UCD School of Politics & International Relations

International perspectives on European politics and society

Unit Labour Costs – The History of a Dangerous Metric

Tony CaseyNominal ‘Unit Labour Cost’ (ULC) is a metric widely used throughout Eurozone policy circles to justify pro-cyclical wage restraint and austerity policies that will reverse imbalances and restore national competitiveness to the deficit periphery. What evidence is there to support this persistent Eurozone policy bias?

National Competitiveness

Surprisingly, despite the widespread use of the term, national competitiveness is an extremely elusive concept with little grounding in economic theory. Writing in 1990 whilst laying out his now famous ‘Diamond Model’ of national competitiveness Michael Porter (1990) concluded “While the notion of a competitive company is clear, the notion of a competitive nation is not.” Famously, in 1994, Paul Krugman would make the same point even more bluntly that competitiveness of nations is a “dangerous obsession” and that firms compete but “countries do not” (Krugman, 1994).

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The European Court of Justice as the Driving force Behind Integration?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Tuesday 14 October 2014 the European Court of Justice (CJEU) held a first hearing of the trial on the legitimacy of ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions Programme (OMT). During this preliminary ruling procedure, initiated by the German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG), the CJEU began investigating a possible transgression of competences by the European Central Bank (ECB). The BVerfG did not hide the fact that they believed the ECB to be guilty. But since it related to European Law, the CJEU, as the legal guardian of the Treaties, was in charge (Höltschi, 2014).

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The Referendum has irrevocably changed the future of the UK, regardless of the outcome

Derek HutchesonBoth sides have confused the principle of independence and the policies a future Scottish Government might follow. So writes Derek Hutcheson, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Malmö University.

The referendum in Scotland will have profound consequences  for the United Kingdom (UK), which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The question Scots were asked is ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’. For most of the campaign, it looked like the answer would be ‘no’ – but over the last couple of weeks, the gap between the two sides narrowed to almost nothing.

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The absence of national adjustment tools is the reason why Eurozone countries continue to struggle

Regan_Aidan HDjohnston2The Euro’s crisis never seems to end. Italy has re-entered recession. The French government is in turmoil over austerity. Youth unemployment is at a historic high in Spain. Increased taxes are crippling middle-income earners in Ireland. Extreme poverty is growing in Greece. Wage stagnation continues in Germany. Yet the European policy response remains the same. Reduce public spending and impose structural reforms in the Euro periphery and hope that cost competitiveness will kick start economic recovery. Any suggestion that countries are struggling to recover because they lack tools of adjustment or monetary sovereignty is politely ignored. Monetary union is not the problem. In a forthcoming research paper Dr. Alison Johnston (Oregan State University) and Dr. Aidan Regan (UCD) come to the opposite conclusion.

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Two new permanent positions in UCD SPIRe

logoApplications are invited for up to two permanent appointments as Lecturer (above the bar) in the UCD School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe). The person(s) appointed will be expected to contribute significantly to research and teaching within the School.

Note: Appointment will be made for one or two posts, first in the area(s) of conflict resolution/women and security. A second appointment may be made in other areas of primary interest to the School, which include international political economy and political theory. In either case, appointees will be required to work closely with colleagues within the School.

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The Spitzenkandidaten Plot: the European Parliament as a Strategic Competence-Maximizer

Frank SchimmelfennigThis is a guest post from Professor Frank Schimmelfennig. Professor Schimmelfennig  is Professor of European Politics and member of the Center for Comparative and International Studies at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. His main research interests are in the theory of international institutions and European integration and, more specifically, in EU enlargement, differentiated integration, democracy promotion, and democratization.

BERLIN – Spitzenkandidaten seems to have entered the English vocabulary as a new loanword of German origin – alongside Angst and Schadenfreude (and a couple of martial terms). Ostensibly, the European party groups nominated lead candidates for the post of European Commission President in order to raise the stakes of the vote, personalize the electoral campaign, and thus attract more voters to the polls. To some extent, this has worked for the candidates and their parties in their home countries. Voter turnout increased in Germany (the home country of the Social-Democrat candidate Martin Schulz and the Green candidate Ska Keller) and Greece (the home country of Alexis Tsirpas, the candidate of the radical left). Syriza, the party of Tsirpas, won a plurality of votes in Greece, and the German SPD increased its vote share by almost 7 percentage points. Belgium (the country of origin of the Liberal candidate Guy Verhoefstadt) and Luxembourg (where the candidate of the center-right European People´s Party Jean-Claude Juncker is from) have compulsory voting anyhow but their parties won a plurality of votes, too. Overall, however, turnout in the European Parliamentary elections has not increased from the 43 percent of 2009, and mainstream pro-European parties have seen their share of seats shrink from roughly 80 to 70 percent.

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Just Gimme Some Political Choice !

KevinThis is a guest post from Prof Kevin  O’Rourke.  Kevin is the Chichele Professor of Economic History at All Hallows College, Oxford.

The Irish Times this morning describes the increased vote for independents as an expression of anti-politics sentiment.

Anti-establishment-politician sentiment, certainly, but anti-politics? That depends on how you define politics.

My definition of “politics” is all about choice over policies: citizens in a democracy can choose to fundamentally change their country’s economic and social policies, if that is what they want to do. In 2011 Irish voters voted for change, and got none: the new government faithfully implemented the Troika programme, just as the previous government had done, and presumably would have continued to do had they been re-elected. (And now that they have been let off the leash they are coming up with bubble-era proposals to increase mortgage lending. Not much change there either. And consequently not much real choice.)

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The far right vote in the European elections: It’s not the economy, stupid

This is a guest post from Alex Afonso. Alex is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. He works on welfare state reform, immigration politics, labour markets, populist radical right parties and the connections between them. You can find out more about him at his website and  Twitter.

far-right

In the European elections, the far right has done extremely well in the UK, in France, Austria and Denmark (four fairly affluent Northern countries) while – Greece set aside – it has stayed non-existent in the countries most severely hit by the crisis, Portugal and Spain. Golden Dawn in Greece is the exception, but it is nowhere near UKIP, the Front National or the Danish People’s party. The idea that crisis and unemployment feed the far right is appealing, but it does not seem to be supported by facts.

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Crisis in Ukraine: A Test for Effective EU Policy

This blog post is the seventh in a series of posts that come from students of our Politics of the European Union undergraduate course. As part of the course, students were asked to write about an issue pertaining to European integration. The best blog posts have been selected to provide an opportunity to exceptional young scholars at UCD to contribute to the debate on the future of Europe, and to promote the insightful scholarship being undertaken at UCD to a wider public audience.

Alison RicciatoThe current crisis in Ukraine continues with protests and accusations of unwarranted arrests and deaths while the EU struggles to develop a unified response. The occupation of Crimea by Russian troops and the threat of Ukraine being reabsorbed by Russia demand an immediate response from European neighbors. The EU is particularly being held accountable, as many experts blame the turmoil in the region on muddled EU negotiations with Ukraine, which led to the Ukrainian president considering a more palatable offer from Russia. As exemplified by past conflicts in Europe, the EU cannot expect to contribute effective resolutions if intergovernmentalism continues to persist in EU foreign policy.

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Integration in European educational policy and its’ implications

This blog post is the sixth in a series of posts that come from students of our Politics of the European Union undergraduate course. As part of the course, students were asked to write about an issue pertaining to European integration. The best blog posts have been selected to provide an opportunity to exceptional young scholars at UCD to contribute to the debate on the future of Europe, and to promote the insightful scholarship being undertaken at UCD to a wider public audience.

Hang Le profile picThe past decade has seen exceptional progress in the harmonization of educational policies across the European Union (EU). This is rather surprising due to the disappointing lack of social integration thus far in the Union. Furthermore, historically the educational policy space has always been an area of national competence, as all educational systems are intimately linked to national and sub-national identities (Olsen, 2002). An examination of the integration process in this highly sensitive policy area may shed light on how integration in other social areas can be pushed forward.

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