We need to fight the pensée unique about the EU

1Cas Mudde raises a very important issue in a recent article in Open Democracy (“The European elite’s politics of fear”). Mudde criticises “the EU elite’s long-standing warning against alleged threats from so-called anti-Europeans”. A penetrating discourse is spreading from Brussels warning against the rise of nationalism, anti-Europeanism, populism and aversion towards liberal democracy. All those who oppose current EU policies, regardless of their reasons, are made responsible for it. Continue reading “We need to fight the pensée unique about the EU”

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The Nobel Peace Prize to the EU: An assessment

I was driving when I first heard about the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. It was Friday morning and I was listening to the radio in the car. They interviewed Javier Solana, formerly known as “Mr PESC”, the person in charge of common EU foreign and security policy between 1999 and 2009. He could barely hide his excitement. His assessment was that the award was entirely deserved: The EU and its predecessors (the European Communities) are the reason why Europe has left the continuum of bloodshed behind. In Solana’s view, in this time of Euro-crisis (both financial and institutional), the Nobel Prize will strengthen the European identity, and this recognition will remind European leaders that their power increases when the ties among them get tighter. Continue reading “The Nobel Peace Prize to the EU: An assessment”

Importance is not enough

Yesterday, the European Ombudsman (that is, the Ombudsman of the European Union) issued a press statement under the following headline: “Ombudsman investigates whether the Commission should do more to combat increased bee mortality”. The statement said:

According to the complainant, the Commission has failed properly to address the issue of bee mortality, which may be linked to the use of certain neonicotinoids. In its view, the Commission should take new scientific evidence into account and take appropriate measures, such as reviewing the authorisation of relevant substances, in order to address the problem.

No need to check: Neonicotinoids are some sort of insecticides. It didn’t take me a minute to share the link with friends and colleagues via e-mail and Twitter, preceded by a self-explanatory ‘no comment’. Soon after, I started receiving a few answers. The point of most of them was basically that bees play a very important role in the ecosystem. And it’s true! According to a 2010 report by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), decline of bees is becoming a global and dangerous phenomenon with direct consequences on the environment, the biodiversity and ultimately our own lives! Even if I was very superficially aware of their importance, I didn’t have an idea about the exact facts and figures. There you have the one thing I learned yesterday. If you want to know more, there is a must-visit website: www.aworldwithoutbees.com/. Scary future lies ahead… In any case (let me get back to the Ombudsman now), I must say I still find the piece news both funny and shocking, and I’ve decided to write down here why.

Continue reading “Importance is not enough”

The fall of Western hegemony: What does it mean for the idea of human rights?

According to Robert Gilpin’s ‘theory of hegemonic stability’ (2002), the characteristics of the world economy reflect the will and national interests of the hegemonic power. Immanuel Wallerstein (1983) defines hegemony in the interstate system as “that situation in which the ongoing rivalry between the so-called ‘great powers’ is so unbalanced that one power can largely impose its rules and its wishes (at the very least by effective veto power) in the economic, political, military, diplomatic, and even cultural arenas”. Since World War II, the United States has been the hegemonic power, and since the fall of the Soviet Union its hegemony has been overwhelming and undisputable. Compared to the US, in the second half of the 20th century the power of Western Europe has been, at best, of normative nature, based on the socialisation of ideas like democracy, rule of law and human rights, which some claim to be part of the so-called ‘European identity’. Continue reading “The fall of Western hegemony: What does it mean for the idea of human rights?”

Fisheries, the EU and Western Sahara: In line with international law… in the end

On 28 July 2005, the European Union and Morocco agreed upon a fishing agreement. Previously, both parties had adopted similar bilateral treaties in 1988, 1992, and 1995. According to Article 11, the Agreement applied “to the territory of Morocco and to the waters under Moroccan jurisdiction”, an expression used to refer to waters situated to the south of Cape Noun, that is, under the internationally recognised border between Morocco and Western Sahara.

According to article 12, the Agreement had to be applied for a period of four years. In February 2011, in spite of the critics, the EU managed to extend the agreement provisionally one more year. Yesterday, though, the European Parliament rejected the extension of the pact any longer. What happened? Continue reading “Fisheries, the EU and Western Sahara: In line with international law… in the end”

What comes after Democracy?

German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy are trying hard to reassure investors they can rely on Europe. They announced today their plans to rebuild the European Union. They’ll both meet up early next week to discuss their ideas about fiscal armonisation and budget austerity. A few weeks ago, Italy and Greece changed their leaders. Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos haven´t been victorious at any election, though. They belong to a new type of class: the technocrats. Spaniards did things differently… or kind of. Spain held elections on 20 November, when as expected the conservative PP got back to power after almost eight years in the opposition. Nonetheless, the PP and the then ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) reached an agreement to modify the Constitution in a matter of days in a desperate attempt to calm investors down (read our analysis here in Spanish). No public discussion and no referendum was considered necessary. A few months earlier, Portugal also had national elections in a quite hasty way. Conservatives refused to support former PM Socrates up until their arrival to power (our post). Then they applied the same harsh measures and some more. Portugal has thereby become ‘a case study in the politics of austerity

Europe is moving and there is little evidence that the fundamental changes we are witnessing correspond to truly democratic processes. Continue reading “What comes after Democracy?”

One full year putting human rights in context

It has now been a year since this blog saw the light. On 9 November 2010, we explained the point of this project in these terms:

The human rights community must contextualise human rights. This demands the use of the rights discourse and tools in order to hold back the effects of these crises or, in other words, in order to transform a crisis into a political opportunity for change.

We cannot afford a recession in human rights. This phrase summarises the point of Rights in Context. Continue reading “One full year putting human rights in context”