Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Tagged: eu

Is the EU anywhere near getting its own army?

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📥  EU Referendum, Heath Science & Technology

David J Galbreath, University of Bath and Simon J Smith, Staffordshire University

As part of a warning by a group of former military officers that the European Union undermines the UK’s military effectiveness, former General Sir Michael Rose expressed concern at the EU’s plan to set up its own army.

But in a speech on May 9 outlining why the UK would be more secure if it remained in the EU, Prime Minister David Cameron said suggestions of an EU army were “fanciful” and that the UK would veto any suggestion of it.

As Cameron pointed out, there is a significant gap between the rhetoric and reality of the establishment of a fully functional European army.

The creation of a European army is a long way off and by no means inevitable. Even the most supportive nations, such as Germany, would acknowledge this reality.

As defence falls within the intergovernmental sphere of EU law, any single member state can veto its creation ensuring that the prospect of the UK getting dragged into an EU army against its will is zero. In fact, one could argue that the UK remaining inside the EU would do more to prevent an EU army than a Brexit would.



Bremain or Brexit?

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📥  EU Referendum

I was invited to speak at the European People’s Party’s (EPP) European Ideas Network in the European Parliament (EP) earlier this month in Brussels. The focus of the discussion was the somewhat wordily entitled ‘EU response on the upcoming and possible subsequent events commonly known as Brexit’ and the panel included myself, two other academics and a number of EPP MEPs, chaired by the group’s vice-chairman Paulo Rangel.


The EPP, which in effect, comprises Centre Right MEPs from across the member states including the German CDU and the French neo-Gaullist Republicans, remains the largest party in the EP. Historically it has had, and still retains, a pro-EU outlook. The Conservative party famously withdrew from the group following the European elections in 2009 and set up the smaller, more EU-critical grouping called the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This group somewhat controversially includes the Radical Right Danish People’s Party, The Finns Party and the Alternative for Germany Party which has been threatened with expulsion from the group following remarks by one of its MEPs that firearms might be used as a last resort to repel refugees from crossing borders.


Two questions about Brexit

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📥  EU Referendum, Uncategorized

Two things intrigue me about Brexit, although I have not yet seen them discussed.

First, one of the key concerns of the Eurosceptics and of the PM has been to re-assert the sovereignty of Parliament. However, Parliament was allowed no role in endorsing the terms on which the PM sought to negotiate, nor was it asked to give its blessing to the deal he brought back and commend it to the electorate. I did not however hear the Eurosceptics complaining at this. Curious.

Second, it seems to be assumed that if the referendum decides for Brexit, it will be incumbent on Parliament and Government to implement this decision: incumbent in a political - but hardly a constitutional - sense. But that will not mean exit the day after the referendum result is in: there will be a perhaps two-year process of negotiation, to establish the new relationship between the UK and the EU27. After all, the UK will not want to be suddenly without any relationship with the EU (even North Korea is not in that situation).

It is also however widely recognised that the EU might well negotiate a hard bargain, if only to discourage others who might think of heading for the exit. Will the UK  Parliament and Government feel themselves obliged to persist with exit however hard those terms? Or will they realise that under those conditions they would have no alternative but to take back the responsibility - I suppose Cameron might want to call this his 'emergency brake Mark 2' - if only to put the terms on offer at that point to a new referendum?  It is those terms on offer in 2018 that will be far more important in the long run than the terms which Cameron brought back from Brussels to launch the referendum campaign.

We are I suppose unlikely to get that far down the road. The Conservative Party is showing signs of fracture: in the circumstances sketched above, its fabled capacity to hold together, for the sake of retaining power, may prove insufficient. Cameron would in any case be unlikely to survive a vote for exit in June: whoever succeeds him would have to clear up the mess.

Read more comment and analysis from Bath researchers in relation to the EU referendum http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/opinion/category/eu-referendum/.


Reactions: EU Referendum

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📥  EU Referendum

This weekend Prime Minister David Cameron announced that an in / out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union would take place on Thursday 23 June.

Over the next few months in the lead up to the referendum via the Opinion blog you'll hear from academics around the University on what this might mean across a whole host of themes. Here, in this first post, Bill Durodié and Nick Startin from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies give their initial reactions.

A referendum date on Britain's membership of the EU is now set for 23 June 2016.

A referendum date on Britain's membership of the EU is now set for 23 June 2016.


EU environmental meeting takes GLAMURS project to next level

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📥  Low carbon futures, Uncategorized

Participants involved in our EU-funded GLAMURS project met for the third Consortium meeting the second week in October here in Bath. The project has an ambitious goal to investigate the prospects for and obstacles to the adoption of more sustainable environmentally-friendly lifestyles. Involved in GLAMURS are 11 partner institutions from right across the continent.

Opening the meeting, Professor Colin Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Internationalisation) reminded participants of the timeliness of our project, in view of the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change, to be hosted in Paris from 30 November – 11 December, as well as pressing questions over individuals’ own environmental behaviours.

EU GLAMURS project looks to shift people's environmental behaviours. Image credit: NASA

EU GLAMURS project looks to shift people's environmental behaviours. Image credit: NASA

Promoting a shift and tipping point in environmental thinking

Regulation on environmental matters has changed considerably over the years, responding to the issues and reflecting the ability of policy-makers to address environmental pollution. This has focused mostly on the large polluters, where emissions at source are relatively easy to observe, yet as the world’s population expands and the demand for better living standards rises around the globe, how individuals conduct their own lives with regard to the environment will be increasingly in focus.

Through GLAMURS, we are looking at how seemingly small individual behaviours – not recycling or turning off lights for instance - can have significant adverse impacts when scaled up across a country, region or global population. On a global level, climate change is a case in point.



Nine key tips for the campaign to keep Britain in the EU

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📥  Public Policy, The Conversation

Donald Lancaster, a new teaching fellow in our School of Management, has held a successful international career in advertising working with some of the world's biggest brands. Here he blogs with some dos and don'ts for the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

There is still no date for the UK’s EU referendum and the deadline of 2017 may seem a long way off, but the “In” campaign is starting late and on the back foot for several reasons. Most Britons are naturally Eurosceptic and many are also seriously ill-informed about the benefits of EU membership. The subject is, in reality, too big, too complex and too far-reaching for most to comprehend.

In addition, the “In” campaign is navigating its way through uncharted waters. The last referendum on the subject was in 1975 and was held under almost entirely different circumstances. Plus, the issues at stake remain unclear, as the prime minister has yet to unveil the reforms against which this referendum will be set. The result is that the “In” campaign has less than a full tool-box with which to campaign.

Meanwhile, the “Out” campaign, although divided, has some charismatic spokespeople and titillates by selling the exciting prospects of change, increased sovereign control, and regained stature on the world stage. It is able to inflate the electorate’s sense of British pride.

So Sir Stuart Rose (pictured above), chairman of online grocer Ocado, former CEO of Marks and Spencer and head of the “In” campaign, has his work cut out. Here are some dos and don'ts for him and his team.



How EU data protection law could interfere with targeted ads


📥  Heath Science & Technology, Public Policy, The Conversation

Professor James Davenport is from our Department of Computer Science. This piece was originally written for The Conversation UK.

The successor to the 20-year-old European data protection directive has inched closer to becoming law, having been approved by the Council of Ministers, which represents each of the 28 EU member states. This has led to howls of anguish from some parts of the computing industry, not just the usual suspects based in the US such as IBM and Amazon, but also European firms such as German software company SAP.



Greece woes show how the politics of debt failed Europe

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📥  Public Policy, The Conversation

Dr Theo Papadopoulos is from our Department of Social & Policy Sciences. His research focuses on welfare capitalism across the EU and internationally. This piece was originally written for The Conversation UK.

In the world of brinkmanship, endgames and last minute concessions that have come to define Greece’s relationship with Europe, we can see the blueprint of an abusive relationship.

Greece / EU

What will happen in Greece and what are the wider ramifications around the EU?



Migrant crisis: can Europe’s leaders deliver real change?

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📥  Public Policy, The Conversation

Dr Emma Carmel is from the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences

European leaders have assembled in Brussels in an attempt to come up with a way of preventing the deaths of hundreds of migrants as they try to escape conflict and poverty in Africa by crossing the Mediterranean. But at the special European summit on Thursday, the unity of purpose which European leaders were proclaiming in their response to migrants at the weekend appeared to have faded.

The result is relatively narrow agreement on an immediate emergency response to enhance search and rescue capabilities, and on investigating proposals for a militarised response to dealing with smugglers. The problem has moved from being seen as a complex humanitarian, social, economic and political problem, to being seen as a problem of criminality and illegal migration.

Member states – rather than the EU – set migration policy. And with countries understandably unwilling to give the EU a mandate to act in this area, but also historically unable to agree among themselves about practical initiatives, this European Council meeting seems significant. Yet the key areas where member states agreed to act collectively, and to endorse a role for the European Commission (“Brussels”) were quite predictable.

Other measures remain off the table. Concrete EU-wide policies, and resources, to support the accommodation of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and processing of asylum applications, are not detailed. There is deafening silence on the question of how the absence of legitimate routes to migrate to the EU leads people to travel on these dangerous routes to Europe.

Search and rescue

There are three major proposals agreed, although details remain unexplained, and will be vital in determining how effective they will be.

The first is the tripling of the funding and assets (boats and aerial surveillance) for Frontex’s Triton mission. This was designed to create a significant political message and it has captured the headlines. Triton’s funding will match directly the resources which funded the Italian navy’s search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum. European leaders it seems, have been stung by criticisms of how their lack of commitment to joint action has led to foreseeable deaths.

How long this extended funding is committed for is unclear. Nor does it mean turning Triton into a search-and-rescue mission. It was argued that trying to change Frontex’s mandate would involve a long political and legal process – and enhancing its surveillance capacity immediately would enable it to act more effectively in response to distress calls.

Another headline-grabbing change is new commitments from member states to contribute national resources to search and rescue operations. A closer look shows that these resource commitments may be more limited in practice – in the case of the UK, they maybe limited to only two months: in this case, the assistance would be withdrawn even before the peak season for crossings begins.

Limited resettlement

The second key proposal is to develop an EU-co-ordinated pilot programme to resettle the migrants coming across the Mediterranean. This would apparently provide places for some people to be re-settled in countries other than the ones they enter.

For the first time, this assigns the EU – probably through the European Commission or one its agencies – the role of co-ordinating a migration programme. However, it’s clear that member states are not fully agreed on this policy. Participation by member states in this programme is necessarily voluntary, as the EU has no mechanism for formally organising resettlement among member states. The success of the programme will depend on whether countries are willing to take part - and we already have indications that many are not.

On the offensive

There seems to be the most agreement on the third proposal. This is to ask the commissioner for foreign relations to investigate the possibility of moving towards a policy of seizing and destroying boats being used to traffic migrants across the sea.

This proposal is highly speculative, and perhaps for that reason, easy for member states to agree on. To undertake such a military-style mission in the Mediterranean might require a UN mandate, and given current relations between the EU and Russia, this seems unlikely to be forthcoming.

This third option reflects the focus on illegal migration and criminality at the European Council meeting. It means that national political leaders can be seen to be doing something about the crisis without having to answer questions about accepting refugees.

Same old story

So far, then, the response to the tragedies looks increasingly like business-as-usual. There are more resources pledged for search and rescue in today’s blaze of publicity, but details of that deployment will not be clear for some days or weeks.

Overall, the summit outcome reflects a long-standing pattern in EU policy-making on migration in the Mediterranean. The high degree of conflict among member states has frequently lead to political stalemate and agreements are only reached on the minimal shared responses.

Such policies of the lowest common denominator have proved inadequate for dealing with the political, social, economic and humanitarian problems raised by migration across the Mediterranean. The risk is that once the headlines have faded, that this summit of European leaders will prove similarly inadequate.

Emma Carmel's research focuses on the governance of migration, labour market and social policy in the EU.

According to the latest REF2014, 84 per cent of Bath research in this area was recently judged to be 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


UKIP risks it all on a Brexit

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📥  Election 2015, The Conversation

Dr Sue Milner is from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies.

UKIP’s vision for Britain’s future rests on an exit from the European Union. This vision is laid out in a section in their manifesto unambiguously entitled “Brexit”. UKIP states that a withdrawal from the EU means the UK can take back control of business and employment legislation and immigration rules, and sets out how the party would go about withdrawing the UK’s membership.

Another referendum

Two crucial aspects of this strategy are unclear. First, although everything in UKIP’s manifesto is based on a withdrawal from the EU, the manifesto calls for a referendum on the question of membership. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. Without locating withdrawal within the context of some kind of public consultation, the party’s critique of the EU as undemocratic and bureaucratic could be seen as hypocritical.