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The EU and European Politics

After the Cold War and the fall of the First Italian Republic, Italy struggled to formulate a coherent foreign policy strategy. Generally, foreign policies at global level during the Cold War era were dictated by the bipolar relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. Italian foreign policy, therefore, was a function of the United States’ sphere of influence and interests, and Italy was often a bridge and interlocutor for the Americans to the Middle East or Eastern Europe. With the collapse of the bipolar system and the disintegration of the major Italian political parties that were the core political actors in the aftermath of World War Two, Italian foreign policy was partially dictated by individual figures and was …

Italy was the first Western democracy to impose a country-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite successfully curbing the number of infections in the first half of 2020, Italy saw its cases increase again in October, prompting Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and local governments to announce new restrictions to curb the cresting second wave. Despite the clear memory of the significant death toll and warnings of the dangerous winter to come, however, these announcements have been met with opposition. On the evening of the 23rd October, thousands gathered in the streets of Naples to protest against the forced closure of shops and restaurants and the threat of a local lockdown. A group of about 300 people—including youth, extremist political groups, and football hooligans—escalated into a violent protest, attacking police officers, burning cars, and vandalizing private …

Brexit has weakened populists on the continent? This is wishful thinking. No longer willing to leave the EU, instead populists are determined to take it over. Brexit is a moving target. Each time we think we have a deal, the British House of Commons decides to re-think. It’s like the famous passage from T.S. Eliot: “Time yet for a hundred indecisions/And for a hundred visions and revisions,/ Before taking a toast and tea.” Boris Johnson expected the Parliament to approve the exit deal he reached with the EU. Instead, the Parliament voted for an amendment tabled by a Tory MP, Sir Oliver Letwin. The amendment withholds approval of the deal, until the legislation to enact it is safely passed – …

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 pillars of Europe’s security are damaged beyond repair and Europe’s leaders are in denial. Expect very heavy turbulence starting next year. The peaceful post-1989 order on the old continent rested on three key pillars: NATO, the EU, and the ruling mosaic of centre-left-and-right parties. NATO provided the hardware, the EU delivered the soft-ware, and the ruling parties offered legitimacy. All these three pillars are now damaged beyond repair. Donald Trump’s victory has buried NATO. Collective defence and deterrence can only work if they are not subject to speculation. Trump has made it clear that he wants to keep his options open. The everything-goes policy is a recipe for anarchy, not security. I am not even talking about Trump’s links with …

The United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) on 1 January 1973 after negotiations by the Conservative government led by Edward Heath. In the run up to the subsequent 1974 General Election the Labour Party pledged, in its manifesto, the United Kingdom’s first nationwide referendum on whether to stay part of the Economic Community on renegotiated terms or to completely part company. With a Labour victory, the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, followed through on his promise and a referendum was held on 5 Jun 1975. The outcome was an overwhelming victory (67%) for the ‘In’ campaign. The 1975 vote in favour of Europe did not, however, end the debate on the United Kingdom’s membership of what …

On 17 June 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International tweeted: ‘We cannot accept funding from the EU or the Member States while at the same time treating the victims of their polices! It’s that simple.’ The decision is a vivid example of MSF’s political engagement, this time in reaction to EU policies aiming to deter immigration. However, MSF’s actions sit uneasily with the organisation’s politically neutral and impartial public image. The political aspects of its work are not well-captured by the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality that MSF celebrates, an issue that may hinder members of the public from being fully informed about which humanitarian charities best align with their beliefs. Two notions help to illustrate the political nature …

The vote to leave the EU was an outcome which surprised most commentators, bookies, and even those who voted for the winning side. In the aftermath of the result, John Gray, a popular political theorist, wrote that ‘voters inflicted the biggest shock on the establishment since Churchill was ousted in 1945’. It is hard to think that he is wrong. The only social classes which predominately voted Remain were ABs (affluent and middle-class voters), whereas C1 C2 DE (lower middle-class and working-class) voters all delivered majorities for Leave. As I predicted on this blog in January and contrary to many commentators’ expectations, the referendum engaged more voters than recent general elections. It generated the highest turnout in a UK election …