(openDemocracy) The European Union’s problem is substance, not narrative

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The hard fact that ‘pro-Europeans’ have to grasp is that for many people the EU is not at all that great. Quite the contrary, the EU imposes tough economic rules, yet gives little palpable in return.

The argument that Euroskepticism could be overcome by better ‘framing’PR techniques or a ‘new narrative’ appeals to many ‘pro-Europeans’. Its logic is simple: the EU does good things, but they are complex by nature and thus difficult to understand. Therefore, the solution surely lies in simplifying the language, engaging the skeptics on Twitter and carrying the day. Sadly, this belief reflects the pro-European elite’s failure to grasp the deeper reality of what shapes people’s perceptions and what the EU today does.

In fact, the EU’s problem is not the absence of a catchy narrative, but the presence of a rather unpopular substance. The lack of a positive narrative is only the most visible sign of the EU’s growing institutional and ideological tensions and this is what the pro-Europeans should really be worrying about, rather than decrying the lack of spin. Continue reading

(openDemocracy) The myth of American recovery

trapped (Medium)By conceding that growing inequality is the main challenge facing the US, President Barack Obama finally admitted last week that the much lauded “recovery” is a myth.

In recent months, not a single day has gone by without reports of America’s impressive bounce-back and strong GDP growth. Financial experts and TV hosts have been very eager to emphasize surging stock market indexes and what good this brings to the world’s largest economy. Talk show guests have been underlining the strength of US economic crisis management, while pointing their fingers at Europeans who are just muddling through. More often than not, leading European voices appeared to agree.

Who would blame them? The US annualized GDP growth has reached 2.8% in this year’s third quarter – quite impressive when compared with the comatose 0.1% registered by the Eurozone. On the market front, Twitter’s IPO in November was a success even to the casual observer: at the end of the first trading day the company’s valuation peaked at $30 billion. Buyers of its stocks could cash as much as 70% in profit if they sold just 24 hours later. So, if the economy is growing and the stock market is booming, surely the recovery must be unquestionably here!

Or is it? What does recovery stand for? Should we cheer GDP growth and stock market performance, or should we rather look at household earnings, job quality and levels of poverty? What does really count, abstract statistics or people’s incomes, jobs?…

Read the rest of the piece on openDemocracy.

(OpenDemocracy) Slovenia in turmoil

In the last months, a wave of protest and anger has swept through Slovenia, as thousands of people challenge the corrupt and out-of-touch political elite of a country that was once considered the wunderkind of democratic transition in the region.

Slovenia is currently sailing the roughest seas since it gained independence more than twenty years ago. The country that was once considered a wunderkind of democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe, registering solid economic growth and political stability, joining the European Union (EU) and NATO in 2004, adopting the Euro in 2007, is now enmeshed in a political paralysis of significant proportion, with no clear end in sight.

Before the crisis hit Europe’s economy, Slovenia had already confidently climbed the ladder and reached 91 percent of the average GDP per capita in the EU. Things were good. Unemployment was at historically lowest levels, just above 6 percent, prosperity was tangible. Shopping malls were full, real estate prices booming, the average car on the street was a solid German Volkswagen. A kind of Slovenian Dream was there, for everyone. Then reality hit. Continue reading

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