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>SEI on EU


Sussex European Institute’s roundtable on the euro-elections tries to inject some early academic analysis into interpretation of last week’s election. The debate offers more than the sum of its parts. The underlying issue is not who’s up and who’s down, but how and why we should study the elections (the ‘so what’ qiestion): as a failing institutional device for addressing the democratic deficit in a multi-level EU political system?; as a set of case studies about ‘Europe’ in domestic politics; or 27 parallel ‘second order’ national electoral contests in which disenchanted voters give a pointer to the way that party systems are really going at an underlying level (the UK has is an 8 eight party system struggling to break out of a two-and-half party system.
There’s discussion of various factors influencing the results: the impact of economic crisis; national electoral cycles; the willingness of social democratic voters to vote for the radical left; the format of national party systems and so on… I wonder if it might be possible to cluster the 27 cases inro 4-5 configurations rather than picking out patchy trends or making qualified generalisations, or falling back on series of national stories.
Afterwards I duck into theUniversity of Sussex library. A library assistant in an anarcho-syndicalist T-shirt efficiently helps me find the book I’m after.

>Bulgaria: People’s Commissioners to European Commissioners?


The Economist lays into Bulgaria’s Socialist Prime Minister for extraordinary plan to create forms of parallel political administration with the European Commission in which Commissioners would intervene directly (as opposed to indirectly) in the country’s government. A sort of Kosova-lite, in which the EU would quietly colonize Bulgaria – although seeing an election wheeze intending to shore up vastly unpopular domestic institutions and a vastly unpopular government, The Economist struck a eurosceptic note, by comparing it to Soviet oversight of the Bulgaria in the 1940s. And Bulgaria’s long serving communist strongman Todor Zhivkov did n more than one occasion reportedly offered to make Bulgaria the 16th Republic of the USSR. On the other hand, in 1930s and 40s didn’t Hayek and von Mises see collapsing weak, economically irrational national states with democracies all too inclined to sink into nationalist and populstic demagogy into a supranational federation run by well trained technocrats from Vienna as the best defence of liberal Europe?

>Czech eurosceptic parties see confused light of day


It’s tough being an entrepreneur in the EU with a new franchise to launch, especially when you’re a political entrepreneur like Declan Ganley whose eurosceptic movement plans to take to the political field across the Union in the June Euro-elections. The Czech Republic, awash with right-wing euroscepticism since the early 1990s (well, if you read the papers) seemed like a great place for a national franchise: the Ganley-Klaus relationship

However, now ex-TV station owner, Euro MP and founder of the eurosceptic populist Independent Democrats grouping – who flopped in the 2006 parliamentary election, despite a surprise success in the lower-than-lower-turnout 2004 Euroelections – Vladimír Železný, who is a sort of Czech Berlusconi manqué, has stepped into the fray. Mr Železný has gone and nicked Mr Ganley‘s brand, but registering a party called without Mr Ganley’s approval or knowledge. So far, an seems to have got no further along the road to creating an official (given the Irish connection, perhaps we should talk about a ‘official’ and a ‘provisional’ wings of the movement) than translated the appeal on its website for supporters in the CR into Czech (Good start). Ganley, Železný has told the Czech press that could be a ‘Pan-European Obama, if he wasn’t so naïve’, but has proved too a talker, not a do-er and besides Czechs have their own Eurosceptic tribune in Václav Klaus, who hasn’t commented so far, it seems. On the other hand, Železný’s version of Libertas doesn’t so much as have a web page and there’s no a word on the subject on his otherwise up-to-date website about his activities as an MEP.

As, although one poll suggested that 22% might vote for the provisional Železný-led, commentators suggest that this reflects the Czech electorate’s usual short-lived enthusiasm for novelty parties and is unlikely to last or to be translated into at the ballot boxes. The entry of colourful old stager like Mr Železný, they think, will probably put the kiss of death on as a serious force.

In the meantime, Czech eurosceptic right-wing voters (actually, rather few in number) can always turn to the newly founded Party of Free Citizens (SSO) founded by Klaus thinktank protege Petr Mach. The SOS whose committee include the philospher Miroslav Bednář and former member of parliament Jiří Payne – both (ex-?)ODS members – as well as more marginal figures like anti-EU gadflies, writer Benjamin Kuras and political activist David Hanák, both of whom were active in the fragmentary campaign No vote in the EU accession referedum in 2003. So, not exactly a star-studded line-up. Hanák’s views, in particular, are part of a would-be conservative-nationalist revival just adjacent to the far-right, which no self-respecting (neo-)liberal like Mach should probably want to go near.

> unveiled, unseen


So, Declan Ganley has extended his Irish-based anti-Lisbon Treaty NGO-cum-lobby group Libertas into an EU-wide political movement intent on fighting next year’s euro-elections in a host of EU states including, interestingly for me, the Czech Republic.
The only countries where is not recruiting ‘high calibre candidates’ are France, and Denmark, – presumably as they are already well equipped with purpose-made eurosceptic parties and movements, such as the June Movement of veteran campaigner Jens Peter Bonde – and Ireland, where Mr Ganley’s Libertas organization is already well advanced in plans to field a list. Apart from the links for Estonia, Sweden and Poland all the recruitment ad are in English, suggesting that there is perhaps not a well organized network of Ganley supporters waiting to take the EU polticial stage. thus seems more akin to a political franchising operation following the modus operandi established by the late Sir James Goldsmith’s UK-based Referendum Party, or in a slightly different way, Silvio Berlusconi’s launch of Forza Italia. Indeed, academics have already identified both a ‘franchise party’ and ‘business firm model’ of party emergence, only the Europe-wide nature of the franchising is novel.

The irony of a eurosceptic (and, in fairness, I should say that like most eurosceptics, he refutes the term) founding the first EU-wide political party is, of course, not lost on commentators, but a more interesting question, but there is a certain logic to it. A more interesting question s whether local eurosceptic groups will relish being invited to send applications to the Ganley’s Dublin and Brussels HQs for approval . Not surprisingly, the well established UK Indpendence Party feels Mr Ganley needs no UK branch. It’s also hard to imagine Václav Klaus or any of his very opinionated collaborators , who have been in the euroscepticism business much longer than Libertas, sending their CVs off to win Mr Ganley’s imprimatur.

Politically, there is the also the question whether a Europe-wide platform is really quite the way to go for forces which say that they value diversity and national sovereignty. On a pressure group level there are plenty of precedents of national groups forming EU-wide platforms, but whether political euroscepticism can reduce itself to narrow set of lobby demands is rather dubious. Put bluntly, who needs a European level eurosceptic platform – beyond Mr Ganley that is?

What Mr G does seem to have, of course, is money. Or perhaps the ability to tap the EU for campaign funding. This – and the imminence of European elections next year – seem to be the key reason that has been launched as a political/electoral platform, rather than a civil society organization or pressure group along the lines of the original Irish Libertas.