Monday, 26 September 2016 20:52

Good Reads: From Juncker's speech to the rise of the AfD

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 Photo: Theophilous Papadopoulos (flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Our editor Justine Olivier points you in the direction of a few essays and articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about how the EU plans to renew itself, the political consequelces of the refugee crisis in Germany  and the risk of Erasmus being a bargaining chip of the Brexit negotiation.  

 Justine, Sixth Sense and Heart editor 


How to make the European Union appealing again? Does the EU need structural reforms? How to tackle our current security, economic and legitimacy challenges? These are the questions that all leaders of the EU keep mulling over these weeks. Indeed, Brexit, in addition to all the economic and political uncertainty it has brought, has acted as a wake-up call no one can ignore. What's wrong with the EU ? On the day of the referendum results, several European leaders called for substantial reforms. But now is the time for more concrete propositions. This was the aim of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech on Wednesday the 14th of September. Juncker made many propositions, including cutting red tape and boosting investment through the completion of the capital markets union. However, these are neither new nor original. As Tim King analyzes in POLITICO, his speech was not as inspiring as it was meant and expected to be. The speech aimed at being reassuring, as Juncker stressed that in spite of its numerous challenges the EU was strong enough and “not at risk”. The Commission President also emphasized that the way forward is through more union. But at a time of increasing skepticism concerning the positive impact of integration and cooperation among Europeans, there is no certainty that Juncker's words were enough rekindle the much-needed faith in Europe.

Political fallout of the refugee crisis in Germany

Last month’s political news was also marked by the unprecedented victory of the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in a regional election in Germany. This electoral result illustrates the political predicament in which Merkel’s CDU has been since the refugee crisis. Yet, as Paul Hockends notes, the Chancellor has managed to stem the flow of refugees, notably thanks to her controversial migration deal with Turkey. So why has her approval ratings dropped to 45 %? According to the journalist, there is an underlying fear among the German people, that the AfD effectively exploited. One month after the terrorist attacks on the German soil, two of which were carried out by refugees, the AfD hammered home how refugees were a threat to national security. As the election results obviously showed, these are words have an echo in many Germans. However, this is to be mitigated by the fact that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the region in hand, has been a far-right region for decades. The real litmus test as to the political force of the AfD will be the 2017 federal election.


The Erasmus program at stake

On a lighter note, the future of Europe without Brexit has sparked worries about the continuing participation of the UK in the Erasmus program. Indeed, bar a few exceptions, Erasmus is limited to EU members. Since the implementation of the scheme, the UK has played a major role, both as a very appealing destination and as a country strongly encouraging its youth to seize the opportunity of a year abroad (200,000 British students have taken part in the program since 1987). Thus, pleas to have the UK maintained its participation in the program abound. The Guardian interviewed a few British students who were able to spend a year abroad thanks to Erasmus and who unanimously emphasize all the personal and academic good this opportunity did to them. This issue is held especially dear by the Liberal Democrats, who launched a petition online and encourage people to share their Erasmus experience on Twitter. As their leader Tim Farron wrote in an article for the Times, the Erasmus program is about more than having fun abroad. It gives the opportunity to all European students, regardless of their financial abilities, to strengthen their bonds to the European culture. At a time of rising nationalism, this scheme is a key means to counter the deep-rooted fear of the Other.

Last modified on Friday, 07 October 2016 09:38

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