The Quiet Communism of Modern Italy

Sarah Taylor, Staff Writer

 Though commonly considered to be a thoroughly Western and modernized country, a look into Italian politics sheds light on the deeply rooted cracks in the system created by underlying communist ideals. Smaller cities in Italy experience lower living conditions and struggle to develop sustainable local economies, leading to commonplace power outages, high unemployment, and low salaries. The unemployment rate in Italy is around 11%,[1] with the average salary less than 1400 euros per month.[2] For contrast, the United States’ unemployment rate as of October 2017 is 4.1%[3] with an average salary of around $3400 per month.[4] In the case of Italy, these conditions are representative of a more deeply rooted and intricately difficult political history. Many of the central regions in Italy have maintained close ties to the communist ideology that was once reflected in the local power of the Partito Communista Italiano (PCI). The depressed living conditions of many historic cities and towns stems from a history of political complexity, spurred by the everlasting search for power of the Italian communists.

Many elements of the particular brand of communism predominant in Italy differ from the traditional Stalinist origins of the ideology. Compared to the Bolshevik-driven birth of communism in the Soviet Union, Italian communism and the PCI specifically were not revolutionary in origin, and operated within a capitalist regime, adapting to the system in place.[5] Italian communism encouraged political pluralism, and worked to actively attract new members to the party by acquiescing to the extant ideology of the Italian people. A country steeped in Catholicism, the Church posed a potential, and sometimes real, threat to the legitimacy and operations of the PCI. After World War II, Communists and Catholics alike participated in the Resistenza (Resistance) against Fascism, working to topple Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship. Italians who felt allegiance to both Catholicism and Communism formed the Party of Communist Catholics.[6] As the Christian Democrat party started to take shape, however, the possibility of cooperation between Catholics and Communists dissipated. The tensions between the Catholic church and the Communist faction in Italy reached their height in 1947, leading up to the 1948 election. In May of 1947, Alcide de Gasperi, the leader of the Christian Democrats, drove the Communist party representation out of government.[7] The election of 1948 pitted devoted Catholics against staunch Communists. The victory of the Christian Democrats was seen as a victory of the Church over the USSR. Relations between Catholics and Communists began to improve after the 1948 election, however. Pope John XXIII (1958-1963) brought in a new era of political freedom within the Church, encouraging Italian Catholics to make their own political choices, and supported cooperation between the Socialist and Communist parties.[8] The elections of 1948 in Italy brought great concern to the United States and Great Britain, who feared that the feverish communism would spread from the USSR and Eastern Bloc into Italy. In order to prevent a full transition into a communist Italy, the CIA allegedly worked to sway the elections against communism, supporting a rising Christian Democrats party that would continue to rule in Italy until 1992.

One of the major points that makes Italian communism unique in the international community is its survival after the fall of the Soviet Union. The PCI developed a unique brand of Communism from Soviet Communism, maintaining a much larger degree of internal differentiation in terms of structure, ideology, and behavior.[9] The elites and the mass population were brought together under the common ideals of Communism, and the existence of a party that encouraged this pluralism the way the PCI did enhanced the general stability of the Italian political system as a whole, thereby legitimizing the spread of Italian Communism. While the ideology of different communities and different people varied greatly, leading to conflict between regions and individuals, the PCI kept radical leftism in check and pushed for more left-leaning policy under the Christian Democrat rule.[10] Achille Occhetto, a prominent Italian Communist politician, was responsible for the major reforms that aimed to place a larger emphasis on individual liberties, environmental protection, and women’s rights. These changes led to the official dissolution of the PCI in 1991, permanently transforming Europe’s largest communist party (second only to the Soviet Union).[11] The party was officially renamed to the Partito Democratico della Sinistra (Democratic Party of the Left, or PDS), though this rebranding was merely that: a curtain over the still-existing communist ideology of the party in the face of the fall of the Eastern Bloc. Interestingly, many of the similar elements of Communism in Italy are seen in the conservative parties farther right. The prevalence of Communism enabled the Italian people to think of politics in terms of anti-institutional and anti-establishment sentiments. The rising populist party, Lega Nord (Northern League), draws on these same sentiments translated into conservatism and federalism.

Though the Christian Democrat party was the majority party for half a century, the PCI and communist ideology had a lasting impact on the social structure and functioning of Italy. The communist following in Italy developed a cultural dictatorship to compensate for their political losses, a facet of Italian culture that has remained heavily ingrained in present-day culture. PCI brought high culture, literacy, personal dignity and an enhanced sense of self to many Italians.[12] Tensions within and between the political parties that dominate Italian politics have created an uncertainty among the Italian people over whose cultural program to follow. For a country with an already deep divide between the regions, these competing ideologies and cultural elements have only strengthened the regionalism of the country. Different regions represent different political ideologies that produce rivalries between regions and disunity over the entire country, such as the rising populism of the Lega Nord in the northern regions and prevalent communism in the central and southern regions. With these tensions drawing most of the focus of the competing parties, little attention is paid to the real underlying problems that have been caused by the political infighting and erroneous wealth distribution. The regions of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria in particular still show strong allegiance to the communist ideology, as the PCI had a stronghold in local and municipal government administration in these regions, establishing a “red belt” through the country.[13] The cities remain the same aesthetically as they did in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as a testament not only to the importance of beauty and history in Italian culture, but also to the stagnant growth and reluctance to spend money on public works. The cost of living is high while the salaries are low, and the youth unemployment rate of over 35%[14] is forcing most people under the age of thirty to move back in with their parents. When the PCI was dissolved, the provincial and local governments that had relied on Communist leadership in these key regions were left with gaps in their administration. The resulting political instability left the regions stuck in a 1980s time-loop, unable to resolve the poor living conditions and properly allocate resources. Communism in Italy underlies many of the problems with polarization and conflict at the government and regional levels, as well as the slow economic growth of the country as a whole. Interregional tensions and a Western aversion to Communism make it unlikely that the problems caused by this political instability will be resolved with definitive, comprehensive policy.

Footnotes:

[1] “Italy Unemployment Rate 1983-2017.” Trading Economics. Accessed November 10, 2017. https://tradingeconomics.com/italy/unemployment-rate.

[2] 2

[3]“Bureau of Labor Statistics Data.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 10, 2017. https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000.

[4] Doyle, Alison. “How Much Is the Average Salary for US Workers?” The Balance. October 24, 2017. Accessed November 10, 2017. https://www.thebalance.com/average-salary-information-for-us-workers-2060808.

[5] Bosquet, Michel. “Aspects of Italian Communism.” The Socialist Register. 1964. 83.

[6] Carrillo, Elisa. “The Italian Catholic Church and Communism, 1943-1963”. The Catholic Historical Review, 77 (4), 644-657. 1991. 644.

[7] Carrillo, “The Italian Catholic Church and Communism, 1943-1963”, 650.

[8] Carrillo, “The Italian Catholic Church and Communism, 1943-1963”, 654.

 

[9] Tarrow, Sidney. “Political Dualism and Italian Communism”. The American Political Science Review, 61 (1), 39-53. 1967. 42.

[10] Tarrow, Sidney. “Political Dualism and Italian Communism”. The American Political Science Review, 61 (1), 39-53. 1967. 40 – 41.

[11] Eubank, William Lee, Gangopadahay, Arun, Weinberg, Leonard. “Italian Communism in Crisis”. Party Politics, 2 (1), 55-75. 1996. 55.

[12] Baranski, Zygmunt G. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[13] Breschi, Danilo. “From Politics to Lifestyle and/or Anti-Politics: Political Culture and the Sense for the State in Post-Communist Italy.” Telos, 2013. 113 – 114.

[14] https://tradingeconomics.com/italy/youth-unemployment-rate

The Case for Greenlandic Independence

By Thomas Bell

In the past few weeks, the independence crisis in Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia has captivated the international community.  A complicated tangle of history, regionalism, constitutional law, and Spanish retaliation to the referendum culminated to create a divisive and complex debate.  Many international observers supported independence, despite low voter turnout, while others emphasized the strength of a united Spain.  It was the first intensive global look into separatism since the Scottish referendum of 2014.

The Catalan issue for many has been a reminder of other separatist movements around the globe.  Most of these are politically and culturally significant, from Taiwan to Texas.  However, one such regional independence movement that does not frequently enter the conversation is Greenland.  It is the world’s largest island, and it is dominated by its imposing glacial ice sheet.  Realistically, however, that fact is all that most people know about the nation.  Articles about Greenland tend to be about climate change, polar bears, or both.  That lack of media attention concerning its political history leaves a complex story undiscovered and unexplored by many.

Greenland has been occupied by native peoples for thousands of years, but the harsh Arctic climate has made settlement largely inconsistent.  Groups migrated from Canada, died out, and were replaced by subsequent individuals.  In fact, for a number of centuries in the first millennium, the island was completely uninhabited.  Europeans eventually reached the island, most famously when Erik the Red sailed from Iceland and established, in the 980s, the first Norse settlement in Greenland, or Grœnland as he called it.  But this group of settlers was also doomed to succumb to the climate: the Norse were gone by 1450.  Eventually, as navigation and technology improved, Greenland became increasingly inhabited by its native Inuit people and was subsequently colonized by Denmark.  Despite a 100 million dollar offer from the United States to buy the island in 1946, it remains Danish territory to this day.

Yet Greenland has a history that suggests that it does not approve of this reality.  It was not until 1951 that Greenlanders received representation in the Danish parliament, something that embittered the island for decades.  In 1979, Greenland took its ambitions a step further, voting for home rule in a critical referendum.  All internal matters from that point on were made in Greenland, with Denmark being responsible for foreign affairs, defense, and constitutional issues.

However, the biggest strides towards independence have come quite recently.  In 2008, Greenland voted on another self-government referendum, which proposed granting the home-rule government control over law enforcement and the courts, as well as the coast guard.  The referendum also included changing the official language from Danish to Kalaallisut, better known simply as Greenlandic in the west.  A staggering 75% of the population supported the measure.  In 2014, the most recent parliamentary elections were held, granting a pro-independence coalition of parties a commanding 26 seats in the 31 member unicameral legislature.  As if more evidence was needed, a 2016 poll showed that 64% of Greenlanders wanted full independence, which tops the support for Catalan independence by nearly 25%.

However, despite the obvious popular support for independence in Greenland, a clean break from Denmark would not be easy.  The principal reasons for this are economic concerns.  According to the United Nations, Greenland had a total nominal gross domestic product of about 2 billion dollars in 2015.  To put that figure into perspective, it is nearly a third smaller than the same figure from Danville, Illinois.  That might be acceptable if the economy was diverse and robust, but the reality is that 94% of Greenlandic exports consist of fish.  A down year or some environmental threat to the marine life would be a complete disaster for the economy, and without Danish support, the results could be catastrophic.  Deeply connected to this situation is the fact that Denmark largely funds the Greenlandic government’s operations as it is, handing a block grant subsidy to the island worth about £400 million every year.  This amount accounts for roughly 55% of the island’s annual state budget.  Though part of the 2008 referendum was to phase out this grant, doing so all at once would leave the new country with a massive deficit, one that Greenland would likely be unable to compensate with its fish exports.  Under current conditions, the country’s quality of life could go down remarkably if independence was immediately granted, and despite widespread support for independence, 78% of Greenlanders oppose it if it means a fall in living standards.

However, there are signs that the Greenlandic economy can change and diversify.  Massive amounts of mineral and oil deposits have been discovered beneath Greenland’s ice sheet or off the coast, representing a new industry that could drastically increase the wealth of the nation.  The new coalition government has allowed for uranium mining, while corporations such as BP and Shell have been granted licenses to explore for oil and gas.  Understandably, environmentalists worldwide have condemned such steps, declaring that it will ruin Greenland’s pristine environment.

Many Greenlanders, however, have a different view.  The simple reality is that climate change will have notable positive effects on the Greenlandic economy, and by extension, the independence movement.  Shrinking ice caps reveal much of the mineral wealth that has been hidden beneath them for so long, and allows for easier offshore drilling.  Fishing hauls have also improved, as warmer oceans drive more fish north towards Greenland’s coasts.  Additionally, rising temperatures will allow for more agricultural opportunities in the country’s south, not to mention a longer tourist season as well.  As one Greenlander puts it, “we are more concerned about the Maldives”.

Greenland occupies a unique position in the international sphere.  As tensions between Arctic states such as the United States, Russia, and Canada become more intense, the island holds a strong foothold in this new arena.  Global warming, heavily denounced at lower latitudes, could open up a myriad of economic possibilities for the nation, creating new jobs and a more diverse economy.  And historically, territories have been let loose with less going for them.  Decades after the collapse of the old imperial system and colonialism, Greenland seems to have become the last vast colony left behind.  While islands across the globe remain under European control, none are so visible as Greenland.  Despite this, it is among the world’s most ignored places, referenced mournfully in climate documentaries, never to be discussed further.  Yet while the world remains engaged and captivated by Catalonia, a region that lacks a simple majority in support of independence, the world’s largest island marches on.  As the economy continues to grow and separatist support intensifies, it will grow increasingly difficult for the Danes to restrain their northern territory, should they decide to crack down as Madrid did last month.  

Pro-independence campaigners have pointed towards the 300th anniversary of Danish colonization, 2021, as a possible goal for separation, meaning that Greenland could vie for statehood in only a few years.  Regardless of the exact date, the world’s biggest colony wants its freedom.  That much has become obvious, with referendums, opinion polls, and parliamentary elections all pointing in the same direction.  It has become a question not of if, but of when?  The question remains of how Greenland will step towards the future as an independent state.  Though it may be years off, it is likely that the world’s newest country will come not from northeastern Spain, but from the farthest reaches of the Arctic.

The Continual Cold War Redux

By Noah Butler

On December 26, 1991, the USSR officially dissolved when the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union voted the country out of existence. Since that historic day, which saw the end of one of the world’s most powerful nations and one of the two global superpowers, the United States has continued to pursue an antagonistic foreign policy towards Russia. Many U.S. legislators (if not practically all, considering a July 98-2 Senate vote to slap more sanctions on Russia) have actively rallied against and painted Russia as the biggest threat to global peace, only behind ISIS and North Korea.

Why should the United States not work with Russia or try to remedy relations that have long been neglected? Cooperation with Russia would be in the short and long term benefit of the U.S. by helping combat terrorism originating from the Middle East, creating more diplomatic unity on things such as pressuring North Korea, and stunting the ascendency of China.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency saw an uncertain future for U.S. foreign policy, especially on the issue of Russia. Candidate Trump promised that he would attempt to remedy relations with the Russian Federation and seek partnership with President Putin. This came much to the dismay of neoconservatives and neoliberals on both the left and right who have continuously beat the drums of war whenever Russia is mentioned. One of President Trump’s main reasons for working with Russia is the fight against terrorism. This is common sense to anyone with a pragmatic view of the world. Defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a top priority so why would we make it more difficult on ourselves just because some perceive Russia as a bad actor and our eternal enemy? President Bashar al-Assad has been painted as a vicious tyrant by Western media but he brings a strong and stable hand to a region wrought by volatility–acting as a stalwart defense against the expansion of terrorism. The previous U.S. policy of helping Syrian rebels was thankfully ended because it would have led to a similar situation like Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s regime fell if Assad was ousted. Coordinating has already proved fruitful with a July 2017 regional ceasefire brokered by the U.S. and Russia–reached by Trump and Putin during their G-20 meeting on July 7–that has largely held even when multiple Western analysts predicted it would fail. Working with Russia on things such as coordinated military strikes on ISIS targets would hasten the collapse of their rapidly shrinking territorial possessions.

The United States would create a formidable diplomatic front with Russia if relations were improved. Russia and China are North Korea’s main and most important economic partners. Both nations believe that if North Korea were to fall, the South would assume control of the peninsula thus putting the U.S. right on their respective borders. This would not be in either of their interests because of their current relations with the United States. If the U.S. were on more friendly terms with Russia, they would be more inclined–if not compelled–to completely cut off North Korea in wake of their recent belligerent stance along with nuclear and missile tests. This would effectively put their economy on life support and would place enormous pressure on China for being their last substantial trading partner. This leads into my next point that an alliance with Russia would be almost a nightmare scenario for China. Being surrounded by U.S. allies: India to the South, Japan and South Korea to the East, and Russia to the North, would greatly hinder the expansionist policy of the current Chinese administration. The U.S. would be able to refocus its efforts away from the Middle East and pivot to the Asia-Pacific region as President Obama attempted to do in his last few years in office with things such as the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). President Obama had the right intentions to refocus U.S. efforts in the Pacific because of China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea and their attempts to form partnerships in the region; however, hostilities with both China and Russia greatly hinders the extent of U.S. influence in the region. Even though Russia is no longer the superpower it was, it is still one of the most powerful global actors and has been ascendant under Putin.

To those who believe that we should not work with Russia, I say that Russia has only been acting in their best interest and has not done anything to directly harm the interests of the U.S. Arguing that Russia should not be trusted because they meddled in our elections is pure political posturing since Russia did not change or alter anyone’s vote; also, it is quite hypocritical considering the U.S. has meddled in other countries’ elections for years. Russia’s annexation of Crimea was surprising in the international arena, but is of no means reason to isolate a nation claiming what was historically theirs. Officially acknowledging Crimea as a part of Russia, advocating for the return of Russia to the G8, and rolling back economic sanctions would put the U.S. and Russia on a path to a mutual relationship of cooperation and possibly friendship.

Angela Merkel is no liberal

By Vikram Chaudhuri

With the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States, many liberal pundits found themselves in shock as a man who blatantly disregarded our constitutional norms and questioned America’s place in the global order was elected President of The United States. This led to some liberals dubbing German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the new “Leader of the Free World.” The contrast between Trump and Merkel made by the English speaking punditocracy is easy to make although, as it will be shown later, is a faulty one to make. As Trump pledged to temporarily bar Muslims from the United States, Merkel invited refugees arriving in Europe, many of whom are Muslim. However, Merkel’s stance was not born out of liberalism, but based on what she perceives to be in Germany’s national interest. For example, she contributed to the imposition of harsh austerity measures on Greece in order for the Greeks to receive a bailout package from the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, a policy Germany had significant influence in creating. The austerity cuts to Greek government programs were deep and inflicted heavy costs for Greek citizens. By the same token as her refugee decision, Merkel was acting out of what she perceived to be Germany’s self-interest. Merkel’s reasoning behind her refugee policy was that Germany has an aging population and young workers with high birth rates are needed to fill in jobs as more Germans reach retirement age. The refugee crisis was a blessing in disguise for Germany from the perspective of addressing future labor shortages.

Merkel is willing to change her tune based on public sentiment. When German public opinion was favorable to helping refugees, Merkel declared that “We can do it” in response to the potential difficulties that could come with absorbing so many newcomers. As public opinion has turned negative on immigration, Merkel has been willing to propose drastically authoritarian measures such as a ban on the burka, the traditional head to toe covering worn by ultraconservative Muslim women. Regardless of one’s stance on women wearing such garments, such a measure can be seen as pandering to the German far right who have rallied hard against the new influx of refugees as a threat to German culture. It is hard to imagine such a proposal being enacted in the United States due to how blatantly unconstitutional it would be. When one dives into Merkel’s career, it becomes harder to conceive of her as a liberal.

One of liberalism’s foremost values is secularism, the separation of Church and State. Merkel has lamented that there is too little Christianity in Germany today. These are not the words of a progressive liberal but rather of a conservative Lutheran.  Moreover, Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democratic Union, centers around Christian values and is a bulwark of mainstream German conservatism. As expected from a mainstream conservative, Markel has publically declared marriage to between a man and a woman. This is a position we might expect to hear from someone like Vice President Mike Pence. This belies the portraits of Merkel in the English speaking world as a defender of liberal values, such as when she lambasted Vladimir Putin’s Russia for its anti-LGBT policies. At the time, she was trying to stonewall on the legalization of gay marriage in Germany. When gay marriage finally came up for a vote in the German Bundestag or parliament, Merkel voted against it.

With the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, President Donald Trump has been criticized for a failure to appropriately condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Yet Merkel has faced a neo-Nazi related scandal of her own. Between 2000 and 2006, a neo-Nazi organization, the National Socialist Underground, murdered 9 immigrants. The German police failed to properly investigate these murders which they lazily attributed to gangland feuds. After the murderers were caught, Merkel promised a thorough investigation about how they were able to operate for so long. However, German security agencies obstructed the parliamentary investigation to protect their own image. Politicians on the investigative committee reported that files on specific people of interest had been destroyed by security agencies. The committee also uncovered a failure by the authorities to question people when murders happened in the vicinity of known neo-Nazi bars. Furthermore, it was found that security agencies had paid informants associated with National Socialist Underground who were protected from scrutiny. With German taxpayer money, these informants were able to fund neo-Nazi activities. Up to forty informants were discovered to have been associated with the core trio who committed the murders. Moreover, it was found that the security agencies were aware of the trio’s ties to nazism and their procurement of weapons during the occurrence of the murders. Merkel’s promise for an account of the truth was broken and although there is no evidence that she was directly involved in any coverups and misconduct; she ultimately bears responsibility for government function While she certainly does not offer sympathy and defense for the behavior of neo-Nazis, unlike Trump, her unwillingness to push for accountability shows a concern for the government’s image take a higher priority than understanding how neo-Nazis eluded and took advantage of the security agencies and making changes to ensure that it never happens again. Furthermore, it shows that promises especially to families of those murdered by the National Socialist Underground are too inconvenient to follow through with when the political heat turns up. Playing politics and preserving her government take precedence over any values that one would expect from the “Leader of the Free World”.

While many feel revulsion towards Donald Trump and his actions as President, it is erroneous and uninformed to rebrand foreign conservative leaders such as Angela Merkel into champions of liberalism and progressivism. Criticisms of the President must not devolve into false lionization of figures who become more questionable the more one critically evaluates them. Liberals who oppose Trump should look to people who actually ascribe to their values and not sink to the intellectual dishonesty that characterizes Trumpism. The opposition must have the intellectual high ground over the government. For conservatives who are opposed to Trump should give Merkel a second look for an example of relatively stable conservative politics. Overall, the discourse around Merkel in English speaking media usually mischaracterizes her and it’s important to have the proper understanding of foreign leaders. Merkel is a shrewd politician excellent at working for partisan and national interests but should not be seen as as a beacon of liberal values by either her admirers or her detractors.

Greece A Decade After the Recession: What Happened?

By Thomas Bell

In 2001, Greece adopted the euro as it integrated itself into the European Union.  While the government accumulated substantial debt to pay for expensive social programs, further growth occurred throughout the first decade of the 21st century.

Then, the Great Recession struck, and Greece’s success story quickly turned to modern economic tragedy.

Much of what could go wrong in Greece, did. It was revealed that the government had been misreporting financial data, making the country’s deficits and debts seem much smaller than they really were.  This incentivized investors and bond buyers, who would otherwise have been put off by such heinous financial figures, to invest in the country. In 2010, Greece’s bonds were downgraded to “junk” status by Standard & Poor, leaving the country in danger of defaulting on its loans and obligations.  The Troika, made up of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund, handed Greece a bailout worth €110 billion, followed by revised and expanded loan deals. Though the costs of this handout were high, the Troika knew that if Greece collapsed further, it could endanger the euro as a whole and all the countries that rely upon it as their monetary backbone. In order to receive this assistance, Greece has passed fourteen controversial austerity programs, slashing public spending and raising taxes. Unemployment, poverty, and unrest have skyrocketed. In short, Greece has been decimated by the economic downturn.

But this all started around a decade ago. Other countries, like Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, faced similar crises, and all recovered by about 2013 or 2014. Meanwhile, between 2008 and 2015, Greece was in recession for all but 2014, when it saw a paltry growth rate of 0.35%. Last year, growth was limited to an insignificant 0.01%, while this year may well be the first since 2007 to see an expansion of the economy by over 2%. Why has Greece been left behind in Europe’s recovery?

The answer to this question is complicated.

Greece’s handling of its finances before the crisis has made it uniquely incapable of responding to the recession. By masking its budgets and deceiving the international community, it made investors unwilling to trust the government’s figures on the economy. High deficits and debts caved under the pressure of economic downturn, and the realization that those elements were higher than anticipated only made things worse. The country soon found its credit rating plummeting and its bonds rendered useless. Realizing that it could not pay its bills, it had to take money from the Troika.

But that money did not come without strings attached. Not only was it a loan that had to be paid back, but the aforementioned austerity measures were required by the Troika. These curtailments on spending and increase in taxes did not go well at all in Greece, with protests becoming a regular occurrence in Athens and elsewhere. Shops burned down, nationwide strikes were called, violent clashes with police occurred. One retiree, who saw his pension reduced to a tiny fraction of what it was before the legislation, committed suicide as an act of protest. He has become a martyr for many Greeks who believe that this time of suffering should inspire further government assistance, not a reduction in that aid.

But the fundamental issue has largely been Greece’s poor fiscal policies, dating back to before the recession.  Upon joining the eurozone, Greece spent tremendous amounts of money on social welfare programs, attempting to emulate the generous policies of western and northern Europe.  But unlike those countries, Greece was nowhere near able to pay for it all.  The government happily added up the debt, with only minor attempts to reduce the deficit.

This lack of fiscal responsibility is also seen in military spending.  Of the nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Greece pays the second most of any country in regards to spending as a percentage of GDP, allocating 2.46% for the military in 2015.  This figure doubles German spending and easily tops the British and French, while only trailing the United States.  And this occurred while the country was in recession, with figures looming higher before the crisis.

This poor decision-making in Athens led to the current dilemma, and solutions have not been particularly beneficial either.  The bailouts have gone a long way towards helping Greece repay its debts, but the austerity programs enacted in the interim have been devastating.  Wages for public employees were slashed, while the national minimum wage dropped by nearly a quarter.  New tax increases targeted the VAT, landowners, luxury goods, gasoline, and more.  All this, while the billions of euros in bailouts were used to pay back banks and financial entities.  This has largely meant that average Greeks have sacrificed numerous benefits, without necessarily seeing any direct aid.  These policies are what has prolonged the suffering for so many and mired the recovery effort for so long.

However, it seems that the future may not be quite so bleak.  Indications show that the Greek economy will grow this year, and likely by over 2%.  An effort to privatize certain industries, such as transportation, has resulted in increased business enterprise in the country.  Unemployment, while still high, is falling; the government predicts that it will match the European average near 2020.  Tourism, one of Greece’s most important industries, has increased substantially.

In the end, it will be a difficult road for Greece.  Despite the improvement, the country still remains far below its pre-recession heights in terms of economic size.  With the economy only just barely expanding, it will be a long time before it resembles its former self.  The crisis serves as one of the most telling and chaotic legacies of the Great Recession and serves as an example for the future.  Greece, a decade after the crash, is only just beginning to find its footing again and remains a country defined by its struggle to survive.

Irish Lobbying Laws Create Framework for EU Legislation

By Derek Brody

When one is forced to conjure up an image of the modern political system, it is likely that the illustration is rife with corporate lobbyists, bringing about the “Swamp” narrative that has become typical of American politics. This scene, however, is not the case in Ireland, where the Irish Parliament enacted extremely strict laws on lobbying transparency. The Regulation of Lobbying Act of 2015, put into effect in September of that year, is among the strongest anti-lobbying regulations in the world.

The law itself is fairly straightforward: “Any individual, company, or NGO that seeks to directly or indirectly influence officials on a policy issue must list themselves on a public register and disclose any lobbying activity.” The legislation ensures that all data collected in relation to lobbying activities would be published every four months, with mandatory disclosure standards that include all details of clients, the extent and type of activity, and the person of primary responsibility. Initially, there were concerns about the practicality of implementation. John Carroll, CEO of the Public Relations Consultants Association, commented that “There may be challenges of interpretation, especially ‘what is a technical matter.’” These concerns have dissipated in the intervening time period, as the government bureaucracy has decided on a more standardized understanding of the legislation.

Internally, support for this kind of transparency legislation had been growing in previous years beginning with the financial collapse in 2008. The effort was further emphasized in 2011 when a new government came into office and promised to “introduce a statutory register of lobbyists.” It was not until March of 2015, however, that Ireland became the 15th country with statutory regulations regarding lobbying activities. At the time, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) argued that this legislation was unnecessary and cumbersome. These MEPs, based in Brussels, complained that watchdog legislation focused too narrowly on member attendance at meetings of Parliament. In April 2015, the Committee on Budgetary Control issued an amendment that “decried the emphasis monitoring groups place on ‘quantitative criteria’ that may provide ‘the wrong kind of incentives and generate unnecessary work.’”

The success of the Irish watchdog program, however, has changed the tone of the discussion surrounding future attempts to regulate corporate lobbying. Sherry Perreault, head of lobbying regulation at Ireland’s Standards in Public Office Commission, has traveled across the continent in an attempt to demonstrate the success of the program. “Transparency is catching hold. To see this catching fire outside of Ireland is really terrific,” Perrault said. In fact, the lobbying industry itself has spoken out in favor of the legislation. Cian Connaughton, president of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland, further emphasized this point when he stated, “Lobbying has gotten a very bad name because of the actions of some individuals. What the register has done is clarify to people what is happening, who is doing what. The fact that the new regime has hopefully increased people’s trust in the system, it’s a big plus.”

Large parts of the Irish regulations were based off those already present in Canada, which first enacted lobbying laws in 1989. Canada has strengthened those laws four times since the original enactment, suggesting that this is a quickly-evolving industry that requires continual supervision. Using the basis of the Canadian system, the Irish law uses an extremely broad definition of the term “lobbyist,” referring to anyone who “employs more than 10 individuals, works for an advocacy body, is a professional paid by a client to communicate on someone else’s behalf or is communicating about land development.” The expansive nature of the legislation’s wording means that it also applies to NGOs and other civil society organizations, rather than being limited to groups representing multinationals or local industries.

As the European continent has been ravaged with allegations of corruption in the polity, requests for legislation similar to that of Ireland are becoming commonplace. Transparency International EU, an NGO that campaigns against corruption, has been calling on EU countries to enact similar policies. According to the organization, members of the Social Democratic Party in Spain, Italy, and Germany have begun discussions on possible legislation. Likewise, the bold “Sapin Law” is currently in the process of being rolled out in an attempt to eliminate much of the negative stigma surrounding the policy. The regulations are inconsistent across countries, however, with Ireland’s standing above the fray as the strictest. Some countries require disclosures of money, while others do not. Likewise, the definition of “lobbyist” varies widely across country lines, creating uncertainty when dealing with multinational organizations.

Regardless of slight issues in implementation, it is clear that the Irish policy has set a standard for transparency that other countries now feel more compelled to reach. By doing so, the entire EU moves in a more transparent, open, and understandable manner for its citizens.

The Populist Epidemic and 2017 Elections

By Isabelle Sagraves

In the past few years, political populism has been on the rise. Yet this is a difficult trend to quantify, since the term “populism” can represent a myriad of different policies and agendas.  The term itself dates to the 1890s, when the American Populist party championed the interests of the rural masses against the urban Republican Party. Since then, it has been applied to almost any political movement that is “popular” and therefore motivates the masses, yet the term is infinitely more complex than this. Cas Mudde defines populism as a “’thin ideology’, one that merely sets up a framework: that of a pure people versus a corrupt elite.” This term can then intersect with other, perhaps clearer ideologies, such as capitalism, socialism, nationalism etc. Considering populism in this light, it is evident that this “us-versus-them” narrative has exploded across the political scene in recent years, from Trump’s election in the United States to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the E.U. (referred to as “Brexit” in this article). 2017 is an extremely important year in European politics due to the high number of elections occurring, and so this paper attempts to understand and evaluate the increase in nationalist populism and how it might affect the European political arena during and after these elections.

Why is populism so popular?

Several current issues have served to sharply divide politics in Europe, most notably the waves of immigration coming into the continent. This is coupled with underlying economic problems kick-started by the 2008 recession: in 2010, the IMF documented that workers were paid less for more work, as wage increases (1.2%) failed to stay on par with rising prices (6.5%). This economic stress has contributed to a diminished European quality of life, with 37.5% of Europeans reporting “low satisfaction with their material living conditions.” These economic conditions, that have clearly existed since the early 2010s, have since been compounded by the influx of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East as a result of the various political crises and violence that have taken place there. As European nationals have experienced this economic downturn, they have also seen a huge increase in immigration, which provides them with an easy scapegoat. While the immigration and border control problems are very real and very complex, the anti-immigration sentiment has contributed to the rise of a nationalist populism as defined by Mudde: the “rightful” European natives have been stripped of their success by the immigrants arriving in their nations. From Farage in the U.K. to Wilders in the Netherlands to Le Pen in France, populist leaders have cultivated this “thin ideology” on the basis of anti-immigration and anti-European Union policies, both of which stem from dissatisfaction with the current quality of life and the nationalist resentment that accompanies it.

The Manifesto

In Time Magazine’s article entitled “Europe’s Populist Revolt”, Simon Shuster writes: “For more than a generation, the Western elites settled into a consensus on most major issues – from the benefits of free trade and immigration to the need for marriage equality. Their uniformity on these basic questions consigned dissenters to the political fringe – further aggravating the sense of grievance that now threatens the mainstream.” These dissenters have traction now, and have bounced back from the fringe in full force, riding the wave of nationalist populism as well as an anti-establishment sentiment that accompanies it. But what do most of these movements have in common in terms of policy? Most support removal from the European Union – which makes sense, since most are against the lax immigration laws under the Schengen Treaty. Strict immigration laws are present in almost every platform. Most are decidedly anti-Muslim and support deportation policies, spurred on by a majority of Muslim immigrants from Syria and the Middle East as well as ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris, Normandy and Brussels.  Most candidates, such as Nigel Farage of U.K.I.P, also tend to be far right economically, and support low taxes and a cutback in government spending. Along with these policies, the populist candidates utilize nationalist rhetoric to garner support for their campaigns: Marine Le Pen of France has promised to return France to greatness, claiming she will make it “nothing like you have seen in the last 30 years.” This nostalgic nationalism has struck a chord with populations that also feel threatened by the ethnic diversity that accompanies immigration.

First Steps: “Brexit”

The first victory for nationalist populism in Europe came with Britain’s 2016 decision to “Leave” the European Union, a policy rejected by its Prime Minister of the time, David Cameron. In a move that was decidedly anti-establishment, the nation rejected the E.U. and all of its benefits, citing immigration and economic imbalances as the key reasons to leave. Nigel Farage and the United Kingdom Independence Party spearheaded the Leave campaign: Farage has been campaigning for seventeen years for the United Kingdom to leave the E.U., and is now convinced that “the European project is finished.”

The United Kingdom, however, has always enjoyed a ‘special relationship’ with the European Union, as it has not adopted the Euro and is separated from the continent by the Channel. Interestingly, British nationalist nostalgia often points to World War Two, in “its Darkest Hour, standing alone as the British Empire against Nazi Germany in 1940-41,” which “informs a modern view of the U.K. as it’s own best friend.” Since British nationalism so clearly leans towards isolationism, the rise of nationalist populism as a way to “Leave” the European Union was clearly successful. Yet Farage does not hold executive office in the United Kingdom, and the more moderate Conservative Theresa May (who supported “Remain”) is expected to steer the nation away from xenophobic rhetoric during her term as Prime Minister.

“Failure” of Populism in the Netherlands

In March 2017, Europe saw another test of the populist movement, as demonstrated by Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands. Wilders gained fame for “Fitna”, a film that placed footage of terrorist attacks alongside verses of the Quran – a provocative move that gained him fame in 2008. His campaign rested on many of the characteristic policies of the nationalist populist parties, such as “de-Islamization”, which includes “no Islamic headscarves”, “preventive detention of radical Muslims”, and a mandate to “close all mosques and Islamic schools and ban the Koran.” He also advocated for lower income taxes and for the Netherlands to leave the European Union.

On March 14th, incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party, the VVD, gained the majority of seats at 33 of the 150 seats, while Wilders won 20 seats. With the necessity for a coalition in the proportional parliamentary system, Wilders’ policies are not going to be enacted; yet the PVV did gain five seats and Wilders has pledged that the Dutch Prime Minister has not seen the last of him.

Many have heralded Wilders’ loss as an optimistic defeat for the populist movements. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany commented, “I was very glad, and I think many people are, that a high turnout led to a very pro-European result,” while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker claimed that the Dutch people voted for “free and tolerant societies in a prosperous Europe.” However, Mabel Berezin, a professor at Cornell University, diminished this victory: “Wilders does not represent a populist wave… how his party fares does not tell us much about European populism. The real bellwether election will be Marine Le Pen’s quest for the French presidency, starting April 23.” While Wilders’ defeat halts the pattern of populist victories in Britain and the United States, it does not ensure the subsequent defeat of other parties in the upcoming elections.

What’s Next: France and Germany

Marine Le Pen, 2017 candidate for the populist National Front in France, has stated: “I think the British, with the Brexit, then the Americans, with the election of Donald Trump, did that,” she tells TIME. “They made possible the impossible.” After Wilders’ defeat, one is left asking whether the rest of Europe will follow the Dutch or the British. Since each populist movement is decidedly nationalistic, this very much may depend on the country and the fervor of its individual nationalist tendencies.

Marine Le Pen is France’s populist candidate, and as of March 1st, was winning by several percentage points in opinion polls. She is challenged by center-right candidate Francois Fillon and centrist Emmanuel Macron; incumbent Francois Hollande has declined to run for another term. Le Pen’s platform includes a dramatic slash in legal immigration quotas from 200,000 to 10,000, as well as independence from the European Union (including the Schengen Treaty), mass-rearmament in military and police forces, and a ban on fundamentalist Islamic groups. France is an important player in the European Union as one of the more economically prosperous regions; however, it has also been the site of several serious terrorist attacks credited to ISIS, which has motivated much anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment. For France, then, Le Pen may have a serious chance at victory.

Germany, the other major upcoming election in 2017, has a much less strong populist movement, but recent developments in Europe could signal policy changes within the major centrist parties that are more in line with other nations’ nationalist views. Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel will re-run with the Christian Democratic Party, and is expected to maintain the majority in September, although she is predicted to revise her ‘open door’ immigration policy soon. 42% of Germans want a referendum on E.U. membership. Germany’s far right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party has struggled to maintain early support after their leader, Björn Höcke, implied that the Berlin Holocaust memorial was a “monument of shame.” This perhaps highlights the nuanced differences between nationalism in other nations such as France and Germany: for Germany, a nostalgic view of right wing nationalist pride cannot help but to evoke the painful history of Nazism – a past that Germany does not want to repeat. Although many in Germany may pressure Merkel and the other center and left-of-center candidates to crack down on immigration issues, it seems unlikely that a nationalist populist party will spring forward in the upcoming Germany election.

Regarding the 2015 referendum for Scottish independence, David Cameron remarked: “We’ve heard the noise of the nationalist few, but now it is time for the voices of the silent majority to be heard.” This “silent majority” of moderates may or may not exist – and it may exist in different numbers depending on the country – but they are the focus of speculation in the lead-up to this year’s elections, particularly in France and Germany. The populist movements are the media’s top stories, perhaps hiding a group of moderate voters who will make their voices heard come Election Day.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the rise of populist parties in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and many more nations (such as Italy and Hungary, which are outside the scope of this paper), have threatened to drastically alter the European political landscape as they campaign on nationalistic and anti-immigration platforms. The European Union itself may be called into question as one or more of these nations vote to leave, thus making the Union less and less effective: it is a system that relies on unified cooperation in order to thrive. Additionally, the early policies of Trump administration, and the international evaluation of its success in the coming months, may also affect the outcomes of these various elections. Although the populist movements have very similar policies, their nationalist element – which, by definition is unique to each nation – makes the future of each European election difficult to predict and almost impossible to compare. We must wait to see whether Cameron’s “silent moderate majority” will make its voice heard – if it is even a majority at all.

References

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A Hacked Campaign: A Perceived Fascist versus the Perceived Moderate

By Adithya Sivakumar

There’s no way a country would flip its entire trajectory, right?

Sounds like a certain election in 2016, doesn’t it? Call it surprising, but these thoughts not only echoed in the minds of the population of the United States, but also the population of France, as they both went to the polls to elect a new President. However, even with striking similarities, the two elections led to two drastically different outcomes. So the obvious question is, why?

Talk of the 2017 French election began gaining steam in late 2016, in part marked by incumbent President Francois Hollande’s decision to not seek reelection. Hollande was hobbled by a dismal four percent approval rating and numerous terrorist attacks that had marred his term, and many people in France itched for a change, one that would seemingly set the country on the right track.

Initially, there were four candidates who served a serious chance of becoming President. They included Francois Fillon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Emmanuel Macron. Surprisingly, only Fillon, who beat out former President Nicolas Sarkozy for his candidacy on a socially conservative and economically liberal platform, was the only member of the political establishment out of this four. In a world steeped by anti-establishment sentiment, all the other three were steeped with solid bases of support, all with radically different ideas on how to lead France. Fillon did lead polls for a while, but this lead soon dropped after he and his wife were put under investigation for embezzling state funds by creating fake jobs, leaving the door open to the other upstart candidates to take control.

Melenchon served as the far-left candidate, promising renegotiation with the EU, an attack on bankers, and goals Socialist President Hollande could never accomplish. Similar to the United States’ Bernie Sanders, Melenchon did build up a bastion of support among the youth of France, but was widely feared by financial institutions, as they feared “economic disaster” if he was elected.

Le Pen, on other hand, represented the other side of French politics: the far right. Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and leads the National Front. Under the elder Le Pen’s leadership, the party was widely known as the one that promoted xenophobia and Holocaust denial, largely due to the leader himself. Marine Le Pen eventually got her father kicked out of the party after repeated remarks about characterizing gas chambers as a “detail of history.” After taking over, the younger Le Pen has attempted to rehabilitate the party’s image, proving largely successful, although many core points of the party have remained the same. In response to various terrorist attacks that have hit the nation, Le Pen has proposed strict controls on immigration, including the expelling of all undocumented immigrants and the removal of free education for these immigrants’ children. Additionally, the politics of her party largely place the citizens of France first, largely above those of immigrants, including making jobs, housing, or areas of public provisions go to French individuals first, rather than immigrants, an idea seen as unconstitutional by many. Inspired by Brexit, the candidate also has promised a referendum for France to leave the European Union. Most in relevance to the United States, Le Pen believed she had a chance after the surprise election of Donald Trump, indicating a new shift in global politics. Polls gave her the lead after Fillon’s fallout, but this was soon taken over by independent candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is unique in that he formed his own party after serving as an economic minister in Hollande’s government. Frustrated by the lack of progress in his time in government, Macron painted himself as the center-left candidate, promising deregulation and reform to the business industry. Although potentially perceived in countries like the United States as normal, Macron’s proposals to increase the working week beyond 35 hours for younger workers as well as the opportunity to open businesses on Sunday were widely ridiculed by the left and working-class individuals. However, these proposals also have made Macron more palatable for businesses, and his strong support of the EU has also proved successful in wooing individuals from the left and right. Additionally, he has supported working with an array of world leaders, including Donald Trump and the leaders of Russia and Syria to promote peace, and promoted law and order initiatives to fight the ISIS attacks that have plagued the nation.

The first round of the presidential primaries clearly demonstrated rejection of the status quo, as Macron took 23.7% and Le Pen took 21.7%, while Fillon and Melenchon each took 19.5% of the vote. Since no candidate received a majority, Macron and Le Pen fought each other in the runoff. At this point, the rest of the world cautiously placed its eyes on the French Republic, worried about another Trump-esque victory or a Brexit, results they had slowly become accustomed to in 2016. Many defeated candidates, such as Fillon and the Socialist Party’s Benoit Hamon, pledged support to Macron, wishing to stave off the possibility of Le Pen taking power. Oddly enough, Melenchon’s supporters largely rejected voting for Macron, as even though the candidate said he would not vote for Le Pen, he also did not profess support for Macron either, echoing a similar situation in the United States after Bernie Sanders did not initially support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for President.

In a further ode to the United States’ election, a massive email hack was conducted on Macron two days before elections, leading to the release of documents about the internal workings of his campaign, leading to speculation that Russian sources were yet again attempting to influence the democratic process of a country. However, since campaigning on the day before an election in France is illegal, talks about the hacks were largely kept silent, and the effect on the election was likely not large.

On May 7, the day of reckoning came. Was France to become another follower of populism, or an adherer to the status quo? Its people gave a resounding answer: 66% voted for Macron, and 34% voted for Le Pen. This outcome confused many, as France appeared to have the same markers for a populist victory as the United Kingdom and the United States: fear of outsiders, economic uncertainty. So what changed?

France’s history was largely seen as a catalyst for rejecting Le Pen. As much as Marine Le Pen attempted to detoxify her party’s image, the history of her father and his statements brought a lot of weight for the people of France, especially one that had suffered through the far-right regime of Vichy in World War II. Additionally, in relation to the United States, one factor that may have been different was that of voter turnout. In the primaries, a slight dip in turnout led to 77% eligible individuals voting, while 53.5% voted in the 2016 United States Presidential Elections. A higher participatory rate may have led to more individuals, those more in favor of a France that ran more center than left or right, to influence the decision.

Although France stuck to EU integration, it is important to acknowledge the gravity of Macron’s win. Traditional parties now have to acknowledge they have to change their message to not only play to the same bases they have for decades, but rather reach out to broader swathes of the populace. Macron may move on making big moves in the business sector, but 34% of the country feels ignored, necessitating action on his part to make them feel acknowledged, while also assuring them that business reforms and EU integration do not pose a threat, but may actually lead to an opportunity.

Lampedusa: Europe’s Border Isle

By Jackie Olson

An Italian island with a population just over 6,000, Lampedusa was once considered a secret vacation getaway for Europeans, receiving almost 50,000 tourists a year. Now, due to its proximity to the African continent, just 70 km from the Tunisian coast, it has become a border-state between the EU and the volatile African nations, primarily Libya and Tunisia for thousands of refugees.

In 1985, the first round of the Schengen Treaty was passed which eliminated border checks at most EU-member countries along with the harmonization of visa guidelines. In addition, the legislation ordered whichever Schengen-country first received a migrant would be forced to take responsibility for the individual. This clause within the treaty has proven most problematic to the European Union and for countries especially Greece and Italy with their natural closeness to the migrant countries. Questions concerning the relative fairness to their disproportionate influx of migrants in comparison to other mainland EU countries has been in contention in recent years, especially after the massive increase of migrants to Europe in 2015 running concurrently with the Syrian Civil War.

Lampedusa became a stopping point for refugees into mainland Europe after the passing of the Martelli Law in 1990 which prohibited the free travel of North Africans into Europe and sanctioned airlines and ferry companies from permitting undocumented North Africans to use their transportation services in Europe. The passing of this act, in essence, gave birth to illegal, often unsafe, ways into Europe for migrants and created an opportunity for a border economy: local border entrepreneurs currently charge 1,000 Euros for direct transfer from Tunisia to Lampedusa and North African port authorities have reaped massive profits from mass migration.

In 1998, Lampedusa opened the first detention center and overtime expanded the local services to include longer stays for migrants. The services also changed from non-profit workers to profit which has altered the nature of Lampedusa into an economy that is largely now police and military personnel.

In 2002, Italian naval patrols were forced to direct migrants’ boats to shore resulting in the disproportionate number of migrants to Lampedusa between 2003-2008, in 2008 alone over 30,000 migrants stopped in Lampedusa. Even though North African readmission policies were in place since 1998 with an agreement with Tunisian to send migrants back to North Africa, it took ten years before the policy drastically shaped migration patterns. In 2004, the EU lifted embargos on Libya, at the time the most popular embarking country and stressed for support with naval patrols and deportations. Yet only in 2008 after Italy paid reparations for its colonial history did Qadaffi actively help in the migration crisis, reducing overall migrant travel in 2009-2010.  

Although, after the Arab Spring in 2011, Italy was left to fight the influx of people alone and saw a drastic increase in migration due to the Tunisian Revolution and the Libyan Civil War. The Italian government declared the increase as a North African Emergency which lasted until 2013.  Within that period, 1.5 billion euros were allocated to reception asylum centers and most importantly in 2011, a German court overturned the Dublin Regulation of the Schengen Treaty and permitted migrants to not be deported back to Italy from other countries within the EU, the first country where they entered the European Union. This ruling has had wide repercussions in the crisis, especially after 2013 when Italy declared the Emergency status over and closed many centers leaving once Italian-settled refugees to flood northern European states such as Germany for support.

Yet in 2013, the Lampedusa crisis did not lessen in severity. 14,753 migrants passed through Lampedusa that year and the island was marked by two tragedies. First, on October 3, approximately 500 Eritreans, Somalis and Ghanaians died meters off the shores of Lampedusa, the worst disaster in the Mediterranean since the Second World War. The tragedy brought attention to the efforts on the island and some proclaimed the locals rescue efforts to be worth the recognition of a Nobel Peace Prize. A few weeks later, Italy passed the ‘Mare Nostrum’ act to increase military naval patrols to stop any future tragedies from occurring near Italian waters. Yet in December, Lampedusa’s efforts were thrown aside with the exposure of reports that the local centers sprayed refugees for scabies, sparking massive protests from EU legislators who threatened to block financial support to Italy for their inhumane migration policies.

In 2014, migrant crossings substantially increased to over 165,000 people and was the deadliest year with 3,500 dying in transit. This was primarily due to the defunding of the ‘Mare Nostrum’, a systematic program that was too expensive to fund: over 10 million dollars per month. Italy, instead, looked to the E.U. for a naval search program which instigated the foundation of Operation Triton. Triton was considered useless with its low-budget and short range of 30 miles off Italian coasts.

In the ongoing Syrian Civil War since 2015, Syrians have disproportionately made up the largest nationality of Mediterranean crossings, from January 2016 to April 2017, 83,000 have used the routes to escape the bloody conflict. While in 2015, Italy saw only roughly 150,000 migrants in comparison to the 800,000 Greece had, overtime Italy has increased migrant inflows to roughly its 2011-2013 numbers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) predicts that Italy will receive 190,000 refugees in comparison to Greece’s 44,000 in 2017.

Yet with the ongoing Islamic State terrorist attacks on European cities, Italy has been less willing to take massive amounts of migrants with the fear that terrorists from Libya will use the Mediterranean routes and ultimately attack the Vatican. Although, Italy may have to actively devote more resources to asylum-seekers, especially after the numerous European elections in 2017 that may place many far-right agendas in power which have condemned open asylum policies. Therefore, while Italy has reached reception capacity, it is currently looking at plans on how to better structure services to refugees with the view that the situation will still be severe but will garner far less internationalist-European  and more nationalist-based sentiment against relief for the mass-migration tragedy. What support Italy will receive or if they will stand as the lone-wolf against the volatile crisis will certainly be seen but will only be another layer added to never-ending cycle of mixed support and anguish from Europeans and the rest of the indecisive world.

Persistent Surveillance: the Repercussions of Snowden and the Bundesnachrichtendienst

By Jackie Olson

Edward Snowden, four years after his monumental exposure of U.S. governmental efforts to hack and surveil domestic and international computer networks, remains in Russia without fear of expatriation back to the United States where he would face numerous charges including his violation of the Espionage Act. While Snowden now plays the role of motivational speaker, just last week he was part of a panel discussion on the role of surveillance in the Trump Administration with Daniel Ellsburg, famous exposer of the Pentagon Papers whose 2013 leaks still linger today.

Last month, German chancellor Angela Merkel testified in the on-going investigation of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of international personal networks. Their investigation included Chancellor Merkel’s phone calls, and the questionable link to the NSA’s German counterparts, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), in a few of the suspicious activities Snowden exposed in 2013. While Merkel, like in 2013, held to her “spying among friends is unacceptable” stance at the hearing, her position is a reminder of the German government’s failure to adopt a “no-spying” agreement with the United States in 2013.

Even though Germany has many protections against domestic surveillance of journalists, recent reports have accused the BND of tapping into international news outlets such as the BBC, New York Times and Reuters. Recent disclosures have indicated that the BND since 1999 has surveilled journalists’ communications with private sources, ranging from the Congo to Afghanistan.

In 2006, Spiegel journalist Susanne Koelbl’s email server was intercepted by the BND to observe communications with the Afghan minister for industry and trade. In 2008, the agency apologized for the interception, however, nine years later public scrutiny is still fervent in the belief that the BND has faced little regulation, with their many incidents of rule-breaking and misconduct.  

In fact, late last year the German Bundesrat, the German legislative body, approved expanding the power of the BND to have more discretion in foreign-foreign signal intelligence: a policy that allows for increased gathering of information of people and locations from foreign targets. In addition, while the BND was previously under direct control of the Chancellery, a new independent body was formed to increase oversight on the intelligence organization. The Federal Chancellery is now required to receive authorization from the independent body before any action is taken. Even though there have been mixed opinions on the restructuring of the intelligence service, after this new leak of international press eavesdropping, some people fear the law will just exacerbate the already problematic situation.

Reporters without Borders has claimed that the new law will still allow international journalists little protection against the intrusive BND whereas domestic journalists receive the fullest securities. Along with Reporters without Borders, the Society for Civil Rights is preparing a legal challenge to the expansive BND law that went into effect in January.

This controversy comes at a time when Angela Merkel’s popularity with her open-door stance for refugees has been largely criticized and has inspired neo-Nazi and alternative right groups, such as Pegida, to gain momentum with their anti-immigrant, pro-German national rhetoric.

In September, Angela Merkel’s seat will be in question during the upcoming elections. Recent polling suggests people care most about their country’s future refugee policy and how it relates to their position in the EU. While Merkel’s stance may hurt her, especially after the Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack, her party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is polling at 38% in the proportional government. Yet supporters of Merkel fear a left-wing alliance that would put her out of office.

Germany is not the only European country to have elections this year. France, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic also will have monumental elections that will not only determine their stance on asylum seekers, but will determine how fervent and important nationalistic identity will be in the European continent.