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European Politics and Society

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberal ideals have defined Europe’s political order. Parties that questioned free trade and democratic checks-and-balances could hardly gain many votes. Cultural tolerance and religious neutrality was the norm. The EU was seen not only as an engine of wealth, but also as an ethical power spreading liberal norms throughout the world. This era is now approaching its end. Liberal ideals are under fire from Helsinki to Athens. There are many local variations of the anti-liberal surge, but let us not delude ourselves: populism is not just confined to Hungary, Greece and Poland. Nigel Farage and his populist party UKIP have triumphed in the Brexit referendum. The Freedom Party of Austria, which came to …

Over two decades have passed since Silvio Berlusconi announced his entry into politics in 1994. Since then, the Italian centre-left coalition has had a half-dozen leaders and has changed its name three times, Italy has seen the first Pope to resign in the history of the Catholic Church and witnessed the first re-election of a president in Italian democracy. Despite all of this, the “jaguar” – more famous for his eccentric metaphors, myriad scandals and oftentimes over-the-top theatrics than for his political achievements – is still there.[1] And, if we consider the Italian electoral system, Berlusconi will be there in the near future. The highly controversial Rosatellum bis – the new Italian electoral law approved by both the centre-left and …

Much has been written about the Austrian Parliamentary election 2017 and its aftermath. Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) recently became Europe’s youngest head of government after reaching a coalition agreement with the right-wing FPÖ. He had cleared the path to becoming Austrian Chancellor by defeating incumbent Christian Kern (SPÖ) in a controversial election. This article examines the so-called Causa Silberstein, exploring the reasons that turned the affair into a scandal, and asking if it contributed to the defeat of the SPÖ in the Austrian Parliamentary election. The Silberstein Affair At the end of September, Austrian magazine Profil reported that Kern’s Israeli political consultant Tal Silberstein was behind two Facebook pages: ¨Wir für Sebastian Kurz¨ (¨We for Sebastian Kurz¨) and ¨Die Wahrheit über …

Despite the fact that other countries of the Western Balkans are already part of NATO and the EU, Serbia is pursuing close ties both with Eastern and Western powers. Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, has stated that “Serbia should not be asked to choose between the West and Russia.” According to her, Serbia is pursuing a “balanced foreign policy.” Such a policy is not necessarily new, as during the Cold War, the former Yugoslavia cooperated with both the East and the West. But in today’s contentious geostrategic climate, such a “neutral” policy means precariously walking on a tightrope bedeviled by pitfalls and competing interests. The EU’s Increasingly Ambiguous Appeal For centuries, Serbia has been Russia’s main ally in the Balkans. …

Less than one month ahead of the next Eastern Partnership summit, the Republic of Moldova is again in Brussels’ spotlight. The country’s commitment and adherence to a path of more closely aligning with the European Union is rapidly fading despite being considered back in 2014-2015 the “successful story” of the EaP initiative. The government in Chisinau, which has proclaimed itself to be “pro-European” has shown no desire to push for necessary reforms in key areas, such as the justice sector. Instead, it has acted with the sole purpose to maintain power and preserve the status quo after the parliamentary elections of 2018, regardless of the costs for relations with the EU. The fact that Moldova’s government has been increasingly non-acquiescent …

It is predicted that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will achieve a significant victory in the upcoming general election on June 8. If the predictions are correct — though at the time of writing Labour is advancing in the polls — May will find herself in a more comfortable position domestically, governing with a larger majority. On the international stage, however, will this increase in domestic power lead to an advantage for the United Kingdom at the negotiation table in Brussels? The Brussels-based press seems to think so, writing that “victory will allow May to head into EU-UK Brexit negotiations with a strengthened hand at home” and “if the U.K. holds a general election in June, Brussels can only lose.” May …

The Russian newspaper Vedomosti recently reported something that may strike many as rather odd. Drawing on a range of internal sources, the paper claimed that the Russian Presidential Administration was increasingly using members of the Federation Council – the upper chamber of the Federal Assembly, whose members are colloquially referred to as “senators” – to introduce bills into the federal legislature. This use of senators as law-making proxies is puzzling because of the President’s formal law-making powers: According to article 104, section 1 of the Russian Constitution, the President of the Russian Federation has the “power to initiate legislation”. In practice, this means the President has the authority to introduce bills into the State Duma – the lower chamber of the …

“National Interest” has entered the lexicon as a phrase that implies a realist approach to International Relations. It carries an assumption that is it possible to define the national as a melding and cohering of all interests, including business, sectoral, regional, and religious, within a country. When politicians use the phrase National Interest they seek to convey a message about the importance of what they are saying. It is a term deployed to allude to grand ideas and strategies and to conjure up an image of national power, rather than to illuminate what is actually going on in the foreign policy process, or routine political activity. The phrase can and has been applied to the military, political and economic spheres—the …