Monthly Archives: July 2015

Prospects For a Post-conflict Colombia Rest on FARC talks

by Kate Dinnison, an American student of International Relations at KCL. Editor of the North America section.

Ask any Colombian: they understand the worldwide reputation they hold. They have been defined by drug-related violence and the not-so-invisible hand of powerful cartels since the 1960s, but a major metamorphosis is underway. Today even the most powerful cartels in Colombia are more like suppliers to the larger and more connected Mexican cartels due to diminishing returns in traffic to the United States. Because of this, organized crime in Colombia has diversified and expanded into a wide network of human and arms traffickers, corrupt officials and paramilitary groups threatening the stability of their country in different ways than before.

Colombia was only recently replaced by Peru as the world’s leading producer of cocaine in 2013 due to a combination of increased corruption in Peruvian government and police forces, increased effectiveness of Washington’s war on drugs (some say), and the arrival of (mainly Russian) transnational criminal organizations to Peru’s jungles. What South America’s leaders are worried about today is both the balloon effect and the power vacuum that is occurring in the region because of this transfer. Hence, the question is: can a peaceful transition occur as the cartels lose money and, subsequently, power?

In conjunction with Colombia’s consistent cocaine problem is its struggle to negotiate with the FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a left-wing paramilitary group who has made 7 million Colombians victims of their conflict, 220,000 of which have died because of it. President Juan Manuel Santos’ government, accompanied by UN officials, started a new round of peace talks with the FARC last Thursday after an unexpected unilateral ceasefire. However, many are pessimistic about what could come of these talks in Havana considering continued failed attempts since 2012. Despite low public support from Columbian citizens, President Santos asserts, “Those who want to force me to end the peace dialogue are also mistaken. I will persist, even if that means sacrificing all of my political capital.”

Like many of today’s security problems, Colombia has been further destabilized because of the increased competition in drug trafficking – the increasingly diversified and competitive black market on cocaine has made things more dangerous for citizens, as opposed to the days when the Cali and Medellin Cartels reignined supreme. Over the last 20 years, Colombia’s drug trade has fragmented. Escobar was the unchallenged head of the Medellin Cartel – a vertically integrated, hierarchical criminal enterprise that initially flew in coca from Bolivia and Peru processed it in Colombia’s jungles, then flew it to the mainland US in staggering quantities. Leaders from these powerful cartels learned to expand their influence and support through politics, by supporting citizens more than their own government. For example, before the dismantling of the Medellin cartel, Carlos Lehder formed a populist movement, funding free education and health programs in rural areas and the construction of homes for slum-dwellers.

One cannot help but see glaring similarities in many of history’s insurgents – both the Taliban and ISIS have gained popular support by promising Afghanis and Syrians similar comforts that their fragmented governments do not. Though supporting different ideologies, the FARC and insurgents in the Middle East and Africa all share similar tactics terrorizing the population: capitalizing on abundant and profitable goods for revenue, corrupting from the inside to normalize their daily criminal pursuits, and violence as a mean of control through fear.

President Santos has secured the backing of key European and regional leaders for the process of becoming a “post-conflict Colombia”. Reaching this goal will depend on a combination of successful peace talks, popular support and enough resources to continue the targeting of cocaine production. The death of Pablo Escobar over twenty years ago was the end of one structure that defined Colombia. Its successor, a fragmented and hence more chaotic system, is one that the government has to now successfully tackle in order for the nation to transition to a safer, more egalitarian society.

SOURCES:

BBC

Open Democracy

The Changing Face of Colombian Organized Crime – Jeremy McDermott

InSightCrime

The New York Times

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India-Pakistan

by Rukhmani Sarda, a second year International Relations student. Also author of Developing Globallist

The past two days have seen resumed shelling on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. With tensions once again high, questions have been raised over the military superiority of India, and of its capabilities in terms of conventional warfare with Pakistan. I will address this towards the end of the article, but first it is important to look at how the situation has become exacerbated once again.

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Last month saw a heat wave in Pakistan’s Sindh province, the effects of which were catastrophic. The heat wave was made worse by the fact that it began at the same time as Muslims throughout Pakistan began fasting for Ramadan. Law-makers all blamed each other for the daily blackouts, lack of water and electricity which left many dead. Karachi was significantly hit by the intense period of drought before the monsoon brought heavy rains, and as the financial hub there was widespread disruption across the whole of Pakistan. Questions were raised over India’s lack of assistance during the heat wave, however India made it clear that they would not be willing to aid the situation. This is largely due to Pakistan’s recent decision to release Rehman Lakhvi – one of the terrorists caught after the Mumbai terror attacks. The attacks revealed the worryingly poor internal organisation of the Indian army and as a result, India has worked massively in both quantitative and qualitative terms to work on their arms. As a result, India is currently the world’s largest buyer of arms, an attempt to balance the military power in the region against not only Pakistan, but also China.

Earlier this week Pakistan shot down a drone claimed to have been from India, close to the LoC. This has sparked the most intense series of debates and speculation for many years, with tensions along the Indo-Pak border the most heightened that they have been for at least a decade. Since 2003 a ceasefire had been in place, which has been violated by Pakistan at least four times this past week. However, India has to take part of the blame. Following the drone operation which has most recently been blamed on China, India planned to launch a helicopter operation along the border which Pakistani military authorities have claimed is far within Pakistan’s LoC territory.

It remains that poor communication between the two states has made relations drastically worse. According to Indian foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, the director general of Border Security Force tried to contact his counterpart across the border in Pakistan however there was no response. In the most recent press conference however it was stated that “Indian and Pakistani officials are in touch over recent incidents of firing along the Line of Control”. Saturday saw the latest exchange of fire, with a reported five injured in the Indian village of Poonch.

Whilst both sides are undoubtedly antagonising each other, the human impact is yet to be considered by either government. The fact remains that both states are experiencing sectarian communal tensions, which in India have only widened following the rise and predominance of the far-right Hindu BJP government. Kashmir remains a point of contention with both India and Pakistan seeking to expand their territorial gains, however neither side appear to have acknowledged that Kashmiris themselves in fact want their own state. With border disputes thus increasing, and exchanges of fire becoming the norm, it awaits to be seen how long it will take for outside forces to intervene.

Est Europa nunc unita? Language, History and the Forging of a European Identity

by John Como, an American born Italo-Swedish second year student reading War Studies and History at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. 

At the headquarters of the European Union, in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, there reigns a sort of modern day Tower of Babel. In the sleek hemicycle where the Parliament sits in Strasbourg, the circular walls of the chamber are lined with two tiers of darkly tinted glass. Behind it sits the Parliament’s small army of translators. The EP employs 750 interpreters in total, as many members as the Parliament itself [[1]]. MEPs are entitled to speak on the floor in any of the 24 official languages of the Union and simultaneous translation must be ensured for each. That is a total of 552 possible combinations that must be translatable. Particularly exotic interpretations, say Finnish to Maltese, must sometimes be translated through a third ‘relay’ language. All official documents produced by the EU must be translated into the relevant languages. This multiplicity of tongues leads to confusion, loss of accuracy and enormous costs. In 2006, translation expenses totalled over €1bn, accounting for 1% of all EU expenditures [[2]]. Since then costs have only grown with the admission Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia and the attainment of semi-official status by Catalan, Basque, Galician, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. As Europe continues to expand at its peripheries, there is no end in sight. If the European Commission were to adopt a common language it stands to save a much as €25bn a year [[3]].

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However, the problems caused by the lack of a common language are not limited to an institutional level. Across Europe, the primary obstacle to integration on a social level remains the many languages of its people, constituting hard cultural barriers along mostly national lines. Beside the practical difficulties that this creates in intraregional communication, without a common language there will always lack a key component necessary for the creation of a pan-European identity. European identity must be pursued as the basis for true European democracy. Without it, European politics will remain obstructed by residual distrust between the nations. This is not to say that national languages and identities should be replaced by pan-European alternatives, but that they should coexist. After all, just as one can be Basque and Spanish or Breton and French, why should ‘European’ not be added to the list? Does the identification of ‘European’ already not have some significance? The Maidan protesters in Kiev wanted Ukraine to be ‘European’ in the sense of European values: rule of law, democracy, human rights, etc. Why not add to the values, institutions and symbols that today represent ‘Europe’, a common language?

The natural question that arises is what exactly that language would be. The obvious choice would be English. Along with French and German it is one of the three ‘procedural’ languages of the Commission, though German is rarely used and Francophones have dwindled since the eastward expansion of 2004. It is the most widely spoken language in the EU with 51% of Europeans reporting being able to speak English well enough to hold a conversation [[4]]. It is already the language of global commerce. But even if continental Europeans could swallow the indignity of establishing English as the common tongue, it is a poor choice for a common European language. England has always played a peripheral role in the European project and the Anglophone world stands in cultural contrast to the ‘European’. It might also risk a proclivity towards certain Anglo-Saxon political and economic notions. French or German would be a much better choice for a truly ‘European’ language, but knowledge of these is much less, 25% and 28% of the EU population respectively [[5]]. Ultimately though, selecting any of the existing languages as a lingua franca will present an unresolvable contention: it is inherently unfair. Whatever the common language, its native speakers will carry with them a huge advantage and risks a single nationality dominating the civil service.

It would appear that the only way to resolve this dilemma is to choose a language that is spoken natively by no one, and thus equitable towards all. Esperanto, an artificially constructed language meant to be simple to learn, has been suggested by some. It is the most widely learnt of the so-called ‘international auxiliary languages’, with up to 2 million users globally. But is there not an option that better suits the secondary function of a common language, to build a European identity? Might there be some language more firmly rooted in European history and culture? In fact, for centuries Europe had a lingua franca that was commonly understood by the educated across the continent. Its use continued as the principle scholarly language as late as the 18th century. Even today it has been studied by millions worldwide. I am talking of course about Latin.

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As outlandish as this proposition may seem, there are many benefits. Though it is dead, it is far from unused. Classics departments in universities all over Europe are devoted to its study. It is still commonly taught at secondary school level in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some Latin is already known indirectly by hundreds of millions of speakers of the Latin languages: French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. Latin influence is pervasive even outside of the Romance languages; 56% of all English vocabulary is derived from Latin either directly or via French [[6]]. There are philological benefits in studying Latin and it aids in understanding and acquiring other languages. Empirically controlled studies have shown that “children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking such as computation, concepts and problem solving[[7]]. A 1979 study noted that Latin was particularly beneficial to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, improving fluency of native language and providing a basis for access to intellectual thought through references that open up “new symbolic worlds” which might otherwise be inaccessible [[8]].

There are also enormous cultural benefits of adopting Latin. In a Latin-speaking Europe all people would have first hand access to the majority of the European literary corpus of the past 2 millennia. Classical literature, medieval histories, renaissance and early modern science all instantly accessible without the obfuscating need for translation. And here lies the most important but most subtle benefit of Latin. These works and their contents compose an important part of the common cultural, artistic and intellectual heritage of Europe. By giving people direct access to their past, of how the history and culture of each nation is inextricable tied and mixed with that of the others, we might recognize our similarity and begin to forge a common identity. Latin would link the EU to its historical forbearers of European unity: the Carolingian and Roman Empires. Greco-Roman civilization is considered to be the cultural and historic progenitor of modern Europe. In the Middle Ages, Latin even spread into Germanic and Slavic lands that the old Empires never touched, as a scholarly, ecclesiastical and administrative language. Not a single province of Europe has been unaffected by the larger flows of European history and Latin is a window into this world. It seems only appropriate to adopt what was, for 18 centuries, the European lingua franca as the common language for the future.

To build a common European identity one cannot conjure it out of thin air. Rather, what is already there (a common past) must be ordered so that we can engage with it in a way that allows us to give it meaning. This is the key and here Latin can have an important role to play, if only allowed. As unlikely as this would be to ever happen, it is not without precedent. The example of Hebrew serves to demonstrate the possibility. For centuries Hebrew was a likewise ‘dead’ language, used only as the scriptural language of the Jewish faith. When its revival began in the 19th century Hebrew did not have a single native speaker. Today it is spoken by over 7 million people and forms an important part of modern Israeli identity. If anything, the prospects for Hebrew in the early 1800s were much worse than for Latin today. Like Hebrew, a revived Latin based on its classical variant would require much updating for the modern world. After all, the Romans didn’t have a word for ‘electric car’ or ‘smartphone’.

If this were to ever happen, how would one start? A switch by the EU institutions to a dead language overnight is, of course, impossible. Latin would have to be made a standard part of European curriculums from a young age. Even then it would take a generation for knowledge to accumulate to such a level where it would be commonly useful. A small but crucial step could be taken today, which would address a currently outstanding problem: Latin could be made the legally definitive language of all European laws and treaties. This would resolve differing interpretations of statutes arising from language differences, as currently all 24 translations are given equal authority. This would not create sweeping change. It would have little immediate effect (given that such issues are relatively rare) and its relevance would be contained to the European legal apparatus. There already exist enough highly trained Latinists to be seconded to aid the courts and lawmakers. However, this would create a basis for the language to grow.

First, within the legal system as Latin knowledge would be increasingly important for legal specialists, then into the legislative organs themselves. As the profile of the language grows, proficiency will becomes increasingly prevalent in other institutions, and spread out from there, ultimately towards use as a pan-European vernacular. This process would require official encouragement and aid, on a national and supranational level, the whole way. For now at least, the Unio Europaea is occupied with much more pressing concerns. Long-term initiative, especially very long-term, has been something the Union has lacked of late, but it need not remain that way. Perhaps the time has not yet come or perhaps it is just a dream. But if it is a dream, is it not a beautiful one?

SOURCES:

[1] European Parliament (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+IM-PRESS+20060403FCS06935+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN)

[2] ‘Cost in translation: EU spends €1bn on language services’, Stephen Castle for The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/cost-in-translation-eu-spends-83641bn-on-language-services-407991.html)

[3] L’enseignement des langues étrangères comme politique publique, François Grin (http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/var/storage/rapports-publics/054000678.pdf)

[4] Europeans and their Languages, European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf)

[5] ibid.

[6] Ordered profusion; studies in dictionaries and the English lexicon, Thomas Finkenstaedt & Dieter Wolff (1973)

[7]Forget Mandarin. Latin is the key to success’, Toby Young for The Spectator (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2011/02/forget-mandarin-latin-is-the-key-to-success/)

[8] ibid.

Political Culture in the Land of the Lotus

By Sam Wyatt, a 2nd Year IR undergraduate, currently working as a English foreign language teacher in Vietnam. Also the editor of the Elections Centre section. He also runs two other blogs which are Tectonics of Diplomacy and Division on the Left

It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me – Ho Chi Minh, founder of modern day Vietnam

It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me – Ho Chi Minh, founder of modern day Vietnam

As I write this article I am sitting in the squalor of a bare room in Hotel Democracy – a name that can only be seen as ironic, given that this hotel is situated in Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam. This thriving and proudly ‘socialist’ state has the pride of saying it is one of the few nations who has beaten the United States in an ideological war with victory due to the resilience of the Viet people. However, with an abundance of fake watches and ‘boom boom’* it is obvious that capitalism and liberal internationalism are slowly eroding the conventional values of the country. Therefore we must ask a challenging question, what is the political culture of the Viet? I would suggest that it rests on 3 factors: legacy, the power of capitalism, and finally amongst the middle class whispers urging for a more democratic and accountable government. This article will examine each factor in turn and attempt to give an insight into the Vietnamese mind in this hybrid capitalist-socialist state.

Legacy is crucial to the Viet mindset, from the resistance of Dai Viet to Mongol expansionism to the many shrines dedicated to ancestors, the culture is steeped in history and tradition. This legacy is often used to show the resilience of the Viet people in the face of adversity with references to the victories from the Mongolian invasions and the ‘American War’** making the average Vietnamese person burst with pride. In both situations the Viets overcame ridiculous odds and managed to defeat the force of the superpower who was challenging its right to sovereignty. With regards to the American war, this led to an idolization of the then leader of the country Ho Chi Minh. Indeed, it is impossible to walk 100m in the city without seeing his face blasted across a billboard, building or t-shirt. No other figure in Vietnamese history has received the level of post-mortem exposure that Ho Chi Minh has, not even the spiritual deity of the country, Buddha. Indeed, when I walked into my first school of the trip I was shocked to see a towering picture of Ho Chi Minh looming over the institution. I was later to learn that every school must have this picture of him with a child in their courtyard and many have his picture in individual classes againshowing how the man has impacted Viet life. This almost devout worship of Ho Chi Minh also brings about an acceptance of the values held by the man, those of socialism, solidarity and Vietnamese nationalism thus creating 3 crucial tenentsof the Vietnamese political culture.

However, the impact of legacy is being undermined by a new threat, the rampant driving force of western capitalism. The effects of this can be seen everywhere, from the flashing neon signs inviting you to go to this ‘hip’ new western themed bar, to the importation of KFC and the prevalence of iPhones in the country (I’d say as many as 7/10 of the people I’ve met so far have an iPhone) leading to a Vietnam which has very quietly embraced liberal free market economics. The street vendors viciously competing to lure you to their tables have the gleam of potential profit in their eyes, something that in a truly socialist state would not exist. Therefore, the state can only be seen as quasi-capitalist state, under the tyranny of a single party. As their revered founder Ho Chi Minh said “When the prison doors [of isolationism] are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

There is also a third force at play in Vietnam slowly making a change in the mindset of the populus, though this is whispered with hushed tones due to the country’s strict laws regarding political discussions. The possibility of a democracy and accountability is slowly ingraining itself in the minds of the middle class Viet. Though the role of the state is small, bureaucracy threatens to overwhelm it within a one-party system and the lack of responsibility has led to a country where blame cannot be assigned to one person or department and this bureaucratic integration leaves the country with many problems that cannot be fixed (the continuous variation in visa rules being one of these). This has led some, influenced by the expat community to secretly wish for a democracy. Democracy, they argue would allow for competition meaning that the ruling party could not rest on its laurels. They do not necessarily want regime change but rather they argue competition would force the party to become more efficient, creating reforms which would benefit the country. However, these whispers will crucially remain as a whisper for the foreseeable, as in most eastern cultures, the family is the main political unit. Therefore, no person wishing a prosperous future for their family will ever publicly express their discontent for fear of tarnishing the reputation of the family as this may reduce the chances of any offspring achieving monetary wealth.

In conclusion, the political mind of the Viet is a complex beast, one that cannot easily be expressed or articulated, but when attempting to foster positive relations with the Cong, it is vital that the subtle changes in Vietnamese society are understood and capitalised on.

*this is a reference to one journey in a taxi where the driver was desperately trying to get me to visit a ‘boom boom’ place or in other words a brothel

** The American War is known as the Vietnam war in the rest of the world.

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One Cure for All?

Why leaving the EU is not as black and white as the naysayers claim it to be. 

by Eva K. Vister, a Norwegian King’s student reading International Relations in the department of War Studies.

Following previous blog contributions, this post will have another look at the UK and the proposed 2017 EU referendum – when Britons will decide whether or not to stay in the union. Now, although I support the referendum as a democratic tool, and do not aim to argue against it, nor tell anyone what to vote, I do believe this issue is immensely more than a simple yes or no, and hopefully this post will shed light on a bit of this complexity.

I will start slightly east of Britain and quite some time before 2017, in 1959, when large gas reserves were found under Dutch soil. One would expect this to be like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a constant stream of revenue, and an extermination of all fiscal problems. However, the opposite happened: the development of the gas sector came at the expense of other sectors, raising the value of their currency and, being capital intensive, it didn’t create jobs; in fact, unemployment rose from 1.1% to 5.1% during the ’70s. The troubling effect that a resource discovery can have on an economy is known as the Dutch disease, an expression coined by The Economist in 1977.

This phenomenon is far from being restricted solely to the Netherlands. In countries like Angola and Nigeria, the strength of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors declined drastically after oil was discovered. Neither is the “disease” restricted to natural resources, as seen through the Icelandic example, where the booming financial sector hit a wall in 2008 and dragged the whole country’s economy down with it. For the UK, finance is not as crucial as it was for Iceland, but crucial enough for them to keep their monetary policy as independent from the ECB as possible. After all, if UK interest rates were managed from Frankfurt, the City of London would lose much of its hold over other European financial centres; this was one of the reasons why the euro was rejected in favour of the pound in the first place.

A “no” in the referendum would give the UK more autonomy and thus even more freedom to promote its financial sector. However, this is worrying on two fronts. Firstly, keeping the concept of the Dutch disease in mind, even with a flourishing finance industry, it can come at the expense of other sectors. Secondly, if finances were to tremble, there would be an absolute decline and the British citzens would have bet on the wrong horse. Besides, even if autonomy is enhanced, the industry might not be. There is a risk that financial institutions will move their headquarters away from the City post-Brexit (Deutsche Bank has already warned that it will). This would certainly hurt the sector significantly. In any scenario, smooth trade ties with EU members would come in handy, but after having left the union that is far from certain, which will be discussed below.

Still, not all economists agree that Dutch disease has to be something bad. If revenue from the abundant resources is used to diversify the economy and pull the real exchange rate down, it can be far from an illness. My own country, Norway, is frequently used as an example of this. Making the government a big player in the petroleum game from the very beginning, building a large petroleum fund and only spending a certain amount every year, it has managed to turn the resource curse into a blessing – not just for the CEOs of oil companies, but also for the common man. Hence, is this a counter-argument to the idea of Dutch disease, or is it simply the exception that confirms the rule? With our oil reserves slowly running out, we are bound to find out, and that sooner rather than later – if the current low oil prices continue.

However, no matter what the future brings, our resourceful waters coupled with sensible policies have so far brought a prosperity duly noted by others. When Scotland contemplated independence last year, Norway was used as an example in many pro-independence speeches, with reference as to how a small country can manage on its own. Similarly, anti-EU forces use it as an example as to how the UK can do just as well outside the union. The problem is that the campaigners are drawing lines where there are none, or fragile ones at the most. For Scotland, it might have 95% of the UK’s oil and gas reserves, but the amount of this is far from what lies in Norwegian waters. When compared to the UK it is evident that Norway scores highly on wealth per capita, but this is not too difficult when a country has 5 million inhabitants. Not to say that its policies can never inspire similarities elsewhere, but that it should not uncritically be used as a lodestar for other countries – different countries – when making such important decisions. Most importantly in this regard, our position outside the EU is far from being as rosy red as campaigners like to portray it.

The EU question is a lot more complex than just inside versus outside. Being on the outside has its advantages, but one would only be completely independent and flexible in decision-making if one was to cut oneself entirely off from the rest of Europe. Yes, Norway manages on its own. But no, this is not an ideal position. As a member of the EEA, we get access to the European free market, but in return, we have to follow rules that we have no formal say on. Naysaying Britons may argue that its current position as one of 28 opinion holders within the EU is not much more powerful than standing alone outside of it. However, having 1/28 is still more than 0, and as one of the most powerful countries within the union, most would agree that its current position in real terms is higher than simply 1/28.

Of course, being the relative power bloc that it is, it might be stronger on the outside than Norway currently is. A frequent argument against the union is that the beneficial trade arrangements it provides can be upheld just as well as with a EU-UK trade agreement. Norway, along with Iceland and Lichtenstein, gets access to the internal market as members of the EEA, which is an unlikely position for the UK. For instance, Switzerland gets access through bilateral agreements, and South Korea’s Free Trade Agreement with the EU is very comprehensive indeed. However, the biggest hindrance to trade is not tariffs and subsidies and so on, but the bureaucratic maze of rules, customs, laws and regulations that tend to face potential trade partners from different countries. This shows how the EU promotes trade by standardising legislation. Hence, although having a say about the rules is important, being a part of the game is more so.

The UK may be upset with some of the rules of the game, but at least it is a player. If total independence is the ultimate goal, why would Norway agree to follow the greater part of EU legislation without being a part of the decision-making process? Because it gives us access to EU markets, and this is more valuable than isolation. Britons may argue that they are less dependent on the EU than Norwegians and that Switzerland and South Korea enjoy good trade relations with the union without being part of the EEA. However, neither Switzerland nor South Korea started their respective relationships by turning their back on the union. Neither did the relations flourish over night. Switzerland initially had 15 areas in which they wanted to co-operate with the EU. 23 years later, they have managed to set up agreements on about half of them, and also had to agree on co-operation in areas they preferred not to. British co-operation with the EU is not about picking and choosing, but instead about giving and taking; you cannot have full autonomy and full access at the same time. So, perhaps trading a trade union for a trade agreement is not so easy after all.

Listing all Europhile and Eurosceptic arguments goes far beyond the reach of this article, but the point here is that an argument is seldom as clear-cut as either side tends to present it. What might seem like a yes or no question commonly has other aspects – other problems – but also other possibilities. In other words, what is wrong with the EU might not be because of the EU as a concept, but how it is executed and exercised – just like discovering a resources is not necessarily harmful in itself, but handling these wrongly is. Thus, instead of asking whether to extract the oil or not, or asking whether to be a EU member or not, one should ask how to approach it, how to handle it – shifting the discussion from politics to policy.

As a Norwegian, I am in no position to tell the people of the UK what is the right move for them. However, as a person, belonging to something above and beyond national borders, I can try to give it another perspective. I am not trying to be some delusional cosmopolitan, envisioning a completely peaceful and borderless world – this will never happen, at least in my lifetime. If the UK wants to cut itself off from the rest of the world, then of course, go ahead. If keeping Britain British is more important than anything else, go ahead. If increased transcendence of borders is more frightening than the return to nationalism and hence antagonizing foreign relations, go ahead. But at least think properly through the consequences first.

There are benefits when looking at the bigger picture. Together, if done right, one can achieve a lot more than alone. For instance, in military matters, in economic matters, in humanitarian matters. It is not all about competition. Economic growth is not about being better than other countries, but having a decent standard of living within your own borders. Cross-border co-operation does not have to be about zero-sum benefits, it can be a win-win. All foreigners do not long for a ticket to the precious UK – if they could have opportunities in their own countries, if they could experience economic growth at home, of course they would rather stay. In addition, with increased economic growth in the less developed countries of the EU, the UK would have another trade partner – increased efficiency, increased specialisation, increased economies of scale – everyone benefits.

Besides, please, let’s kill the illusion that all immigration is hurtful. After all, the US is not the most powerful country in the world because it cut itself off from the rest of the world. Its high immigration rates are vital in avoiding an aging population, where those in retirement surpass those working to finance it, as is the case in Japan. Blaming unemployment on immigrants is an easy solution, and if the majority keeps clinging to it, then of course the politicians will agree – that is how democracy works. However, an easy solution is not necessarily the right solution. At times it looks like the naysayers regard leaving the EU as a solution to all their problems. The saddest scenario I can think of here is that the UK does leave, but the problems linger, or even get worse.

So, what’s my final say? By all means, take a vote, and although my stand might be clearer than intended, vote whatever you believe is right – but at least make sure you know what your vote implies. Leaving the EU does not necessarily mean leaving all problems behind. Getting full political and economic autonomy does not necessarily cancel out any problematic consequences. An unknown future is not necessarily better than a discontent present. Turning one’s back is not necessarily better than trying to change from within. Quitting might be easier than staying on and fighting, but unless the UK wants to cut all ties, then there is bound to be another fight around the corner; and then they might experience that arguing with a friend is a lot more desirable than fighting with an enemy.

Sources:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/11/economist-explains-2

http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2015/05/finance-and-economics?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/whats_wrong_with_finance

http://www.tnp.no/norway/economy/4310-can-norway-escape-from-dutch-diseaseij

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/abe0f6f6-8f0c-11e3-9cb0-00144feab7de.html#axzz3dnniIkRj

http://www.hoyre.no/www/aktuelt/nyheter_fra_hoyre/Alternativer+til+dagens+E%C3%98S-avtale.d25-UgdfQZd.ips

http://blogs.ft.com/maverecon/2009/01/can-the-uk-government-stop-the-uk-banking-system-going-down-the-snyrting-without-risking-a-sovereign-debt-crisis/#axzz3fJL3pB9m

EU’s New Refugee Policies: Efficiency Over Morality Over Common Sense

By Millie Radovic, an Anglo-Serbian second year BA International Relations student in the War Studies Department of King’s. Chief Editor of International Relations Today. 

One of the leading topics of IR conversation, since the drowning of over 800 people in April has been what we’re commonly now calling the migration crisis. Frankly put, the array of conflicts currently destroying the Middle East and Africa has left a large number of people without safe environments to live in. With 7.6 internally displaced people and 3.9 externally displaced people, a striking 11.5 million Syrians do not have a home right now. Meanwhile, over 3.5 million Iraqis have been displaced as of the beginning of this year.

Refugees from Somalia, Yemen, Syria and many other conflict stricken countries pay extortionate amounts of money only to begin this deadly journey.

Refugees from Somalia, Yemen, Syria and many other conflict stricken countries pay extortionate amounts of money only to begin this deadly journey.

I’m going to stop right there with statistics, because while I recognise that there are conflicts elsewhere in the region causing even more people to leave their homes, I want to focus on these two countries: Syria and Iraq. Specifically, I want to focus on the role of ISIS in the migration crisis. Arguably there is a strong link between extremist recruitment and poor immigration and in general social policies that leaders in Brussels are not taking into account as they struggle to tackle the migration crisis.

So, for now over 3.9 million of Syrian people have found their situation at home so bad that they have chosen to flee the country. What they do is either go to their neighbours, such as Turkey (which is currently host to over 1.7 million Syrians) or to seek a way into the ‘safe haven’ of Europe, from the ports of North Africa – namely Egypt and Libya, by paying the absurd amount of over $1500 per person to cross the Mediterranean sea. For them this is the scariest and most expensive journey of their life. One they’re unsure they’ll get to see the end of. And for Europe it has become a dividing issue.

As countries on the periphery of the Union complain about heavy influxes of people that their economies cannot handle, richer and more central ones complain that they have already taken on too much. All in all in the midst of a crisis, we’ve got some intense bickering and a power struggle. The main issue being – who gets to decide how many migrants nations of the EU accept and who gets to determine what treatment these migrants are entitled to? The European Council? The Commission? Or the individual governments themselves?

 go back refugees

And so this June following a series of meeting and ‘heated’ talks and squabbles the European leaders first outright rejected a the proposed system of mandatory quotas telling Brussels to “mind its own business”. Yet then these same leaders went ahead with a “new system of quarantining migrants in southern Italy and Greece to enable the forcible and swift registration, fingerprinting, expulsion, and, if necessary, detention for up to 18 months of those deemed to be illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya.” This is wrong on so many levels. And I will not reiterate those pointing to prioritising ‘efficiency’ over human rights, and morality. Whilst it’s a very good and true argument – one that can go as far as wanting to hold people that agreed this accountable to the ICJ – I’ll leave that to the NGOs.

Instead, I’ll argue that frankly even if you are the most right leaning nationalist out there that wants nothing to do with any migrants or the kind that does not particularly care for the way others are treated as long as it suits your own national interests – you do not agree with the decision that has been made; hell you don’t agree with over 90% of the EU’s migration policies. This is not because migrants are ruining our lives as Nigel Farage would have us believe, but because the policies have failed at providing stable and unified communities within as well as of Europe as a whole.

Take Britain’s multiculturalism for example. To be given ‘equal’ rights we’re put into ‘cultural’ and religious boxes pretty much everywhere we go. We are identified subconsciously by our skin colour, and arguably consciously by the religion we practice and culture we follow. What this leads to is an article like that in the Guardian on Saturday saying that three girls that have recently married into ISIS are a major loss for East London’s Muslim community. Um, excuse me? No. I refuse to accept that. Coincidentally, I’m moving to East London next month – and there’s no reporter or government in the world that’s going to tell me that these girls heading off to Syria is not also a loss for me. They are a major loss for East London, for London as a whole; for the United Kingdom, and for Europe; certainly NOT for just the Muslim community of any of those areas. It is the multiculturalism in Britain that has led to this damaging rhetoric – this cultural and religious segregation and considerations that have been highlighted over basic common European, nay global values – such as freedom of belief or speech – that this continent has grown upon.

And today, we need those values. We must prioritise our commonality over our cultural diversity to be unified at this terrible time, for both Europe and our neighbours in the Middle East and Africa arguably the worst since WWII. Yes we all have the absolute right to be as different as we like – but in our societies above all it is our common values that should take precedence as that is how the diverse European nations learned to coexist in the first place.

Coming out of the turmoil of the Second World War straight into the uncertainty of the Cold War, European nations began economic integration as a means of promoting and instilling peace and solidarity – achieving strength in numbers frankly.

And where are we today? Rejecting theSE distinguishable common values that Europe was built on for the sake of giving into extensive political correctness and ‘not offending’ anyone. Meanwhile, we are struggling to keep Greece in the Euro, struggling to help out Ukraine, struggling to take in even a fifth of the amount of refugees a Middle Eastern country with a much smaller economy like Lebanon has taken in, and struggling to keep the international standing we fought so hard to gain back after WWII. BY no means should we have a common identity, we’re not in a melting pot here. But more common values and morals by which we live must exist for unity to exist. In fact, they must be prioritised over all else. Currently the lack thereof on the EU level is evident in the bitter quarrelling over the aforementioned Greek as well as the Mediterranean migrant crisis. But the lack of common values at community levels is reflected in the ease at which ISIS has recruited across Europe.

Whether through multiculturalism in the UK, or the controversial assimilation policies as in France – we have failed to appropriately unify Europe. And as a Europhile I find that painful. Separation into groups to such an extent, whilst intended to provide equal opportunities and recognition to the impressive diversity that the UK has to offer is exactly what leads to individuals, specifically young people, feeling left out – whether from their schools, or jobs or anywhere else. And it makes them more vulnerable and attracted to abhorrent groups such as ISIS, Al-Shabab and Al Qaeda.

And so, the intervention measures that the EU introduced to maintain immigration intakes are not a sign of brutality or even immorality – they are  a sign of weakness and avoiding that ever difficult conclusion: that resolving this crisis is going to take not compromise through some policy that may speed things up in the short term, but the realisation that humane and speedy acceptance of migrants coming across the Med is no sacrifice, but in everyone’s best interest. Over 100,000 people have crossed the sea this year alone – and with ISIS gaining ground in Syria (and Libya at that) this is bound to increase. The brutal quarantining system while it may be a step forward in terms of efficiency, is five steps back in terms of solving the issue.

President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, talks about prioritising dealing with ‘illegal immigrants’ – seeing as you cannot apply for asylum from abroad I’m wondering how exactly a young man, woman or family who have lost everything and everyone they have in the Syrian civil war are to apply for this asylum and hence not come into Europe as ‘illegal immigrants?

More so, if poor immigration policies and consequent lack of civil societies are helping ISIS recruit worldwide in the first place – how can these abhorrent measures that are being allowed be considered a suitable response to the refugee crisis caused by ISIS?

They can’t.

Arguably, this migration crisis is not just bad. It is the worst thing that has happened since WWII. Millions of people without homes, thousands dying while the roots of the crisis multiply daily. And to reiterate the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon: there must be a “comprehensive approach” to try and tackle the migration crisis. Hence, the EU leaders need to realise that this is not about a power struggle or getting a smaller portion of the refugees. ISIS may not be in the midst of Europe as it is in the midst of the Middle East, but in terms of affecting us, it is right here knocking on the doors of the Med. If we saw a reason to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq, to execute drone strikes across Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, then we must see a reason to tackle the migration crisis humanely as well as effectively.

Counterterrorism does not start at detaining people or stopping bombing plots, it starts at building a stable civil society. Alongside tackling the migration crisis, Europe must begin creating this too to decrease western jihadi recruitment. It is a long road ahead, and many would say that this is a 21st century version of a WWIII. But in order to see the end of that road we have to take a moment and remember that we’re on the same side. We must remember how fragile Europe has always been and how stable its neighbours need it to be today. We must remember that we’ve been able to deal with migration crises before.

Really, it’s a ‘no brainer’. If we are to even begin to tackle the many crises we face, ISIS being at the front of them, we must end the squabbles in Brussels. Today more than ever Europe must stand together, it must fairly and humanely take in migrants coming across the Med together, and alongside that from the local levels up it must build a strong civil society together.

SOURCES:

For displacement of Iraqi nationals: http://www.internal-displacement.org/middle-east-and-north-africa/iraq/

For people in need of humanitarian aid in Syria: http://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria

On the failure of multiculturalism, by Kenan Malik: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/western-europe/2015-03-01/failure-multiculturalism

On the numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/20/world/europe/surge-in-refugees-crossing-the-mediterranean-sea-maps.html?_r=1 and http://syrianrefugees.eu/?page_id=513

Official reports: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e485f36.html

On the new EU refugee treatment policy: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/23/eu-to-create-new-quarantine-system-for-mediterranean-migrants

The Guardian calling the three girls fleeing to Syria a blow to the ‘Muslim community’: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/04/two-bethnal-green-schoolgirls-now-married-isis-men-syria

On more critique of the EU’s attitude towards the incoming refugees: http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2015/06/7351/european-countries-complicit-letting-syrian-refugees-drown-sea-expert/ and http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/26/eu-sidestep-migrants-mediterranean-death-toll and http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/25/european-leaders-kill-off-plans-for-migrant-quota-system

Army 2020 or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Budget Cuts

by Thomas Heyen-Dubé, second year War Studies student and Montreal native.

© Simon Panter Picture shows: Soldiers from 1 Royal Anglian on operation in Helmand Province, Afghanistan TX: BBC Three, dateTBC PROGRAMME: Afganistan - Our War

Soldiers from 1 Royal Anglian on operation in Helmand Province, Afghanistan Courtesy of the BBC

‘Transforming the military is not an event: it is an on going process’.[1] The words of Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defence, could not be more accurate today. The vast majority of the NATO countries are not only re-organizing their military to respond to new threats and new budget cuts, they are actively changing the nature of their armed forces. Faced with new challenges, the governments are reducing the size of their regular forces, augmenting the strength and funding of their special forces and stepping up the training of their reservists. This might seems very trivial, but in reality, this is a deep shift in mentality and will have important consequences for the military in years to come.

Army 2020

The post-Afghanistan military establishments are now striving to be ‘lean and mean’, to use the expression of the Marines’ cadence. Their goal is not only to reduce their spending, by reducing the size of their regular forces, but also to create a more adaptable, rapidly deployable and highly trained force. For the British Army, the new program ‘Army 2020’ embodies these two seemingly contradictory goals.

The first step in this transformation is the drastic reduction of the regular force personnel from 102 000 servicemen in 2010 to 82 000 in 2020. This means that units throughout the country will either be amalgamated, as one can see in the Royal Armoured Corps, or simply disbanded, as it is the case in the Infantry. However, this decline in numbers does not, in theory, mean a decline in capabilities. The creation of the Rapid Reaction Force, a highly trained and extremely quick to deploy force made up of the best elements of the Army, coupled with new material acquisition in the form of improved armoured personnel carriers and light reconnaissance vehicles and new higher standards of training mean that the Armed Forces of the next decade will be ready to take on a vast array of challenges.

Secondly, this cutback in the regular force is also accompanied by a new bigger, better trained and equipped reserve force, now working very closely with their regular counterparts instead of being the stereotypical ‘weekend warrior’. The reserve will also change its focus to deploy on a more regular basis, alongside the regular force, be it in operations overseas or in training exercises. Therefore ‘the Reserves will be used routinely rather than in extremis’.

Thirdly, like many other NATO countries, the United Kingdom is now working to augment the size and budget of their Special Forces. Following the model of the United Sates, where the budget for the Special Forces is five times the amount it was 10 years ago, the Army is investing heavily in this particular branch, seeing the advantages of a more discrete and efficient option. Again, reservists are a valuable component of this upgraded service. Not only are they able to support regulars in the field, they will also be able to join the Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and other commando units. This is a major shift, because in the past, reservists were relegated to support duties, in local units. They were not serving in the most prestigious and demanding service.

Is this old wine in a new bottle?

Backed up by glittering brochures and new advertisement, the Army 2020 plan might seem like the next great thing. Enhanced capabilities, reduced expenses leading to a bright and glorious tomorrow for the British Army. However, this is not the most likely outcome.

Crippled by the lacked of funding and will to commit new resources, the Army might turn out to be a ‘hollow force’ to use the words of General Nick Houghton. If on paper, reservists are considered as proficient as regulars in their ability to wage war the reality is other. The Reserve is mainly made up of older soldiers, trained to very low standards compared to the regulars and often not available for mobilisation making them very unsuitable candidates for the high-readiness units presented in the plan. Under manned, under-trained and under-equipped, the Reserve units across the country are not what one could describe as a élite force. Even the Army policies make it clear that reservists are not the equivalent of the their full-time comrade, transfer between those two elements being impossible without starting the training over and full-time posting for reservists in units of the regulars force being extremely rare. Therefore, the Reserve, even with the change of name and the new upgraded training plans, remains a Territorial Army, suited to respond to national emergencies at home and limited deployment roles abroad, but not the fast-paced, highly technological and extremely specialised warfare waged by the regulars.

If the Army 2020 plan is to achieve its ambitious goal, the UK should look to their NATO allies for inspiration in organizing their Army. The Canadian Army, even though it receives very austere funding from the federal government, is still able to take a leading role in NATO operations, as seen by their worldwide commitment in the past decade, due to their highly trained and proficient reservists. In Afghanistan, at any given time during the Canadian involvement, around 30% of the force was made up of reservists. Far from being ‘weekend warriors’ or the stereotype of ‘Dad’s Army’, they were trained from the beginning of their career to the same standards as the regulars, training alongside them in most of their postings. Furthermore, due to their equivalent training, reservists can serve full-time (a sizeable number of them do) and further increase their abilities and bring their reserve units to higher standards of effectiveness, thus lessening the gaps between the two components. Some of these policies applied to the British Army could not only lessen the gap between reserves and regular but also provide the UK with a cheaper and efficient alternative of dealing with situation at home and abroad.

The Frog and the Cow

After more than a decade of COIN operations, the post-Afghanistan era seems to be a time of soul-searching and gruelling redefinition for the British Army. With new tensions rising due to Russia’s aggressive policies and the disturbing expansion of the so-called Islamic State, the UK Armed Forces need to re-discover the ability to wage large-scale operations and conventional wars. The Army 2020 plan seems oddly out of place in this context. If the United Kingdom wants to fulfil their ambitions of ‘strong global role’ and keep ‘the most capable Army in its class’, then the reforms are far from a step in the right direction. Britain has always portrayed their Army as being able to ‘punch far above its weight’. It is now time to commit to this project or lose the empty rhetoric.

Sources

Heyman, Charles. The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom 2014-2015, R&F Defence Publications, London.

Army 2020: Transforming the British Army, July 2012. Ministry of Defence.

The Economist: June 20th-26th 2015. British Strategy: Doing less with less.

Foreign Affairs: November\December 2012. The Future of Special Operations: Robinson, Linda.

Foreign Affairs: Volume 81, no. 3. 2002. Transforming the Military: Rumsfeld, Donald.

Globe and Mail: October 26th, 2010. Replenishing Canada’s reserves: Pratt, David.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/replenishing-canadas-reserves/article1381189/

[1] Rumsfeld (2002), p.27

United in Adversity; a plea for solidarity in a Europe on the brink

by John Como, an American born Italo-Swedish second year student reading War Studies and History at the War Studies Department of King’s College London.

greece-referendum

As Greeks prepare to head to the polls today, the fate of Europe hangs in the balance. Even if disaster is averted, that Europe has been allowed to slip this close to the precipice is indicative of a failure of leadership on all sides. The immediate blame lies with Tsipras and SYRIZA. Since assuming power in January they have pursued a policy of brinksmanship in debt negotiations. Some have speculated that a Grexit has been Tsipras’s aim since the beginning. The immediate crisis could be put down to a failure of leadership, inexperience or ideological dogmatism. However a reading of the domestic political environment in Greece gives sufficient reason without resorting to psychologising. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, by putting the issue to the people SYRIZA will have strengthened its political standing. If the people vote no, Tsiprias’s favoured outcome, then it will be an affirmation of his government and their hard-line policies. Though this would most likely lead to a Grexit, Tsipras will be able to sleep well knowing he has the confidence of the Greek people. Even if the outcome is ‘yes’, SYRIZA will appear principled and retain its position as the dominant anti-austerity voice in Greek politics – a magnanimous defeat. Had Tsipras moved forward with the initial agreements their credibility would continue to deteriorate and SYRIZA might have experienced the same erosion of support that proved catastrophic to Papandreou’s PASOK. A shrewd move one might say, as long as you are a SYRIZA apparatchik.

However, Tsipras is far from the sole factor in this crisis, and wherever one looks it become apparent that this sort of short-term and self-interested thinking is the modus operandi. The blame is accumulative and collective. It lies with spendthrift Greeks. It lies with greedy Northern European lenders. It lies with Merkel and Draghi. It lies with an inept Eurogroup. All of these stakeholders pursuing their own interests is what has created this crisis. The more divergent the interests of the policymakers, the less coherent are the policies created. A strong and authentic policy commitment to common interests would be the natural cure. However the structure of the mechanisms in place to deal with the problem only exacerbates and prolongs it.

Since the beginning of the crisis the primary institution entrusted with its management has been the Eurogroup: a body composed of the 19 Eurozone finance ministers. But each of these ministers is beholden to their own governments and prime ministers, who are in turn beholden to the own national parliaments. Policymaking at the level of the Eurogroup is straightjacketed by domestic political considerations. The problem is replicated in the Council and in any roundtable at which national governments predominate. This represents a failure of the approach to European integration called Intergovernmentalism in which organisational authority is exercised by national governments. While this theory has traditionally been used as an interpretive tool to understanding the behaviour of European organisations, it can also be seen as a normative approach to integration itself. But supranational problems require supranational solutions.

For the past 6 years policies have not been optimised to bring closure to the crisis. The interim agreements produced in that time have only sought to avert outright default and a Grexit. At best this buys time. Meanwhile the crisis is prolonged, economies stagnate and people suffer. It would appear that the lowest common denominator among national governments is very low indeed. In opposition to Intergovernmentalism lie the Neofunctionalist school and the idea of Supranationalism. Neofunctionalism theorises that as integration proceeds the effect of positive spillover will incentivise further integration vertically and horizontally. The increased intraregional transactions and complexity inherent in managing such large-scale units will lead to supranational political agency.  Suprnationalism is the establishment of a higher level of policymaking in Europe, not just the sum total of national governments. The final step in the Neofunctionalist theory is that as the continent is drawn closer economically and politically, so to will the people on a social, cultural and ultimately moral level. This is the point at which a Neofunctionalist interpretation of the current situation breaks down. Since the crash of ’09 nationalism and isolationism have been resurgent. Unlike the Founding Fathers of the Union, we no longer have the horrors of the Second World War fresh in our minds to remind us of where those tendencies lead. For better or worse, we are in this together. Germans will always be Germans and Greeks will always be Greeks, but in dealing with common European problems we must consider ourselves first as Europeans. What is good for Europe?

Ironically the one prominent institution in which supranational authority prevails has been the ECB. Yet as far as supranational actors are concerned the ECB is a very poor one for taking on a proactive leadership role. Strong leadership requires creativity, flexibility and a strong mandate. The strict statutes that govern that institution rule out the former two and its essentially nondemocratic nature excludes the later. But the ECB was never designed to take on singlehandedly the job that has fallen to it. Its primary, legally defined objective is to merely “maintain price stability”. One could make similar criticisms of the US Federal Reserve. The difference is that in the United States, the Fed is able to coordinate its actions with a strong executive empowered with clear legislative initiative. The tight-nit circle of economic advisors in Obama’s White House is a far shout from the bickering of the Eurogroup.

Some have characterised the current crisis as a conflict between institutionalised neoliberalism and democratic principles. But Supranational bodies need not be neoliberal or undemocratic. In fact, such bodies already exist in the form of the European Parliament and Commission. The Commission, as the primary executive of the Union, is the institution best equipped to deal with common concerns from a pan-European perspective. Instead of answering to national governments, the Commission is responsible only to the Parliament, which is itself elected by all citizens of the Union. What stronger democratic mandate could a supranational institution possibly ask for? The EU is often criticised for being undemocratic – but that is not the problem. The problem is that the democratic elements, the Parliament and the Commission it elects (functioning structurally as a typical parliamentary system), are not empowered nor its rightful leadership recognised. National governments hang tenaciously to power and are loath to let it go. Supranationalism offers a tantalizing view of a future Europe, but we must ensure it is the Supranationalism of the European people, not that of national governments and entrenched political elites.

The historian Christopher Clark in his discussion of the catastrophe of the summer of 1914, describes the decision makers in the polarized and opaque political environment of pre-War Europe as ‘sleepwalkers’: none wanting war, but none able to summon the fortitude to act strongly in order to prevent it. In the summer of 2015, the leaders of Europe are again sleepwalking into another catastrophe. Europe must rouse itself from this somnambulism. To not only avert disaster, but also to put this Greek tragedy to rest once and for all, Europe must awaken. We must stand in solidarity. Solidarity means that we thrive, and suffer, together. We must put common interests ahead of ourselves and ahead of our own nations. We must all make sacrifices for the common good and for our common European future. A Greek ‘Yes’ vote could be the first step in a new grand bargain for Europe – an initial sacrifice for the sake of solidarity. Europeans elsewhere, especially in the North, must do the same. The only alternative is a Europe that stagnates, and ultimately, unwinds itself bit by bit. It’s time to breath new life into the European Project. We must give priority to our commonality. Only together, transparently and in good faith can we build a new Europe.

The False Dichotomy: The Economy and Environment aren’t conflictual

by James Resnick, British student reading BA International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. From September outgoing study abroad student at Science Po, Paris.

image

Too often the debate among policymakers rests upon a false dichotomy between choosing economic growth or environmental sustainability. What initially comes to mind when I think of this manufactured dichotomy is the doomsday 1972 book ‘The Limits to Growth’ which highlights how sustaining current developments with finite resources would lead to disaster. Though the mindset of arguing that environmental regulation distorts the markets and ruins the economy is profound, this mindset is especially destructive at a time when the focus within public policy should be on combining economic growth with environmental sustainability, as advocated by economists such as Jeffrey Sachs who argues that, “today’s mounting threats cannot be covered up. The Age of Sustainable Development must be built on openness, participation, and science.” This sentiment is gaining traction as policymakers look to the Paris Conference in December where 196 countries will meet to sign a critical new climate change agreement.

As part of an overarching goal to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gases to less than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, a combination of targeted investments as well as regulatory reforms need be made. Criticism of this manufactured dichotomy, however, does not rest on the notion that regulations can’t negatively affect job-creation. Cass Sunstein notes, “…the Republicans claim that ‘job-killing regulation’ is a redundancy is as ridiculous as the left wing view that ‘job-killing regulation is an oxymoron.” Not all regulation is beneficial to meeting these two objectives, economic growth and environmental sustainability, though the evidence suggests that there is a false dichotomy between the two.

Take global health for instance. Critics of increased environmental standards on air pollution argue that such regulations lead to job losses and those criticisms are correct to an extent, such as the widescale closure of factories in Hebei province in China. While the restrictions are restrictions to production, surely what is critically important, without the intention of being facetious, is an ability for workers to breathe. Urban pollution is estimated to cost approximately 2% of GDP in developed countries and 5% of GDP in developing countries. Sidelining the critical wellbeing of labour, a factor of production, is negatively consequential when trying to boost GDP. Added to this, indoor and outdoor air pollution costs European economies as much as $1.6 trillion each year in deaths and diseases according to a new study published by the World Trade Organisation. While on the one hand businesses that don’t commit to such standards end up being fined and having to cut back on workers, on the other hand the current stock of workers will be vastly more productive.

A Columbia University research paper titled ‘Particulate Pollution and the Productivity of Pear Packers’ showed how an ‘increase in PM2.5 outdoors leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in packing speeds inside the factory, with effects arising at levels well below current air quality standards.’ The opposite effect on productivity occurred where air pollution was very low in concentration. Addressing the issue of air pollution is critical but the effects of pollution in the long run aren’t factored into GDP. Hence, one issue that is frequently raised is the flaws in how GDP is measured; the fundamental flaw being that GDP only takes into account the production and consumption of goods and services in the short run, and excludes any possibility of long-run projections. If GDP were higher, that is always assumed as a positive; though the basis of future GDP growth rests on a host of assumptions including the condition of the environment, quality of health as well as factors such as population growth and demographics.

The issue of conserving the environment to boost economic growth extends to resource sustainability. The myth of perpetual growth is destructive and rests on the notion of infinite resource and environmental security; this would seem obvious to most people, let alone economists, with land being a crucial factor of production. The costs of environmental security can be seen today with the Californian droughts.A preliminary analysis by the UC Davis Centre for Watershed Sciences that the estimated total statewide economic cost was $2.7 billion, largely through the loss in crop revenues.

Economic performance, environmental security, and global health standards are all interdependent and policymakers cannot compromise or pick and choose which of the three are most important. The cruciality in encompassing all three into public focus is in light with a study by the Lancet and University College London that states climate change “is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” This cruciality extends to shifting away from a public policy vice of short-term thinking towards long-term planning with long-term objectives for investments that create effective returns over time. Dr Jim Yong Kim, current president of the World Bank in 2014 stated, “Taking action now will not only solve the problem of protecting the planet, but it will be a tremendous boost for economies.” Investments today can prevent or merely curtail eventual resource scarcities, slowing down the point at which we will reach peak oil and meet critical aggregate water scarcity, crises that would breed conflicts within and across national borders. It is why The Pentagon refers to the impacts of climate change as a “threat multiplier” which aggravates poverty, political instability and social tensions.

Environmental regulations can lead to job losses and economic activity as seen in Hebei but also protect labour and land, both factors of production essential to economic growth. Sachs notes that, “We have been walking blindly into tragedies and more will come unless we learn to open our minds and our ethical reasoning to the current crisis.”Perhaps this reasoning will be implemented if policymakers acknowledged the importance of protecting and sustaining standards for the environment, global health as well as economic growth, advocated sustainable development and rejected this false dichotomy.

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