Category Archives: European Politics

This section hosts opinions, analyses and reactions to current affairs in the field of European politics ranging from institutional and political dynamics to specific policy issues. Contributions related to national politics are also welcome. Some of the posts contained in this section – EoB retrospective – reflect the activities of the Politics Department’s student debate club, ‘Europe outside the Box’.

Down with the ‘Bogeyman’: Why Protests and Marches Against Trump Are Missing the Target


Women's March

Participants to the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January 2017




Trump Inauguration Day on the 20th of January was marked by widespread protests around the world, with two millions of pacific demonstrators worldwide taking the streets to rally against the newly installed administration. Political protests reached their apogee with the so-called Women’s March on Washington, which gathered more than 470.000 women (and men) to denounce the President’s worrying agenda on civil rights – starting with the restriction of women’s control over their own bodies.  While protesting against a Weltanschauung so blatantly opposed to the values of gender and social equality is not only a good thing but also a true civic duty, the current mainstream framing of American politics appears quite peculiar.

Liberal media across the world unanimously hailed to the ‘resistance’ opposed by peaceful demonstrators against the advance of right-wing populism embodied by Trump. Media coverage significantly abstained from a firm condemnation of the riots that resulted in at least 217 arrests for the clashes between demonstrators and the police. As if violence were somehow justified by its ultimate target, namely undermining Trump’s legitimacy. In this regard, it is quite interesting to observe reactions of European media to the unrest created by this ‘Black Bloc’ – an expression that is European in its essence, having being invented in Germany in 1980 to label Berlin squatters involved in violent clashes with the police. While, for instance, European liberal outlets had no problems with evoking the Black Bloc threat in occasion of the clashes between the No Border movement and the Austrian police at Brennero, or for the demonstrations against the loi travail in Paris, riots in Washington received a rather different coverage. Burning bins and broken windows were regarded as the product of ‘America’s political division’, and violent perpetrators as ‘American demonstrators’ . Little reference was made to ‘guerrilla-like scenarios’ or ‘Russian infiltrators’ this time. European liberal media seemed to suggest that yes, violent protestors exaggerated, but: “hey, this is what you get when people have enough of dictators”. The ‘Liberal Bloc’, they seemed to say, brings more good than evil to the cause of the free world.

The huge impact of such a narrative appears in all its evidence when one compares audiences’ reaction to two recent viral videos featuring naïve individuals advocating violence in different contexts. In the first one, a Baltimore woman angrily slaps her son in order to remove him from the riots that ensued the death of the African-American Freddie Gray at the hands of the local police department. In the second, a Washington youngster brags about starting a small fire because: “I’m saying ‘screw our President’”. The Baltimore boy was immediately shamed on the internet and on television, while his mother became a celebrity and was praised as ‘mom of the year’. The Washington kid, on the other hand, raised to the status of public hero on social media and was called ‘a legend’ for his actions.

Unanimous condemnation of Trump by liberal media on the left and on the right mirrors the dismay of a Trans-Atlantic political elites that do not miss a chance to express their discomfort with the new President. This transversal alliance against the man considered to be the source of all problems reminds closely of the united front created in the early 2000s in Italy to counter Silvio Berlusconi’s political raise. In both occasions, liberals identified in the ‘anti-democratic’ practices of the leader the biggest threats to an open society. What they failed and keep failing to acknowledge was that acute social crisis brought about by liberal globalism, that disenfranchised wide sections of the middle class throwing them into poverty and moral humiliation.

The liberal world struggles to grasp the nature of the beast. In a desperate search for landmarks, it is waging war against the only enemy it can make sense of, that is, a slightly less liberal version of itself. Hence, the media reaction to Melania Trump’s expression during the Inauguration Ceremony, to the lack of taste of the presidential gift to Michelle Obama, and to the alleged good prospects for Barron Trump to evolve into a “homeschool shooter”.

All this also leaves the awkward impression that there would have been no Women’s March without Trump, nor protests or clashes, as if structural racial and gender inequality in the U.S. would have disappeared with the election of Hillary Clinton. No protests, for instance, surrounded Clinton’s campaign, although she voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act Mr. Trump refers to when he speaks about building a wall at the border with Mexico.

The paradox is that an anti-Trump front composed by a mainly white, educated bourgeoisie takes the street to protest against that fraction of America’s (female and male) white, economically privileged population that Trump embodies, with both sides completely forgetting that many of Trump’s voters are to be found among those discriminated people that liberals claim to support. The Women’s March – with, on the one side, female CEOs subsiding employees’ attendance and, on the other side, Black Lives Matter activists recusing the initiative – accounts as a perfect example for the paradox. Very few representatives of the African-American and Latin communities, as well as the so-called ‘white trash’, could be found among the pussy hats that demonstrated for equality.

While liberals worldwide fight against what Donald Trump represents, they keep ignoring who he does represent. Which is, to a great extent, large sections of a deluded middle class that globalisation and thirty years of neo-liberal policies have pushed down to the redneck ranks. These people will hardly listen to those who preach social inclusion and offer an historicised and literate version of feminism. Rather, they found in Trump’s assertive campaign those promises of enduring resilience to globalisation they were denied by the Republican and Democratic establishment alike.

By demonising the Donald Trump parvenu and neglecting the structural issues affecting U.S. society, organisers of protests and marches that look up at the French strike model may be missing the target. Instead, they might look at Spain for inspiration. The Iberian country is one of the few in the West to have so far escaped from the rise of a strong right-wing populism. Among the other factors, analysts have identified a lack of fundamental conflict between natives and non-natives over welfare resources to account for the absence of a significant racist rhetoric in politics.

A fairer redistribution of resources among the population – this was the notable stone guest at the Washington protests.


Tommaso Emiliani is an IRD Academic Assistant at the College of Europe in Bruges and an alumnus of Falcone & Borsellino promotion at the College of Europe in Natolin.

The author wishes to thank the ‘Militant’ collective for the inspiration to write this article.

EU Trade Policy-Making: “The Times They Are A Changin’”


State of play & Perspectives


The twilight of EU trade policy ?

Nicolas RENARD, 13/12/2016.

With Brexit, the CETA[ii] saga and the election of Donald Trump in the US, future is not looking good for EU common commercial policy (CCP) and we should really start asking ourselves if times are changing for EU trade. In this article, I analyze the consequences of the ‘CETA saga’. I will not discuss the content of the agreement, such as the controversial ISDS mechanism, but rather focus on the trade policy-making process itself. To broaden the debate, I will try to draw up a state of play, capture the current trends and go over some perspectives for EU trade policy.

  • At the basis of trade policy making in the EU

First, the basics – how does the EU negotiate trade agreements? According to the Treaties, Member States (MS), through the Council[iii], authorize the European Commission (EC) to start and conduct the negotiations while the Council monitors the talks before voting to sign and conclude the deals. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009[iv], trade was reinforced as an exclusive competence of the EU, encompassing new areas such as services, investment, etc. In theory, with those new areas covered by EU’s exclusive competence, the conclusion of free trade agreements (FTAs) cannot be blocked by MS or depend on the ratification by 28 national parliaments. The EU – which has legal personality – has the full powers to sign trade agreements.

In practice, two kinds of FTAs can be distinguished[v]: regular trade agreements covering exclusive EU competences, and ‘mixed’ agreements. So called ‘mixed-agreements’ have a much broader coverage – encompassing not only EU exclusive competences but also shared and even MS exclusive competences – and thus require a different legal basis. Mixed-agreements need to be signed, concluded and ratified by both Member States – and thus national parliaments – and the EU. According to the Treaties and practice, they can be provisionally applied – i.e. before ratification by the national parliaments. Though, a recent decision of the German Constitutional Court stated that national Parliaments, despite signature by the EU Council and their government, could veto the ratification process and thus block its conclusion.

If the distinction between regular and mixed trade agreements may appear evident, here comes the tricky part: there are no references to those ‘mixed-agreements’ in EU Treaties. Hence, “the choice of the proper legal basis of an agreement is often controversial”[vi]. In fact, a highly expected ECJ decision on the EU-Singapore FTA[vii] should clarify how to determine the nature of trade agreements – i.e. which part of an agreement can be considered as ‘mixed’.

In recent years, the EU has been negotiating more and more ambitious trade agreements, so called ‘comprehensive free trade agreements’, not only focusing on removing tariffs for goods but also including trade-related areas (or WTO + issues) such as investment, public procurement, sustainable development in the negotiations. The majority of recent EU “new generation” FTAs are thus considered as ‘mixed agreements’ – despite Lisbon’s developments – and MS are increasingly interfering with EC’s prerogative. That’s precisely what is happening with CETA.

  • The ‘CETA saga’ and its consequences on trade policy making

The ‘CETA saga’

About a month ago, the EU and Canada finally signed the CETA, after months of uncertainty. At one point, after having vetoed the signature of the agreement by Belgium and thus the EU[viii], Wallonia’s representatives started negotiating directly with Canada trade representatives, a grande première in the history of EU trade policy-making.

How did we end up here? A few months ago, pressured by MS, the EC stated that CETA should be considered as a mixed-agreement – and thus would have to be signed and ratified by both the 28 MS and the EU. As a result, we ended up with one region, Wallonia, representing only 0.45% of EU trade with Canada[ix], blocking the EC, the Council, and the whole ratification process.

Finally, the CETA was signed at the EU-Canada Summit on 30 October 2016, after the Walloon government negotiated the inclusion of an intra-Belgium Statement and a Joint interpretative declaration, putting a (very) temporary end to the ‘CETA saga’.

Consequences on EU trade policy-making

As Politico puts it, it seems that “Wallonia sends EU trade policy back to the drawing board”. Of course it might be a bit too soon to scrap EU trade policy and its policy-making processes, but it is true that doubts are raising and the CETA/TTIP saga won’t go without consequences[x].

Indeed, not only it reveals “Treaties’ structural flaws” but it can be analyzed as a major step back for EU trade policy-making. First, as recalled above, trade policy has historically been a core exclusive competence of the EU – even more with the Lisbon Treaty: “The origins of the EU’s role as an international actor lie the CCP”[xi]. Of course, the balance between supranationalism and intergovernmentalism has always been sensitive (and the distribution of competences a controversial process, inherent to the construction of the EU itself) but this episode illustrates how MS are increasingly and dangerously pressing to retake trade power over the EC. The risks being that they will use it as a bargaining chip as well as for domestic purposes unrelated to trade.

Secondly, it can also be perceived, especially from the point of view of our trade partners, as a blow to EU trade power. It questions EU’s ability to negotiate and conclude trade deals. The EU is often perceived as a “trade power”, thanks to its economic and trading weight, but also as a power “in” and “through” trade[xii]. Indeed, this ‘economic power’ gives the EU the possibility to be heard on the international scene and to influence its partners. The fact of not being able to secure and conclude trade deals, mainly because of internal disputes, will most certainly affect on-going and future negotiations[xiii]. Wolfgang Münchau from the Financial Times, even states that the “CETA debacle heralds a period of disintegration for the EU”.

In addition to the above structural and internal challenges, it is interesting to rise above the clouds and take some time to analyze the global trends and current factors affecting the EU and its trade policy:

  • A shifting trade strategy: For a long time, the EU had privileged the forum offered by the WTO. However, the successive failures of the negotiations in the framework of the Doha Round, within an organization crystallizing tensions and rivalries between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries, set up a new deal and forced the EU to adopt a “second-best” approach. In fact, since the mid-2000s, EU’s approach to promote its economic, regulatory and political agenda has evolved. Focusing at first on regional agreements, it currently mainly negotiates free trade agreements (FTAs) bilaterally. The “new generation” FTAs mentioned above fall within this trend.
  • A global trade slow-down: Recent reports from the ECB and the IMF have shown that trade growth has been “dangerously” slowing down since 2012. If the IMF attributes this trend mainly to the decline in investment[xiv], the ECB isolated two main types of factors: (1) “compositional factors” such as “shifts in the geographical, sectoral and demand composition of global activity”; (2) structural factors such as the slowing growth in the global value chains, the rising protectionism – also within the EU – and “a declining marginal impact of financial deepening”. On the other hand, some economists such as Daniel Gros welcome this slowdown as an opportunity to end the dangerous “hyper-globalisation narrative”.
  • Other clouds include the dragging debate on the modernization of EU trade defense instruments, linked to the debate on whether or not to grant China Market Economy Status. As Charles De Marcilly writes, it is about “showing [EU’s] ability to protect itself by using adapted instruments”[xv].
  • But certainly, the main ‘threat’ for EU trade policy comes from the peoples themselves and the increasing inequalities dividing our societies. It is essential to differentiate the sound questioning of mega-trade deals such as CETA and TTIP by citizens and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) – partly explained by an opposition to an “unstoppable globalization”, unregulated finance and multinationals – from the rise of euro-skepticism and populism “giving voice to the anger of the excluded” as Dani Rodrik warns[xvi].

The first embodies the increasing need for transparency and involvement of civil society in the policy-making process to ensure public understanding and support. Certainly, the EC is well aware of this and multiplies public consultations, impact assessments, dialogues, etc. With a rising impact of public opinion on EU trade policy-making[xvii], EU institutions need to step up the pace – starting with a coherent communication strategy for the EC (especially on values, standards and norms), questioning of MS inconsistencies at the Council and greater implication of the European Parliament.

The second, pushing forward a fierce opposition to free trade liberalism and globalization leads to national downturn, economic protectionism and isolationism. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, two dramatic results of this (economic) disintegration trend, will certainly have a dreadful impact on EU trade policy.

  • Perspectives: What’s next for the EU trade policy-making process?
  1. Re-focus on core trade competencies? The EC could limit future negotiations and deals to ‘regular’ trade areas such as trade barriers and tariffs. It would mean the end of mega-trade agreements. In the current global context, it though seems unlikely and dangerous for the EU to leave out WTO+ and WTO-X areas[xx].
  1. Adjust the trade policy-making process?
    • Two-track trade agreements as a pragmatic second-best solution? MEPs such as Daniel Caspary and Manfred Weber came up with an alternative path: negotiating two-track trade agreements. At the first level, the EC would have full competencies whereas at the second level, MS and national parliaments would have their say and the ability to veto.
    • For Guillaume Van Der Loo, an alternative solution could be to require unanimity for Council’s decisions and votes on trade. Replacing the Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) rule “could mitigate the risk that a member state will hold an FTA hostage for domestic (non-trade related) reasons”.
    • David KLEIMANN and Gesa KÜBEK see democratic representation as EU’s main weakness and suggest three policy recommendations: (1) strengthen the role of national parliaments; (2) “strengthen the democratic capacity of the European Parliament”; (3) restore public trust in the European Commission[xxi].
  1. Re-build the CCP? Some MS and national politicians are asking for a CCP reform addressing the “democratic need”[xxii]. Exclusive trade powers could be withdrawn from the EC so that national parliaments and “regional powers” would also have the ability to negotiate. Wallonia also unveiled its own proposal for a new way to negotiate trade agreements, based on three clusters: “Respect for democratic procedures”, “Compliance with socio-economic, sanitary end environmental legislation”, and “Guarantee of public interest in the dispute resolution mechanism”.

A key question remains: would national political stakeholders, CSO and citizens throw themselves into less mediatised and ‘ideological’ trade agreements? Despite foreseeing similar provisions to CETA, EU-Japan FTA negotiations could be concluded in the months to come without any questioning. Moreover, avoiding that one country could block the whole negotiating process with domestic issues, and preventing national interests from interfering with the general interest – aren’t they the reasons why trade policy-making power was transferred to the EC in the first place?

In any case, many of these proposals could not happen without a reform of the Treaties, which is very difficult to foresee in the months – or even years – to come; not to mention that they could further weaken EU’s trade “power”. Maybe one additional option could be to go for WTO again? Although very unlikely, a multilateral system of governance remains the first-best solution for gathering EU’s and its partners’ trade and global interests[xxiii].


Trade policy, one of the symbols of EU integration and MS delegation of power to the EC, is going through difficult times. It is clear that the trade policy-making process needs to fully integrate all stakeholders from the very beginning and address their fears so as to regain public support and legitimacy; which is essential to its success. But this should not mean to renationalize trade policy or “politicize” the policy-making process by involving national parliaments. This is especially vital as, while ‘hyper-globalisation’ should give way to a more “moderate globalization[xxiv], EU trade policy weakening also means that the EU could lose part of its “normative power” in the promotion of high standards and regulatory rules[xxv].


Nicolas Renard – Falcone & Borsellino promotion (IRD 2014 – 2015) – works as Project Manager, notably in trade and private sector development (Brussels – 



BENDINI Roberto, “The Future of the EU trade”, European Parliament, DG EXPO/B/PolDep/Note/2015_227, July 2015

DE MARCILLY Charles, “Confronted by internal challenges, an ambitious trade policy is compromised”, Fondation Robert Schuman, European Issues n°407, 18 October 2016

GSTÖHL Sieglinde, “The European Union’s Trade Policy”, Ritsumeikan International Affairs, vol. 11, 2013, pp. 1-22

GSTÖHL Sieglinde & Dominik HANF, “The EU’s Post-Lisbon Free Trade Agreements: Commercial Interests in a Changing Constitutional Context”, European Law Journal, vol. 20, no. 6, 2014, pp. 733-748

Keukeleire  Stephan & Tom Delreux, The Foreign Policy of the European Union, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd Edition, 2014

KLEIMANN David & Gesa KÜBEK, “The Signing, Provisional Application, and Conclusion of Trade and Investment Agreements in the EU The Case of CETA and Opinion 2/15”, EUI Working Papers, RSCAS 2016/58

MEUNIER Sophie & Kalypso NICOLAÏDIS, “The European Union as a Conflicted Trade Power”, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 13, no. 6, 2006, pp. 906-925

POLITICO, “Is free trade dead?”, Symposium Politico, 7 October 2016

PUCCIO Laura, “A guide to EU procedures for the conclusion of international trade agreements”, European Parliament, Briefing, October 2016

RENARD Nicolas, “Is ‘Green’ Really the Colour? Protecting the Environment through Trade Policy: EU’s Biased and Uncertain Approach”, Master Thesis, College of Europe, May 2015

TAYLOR Paul, “Europe’s trade genie is out of the bottle”, POLITICO, 24 October 2016

VAN DER LOO Guillaume & Jacques PELKMANS, Does Wallonia’s veto of CETA spell the beginning of the end of EU trade policy?, CEPS, CEPS Commentary, 20 October 20016

VAN DER LOO Guillaume, CETA’s signature: 38 statements, a joint interpretative instrument and an uncertain future, CEPS, CEPS Commentary, 31 October 20016

VAN DER MAREL Erik, “Why concluding CETA is so important for the EU”, ECIPE, ECIPE Bulletin No. 2/2016

VON DER BUCHARD Hans, MARKS Simon and MUCCI Alberto, “Wallonia sends EU trade policy back to the drawing board”, POLITICO, 24 October 2016


[i]The Times They Are A-Changin’”, song written by Bob Dylan, 1964.

[ii]Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

[iii]aka. the Council of the European Union

[iv]The Lisbon Treaty also gave increasing powers to the European Parliaments (EP) which now has a “veto-power” on the adoption of trade agreements. Also more implicated during the negotiations, this is leading to an increasing “politicization” of trade negotiations but also guarantees a better integration of civil society.

[v]For clarity reasons, I differentiate here two kinds of FTAs: regular and mixed-agreements. In reality, “three types of trade-related agreements can be distinguished: trade, cooperation and association agreements”. See Sieglinde GSTÖHL & Dominik HANF.


[vii]Follow the case here or here.

[viii]Considered as a mixed agreement covering areas such as agriculture, non-tariff barriers, services, public procurement, investments, IPR, competition policy with a disputes settlement mechanism, CETA required unanimity at the Council for the adoption of the decision concluding the agreement. For Belgium to be able to ratify the agreement, Belgium federal entities first had to allow it.

[ix] For more figures on EU-Canada trade, see Bruegel’s blog post.

[x] On the contrary some analysts see it as a “stand for democracy” and a lesson to meditate, putting its consequences into perspective.

[xi]Stephan KEUKELEIRE & Tom DELREUX, p. 200.

[xii]Sophie MEUNIER & Kalypso NICOLAÏDIS, pp. 906-925.

[xiii]In fact, concrete consequences of the ‘CETA saga’ can already be observed. Vietnam, with whom FTA negotiations were concluded in January 2016, will send its ambassador to address Walloon parliamentarians in order to avoid a similar blockage.

[xiv]For the IMF, other factors include the rise of protectionist measures, the decline in the growth of global value chains and the evolving nature of demand for ‘non tradables’.

[xv] Charles DE MARCILLY, p. 5.

[xvi] Here a selection of articles on “anti-globalization” from Project Syndicate. Also read Bjørn LOMBORG’s opinion on “the free-trade miracle” and Paola SUBACCHI “Free Trade in Chains” from Project Syndicate. Dani RODRICK states that we shouldn’t “cry over dead trade agreements”.

[xvii] It is interesting to note the relative lack of academic studies on the link between ‘public opinion’ and trade policy. Understanding its role/impact on the policy-making process but also analyzing how to better inform and increase citizens’ participation is, I believe, essential to ‘solve’ the legitimacy and democratic crisis.

[xviii] On Brexit, also read Simon EVENETT, “Are trade agreements passé? Deal-making after Brexit”, published on, 19 July 2016.

[xix] Also read “Trumping Trade”, a review of economists’ assessments on Trump’s trade policy proposals during the campaign, written by Silvia MERLER for Bruegel, 3 October 2016. “Europe in the Trumpworld: EU trade and security under the new US executive” by Fredrik ERIXON and Hosuk LEE-MAKIYAMA for the ECIPE.

[xx] See “Beyond the WTO? An anatomy of EU and US preferential trade agreements” by Henrik HORN, Petros C. MAVROIDIS and André SAPIR, for a distinction between trade-related areas.

[xxi] David KLEIMANN & Gesa KÜBEK, “The Signing, Provisional Application, and Conclusion of Trade and Investment Agreements in the EU The Case of CETA and Opinion 2/15”, EUI Working Papers, RSCAS 2016/58


[xxiii] See Wade JACOBY and Sophie MEUNIER, “Europe and the management of globalization”, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 17, n°3, pp. 299-317.Also, “Mega-regional Trade Agreements: Implications for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries” by Peter DRAPER, ECIPE, April 2014. On the state of play at the WTO, read Ricardo MELÉNDEZ-ORTIZ, “What’s ahead for the WTO: Looking around the corner and beyond”, published, 26 July 2016.

[xxiv] Also read Paul DE GRAUWE, “How far should we push globalisation?”, CEPS Commentaries, 4 November 2016.

[xxv] As a complementary point of view, read MEP Bernd LANGE’s opinion in Politico, 14 November 2016.

European Parliament to EU Governments: ‘Ban nukes in 2017!’

Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm, 29 October 2016

Brussels/Strasbourg. European Union’s legislature takes clear stance on upcoming negotiations on international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons: the EU’s Member States should “support the convening” and “participate constructively” to its negotiation.

Non-proliferation we can agree on. The EU scored a major foreign policy success in brokering the talks between Iran and six major world powers on the dismantling of parts of its nuclear programme. It is less vocal on the nuclear weapons of the other countries pictured here.

Non-proliferation we can agree on. The EU scored a major foreign policy success in brokering the talks between Iran and six major world powers on the dismantling of parts of its nuclear programme. It is less vocal on the nuclear weapons of the other countries pictured here.

Even as the EU expands its foreign policy machinery and acquires new powers to represent its Member States at the United Nations, it has been oddly silent on one of the most exciting topics at this year’s UN General Assembly meetings.

Its silence on nuclear disarmament and the humanitarian-led push to ban nuclear weapons, is even more striking if one considers the EU’s status as “civilian super-power” and the world’s largest provider of humanitarian assistance.

So what is its stance on the last weapons of mass destruction not yet subject to a universal treaty prohibition? In two words, embarrassingly reactionary. On the occasion of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, when 185 countries joined statements entitled “Humanitarian Initiative” or “Humanitarian Consequences Group”, the EU’s representative was unable even to utter the word “humanitarian”, positioning the EU on the outer fringe of the nuclear discourse.

Nuke watchers will not be surprised to hear that a veto is to blame for this diplomatic blunder. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council is the Council formation composed of foreign affairs ministers, which formulates EU foreign policy – if they can reach unanimity. France’s reticence in particular left the EU with only one option to show that it cares about nuclear disarmament: ensuring highest-level attendance and sending Federica Mogherini, the EU’s “Foreign Minister” and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council, to deliver the EU statement in person. Ms Mogherini is known to be a longstanding supporter of nuclear disarmament.

With the Council and by extension the European Commission’s foreign affairs apparatus deadlocked, attention turned to the European Parliament. Freed from formal obligations in foreign policy matters, the European Parliament – like most national parliaments – finds it easier to ‘do the right thing’ and put moral considerations above so-called ‘realist’ constraints, e.g. the claim that NATO states cannot be leaders on disarmament matters, having to move at the speed of the slowest members.

Alas, after progressive resolutions reinforcing the global calls for complete nuclear disarmament in years past, the 2014-19 legislature had so far remained silent on the matter. Leading up to the 2015 debacle, the parliament declined to pass a resolution to call for a progressive EU position, in spite of efforts to the contrary. Ms Mogherini voiced her dismay in the next plenary session.

As the Humanitarian Initiative unfolded into a movement to negotiate a treaty prohibition of nuclear weapons, parliamentarians took notice, however. Unlike the majority of the EU’s governments, who appear to prioritise NATO cohesion over their moral convictions, the European Parliament took a clear stance last Thursday. With impeccable timing, on the same day as the start of voting in the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee tasked with disarmament matters, the EU’s Parliament:

  • “Welcomes the recommendation to the UN General Assembly … to convene a conference in 2017 … to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons”
  • “Invites the EU Member States to support the convening of such a conference in 2017 and to participate constructively in its proceedings”
  • “Invites VP/HR Federica Mogherini and the European External Action Service to contribute constructively to the proceedings of the 2017 negotiating conference”

In a particularly encouraging development, almost all of the EU’s centre-right and conservative parties also voted in favour of this language. While their governments at home are almost the only countries globally to oppose a Ban Treaty, except for the nuclear-armed themselves, the people’s representatives took a view that much closer mirrors what surveys have been showing for a long time: we reject nuclear weapons, and will not want to entrust our “security” to a deterrence gamble that has failed far too often to guarantee 100% reliability. Even while condemning Russia’s nuclear sabre-rattling, the resolution sends a clear signal of de-escalation. No nuclear warfare in Europe, please.

Nobody said banning nuclear weapons was easy: otherwise, it would have happened decades ago. Banning nuclear weapons takes courage, or, as President Obama would say, it takes a “moral revolution”. Let’s ban the worst weapons of all under international law, and help his successors to overcome obstacles in taking more decisive steps to reduce investment, posture and numbers.

Nuclear disarmament is a process, after all, not a black-and-white dichotomy. A ban helps.



Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm (Voltaire Promotion) has followed nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy since 2010. After a stint as disarmament envoy for the Republic of Nauru, he co-founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Germany. Today he is in Brussels for ICAN and Transparency International.


Free passes for InterRail ?


Vincent Delhomme, 14 October 2016

Violeta Bulc, the Commissioner for Transport, recently told the European Parliament[1] that she was ready to carry through an old idea of offering free InterRail tickets to all young adults turning eighteen, sparking a wave of enthusiasm among MEPs and Brussels officials. These tickets enable their holders to travel by train freely through Europe for a certain number of weeks and has quickly become a masterpiece of the young European tool-kit. The aim of such a measure is clear: enhancing youth mobility and fostering the European feeling among new generations. However, if on the face of it, the plan may sound appealing, it is neither a legitimate policy instrument, nor an efficient way of fighting Euroscepticism and increasing mobility.

First and foremost, this idea will be costly, tremendously costly. Estimates vary from 1,5 to 3 billion euros, between 1 and 2 % of the EU budget, at a time where this budget is precisely subject to fierce negotiations and is put under stronger pressure due to the financial impact of Brexit. Which program is going to be trimmed in order to pay for this generous plan? Which other source of financing is available? These remain open questions.

It is not to say that building a European sense of belonging is not worth a couple of billions. It undoubtedly does. But it is doubtful that offering InterRail passes is the best way of reviving the love for the EU among youngsters. Frequent trips throughout Europe are already a reality for many young Europeans thanks to InterRail and low-cost carrier flights. Alternatively, this money would be better employed to fund the Erasmus programme whose financing has been put under threat for the last years and which still remains inaccessible for many students. This money could also be provisioned for the programme of an apprenticeship Erasmus, put forward by the French MEP Jean Arthuis[2].

This idea is also problematic on a political point of view. Is it really the role of a government to offer free journeys with taxpayer’s money? And even if it were, is it the role of the European Union? If something needs to be done to help the least well-off to discover their continent, it seems that national governments are perfectly capable, and better suited, to conduct such a policy. At a time where resentment for the Union is at a record high, when it is regarded as an out of touch and wasteful institution, it is not the moment to make its detractors right.

Moreover, the EU has better tools at its disposal to make travelling easier and cheaper for all European citizens. It could carry on with the opening of the European rail network to competition, especially international lines, currently in limbo. If the EU seeks to increase mobility as a whole, it should continue to break down barriers on the continent, a task it has been very good at for the last decades.

Simply put, this plan is demagogic and clientelistic. It is just wrong to buy the love and support of the voters with gifts. It is ridiculous to expect to get the respect of young people by offering them a trip to explore the night-clubs of Budapest and Berlin. Youngsters are perfectly capable of rationally understanding why the EU is so important in their lives and for their future. The EU is an extraordinary journey that has done more than any other institution to connect the European peoples, and this is precisely why it should give up this idea that undermines its credibility and will do nothing to improve it.



Vincent Delhomme is currently a student of the College of Europe, Legal Studies Department.

A la source de la radicalisation: comprendre les causes, imaginer des solutions

Tommaso Emiliani, 1 September 2016

Post originally published on ForYouth.


Students from the Chopin Promotion at the College of Europe taking part to the project “EUnited against Extremism”

Un concept qui échappe une définition univoque. L’Europe contemporaine vit quotidiennement l’échec de ses services de sécurité et d’intelligence vis-à-vis de l’élaboration d’une stratégie efficace de prévention des attentats. Une des raisons principales reste dans la difficulté de définir le processus de radicalisation des aspirants terroristes et d’identifier les conditions et les sujets aptes à faciliter la réussite de ce processus. Cela s’explique par le fait que la radicalisation ne se suffit pas à elle-même, mais existe selon un contexte déterminé par des facteurs sociaux, politiques et économiques.
Dans le cadre de l’Europe, le radicalisme actuel peut être mieux décrit comme un développement progressif de croyances extrêmes et d’idéologies qui remettent en question les valeurs et le régime politique au nom de l’islam politique. Si à cet aspect plutôt théorique s’ajoute une composante pratique – ce qu’on appelle « extrémisme » – le chemin vers l’acte criminel est marqué.

Push factors et pull factors. Dans la différence de cas particuliers, le trait commun à l’origine de la radicalisation semble être une prédisposition des individus aux sentiments de frustration par rapports à leur vie, à la société qui les entoure ou au système politique qui les incube. Les mouvements extrémistes sont capables d’intercepter ce mécontentement et d’offrir, selon le besoin, un « sens » et une « mission » aux jeunes désorientés; une réaction à l’ « injustice » vécue ou aperçue; un sentiment d’appartenance aux membres de communautés désormais atomisées.
L’impossibilité de dresser un profil unique de l’« extrémiste potentiel » et l’incapacité de cerner les motifs individuels au cœur de la quête radicale sont justement à la base de l’inefficacité de la réponse portée par les autorités européennes.

Des facteurs de risque différents pour des profils personnels variés. L’action de persuasion des mouvements extrémistes vise un public vaste et mélangé. Les jeunes à la recherche d’un sens existentiel trouve dans l’extrémisme violent cette dimension utopique – plutôt eschatologique que religieuse – qui manque à leur vie. C’est le « grande récit » dont parle O. Roy, qui offre une lecture simplifiée et manichéenne de la réalité. Ainsi s’explique le changement soudain opéré par la radicalisation sur des sujets occidentalisés et peu croyants auparavant, qui se transforment en prédicateurs de l’Apocalypse en très peu de temps.
Sur un autre front, plusieurs jeunes cultivés, issus de familles relativement aisées et bourgeoises, sont motivés par le désir de redresser les « injustices » de la société contemporaine. Que ce soit l’oppression de l’héritage colonial en Afrique et Moyen-Orient, l’« impérialisme » américain en Afghanistan et en Irak ou la situation de la Palestine actuelle, ces injustices provoquent un élan de révolte radicale que seul les mouvements extrémistes semblent comprendre et apaiser.
Enfin, un autre segment social constituant le squelette des groupes terroristes est représenté par des individus marginalisés à l’intérieur de leur communautés et qui cherchent un point de repère dans la « camaraderie héroïque » typique des bandes vouées à l’(auto)destruction. Ces jeunes, qui agissent souvent sans l’appui ou la connaissance de leurs familles et groupes d’amis, sont très loin de ce que l’approche culturaliste de certains média définit comme « exemples de la population musulmane radicalisée ». Bien au contraire, il s’agit de sujets qui – n’étant pas intégrés dans le réseau des mosquées et dans les pratiques sociales communautaires – choisissent de s’échapper de la société pour essayer de la détruire et prendre ainsi leur revanche.

Raffiner l’étude de la radicalisation: fondamentalisme ≠ djihadisme. Toute stratégie de prévention de menaces terroristes de la part des autorités publiques doit tenir compte de la différence existante entre le salafisme doctrinal et l’action politique terroriste de soi-disant djihadistes.
Le fondamentalisme enseigné par certains imams érudits, qui prévoit une approche littéraliste à la lecture du Qu’ran et une stricte observance des mœurs et rituels traditionnels, exprime sans doute une vision anti-moderne et ultraconservatrice de la société. Cependant, très rarement ce courant religieux trouve une débouchée politique dans l’action radicale violente. En effet, la pratique de l’exposition à la mort, les attaques médiatisées et les techniques employées par les extrémistes sont eux même des éléments trop modernistes pour le fondamentalisme. En outre, le salafisme requiert une connaissance et une maîtrise du texte sacré qui requiert des années d’étude, et qui s’adapte mal aux profils des jeunes occidentales radicalisés décrits plus haut.
Le djihadisme, par contre, travaille sur le plan de l’action. Charmés par la dimension totalisante de l’aventure radicale, les jeunes « moudjahidins » ne passent pas par l’étude approfondie du Qu’ran – souvent ils parlent très peu d’arabe – et se dédient plutôt à la « lutte ». C’est le cas de tant de jeunes combattant parmi les troupes de DAESH en ce moment : ils font la guerre à leurs « ennemis », s’occupant très peu des questions religieuses, et se mêlant encore moins au contexte de la société civile locale. Si le fondamentalisme procède par « endoctrinement », le djihadisme travaille par « embrigadement ».
Cependant, il serait naïf de ne pas reconnaître un lien entre le deux phénomènes. En effet, lorsque les jeunes radicalisés se vouent au djihadisme, un certain degré de fondamentalisme apparaît – et cela complique ultérieurement la situation et rend le travail de prévention et réaction encore plus difficile.

Des recommandations stratégiques. Le ton martial récemment assumé par le président français Hollande et nombre de ses collègues reflet le choix européen en faveur d’une politique contre-terroriste strictement sécuritaire. Le risque reste en la
mise en scène d’une guerre des identités, dans laquelle l’islam est censé être l’ennemi antisocial. C’est-à-dire que l’on provoque ce que DAESH attend: que l’Europe s’en prenne à l’islam afin de sortir le djihadisme du cercle restreint des individus actuellement concernés.
L’incapacité de distinguer entre fondamentalisme et djihadisme mène à l’insistance sur la nécessité de surveiller (ou même fermer) les mosquées. Mais comme l’on voit souvent, les groupes extrémistes recrutent en dehors des mosquées et sur internet. S’en prendre aux mosquées, c’est aussi méconnaître les dynamiques locales de surveillance qui existent entre les celles-ci et les autorités publiques locales.
D’autre côté, attribuer une importance excessive à l’ « asocialité » et au « nihilisme » des djihadistes, comme le fait Roy, implique une déresponsabilisation des gouvernements européens par rapport à l’échec de leurs stratégies d’intégration sociale qui ne joue pas en faveur d’une approche préventive et efficace à la menace terroriste.

Certaines actions doivent être mise en place au plus vite possible. Premièrement, dans nos sociétés, l’islam n’est pas suffisamment encore un objet de savoir. A présent, il est enseigné dans les manuels scolaires comme un objet de croyance, notamment à travers des mythes fondateurs, mais il n’est pas expliqué ni aux croyants ni aux non croyants. Cela n’alimente pas simplement le fondamentalisme islamiste, mais également les préjudices occidentaux qui renforce l’attrait de l’offre djihadiste. Deuxièmement, la réponse sécuritaire doit s’accompagner de moyens et d’actions sur le long terme dans des secteurs clefs comme l’éducation civique, l’emploi, l’enseignement et la cohésion sociale. Le chemin pour faire face à la radicalisation est long et difficile, et l’Europe a sans doute un rôle à jouer.

Burgat, François, Réponse à Olivier Roy : les non-dits de « l’islamisation de la radicalité », Nouvel Observateur, a-olivier-roy-les-non-dits-lislamisation-radicalite-262320
Deroubaix, Christophe, Raphaël Liogier : « Le risque est de provoquer ce que l’on veut éviter », L’Humanité, provoquer-ce-que-lon-veut-eviter-590011
Lamlili Nadia, Rachid Benzine: « Pour faire face à Daesh, il est temps de nettoyer l’imaginaire islamique »,  Jeune Afrique, de-nettoyer-limaginaire-islamique/
Puwels, Lieven et Fabienne Brion (coord.), « Comprendre et expliquer le rôle des nouveaux médias sociaux dans la formation de l’extrémisme violent », Etudé commissioné par la Police Belege Fédéral (BESPO), 2013
Roy, Olivier: « Le djihadisme est une révolte générationnelle et nihiliste », Le Monde, revolte-generationnelle-et-nihiliste_4815992_3232.html#RcSp4GwHwRUJKmOL.99
Torrekens, Corinne, Comprendre le basculement dans la violence jihadiste, La Revue Nouvelle, violence-2835

Tommaso Emiliani is Academic Assistant in the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies at the College of Europe, Bruges. He is an alumnus from the Falcone&Borsellino Promotion, Natolin.

Germany Follows Cameron’s Lead In Treating EU Workers As Foreigners

Post originally published on, 5 May 2016

Ideas spread fast, bad ideas spread faster. Over the last few months, the European Commission has tried to give new impulse towards achieving a ‘Social Triple A’ rating. At the beginning of March, Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen launched a social package comprising an outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights and some ideas to facilitate labour mobility. Continue reading

After the Brussels Attack: Time to Build Transboundary Crisis Management Capacity

by Arjen Boin, Mark Rhinard and Magnus Ekengren

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, in combination with the ongoing refugee crisis, demonstrate to many the risks of increased integration and open borders. In response, the borders are closing and the walls are coming up. The European road towards integration is running into roadblocks.

It is a scenario that EU-skeptics envisioned when the European Union began to speed up its march towards integration in the 1990s. Scholars and skeptics warned that the rise of integration would create new risks: transboundary threats that do not fall neatly within the geographic borders of a country, or politely confine themselves to a well-marked policy sector. Continue reading