I was in Bratislava, Slovakia from October 27-30 to participate in the Tatra Summit 2016. The theme of the conference was the current crises facing the European Union. I took part in a panel discussion entitled How to Rebuild the Trust of EU Citizens together with Goran Buldioski, Co-Director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe; John Erik Fossum, Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo; and Daniel Milo, Senior Research Fellow at Blobsec Policy Institute in Bratislava. The session, which was moderated by Barbara Wesel, Senior Europe Correspondent for Deutsche Welle, addressed such questions as: Does the European Union have capacity to combat extremism? Shall this be its tasks or responsibility of the member states? How can national and European leaders regain trust of European citizens and thus to prevent rise of extremism and populism? Is this the fault of the EU, or of national politics? What reforms does the EU or the Member States have to take?
Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, all the attention has been focused on how it will go about leaving, or even whether it will leave in the end. But equally important is how the EU responds to Brexit: whether as an isolated case to be quarantined in order to avoid contagion to other member-states, or as the symptom of a wider disease. Only by seeing the Brexit vote as a wake-up call to reinvent the EU may the EU itself actually overcome the many challenges it faces. What the EU must do is to generate a ‘new deal’ for the EU as a whole, not to treat the UK in isolation.
The EU will probably treat the UK as exceptional, as the result of populist Euroskepticism gone mad in a country ill-served by a conservative party trying to solve its internal divisions via referendum, drip-fed anti-EU rhetoric by the tabloids, where the EU has been the scapegoat for the UK’s many home-grown problems. The EU is therefore likely to hunker down, to protect all the acquis so valiantly fought for over the years—including the freedom of movement of EU citizens that has been a major focus of the Leave campaign.
But however tempting it may be for the EU to treat the UK as an example—so that no other member-state follows suit—it would be a mistake. The EU would do better to listen to and address the concerns of British citizens, in particular because calls for referenda are now echoed in other EU member-states by the likes of Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, among others.
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).
Vivien Schmidt’s co-edited contribution to Cambridge University Press’s Contemporary European Politics series has been released in the UK and will be available in the US by the end of the month. The book – Resilient Liberalism in European Political Economy – explains why neoliberal economic ideas have not just survived, but thrived since the 1980s – taking Europe from boom to bust.
Why have neo-liberal economic ideas been so resilient since the 1980s, despite major intellectual challenges, crippling financial and political crises, and failure to deliver on their promises? Why do they repeatedly return, not only to survive but to thrive? This groundbreaking book proposes five lines of analysis to explain the dynamics of both continuity and change in neo-liberal ideas: the flexibility of neo-liberalism’s core principles; the gaps between neo-liberal rhetoric and reality; the strength of neo-liberal discourse in debates; the power of interests in the strategic use of ideas; and the force of institutions in the embedding of neo-liberal ideas. The book’s highly distinguished group of authors shows how these possible explanations apply across the most important domains – fiscal policy, the role of the state, welfare and labour markets, regulation of competition and financial markets, management of the Euro, and corporate governance – in the European Union and across European countries.
About the editors
Vivien A. Schmidt is Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Professor of International Relations and Political Science at Boston University and Founding Director of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Europe.
Mark Thatcher is Professor in Comparative and International Politics in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
About the series
Contemporary European Politics presents the latest scholarship on the most important subjects in European politics. The world’s leading scholars provide accessible, state-of-the-art surveys of the major issues which face Europe now and in the future. Examining Europe as a whole and taking a broad view of its politics, these volumes will appeal to scholars and to undergraduate and graduate students of politics and European studies.