Ireland’s European Security and Defence Questions

While everyone is (understandably) focused on Brexit, there is much more going on in Brussels that needs attention. Near the top of that list has to be plans for closer EU security and defence cooperation. Big decisions are due before December and – as of yet – the arguments have not had much of an airing.

The reasons for this intensified activity are clear: the security threats to EU member states and citizens are multiplying even as traditional defence structures come under pressure. As Donald Trump veers from dismissing NATO, to embracing Russia, to threatening North Korea and Iran, Europeans look to what they might do together to strengthen their own security. As terrorism strikes indiscriminately across Europe, governments seek new ways to counteract those threats. As budgets in Europe have tightened, defence departments search for creative ways to share costs and coordinate planning. As cyber attacks proliferate – crashing national computer systems or undermining democratic elections – EU governments hunt for means to secure these and other critical infrastructures. Another catalyst for all this activity has been Brexit itself. The withdrawal of British military capacity from the EU is a big hit, but this will be offset by the disappearance of long-standing British vetoes against further security and defence cooperation.

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The EU Global Strategy and Academia – new avenues for cooperation

On 12 June 2017, I was invited, along with about 70  other academics, foreign and security policy experts, think tank staff and policy makers to a ‘high level’ Jean Monnet thematic seminar on the “EU’s Global Strategy – From Vision to Action”. This was organised by the EU Commission’s DG Education and Culture and the European External Action Service in Brussels. The brief for the meeting was to discuss and gain insights from a variety of actors with a view to coming up with concrete proposals and recommendations to the European Commission and European External Action Service on how the ambitions behind the EU Global Strategy might be realised. I was specifically asked to make a presentation on the relationship between academia and EU foreign policy makers and how that might strengthen/improve policy making. While the presentation was not based on a formal paper and was designed more to provoke a conversation in the room, I was asked to write it up for the purposes of a conference report. The following results:

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The State of EU Foreign Policy Scholarship

EU foreign policy scholarship has made an undoubted contribution to our understanding of politics at the global level. First, it has added to our understanding of what EU membership means for member states. The complex and reciprocal relationship between national political systems and a developing European-level polity poses many challenging questions to comparative politics and international relations. EU foreign policy studies has outlined – in some detail – how and why member states have contributed to the creation of collective foreign policy making at European level and how this process of collective policy making has in turn impacted the foreign policies of the member states and the impact this has/has not made on the global system. Second, this scholarship has offered varying conceptions of what the EU represents as an international actor. This debate is ongoing – but it has added richly to conversations concerning the role of interests, identity and institutions in International Relations. In doing both these things, EU foreign policy scholarship has also created a visible – if multilane (!) – bridge between European Studies and International Relations. At the same time, we can’t overlook the mote in our eyes. Our fascination with the processes of this unique multi-level policy making machinery does lead us – from time to time – to excessively thick description, to the ever finer parsing of diplomatic and treaty language and the reinvention of too many wheels.

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Are young people turning away from democracy?

richard o'neillRichard O’Neill is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. Here he questions recent claims about the rise of anti-democratic sentiment among millennials, but warns that there is no room for complacency in the defence of democratic values.

Millennials get a bad rap. In the last year we’ve been blamed for ruining the American wine industry, the Canadian tourism industry, golf, and even the E.U. Our voracious appetite for destruction has now turned to democracy. That is according to Roberto Stefan Foa, lecturer in politics at the University of Melbourne and a principal investigator of the World Values Survey, and Yashca Mounk, a lecturer in political theory at Harvard. Their paper, ‘the Signs of Deconsolidation’, in the January 2017 volume of the Journal of Democracy demonstrates a disturbing trend of young people losing their faith in democracy. Their graph below starkly illustrates the point. The proportion of Americans believing it is “essential” to live in a democracy has reduced from 72% amongst those born pre-Second World War to 30% amongst millennials. A similar pattern is evidenced in other established democracies including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. Their conclusions are all the more worrying as they coincide with the rise of populism and anti-system parties, with the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, the rise of populist parties in Poland, Hungary, Finland and more as well as the popularity of the Front National, Alternative für Deutschland, and the Freedom Party of Austria. But is all as it seems – are millennials such a serious threat to democracy in the West, as the figure below seems to suggest (Foa, Stefan & Mounk, Yascha (2016) The democratic disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27, 3, 5-17):

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Public Integrity and Trust in Europe

marie-therese culliganMarie-Therese Culligan is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. Here she assesses the report on Public Integrity and Trust in Europe, prepared by the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (ERCAS), Hertie School of Governance, Berlin 2015. Principal Investigator: Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi.

This report was commissioned by the European Commission during the Dutch Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2016, as one of a number of reports to contribute to ‘ongoing international dialogue on strengthening the public administration and developing evidence-based integrity and anti-corruption policies’.

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Information is power: tackling corporate tax avoidance

???????????????????????Michael McCarthy Flynn is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. He points out the significant advantages corporate interests currently enjoy in shielding income from effective taxation in any jurisdiction, and the key role of effective international coordination of tax policy not only in securing tax justice but in addressing poverty and meeting global development goadls/

Corporate tax avoidance is big news these days. Barely a week goes by without details becoming public of another multinational firm using lax international tax rules to legally avoid hundreds of millions, and even billions of euro, worth of tax.  One week it is  Zara, another month it is Cerebus. Next month, well take your pick. One constant in many of these disclosures is the central role Ireland plays in facilitating corporate tax avoidance, as the graphic below shows (Source: Corporate taxation: new rules, same old paradigm):

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Public interest and private gain in pharmaceutical regulation

jess ennisJess Ennis is a UCD Master of Public Policy student. She considers the conflicts over funding and availability of critical medications – specifically Orkambi for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

In July 2015, the FDA approved the combination drug Lumacaftor/ Ivacaftor (Orkambi) which treats the underlying cause of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) for patients with two copies of the F508del mutation. Ireland has the highest rate of CF patients in the world and approximately 550 patients in Ireland are eligible for Orkambi, including myself. However, since the FDA approval, only patients living in the United States (US) Austria and most recently, Germany, are taking the drug. The main issue is that the drug currently costs an astonishing €159,000 per patient per year. If all patients in Ireland were granted this over a 5 year period it would be the equivalent of half the budget for the new national children’s hospital, €400 million. There are also estimates that the drug is only effective for 25% of those patients who take it. For the people who trialled the drug or who are on it on compassionate grounds, the improvements in lung function, weight gain, increased energy levels and a new found quality of life are indisputable results; for which debates of financial statistics are futile.

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How the Netherlands became a country of cyclists, and why the UK failed

Emil Törnsten 8Emil Törnsten is a Swedish Erasmus student of urban planning. In this blog for POL40160 Comparative Public Policy, he compares the dramatically different role of cycling in urban transport policy in the Netherlands and the UK – and the policy lessons to be learned.

Cycling is considered an important tool in mitigating climate change, local pollution, congestion and lifestyle-related health issues, but the UK has been far less successful than the Netherlands in getting people on their bikes. How is it that the Netherlands perform so well in cycling policy, with Europe’s highest share of cyclists (29 percent) and an infrastructure considered as the golden standard in cycling design (with spectacular cycle paths and parking amenities), while the share of cycling trips is only 2 percent the UK, a country were cycle paths are more likely to be ‘shockingly crappy‘?

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Wonky policy or sweetly inspired? Why ‘sugar taxes’ won’t solve our growing problem with obesity

emer scottEmer Scott asks how effective a levy on soft drinks is likely to be in tackling obesity. Emer is a student on the UCD Master of Public Policy programme.

Waistlines in Britain and Ireland have thickened in the last 20 years, and it’s not just our scales that are groaning under the burden of rising obesity. Health services are also under strain from a rising tide of people with weight-related conditions (e.g. Type 2 diabetes) on top of an ageing population and resource constraints. Many of us don’t even realize how much sugar we’re consuming –Table 1 shows that even some popular coffees can contain a lot of hidden sugar.

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To tax or not to tax: The relationship between taxation and welfare

pictureAs a newly arrived Dane in Ireland, I have found myself highly puzzled by the public resistance and mass demonstrations across the country against the recent introduction of water taxes. The unwillingness to pay for a utility is unfamiliar to Danish citizens, recognising the fact that the provision of clean drinkable water, as well as maintenance and improvement of network infrastructures, all comes with a price tag. Danes are one of the most “taxed” in the world, with top marginal wage taxes of up to 60-70 % (Kleven, 2014) of income. Despite this, the Danes are also labelled the happiest people in the world. So the high tax rates do not seem to bother the Danish taxpayers. How can that be? In this article, UCD politics student, Ateebah Chaudhry, argues that the difference between the Danish and Irish attitude towards taxation explains the different trajectories of their social states.

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