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Guest Post: Norway and the EU as a model for Brexit – an ideal, or the worst case scenario?

By Blog Admin, on 2 June 2016

by Eline Groholt, IMESS Politics and International Economy Student 

Sometimes described as an ideal model for EU-British relations, at other times used as scare tactics of how bad it could get, Norway’s relation to the EU provides an interesting comparison for Great Britain’s options in the event of Brexit.

EMG Tønsberg coast

 

With 80 per cent of Norwegian exports and 60 per cent of imports coming from the EU, Norway is obliged to accept EU rules and regulations in order to access the common market, but is exempted with regards to important sectors such as agriculture and fishery. Norway adopts about three quarters of all EU legislation, without the right to vote on, or influence the law making process, except from being consulted in the initial stage of the process. Would Great Britain be ready to give up the right to influence legislation it is bound to follow?

 

Interestingly enough, the Norwegian government is backing the British remain campaign, although not itself a member. Following the two EU referenda in 1972 and 1994, Norway voted by a narrow margin to stay outside the EU, but remained within the European Economic Area (EEA) together with Iceland and Liechtenstein (EFTA members). As a former Norwegian minister of Foreign Affairs declared to The Guardian: “the EEA has become Norway’s compromise on Europe.” If Great Britain followed the Norwegian model, it would severely alter the power balance of the EEA itself.

 

However, as the British referendum on the EU is approaching, British politicians supporting the “Vote Leave” campaign have become increasingly reluctant to picture the Norwegian model as an ideal option. In fact, it is becoming more and more evident what this option would actually involve, which threats British sovereignty would face and how the country would see undermined its role in the whole Europe.

EMG Royal Palace on constitutions day

Having voted ‘no’ twice, the Norwegian EU debate has been declared dead, leading to a lack of discussion, debate, healthy political conversation, and consequently, poor knowledge of EU political decision-making mechanisms and policies in general. Paradoxically, this happens at the same time as Norway becomes more closely integrated with the EU. A British referendum on the EU has at least sparked a vibrant debate in Britain on how the EU actually works. This should be welcomed.

 

Norway as a model for UK? So close, yet so far!

Although an interesting idea to ponder, the vast differences between the two countries make for a strange comparison. Norway is a small, resource exporting country with five million people belonging to Europe’s periphery, whereas Great Britain is a huge service economy with global ambitions and a world leading financial centre. It is hard to imagine a country like UK giving up influencing powers over EU legislation. And as EU scepticism continues to grow across Europe, perhaps a reluctant member like UK is exactly what the EU needs in order to modernise.

 

Note: Views expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of SSEES, UCL, or SSEES Research Blog

 

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Brexit could push British universities down global rankings

By Blog Admin, on 28 May 2016

by Sultan Orazbayev – Current PhD Candidate

Research shows that visa restrictions between countries reduce scientific collaboration of researchers in those countries. If Brexit results in an increase in the administrative barriers to mobility, then this could harm the global standing of British-based researchers and British universities.

 

Donaldson Reading room, UCL. source: Wikicommons

Researchers believe that Brexit will affect the ranking of UK universities.

Recent comparative study of European and US researcher mobility documents that researchers in Europe (including non-EU countries) move less frequently within Europe compared to inter-state mobility of US researchers (Kamalski and Plume, 2013). The same study shows that countries with higher rates of mobility are associated with high-impact research. Additional supporting evidence on the importance of researcher mobility can be found in the recent Parliamentary report on EU membership and UK science.

There is no clear understanding of how Brexit will affect the administrative barriers to mobility, both for UK researchers’ access to EU countries and access to UK by EU researchers. A close case study is provided by Switzerland, see a detailed examination in a blog post by Galsworthy and Davidson (2015). In the extreme case of imposition of ‘paper walls’, for example travel visa requirements between UK and EU, there is likely to be a significant drop in UK-EU scientific collaborations and knowledge flows. This would exacerbate the impact of the reduction in overall funding of UK science which is likely to follow Brexit.
Research shows that higher ‘paper walls’ between countries (immigration policy, travel visa requirements) reduce bilateral knowledge flows and collaborations (Orazbayev, 2016). EU researchers are collaborators for about 40% of the UK collaborative research, thus even a small increase in collaboration costs is likely to lead to a sizeable drop in joint projects.

As a consequence of the negative impact of Brexit on UK (and EU) science, British universities would slide down in the global university rankings. International university league tables place a significant weight on research performance of a university, which is proxied by the citations to work generated at the university. For example, QS World University Rankings places 20% weight on citations per faculty as a measure of research impact. The decrease in citations to UK research (reflecting reduced knowledge flows), especially to the recent research, will push British universities down the league tables.

 

Please note: Views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect those of UCL, SSEES or SSEES Research Blog

 

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Ukraine’s ambivalent future

By Blog Admin, on 4 November 2014

Events in Ukraine have polarised opinion, but the country’s present and future are best understood as  permeated by ambivalence, argues Alena Ledeneva.

The situation in Ukraine might grasped best by a specialist on geopolitics, a scholar of the (il)legitimacy of power, an ethnographer of insurgencies, an analyst of media propaganda wars, a trauma therapist, or by a psychologist of phobias and love-hate relationships. I have none of these specialisms, but I share their intellectual challenge: the theme of ambivalence.

As ‘East’ and ‘West’ embark on another cycle of ideological confrontation and political standoff, there is little room left for marginal positions or ambivalent attitudes. As the outside world lashes out at Putin over the Crimea and East Ukraine, Russians turn wartime patriotic. Yet paradoxically, exactly because it is impossible to achieve a consensus – and because the black-and-white positions over the Crimea and east Ukraine split families, friendships, and international clubs – it is the understanding of grey areas and backgrounds that may help define the way forward for Ukraine.

One legacy shared by most survivors of oppressive political regimes is what George Orwell called ‘‘doublethink’’ – which Yury Levada and Alexander Zinoviev branded as being the key feature of Homo sovieticus. Under late socialism, when present-day elites in Russia and Ukraine were growing up, it was irrelevant whether people believed official ideological messages or not. Instead, the relation to officialdom became based on intricate strategies of simulated support and on ‘nonofficial’ practices.

Individual doublethink developed into collective double standards that implied the ability to hold contradictory views in private and in public and the capacity to switch between them smoothly, when applied to ‘us’ and ‘them,’ to ‘ordinary citizens’ and to the Party leaders, and to one’s personal circle and to society as a whole.

In its sociological sense, ambivalence, as defined by Robert Merton, refers to incompatible normative expectations of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. The incompatibility is assigned to a status and the social structures that generate the circumstances in which ambivalence is embedded. The core type of sociological ambivalence puts contradictory demands upon the occupants of a status in a particular social relation. Since these norms cannot be simultaneously expressed in behaviour, they come to be expressed in an oscillation of behaviours.

In the context of modernity, ambivalence is associated with fragmentation and failure of manageability. Zygmunt Bauman defined ambivalence as the possibility of assigning an object or an event to more than one category. Bauman views it as a language-specific disorder, with its main symptom being the acute discomfort we feel when we are unable to read the situation properly and to choose between alternative actions.

Those who have detailed knowledge of the geography and the economic history of Ukraine or have done exhaustive research on the conflicting accounts on the current situation end up developing symptoms of ambivalence (more…)

“This is clearly not just about Ukraine, but about Russia’s ambitions in the whole neighbourhood”

By Blog Admin, on 20 October 2014

Wilson UCWIMFTW coverAndrew Wilson  discusses his new book Ukraine Crisis: What it Means for The West with SSEES Research Blog.

SRB: You made a trip to Ukraine when writing this book. Could you tell us about your experiences there?

AW: When I was there, it struck me as a good idea that there was a book in all this. The previous time I was in Ukraine was in November last year, just before the protests started. But by February, it was also pretty clear that things were getting exciting and heading to some kind of denouement. So what do you do? You just go.

I arrived in the middle of an old fashioned revolution. I remember a human chain collecting cobblestones. At the front you had young guys chucking them at the militia, but the human chain was made up of the entire citizenry of Kiev – well dressed women in high heels coming from the office, the grandmother at the front still holding her shopping in a blue plastic bag. It was like a nineteenth century revolution between the citizens and the evil rulers, a bit like Les Miserables.

The book went to press really quickly, but hopefully, I can put some pictures in the second edition.

SRB: You refer to the Orange Revolution as a precedent to the Ukraine crisis. To what extent do you see this crisis is a continuation of the 2004 Orange Revolution?

AW: Well, the protesters clearly had that in mind. Initially they were copying the tactics of the Orange Revolution and it started in the same way – a peaceful, carnival-like protest. But people were also thinking of how to do it better. It was clear very early on during the Orange Revolution in 2004 that the regime wasn’t capable of using violence, whereas this time the regime did use violence–but did so very early and not sufficiently to put an end to things. So had a very early set of calculations with how to deal with a very different regime.

Ultimately the tragedy is that immediately after the uprising there was a sense of optimism that Ukraine was doing better this time but it never got the chance to show that because people were still learning lessons from the disappointments that followed the Orange Revolution.

SRB: Do you think in the immediate future that the Russia’s hegemony will dictate the political paths of countries in Eastern Europe?

AW: We can see Russia trying to influence all its neighbours, not just Ukraine. The bigger picture is a pretty scary one. If it is true that the countries that reformed fairly successfully in the 1990s in Central Europe were able to do so only because Russia was not really able prevent them, whereas Russia is now so able to do so here –that’s a pretty depressing conclusion.

It’s not just Ukraine but other countries that might be unable to reform or undertake the EU-friendly policies that Brussels wants; Moldova is a big test case with the election coming up, Georgia is a very interesting case too, because it has already reformed but under Russian pressure is now backsliding a bit. We can also see the reintroduction of a more Russian political culture – back to corruption, patronage, political prosecutions. The Baltic States are an important test case too because they’re in EU and NATO, but will that protect them from Russian pressure?

What’s more, this is clearly not just about Ukraine but about Russia’s ambitions in the whole  neighbourhood. Long- term I think Russia is over extended, so it would be able make trouble everywhere, but it can probably make trouble in two countries at once. (more…)

International responses to homophobia in Russia: A win-win for Putin

By Blog Admin, on 26 March 2014

Gay putin

Photo: Brian Minkoff-London Pixels/Wikicommons
CC BY-SA 3.0

Vladimir Putin has used the international backlash against Russia’s sweeping anti-gay laws as part of his wider strategy for asserting conservative Russian values against those of the West argues Richard Mole.

Despite the best efforts of President Putin to keep the focus on sport, the Sochi Winter Olympics became a focal point for international criticism of the Russian law banning the spreading of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’, with global media coverage of the Olympics casting a spotlight on Russia’s anti-gay laws and rise of extreme homophobia in the country.

The law did not initially contain a definition of what constituted propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations – not that this stopped the police from making arrests.  But in December the government published the Criteria of Internet Content Harmful for Children’s Health and Development, which listed the following as examples of homosexual propaganda:

  • Information that justified the acceptability of alternative family relations, including any statistics or stories about children adopted by gay or lesbian couples, which might lead to the conclusion that same-sex couples are ‘no worse than straight couples at coping with parental responsibilities’;
  • ‘Intense emotional images’ aimed at discrediting traditional family models and propagating alternative family models;
  •  Information that contains ‘images of behaviour associated with the denial of the traditional family model’ which promotes homosexual relationships;
  • Depiction of homosexual people as role models, including any mention of famous homosexuals; and
  • Anything that ‘approves or encourages’ LGBT people in their homosexuality.

The latter condition is so poorly defined, that it effectively means that any content which may be considered offensive by the Russian government can now be deemed illegal and subject to prosecution.

The international backlash was vocal. (more…)

Ukraine’s 2014: a belated 1989 or another failed 2004?

By Blog Admin, on 19 February 2014

Whatever their final outcome, the events in Ukraine seem likely to be of greater long-term import than the ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004. But, asks Andrew Wilson,  a long-term what?

 Whatever their outcome, the events in Ukraine seem likely to be of greater long-term import than the ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004. Ukrainians themselves are obviously debating their meaning and making comparisons with other momentous years in Ukrainian and general European history. But which year?

 This is not about geopolitics: this isn’t 1939, some replay of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with two titans dividing up Eastern Europe. Russia thinks geopolitically, but the EU does not, and until fairly recently the US has been just a voice offstage. The whole point of the debacle at the Vilnius Summit was the clash between the completely different modus operandi of Russia and the EU.

 There hasn’t been a proper post-Vilnius post-mortem yet (you can’t have a post-mortem till you identify the body). A technical rethink of the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is inevitable. But the whole point is that it is too technical. As I said to the NYT, the EU took a baguette to a knife fight. The Eastern Partnership is an ‘enlargement-lite’ policy at the very moment when Russia is committed to some heavy lifting. If there is a ‘struggle over Ukraine’, as so much of the media is determined to frame it, it is clearly a very unequal struggle. (more…)

Unstable Platform? Poland’s ruling party struggles on

By Blog Admin, on 30 January 2014

A series of on-going political crises in 2013 saw support for Poland’s centrist ruling party, Civic Platform, slump. Despite a number of initiatives to revive its fortunes, public hostility may have passed a tipping point argues Aleks Szczerbiak.

 2013 was a year of on-going political crisis for Civic Platform (PO) party, he main governing party in Poland,. The approval ratings of both the Civic Platform-led government and prime minister and PO leader Donald Tus, slumped to their lowest levels since they came to office in 2007. A December 2013 poll by CBOS found that the number who declared themselves to be government supporters and were satisfied with Tusk as prime minister fell to 21% and 26% respectively – compared to 33% and 35% a year earlier.

 Another December 2013 CBOS poll found that only 31% trusted Mr Tusk, a slump of 10% over the past year and just 1% higher than the number trusting Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), the main opposition grouping. Civic Platform also suffered a series of local by-election defeats and has, since May, trailed Law and Justice by around 5-10% in the polls.

 With the economy sluggish and unemployment remaining high, Poles have become increasingly gloomy about their future prospects. There has also been a growing sense of government drift with ministers appearing to spend too much of time on crisis management and failing to undertake long-term structural reforms. The Tusk government appeared to revert to the cautious policy of ‘small step’ reform that characterised its first term in office. This approach worked fairly well while the economy was strong but began to come unstuck when the tempo of growth slowed and unemployment increased.

 Divisions and tensions within the ruling party both contributed to and were exacerbated by the sense of crisis. This reached its peak during the summer when Mr Tusk was challenged for his party leadership by Jarosław Gowin. (more…)

Stuck in transition?

By Blog Admin, on 20 December 2013

Economic reform in Eastern Europe and the former USSR is stagnating suggests the latest Transition Report from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).  However, as debates at a joint EBRD/UCL-SSEES launch event highlight, the responses needed may not be straightforward, reports Randolph Bruno

The idea that some countries are Stuck in Transition – to take the title of the EBRD’s 2013 Transition Report – has resonated for some time in the literature. It is now it is time to take stock and ask whether transition is really over – at least for some countries.

The 2013 EBRD Transition report tries to address this by asking two main questions. Firstly, why has convergence slowed? The standard of living of the best performing countries in Eastern Europe is still around 60-70% of the average for rich Western European countries. Secondly, can economic institutions be improved if there are constraints on political reform– a question which could also be asked in a very similar fashion of Western European countries. As far as the first question is concerned, the data clearly shows an end to the productivity catch-up (moving closer to the EU average) observed at the turn of the millennium.

Why should this be the case? One possible answer is stalled political reform. The up-to- EBRD transition indicators in the Report show political reforms plateau-ing and this is worrying. The attitude of the citizens in transition states shifted in 2006-2010, basically dropping the consensus that the market economy is a good mechanism for allocating resources.

Reforms matter

However, the main element is the increase in the so called Total Factor Productivity – productivity derived from the increase in efficiency not accounted by factors of production such capital and labour. In other words, the injection of new capital or new labour has a very limited impact on productivity whereas new technology and innovation play a major role.

The EBRD downgrades of the top reformers’ rankings are concentrated in the EU countries and with the current policy convergence will slow. However, the other side of the coin is that if economic reforms are improved convergence will improve. On this point the EBRD Transition Report is very clear: keep going with reform –or re-start reform- and this can make a substantial difference. Still more worryingly, in some cases (for example in Belarus) reforms have been reversed. (more…)

Reacting to Ukraine’s protests

By Blog Admin, on 5 December 2013

The return of sustained protest to the streets of Ukraine has hugely raised the political stakes comments Andrew Wilson

The protests in Kiev are now two weeks old. They began after the Ukrainian government first decided to suspend negotiations with the EU on 21 November, but have gained new intensity after President Yanukovych left the Vilnius Summit on 28-29 November empty-handed, without signing the key AgreementsBut the attempt at violent dispersal of the crowds on his return, on Saturday 30 November, only led to bigger demonstrations on the Sunday.

At the time of writing (Monday the 2nd), the protestors were looking more embedded – literally so, as several buildings have been occupied and barriers set up in the centre of Kiev. The stakes are especially high because the OSCE Ministerial Council is due to be held in Kiev on 5-6 December – the opposition want to keep the protest going until then, the authorities want to stamp them out. The ruling party is losing key members and morale.

What happens next?

One of the most depressing features of Ukraine’s many failures after the Orange Revolution in 2004 was that people lost the will to protest. Political demonstration even became an entirely artificial affair, with being-paid-to-protest becoming big business in Ukraine. So the return of real protests changes things dramatically. Participants at the first big demo held up signs saying “we are not paid”. The authorities are relying on the tired and discredited narrative that this is an artificial protest, ‘”paid for” by domestic oligarchs or foreign powers. At least in Kiev, everyone knows this is false. (more…)

Premature donors? Development aid from Central and Eastern Europe ten years on

By Blog Admin, on 28 November 2013

St. Philip's School Mathare: support and development of the school’s potential, KenyaWhen they joined the EU Central and East European states committed themselves to meet EU norms on international development aid. Small budgets, weak social support and limited political commitment have so far limited the impact of aid from CEE. However, it is too early to dismiss them as ‘premature donors’ argue Simon Lightfoot and Balazs Szent-Ivanyi.

Eastern Europe (CEE) states becoming donors of international development aid. It is also the year that three CEE states – the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland – joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).  DAC membership is symbolically important of joining the ‘donor’s club’, but it also commits members to certain norms and practices in aid spending.  Both events make this an opportune time to review the progress CEE states have made towards meeting global aid norms.

Before we do that it is worth asking whether these countries are ready to become donors.  They classify as high income countries and are number are OECD members, so economically the answer must be yes, despite the impact of the financial crisis on some CEE states. But socially, the self perception of these societies is that they see themselves are poor and awareness of development issues is low, so the answer here is more complicated. And politically, aid is not seen as a salient issue, so there is little political capital gained by ‘selling aid’ to the public.

All of these factors affect the quantity, quality and allocation of the bilateral aid given by the CEE states. On becoming EU members, the CEE states were set quantitative targets for aid as a percentage of GDP. They committed to providing 0.15% by 2010 with the ultimate goal of 0.33% by 2015. No country met the 0.15% target and most are unlikely to meet the 0.33% target. However, given the economic problems of the Eurozone, a number of the other DAC members are similarly unlikely to meet their own targets for aid, with aid levels in Greece and Italy particularly badly hit.

But quantitative targets, while important, do not tell the whole story. (more…)