie is, denkt elke lidstaat afzonderlijk de anderen te slim af te zijn door vooral de eigen prioriteiten te blijven volgen. Daarmee ontstaat de desastreuze uitkomst dat samenwerking niet van de grond komt, en, zoals het oorspronkelijke dilemma dat aangeeft, de ‘gevangenen elkaar verraden’. Het resultaat is een suboptimale uitkomst die ver van samenwerking afstaat. Deelbelangen zegevieren over het gemeenschappelijke belang en dat brengt oplossing van de huidige crisis niet dichterbij.

Om dit dilemma te doorbreken zullen de lidstaten op een andere wijze naar Europa moeten gaan kijken. Dit vraagt een nieuwe visie op Europa. Een visie op wat wij willen bereiken. Niet alleen handel, maar ook vrede, veiligheid en het behouden van gemeenschappelijke waarden als vrijheid, sociale rechtvaardigheid en democratie zouden daarbij een meer prominente rol moeten spelen. Samenwerking werkt wanneer we ervan overtuigd zijn dat deze waarden belangrijk zijn. Ook moeten Europese leiders bereid zijn dat aan hun kiezers over te brengen.

Daarnaast is samenwerking meer dan een winst- of verliesrekening waarbij, op het moment dat het even tegenzit, die samenwerking meteen wordt opgegeven. Er kan op de korte termijn zeker bestraffend worden opgetreden op het moment dat een lidstaat zich niet aan de afspraken houdt, maar voor de langere termijn is wederzijds begrip en solidariteit noodzakelijk. De Unie kan daarom niet uitsluitend maatregelen nemen die louter in het belang zijn van economisch sterke landen als Duitsland en Nederland. Verder is de huidige focus op de korte termijn een slechte raadgever: de Europese kip met de gouden eieren is ziek. Alhoewel de ingreep voor sommigen heel pijnlijk is, en het medicijn ons geld kost, is het uiteindelijke herstel voor alle Europese landen belangrijk. Versterking van het noodfonds, een ruimere rol voor de ECB en de mogelijkheid Europees kapitaal aan te trekken voor de financiering van (een deel van) de staatsschuld moeten onderdeel zijn van die aanpak.

Tot slot lijken de Europese leiders steeds weer door hun eigen inactiviteit overvallen te worden. Daardoor ontstaat een bijna permanente crisissituatie waarbij democratie naar de zijlijn is verwezen. Weliswaar grijpt menig regeringsleider terug op zijn of haar nationale parlement, maar Europese democratie is meer dan de optelsom van nationale democratieën. Sterker nog, die wijze van verantwoorden versterkt juist de nadruk op nationale deelbelangen die het oplossen van de Europese crisis in de weg staat. Op Europees—het gemeenschappelijke—niveau zijn geen voorziening getroffen. Duitsers, Britten, Spanjaarden, Nederlanders en anderen kunnen zich in nationale parlementen uitspreken. Maar niemand legt in Europa verantwoording af. Daarmee zijn we bij een belangrijke zwakte van het huidige bestuurlijke bestel. Ook het te voeren sociaaleconomische en financiële beleid in Europa vraagt om democratie!

Academic research on the EU, Euroscepticism

EU Research Digest (November 2011)

During the past few months several important academic articles dealing with EU attitudes and support were published. In this post I will briefly review the most important insights from these studies:

First, attitudes towards the European Union are multidimensional. This means that whether you trust the European Parliament for example is not strongly related to some other opinion on European integration like whether you perceive the EU as a threat to national identity. A survey in the Netherlands (2008) reveals five separate dimensions of EU attitudes – negative affection, identity, performance, utilitarianism, and strengthening the EU [2].  

As a result, several different factors relate to anti-EU voting in EP elections – assessment of the democratic deficit, low perceived utility of the EU, negative affection, opposition to EU integration, and the absence of EU identity [6]. This is an important finding because it shows that voting in EU elections is not related only to national concerns and satisfaction with the national government, and because it identifies several different aspects of EU attitudes that matter.

Similarly, specific issue concerns rather than general dissatisfaction with the EU or national governments explain the No votes in the French and Dutch referenda on the ill-fated EU Constitution [4]. Hence, voter attitudes towards the Constitution are multidimensional as well.

Second, group identity considerations affect strongly hostility towards the EU [5]. Attitudes towards immigrants are the most important predictors of Euroscepticism in Ireland and the Netherlands [5]. While how religious you are is not systematically related to your assessment of the EU, religious intolerance and negative feelings towards Islam increase Euroscepticism (in the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent in Ireland) [5]. Negative feelings towards immigrants (in NL) and religious intolerance (in Ireland) explain opposition to Turkey’s membership of the EU as well [5].

The importance of identity and the fear of economic migration, however, differs across the members of the EU. In wealthy states economic xenophobia matters more than in poor states, and for the high net-contributors to the EU budget the negative effects of exclusive national identity are greater [3].

So perhaps not surprisingly, EU contestation exists mostly in the realm of identity politics (during the last EP election campaign at least) [1]. Election and referendum campaigns matter because they emphasize certain issues and aspects of EU integration over others, thus priming the voters [4]. Right wing parties are the ones more likely to bring identity concerns during the election campaigns and countries with more Eurosceptic parties are more likely to put attention to EU issues [1]. But when the campaign environment is intense, party messages matter less to the voters [4].

In summary, from the many dimensions of EU attitudes that are important for how you assess and vote on EU issues, identity (and the related fear of immigrants) is one of the most important and the one that is the most likely to get politicized , mostly by right-wing and Eurosceptic parties.

[1] Adam, S. and M. Maier 2011. ‘National parties as politicizers of EU integration? Party campaign communication in the run-up to the 2009 European Parliament election’, European Union Politics, 12, 431-453.

[2] Boomgaarden, H.G., A.R.T. Schuck, M. Elenbaas and C.H. de Vreese 2011. ‘Mapping EU attitudes: Conceptual and empirical dimensions of Euroscepticism and EU support’, European Union Politics, 12, 241-266.

[3] Garry, J. and J. Tilley 2009. ‘The Macroeconomic Factors Conditioning the Impact of Identity on Attitudes towards the EU’, European Union Politics, 10, 361-379.

[4] Hobolt, S.B. and S. Brouard 2010. ‘Contesting the European Union? Why the Dutch and the French Rejected the European Constitution’, Political Research Quarterly.

[5] Hobolt, S.B., W. Van der Brug, C.H. De Vreese, H.G. Boomgaarden and M.C. Hinrichsen 2011. ‘Religious intolerance and Euroscepticism’, European Union Politics, 12, 359-379.

[6] van Spanje, J. and C. de Vreese 2011. ‘So what’s wrong with the EU? Motivations underlying the Eurosceptic vote in the 2009 European elections’, European Union Politics, 12, 405-429.

Euroscepticism, the Netherlands, Uncategorized

the lessons from Rodrik’s globalisation paradox

Last week we had the pleasure to hear Professor Dani Rodrik deliver the annual lecture of the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR). The lecture was a brilliant example how a widely published academic economist, active in the best scientific journals in his field, can fulfill a public role and explain in an elegant, yet simple way, without a single graph or table, a complex argument. The full lecture is not available (summary here), but the theme and content were the same as the arguments developed in Rodrik’s latest book, The Globalization Paradox. Briefly, Rodrik argues that the move towards hyperglobalization in the last two decades, meaning the removal of all border controls to trade and financial capital, has led to a reduction of policy space for governments.  Democracy has been affected, as in many cases constituencies have lost their access to points where policies were being made, leading to a situation where a trilemma exists between national sovereignty, democracy and (hyper)globalisation.  The trilemma means that we cannot, as he argues in The Globalization Paradox (p xviii), simultaneously pursue democracy, national determination and economic globalization. If we were to push further with globalization, he clarifies, we have to give up either the nation-state or democratic politics.

In his WRR lecture he argued that the European Union is a unique example where common institutions are being built to balance the removal of border controls at the national level. The EU, he argued, has been in the process of creating a counterbalance to hyperglobalization in the form of institutional rules. But, he added, the global financial crisis came too soon for this process of rule creation to make enough of a difference.

Apparently, before the lecture Rodrik met the Dutch Prime Minister for lunch, which, one hopes, was an occasion to share his views on the implications of the globalisation paradox for Europe. His interpretation of the EU’s role in the crisis was an optimistic and friendly one. In his lecture he made sure to stress his view of these implications was not an Euroskeptic one. However, it is clear that if one takes his arguments seriously, the euro zone version of his trilemma means that EU has either to move towards political union – institutionalizing more common rules at EU level – or decrease the level of globalisation, that is, abandon Economic and Monetary Union. He left it there, although it is clear from this piece published by the Project Syndicate what he thinks of the break up of the eurozone.

We will probably remain in ignorance as to what the Prime Minister made of Rodrik’s arguments, as he, or any other Dutch politicians do not seem to share their views on Europe with the citizens. Not on enlargement – as the previous post on this blog argued – and not on where the EU should go – beyond the usual rhetoric reinforcing the impression that the EU is a zero sum game and the Dutch government are ‘fighting’ against EU partners for our interests. The domestic rules of the political game of a government with support from the PVV can be blamed for this ‘pragmatic’ approach to the eurocrisis communications. But one cannot help wishing for a clear statement of the ideals this government wish to pursue with relation to Europe in the future. In my modest way, I am with the angry Jurgen Habermas: ‘The media “must” help citizens understand the enormous extent to which the EU influences their lives. The politicians “would” certainly understand the enormous pressure that would fall upon them if Europe failed. The EU “should” be democratized.’