State of Play Video Promo

Watch this short video promoting the sixteenth edition of Social policy in the European Union: State of Play, in which I have a major chapter. The book has a triple ambition. First, it provides easily accessible information to a wide audience about recent developments in both EU and domestic social policymaking. Second, the volume provides a more analytical reading, embedding the key developments of the year 2014 in the most recent academic discourses. Third, the forward-looking perspective of the book aims to provide stakeholders and policymakers with specific tools that allow them to discern new opportunities to influence policymaking.

In this 2015 edition of Social policy in the European Union: state of play, the authors tackle the topics of the state of EU politics after the parliamentary elections, the socialisation of the European Semester, methods of political protest, the Juncker investment plan, the EU’s contradictory education investment, the EU’s contested influence on national healthcare reforms, and the neoliberal Trojan Horse of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Schmidt Speaks at State of Play 2015

Vivien Schmidt spoke recently at State of Play 2015, a daylong conference highlighting the state of social policy in the European Union held on Sept. 23 at the headquarters of the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, Belgium. The conference was held to commemorate the publication of the 16th edition of “Social Policy in the European Union,” the flagship publication of the European Trade Union Institute.

Schmidt, who also contributed research to “Social Policy in the European Union,” spoke on the topic of  “Changing the policies, politics, and processes of the Eurozone in crisis: will this time be different?”

Other attendees at the State of Plat 2015 conference included EU labor leaders, European academics, and trade organizations.

The 2015 edition of “Social Policy in the European Union” tackles the topics of the state of EU politics after the parliamentary elections, the socialisation of the European Semester, methods of political protest, the Juncker investment plan, the EU’s contradictory education investment, the EU’s contested influence on national healthcare reforms, and the neoliberal Trojan Horse of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Greece’s Misery: “A Fraternity in Which Everyone Gets Hazed”

Police guard a Greek bank earlier this year during protests by striking Greek workers against continued government austerity. Photo by Flickr contributor Underclass Rising

This week’s deal extending a third bailout to debt-racked Greece in exchange for further austerity measures averted the country’s having to abandon the euro, and the possibly devastating consequences that would have brought. But Vivien Schmidt says it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

Schmidt, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and a professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, agrees with critics who say that far from solving the debt crisis, more austerity will merely prolong Greece’s 1930s-type depression. That depression prevents economic growth and the resources it would bring to pay debts, she says—a problem evident on her last visit two years ago, when “you could see lots of stores closed in Athens.”

Yet several members of the 19-nation Eurozone, having undergone austerity themselves in the past in exchange for help, are loath to spare the Greeks what they had to endure, Schmidt says. “It’s like belonging to a fraternity in which everyone gets hazed. You’re not going to let one young freshman who says I’m going to die…get out of being hazed.”

She also agrees with opponents who say the bargain infringes on Greek sovereignty, stripping the country’s ruling party, the leftist Syriza party, of control over the nation’s economic destiny. The quandary for Greece, she says, is that “if it stays in the Eurozone, it’s subject to a massive loss of sovereignty.…If it doesn’t accept this, it’s in much worse shape if it leaves.”

Schmidt, also a Pardee School professor of international relations and of political science, directs the Center for the Study of Europe. BU Today asked her to weigh in on the Greek debt crisis and whether a third bailout would help.

Continue reading on BU Today>>

How to Deal with the Current Greek Crisis

The problem for Greece is that meeting most of the austerity focused demands won’t do anything for growth, which Greece desperately needs.  And another year of austerity is unsustainable—after five years of utter misery with a drop of 25% in GDP and an increase to over 50% youth unemployment, with a humanitarian crisis the result.

While the Council and Commission have actually introduced increasing flexibility into the interpretation of the rules for ‘normal’ (non-program) countries, and have put the emphasis on investment and growth-oriented ‘structural’ reforms, they appear to remain largely inflexible on Greece.  The problem is that while some Northern European countries (Germany but also Finland) believe that austerity works, governments of countries that have had to impose austerity on their own populations (especially the Baltics, Spain, and Portugal) or are now in the midst of putting ‘structural reforms’  of labor markets and pension systems (France and Italy) are not about to let Greece off the hook, for fear of their own constituencies’ responses.  But this is counter productive.

Greece needs to stay in the Eurozone for its own benefit as well as everyone else’s.  But what they need is not yet another austerity program.  Instead, why not recognize that they need growth, and give the government a two year period of grace…no austerity, release of the monies to repay the IMF, and ECB guaranteed bank liquidity  in exchange for an agreement from the unions not to raise wages, for the government to collect taxes from the non-paying rich (including the expatriates with the help of international institutions), major reform of the state administration, rationalization of the rules to make it easier to start businesses, plus investment funds for small and medium sized enterprises, to reignite the private sector that has been dying on the vine these last few years.  Moreover, the EU ‘institutions’ (formerly known as the Troika) should transform themselves, moving from ‘enforcers’ to ‘advisers’, to help the Syriza government implement reforms that will not be easy.

Only by changing completely the program—and the discourse justifying it—can Greece stay the course, and succeed.  Greece has suffered enough, and should be given another chance to prove that it can succeed—with a program that has a realistic chance of succeeding.  This is the new message that Eurozone leaders should now agree on, and convey to their constituencies.

See A Finance Minister Fit for a Greek Tragedy? in Sunday’s New York Times.

Democracy in Europe named one of One Hundred Books on Europe to Remember

Democracy_in_EuropeVivien Schmidt’s 2006 book, Democracy in Europe (Oxford University Press) has been included in a comprehensive selection of 100 Books on Europe to Remember. The list includes academic, intellectual and political works on the European idea and the development of the European integration process, taking into account the vast geographical, linguistic and intellectual spectrum of ideas. It was compiled by the European Parliamentary Research Service in order to encourage exploration of the ideas and individuals that have inspired and guided the creation and growth of the European Union.

A special celebration to discuss the books and pamphlets that have made a significant contribution to the understanding of European integration was held on March 3 in the European Parliamentary Research Service library reading room. Participants included Joseph Weiler, Kevin Featherstone, Beatrice Taulegne, and Luuk van Middelaar. Martin Shulz, President of the European Commission, introduced the event.

 

Vivien Schmidt and Cornel Ban key researchers in EU Commission funded grant

Vivien Schmidt and Cornel Ban have become key researchers in the EU Commission funded grant: HORIZON 2020 ­ ENLIGHTEN ­ 2015-2018: European Legitimacy in Governing through Hard Times: The Role of European Networks.

ENLIGHTEN is a collaborative project coordinated at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS). In addition to BU professors Schmidt and Ban, the project brings together researchers from CBS as well as the University of Amsterdam, the Central European University and Université Libre de Bruxelles and non-academic partners Tax Justice Network, European Trade Union Confederation, Finance Watch and Housing Europe. The PI of the ENLIGHTEN project is Professor Leonard Seabrooke, Department of Business and Politics, CBS.

ENLIGHTEN addresses the ways in which the EU’s modes of governance cope with hard times on short-term and long-term issues. To do so it investigates the European governance architecture which includes: modes of governance; expert networks; policy instruments; and legitimising narratives. The ENLIGHTEN project suggests that an understanding of temporal issues is crucial to dealing with hard times and for the legitimacy of the European project overall. It distinguishes between Europe’s “fast-burning” and “slow-burning” crises, setting out to compare the ways in which EU policy actors have attempted to deal with them. The project maps how European institutions and expert networks handle these crises, and what European modes of governance relate are suited to addressing these crises.

ENLIGHTEN applies this approach to the study of a range of policy fields that are widely accepted as being critical to both the sustainability of Europe’s continent-wide coordinated governance architecture and the responsiveness of Europe’s democratic polity. The three policy fields
specifically addressed are: (1) Banking Crisis and Fiscal Sustainability; (2) Deficit Reduction and Continuity of Public Services; and (3) Youth Employment and Inclusive Growth. Prof. Schmidt will focus on the theoretical issues surrounding legitimacy and EU institutional actors. Prof. Ban will focus on questions related to the Banking Crisis and Fiscal Sustainability, as well as expert networks linked to EU institutional actors.

Presentation on Resilient Liberalism at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean

On October 14, I travelled to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) headquarters in Santiago, Chile, to give a presentation on the “Resilience of neoliberal ideas in Europe and beyond: its causes and its effects on the labor market and the welfare state.” Audio and video of my presentation are available here.

Book Discussion of Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities online

In a December 2006 discussion on her book, Democracy in Europe: The EU and National Polities, Vivien Schmidt, the Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at Boston University, offered an explanation of the European Union’s oft-cited “democratic deficit.” In establishing a conceptual framework for her analysis, Schmidt distinguished between two types of governance in European states: simple and compound polities. In simple polities, governing authority is channeled through a single authority while in compound polities it is diffused through multiple authorities. France and the United Kingdom, for example, are simple polities while Germany and Italy are compound. The EU, Schmidt asserted, is a compound polity because it has a composite (national and European) identity and only possesses state-like sovereignty in some policy areas. Trade policy, for example, was cited as an area where shared sovereignty is accepted. When it comes to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, however, this is not the case.

View the discussion on the Woodrow Wilson Center’s YouTube channel.

Comments on French Crisis and Germany’s Role

Here are some comments from Professor Schmidt in response during a recent interview on the role of Germany in the recent restructuring of the French government:

On the role of Germany in the restructuring: It played no direct role, but of course indirectly, Germany does. First, through its ordo-liberal ideas that underpin the Stability and Growth Pact and all the subsequent packs (six pack, two pack) and pacts (fiscal compact), and a discourse that has promoted the ‘Stability Culture,’ and policies focused on austerity and structural reform as the only answer. But why blame only Germany? Its allies include the ECB, that also believes in stability, and has pushed austerity and structural reform as a quid pro quo for its own monetary policies; the Commission, that has only begun to show flexibility very recently; and a variety of member-states worried about a ‘transfer union’ in which the core would have to pay for the periphery. Moreover, France (under Sarkozy) signed up to all of this as well, so Hollande is stuck with it, whether he likes it or not.

That said, Montebourg’s comments about the German obsession with austerity were indeed crucial to his ousting for two reasons. First, he is a Minister in a government in which the President had just announced continued austerity and structural reforms in line with ‘the line’ of the EU. Breaking ranks in this way is never appreciated by any Prime Minister or President of a country. Second, no doubt there were already frictions with the PM, and this was the opportunity to get rid of him. Montebourg may himself have welcomed it, so that he is no longer associated with a President (and government) he plans to run against in the next Presidential elections. But this means that there will be no vocal representatives of the left of the Socialist Party in the government—a problem for Hollande in terms of keeping his party entirely behind him.

Finally, on whether Berlin with change its European policy, the answer is not in the discourse, but possibly in the practice. My sense is that the discourse will continue to focus on ‘staying the course’ of austerity and structural reform, but that the Commission will exercise increasing flexibility in meeting the criteria, and the Council is likely to try to provide some investment to promote growth. I think by now everyone recognizes that these policies are not working, and you can’t just blame the Greeks, the Italians, and the French for it!

If I am asked: will policy change a lot soon? The answer is no. However, policy is likely to shift incrementally over time, in particular if and when the Council itself becomes increasingly represented by social-democratic member-state leaders.