Political Leadership in Europe

This week, great attention has been devoted to the problem of European leadership: whether Germany and its chancellor Angela Merkel should have a prominent role in guiding the Union is still a relevant and open question. On The New York Times Ulrich Speck writes a provocative article rebutting the general pessimism about the state of the Union. His optimism is built on the belief that German efficiency in dealing with the major crises of these past months could equally save the Union. Skeptical of German leadership is Maurizio Ferrera, who on Corriere della Sera writes that Angela Merkel does not realize that with great powers come great responsibilities. Indeed, until Germany takes up political leadership and not only economic leadership, Europe is doomed to fail: Germany ought to accept the burdens of leadership as well as its honours. More radically, on openDemocracy the philosopher and political scientist Protesilaos Stavrou argues that Germany’s dominant position will always be problematic for the realization of a federal Europe, which its members should strive to. The German question is crucial also for Simon Glendinning, who in debating Nietzsche’s vision of Europe underlies the inevitable connection between the future of Germany and that of the Union. His article appeared on Social Europe.

The way to European solidarity

One of the recurrent themes among intellectuals investigating the values of the European Union concerns the concept and importance of solidarity. On Eutopia Magazine Lorenzo Bini Smaghi outlines the difference between a northern and a southern conception of it. In particular, southern solidarity is in line with the catholic tradition and it requires helping people in need, regardless of the circumstances. On the other hand, the northern conception obliges to help only under precise conditions in order to prevent moral hazards. The conclusion is that the lack of agreement on what solidarity is impairs the European capacity to respond to crisis effectively.

Dealing with the migration crisis

One of the crises facing Europe today is without a doubt that of foreign immigration. Three important contributions appeared in the public sphere concern different ideas about how such crisis should be dealt with. On Euobserver Gareth Harding argues that what is happening in Calais, Hungary, Kos, etc. is against the values of the founding treaties of the European Union. On the other hand, Vincenzo Ferrone writes on Eutopia Magazine that we should listen to our hearts and have the courage to speak and enforce a new language of human rights. Finally, in a complex and interesting interview about refugees published by EurozineSeyla Benhabib defends the idea that foreign migrants are essential for the economic development of Europe and that migration does not represent a threat to the welfare state. Harding’s procedural approach, Ferrone’s substantive view, and Benhabib’s instrumental justification all converge on the idea that migration needs not to be feared.

Destination Brexit

This week has seen the beginning of the electoral campaign in the UK about the referendum: Brexit is coming. Or isn’t it? Some commentators, such as Michael Emerson or Tim Montgomerie, writing respectively for EurActiv and The Times,  try to unveil the misinformation and sophistry behind the campaign by arguing that data provided to the public are false. Iain Begg writes on LSE blogs that the possibility of Brexit is too complex to lead to any reliable and sound prediction. This is a troublesome trend if, as Jonathan Freedland argues on The Guardian, the outcome of the referendum will be decided by pragmatic voters who make political decisions on the basis of their economic self-interest. Brexit is indeed problematic for both sides: the progressive left, which is supposed to be defending Europe, is uneasy with its dominant neoliberal culture, exemplified by the management of the Greek crisis and the TTIP. On the other hand, on The Guardian Tom Clark points out how Tories are lost in wishful thinking about the negotiations and have unrealistic expectations about what Great Britain could gain from them. Finally, a general dissatisfaction with the European Union – as it is- is evident in the intellectual sphere. However, there are different visions on how to change the European Union. Zoe Williams claims that a dream about what Europe could and should be needs to drive a “yes” campaign. Columnists like Simon Jenkins, conclude instead that the best way to bring about a better Europe is for the “no” to win, so that negotiations can start anew.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: Lucky Lynda

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