British Journal of Politics and International Relations Prize

I was awarded a prize for best paper published in BJPIR (the British Journal of Politics and International Relations) 2013, for my paper entitled, “Speaking to the Markets or to the People? A Discursive Institutionalist Analysis of the EU’s Sovereign Debt Crisis.”   The prize was announced at the Political Studies Association Annual International Conference, at the conference dinner on the evening of March 31st, 2015 in Sheffield, UK.

The paper argues that the EU’s sovereign debt crisis is not just economic; it is also political, resulting from the failure of EU leaders to offer solutions that calm the markets and convince the people. These failures stem from problems with EU leaders’ ideas about how to solve the crisis as well as their communication about them. That communication encompasses not just EU leaders talking to one another in negotiations of crisis solutions but also speaking to “the markets’ and to ‘the people’ about those solutions, all of which may interact in perverse ways. My article uses the analytic framework of “discursive institutionalism” to consider the different forms, types, levels, rates and mechanisms of change in ideas followed by the EU leaders’ discursive interactions in the “coordinative” discourse and their “communicative discourse” to the global markets and European publics. It uses a range of country cases, but in particular Germany and France, in illustration.

Saving Social Europe: Going Beyond The EU’s “Governing By The Rules And Ruling By The Numbers”

Please see my recent op-ed for Social Europe Journal“Saving Social Europe: Going Beyond Governing by the Rules and Ruling by the Numbers” – on the continued travails of the Eurozone crisis, with suggestions on how to move beyond the austerity policies enacted since 2008 that have wreaked havoc on European social policies, in particular in countries in the periphery.

During the euro’s sovereign debt crisis, European leaders have been obsessed with rules, numbers, and pacts, including the so-called ‘Six-Pack,’ the ‘Two-Pack,’ and the ‘Fiscal Compact,’ each more stringent on the nature of the rules, more restrictive with regard to the numbers, and more punitive for member-states that failed to meet the requirements. In the absence of any deeper political or economic integration, the EU ended up with ‘governing by the rules’ and ‘ruling by the numbers’ in the Eurozone. Austerity policies focused on rapid deficit reduction along with pressures for structural reform – often shorthand for reducing labor rights and protections – have wreaked havoc on ‘Social Europe,’ in particular in countries in the periphery.

Slowly but surely, however, under pressure from deteriorating economies and increasing political volatility, EU leaders have been changing the rules by which they have been governing the economy. But they have not done this formally. Instead, EU leaders have been informally and incrementally reinterpreting the rules without admitting it in their discourse to the public. This has helped to slow the economic crisis but not to end it.

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The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning for the Stability Rules

The latest skirmish on the budget, as Berlin (and Brussels) try to hold the line on the stability rules, while Paris and Rome push for greater flexibility, is very much a draw.  Hollande and Renzi wanted and needed a very public fight to show their citizens that they have been pressing for less austerity to ensure economic growth, even as they reaffirmed their respect for the rules.  They won by gaining modest concessions that marginally violate the rules on austerity. Merkel also won by ensuring that they too had to make modest concessions toward greater austerity.  This leaves the question:  is this the beginning of the end for the stability rules or is it just the end of the beginning—with wrangling about the rules the new modus operandi? If the latter, Eurozone economies will continue to sink.

Quote appears in the Greek newspaper newspaper Kathimerini on November 6, 2014.

Vivien Schmidt Awarded Research Fellowship

Recently, I was awarded a research fellowship by the European Commission, Directorate General of Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN).  It involves my producing a paper entitled “The Political Economy of the European Monetary Union: Rebuilding Trust and Support for Economic Integration.”  The fellowship program itself encompasses approximately ten fellows,  all economists except for me (a political scientist).  In addition to writing a very long research paper for publication in DG ECFIN’s paper series, I am to participate in three workshops over the course of a year (june 2014-June 2015), plus be available for 30 hours of consultations.  The fellowship program was established in view of the seating of the newly European Parliament and the newly appointed Commission President and Commissioner head of DG ECFIN.  We are to provide advice to the new Commissioner with regard to current and future policy.  In my own case, I will be considering not just how to rebuild trust and support for economic integration but the problems with the current policies that make rebuilding trust very difficult.

In my research, I will be examining not just problems with the economic policy performance (often termed output legitimacy in EU studies ) and the increasingly volatile politics resulting from citizens’ view of the EU as unresponsive to their concerns (input legitimacy) but also the quality of the governance processes (which I term ‘throughput’ legitimacy).  I will be interviewing of EU officials to get a fuller sense of  the political dynamics of crisis resolution, as EU institutional actors have sought to get beyond the rigidities of the initial crisis response to economic governance that established a set of numbers-targeting rules focused on austerity and structural reform that have not worked.  I will be considering how EU officials in different EU institutions may go about informally reinterpreting such rules as well as how they legitimate any such reinterpretations.

ELIAMEP Crisis Observatory Interview

During a European Seminar entitled “Europe in Crisis, Citizens in Protest” (4-7 July, 2013, Nafplion, Greece), I gave a video recorded interview for the Crisis Observatory/ELIAMEP.

In it, I discuss why the Eurozone has not been able to exit the crisis and problems with current approaches to the crisis among other things. The interview was transcribed and can be read on line in English here.

Austerity Seen Easing With Change to EU Budget Policy?

Vivien Schmidt’s comment on Mathew Dalton’s September 19 Wall Street Journal article, “Austerity Seen Easing with Change to EU Budget Policy,” was picked up by AP reporter Juergen Baetz. Comment and links to both articles below.

Easing austerity through change to EU budget policy is a very significant move.  If agreed by EU finance officials, changing the calculation of the ‘structural deficit’ could go a long way to easing the economic problems—and thereby the political ones–of the Southern European countries as well as Ireland.  It is also a silent acknowledgement of the fact that the radical deficit cutting programs of the past three years have failed to address growth.  It may not be possible to reverse the financial stability rules and numerical targets of the various Eurozone pacts, but  it is possible to reinterpret them.  And by reinterpreting them, the worst aspects of those rules, the growth destroying aspects, may be set aside.  What we are seeing is the beginning of a process of re-evaluation of the economic policies that have kept growth down while increasing debt-to-GDP ratios, and thereby keeping the Eurozone from exiting the crisis.  It is about time.

Links:

Austerity Seen Easing With Change to EU Budget Policy – Change Would Have Big Impact on Spain, Significantly Reduce Estimates of Government’s ‘Structural Deficit’ by Mathew Dalton (Wall Street Journal 9/19/13)

EU to Change Budget Calculation to Ease Austerity by Juergen Baetz (Associated Press 9/19/13)

The Future of the Eurozone

I was a keynote speaker, along with Iain Begg, at a plenary on “The Future of the Eurozone” at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute annual conference Beyond Austerity vs Growth: The Future of the European Political Economy at the University of Sheffield on 1-3 July 2013.  Participants included leading academics, policy makers and journalists from across the globe. You can view a video of the session on YouTube. (My talk begins at 39:13minutes.)