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COMPARATIVE EUROPEAN POLITICS

Questions
1. What can account for the variation in levels of European identity across Europe?
2. Why do some European countries have strong anti-immigrant sentiment and others have very
little?
3. Why did strong secularist movements emerge in some countries and not in others?
4. Why is nationalism expressed in violent terms in some places, but not others. Write in reference
to at least two European countries.
5. Why is it that welfare state retrenchment is on the agenda in so many European countries?
6. Why is corruption a problem in some European countries and not in others? You may want to
consider how corruption is measured in your answer.
7. Why is there so much stability in some European party systems and so much volatility in others?
8. Considering European countries assess whether people are more or less interested in politics
now than previously. Think about how we might measure the concept of political interest.
9. Why can’t European countries coordinate to tax MNCs more even though most citizens want
them to?

 

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Introduction

The emergence and spread of democracy in Europe has witnessed various socio-cultural, economic, and political challenges. The existence of numerous challenges has resulted to variations in developments among members of the European Nations. Some of the variations are in party systems, taxation, migration sentiments, and corruption. Immigrants and minority groups have witnessed severe challenges in their integration in the European nations due to discrimination. The end of Communism form of government led to the divergence in the way nations organised their governance. So far, European governments have either adopted centralized or decentralized form of administration.

Accounting for the variations in European Identity across Europe

Development of European identity is vital for the effective establishment of European Integration. Under a European identity, individuals aim at achieving common goals by integrating their respective socio-cultural, political, and economic situations. Various factors impinge on the effective implementation of European. Sanders (2012, P.133) notes that European identity is pegged on structural factors associated with economic integration and political conditions among member states. Sanders also states that the variation can be explained by the influence of immigration and globalization, the effectiveness of governance, importance attached to national identity, and prevailing economic situations in individual states. European identity is subordinate to the national identity thus when people attach a lot of importance to national identity, the European identity is inconsequential. Deterioration of economic situation as depicted by the increased unemployment levels impact on European Identity negatively, while lack of effective governance in member states have affected the European identity. The variations also stem from a lack of comprehension of geographic, socio-cultural diversity, and the history behind the development of European identity. Furthermore, effective roll out of European identity revolves around identifying common values, mutual respect among states, and interdependence. Therefore, divergent beliefs, political interests, socio-cultural differences between nations, prevailing economic situations, and governance levels explain the variations in European identity.

Variations in anti-migrant sentiments

Globalization has played a crucial role in defining the contemporary migration pattern in Europe. Checkel and Katzenstein (2009, p. 167) identify three forms of migration in Europe, East-West, ethnic, and elite migration. The variation in anti-migration sentiments across Europe is due to the political ideologies pursued by individual nations in Europe. Williams (2006,p.59-61) further notes that political parties blamed immigrants for the prevailing social challenges in Europe such as reduced education standards, insecurity, poor healthcare, and erosion of morals. The political parties used all means to propagate against immigration such as media, demonstrations, leaflets, and the internet. As a result, people developed hate and distrust towards immigrants instead of pressuring governments to address prevailing social challenges. The variations emerge due to the need to secure a livelihood, as immigrants offered cheap labour. Some political states endorsed ideologies that favoured immigration since immigrants provided labour and diversity required in the workforce. The variations in anti-migrant sentiments among European nations revolve around policies pursued in integrating minority groups such as immigrants into the social and cultural frameworks.

Emergence of secularist movements

The emergence of strong secularist movements in some European nations stemmed from the stance taken by the dominant church. States that allowed the church to dominate the national life were vulnerable to strong secularist movements. Before the collapse of communism, the church played a significant role in social policy formulation and implementation. Particularly, the church required people to follow certain codes and exercised its political influence (Hay 2007, p. 233). Hay further notes that people formed movements to oppose forced loyalty and excessive political control by the church. People wanted more freedom over their sexual and family lives, which was under threat by the Catholic Church. Secularist movements aim at promoting democracy by reducing the role of the church in political affairs and protect religion rights of minority groups in society such as immigrants.

Hay (2007, p. 234) also indicates that minority groups rely on religion for identity. Religions that pursued different interests were less prone to opposition from secularist movements and gained popularity with people. Prugl and Thiel (2009, p. 102-103) observe that the variation in secularism was attributed to the policies and approaches followed by individual European nations in integrating minority groups predominately the Muslims. Germany adopted exclusive policies that limited the participation and recognition of Islam in public matters. Conversely, Holland pursued inclusive policies that aimed at ensuring minority groups were equally represented. Therefore, variations in anti-migrant sentiments were associated with the role of the dominant church and individual policies pursued by varying states.

Variations in expressing nationalism

Various European nations differ in how they articulate nationalism with some using violent methods. Under constructive nationalism, people aim at establishing attaining personal autonomy and modernizing operations. Destructive nationalism seeks to remove elements considered threats to the majority population. Under the destructive form of nationalism, immigrants and minorities become targets since they are impediments in the achievement of common cultural identity. France and Scandinavia activists sought to remove refugees and immigrants. Politicians promote violence against immigrants by advancing propaganda against them.  Religion also played an important role in expressing nationalism violently. Europe is predominated by three churches, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. The Catholic and Protestant Churches have previously witnessed political tensions with a view of seeking control in jurisdictions thereby leading to violence. Dominant churches have also failed to recognize religious beliefs observed by minority groups such as Islam and Judaism.

Prevalence of welfare state retrenchment

Recently, European nations have faced economic crises associated with globalization that have exerted pressure on the available resources. As a result, governments have devised ways to adjust to the financial crises. One of the ways is by undertaking welfare state retrenchment. Maintaining welfare programs exerts huge financial costs to individual jurisdictions due to the financial outlay needed to provide medical and social support services. Current demographic reports have indicated a reduction in birth rates and a growth in the ageing population. A rise in the aging population exerts pressure on the working population leading to increased taxes. Governments plan to undertake welfare state retrenchment risk losing popularity with the electorate since welfare allocations form a crucial campaign tool. The issues surrounding welfare state retrenchment cut across the need to spur economic growth, the need to reduce financial expenditure in light of financial constraints, and the need to promote the social welfare of people.

Variations in corruption levels among European nations

Corruption levels vary significantly among European nations. According to recent Corruption Perceptions Index reports, Denmark remains the country with the lowest levels of corruption while Romania and Bulgaria have the highest levels among European Nations. Magone (2015, p. 687) notes that there is the lack of whistleblower protection in many European Nations. As a result, institutions are unwilling to report corruption cases due to fear of reprisals. Notably, only United Kingdom and Norway have favourable legal structures for protecting whistleblowers. Lack of mechanisms to protect whistleblowers enables corruption to thrive since the perpetrators face no criticism. Magone (2015, p. 676) also notes that the variance in corruption levels is attributed to weak institutional frameworks in some countries. The institutional frameworks hinder transparency in financial operations and foster organized crime. The variations emerge from the concentration of power to some individuals who end up amassing massive wealth at the expense of social welfare. Furthermore, corrupt individuals are highly connected and have protection mechanisms that prevent them from prosecution. Copsey and Haughton (2009, p. 58) reveal that the legislative and judicial systems in some European nations promote corruption since they fail to enforce measures to deal with corrupt cases especially Romania. The lack of political competition has also led to widespread cases of corruption and variations levels in some European nations (Copsey & Haughton 2009, p. 45). Countries with a high per capita income have low levels of corruption compared to those with lower ones.

Measurement of corruption involves analysis of indicators such as the level of democracy, the degree of market liberalization, and structural conditions such as degree of industrialization. The most common method for measuring corruption is the use of Corruption Perceptions Index. Other methods include the World Bank Control of Corruption Index.

Causes of variations in European party systems

There exists varying stability among European party systems that arise due to various factors. Lewis (2000, p. 150) notes that authoritarian tendencies in some countries has impinged on the growth of political parties. Lewis asserts that instability arises due to lack of strong membership and inadequate support from electorates. Furthermore, some political parties have inadequate structures that result to limited engagement with local activities and population. In addition, Lewis notes that some political parties lack unison where there are splinter groups and lack sound political ideologies. Some political parties have also failed to engage the public in making essential decisions. Lack of popularity among the electorate has denied parties representation in government. Organization of political parties leads to instability. Particularly, some party systems operate without effective party discipline that leads to lack of unity, loyalty, and the pursuit of self-interests among members. Some political systems benefit from strong coalitions of political parties. Strong coalitions ensure that parties remain stable and operational. Stability ensures the party system remains relevant among the electorates. The instability in some party systems also emerges from power struggles among politicians after failing to agree on issues such as nomination.

Contemporary political interest among European citizens

Recent findings have established that Europeans are gradually losing interest in politics. The loss in interest is evident by the low voter turnout in elections and dismal registration in political parties. Political parties remain reserved for the old people. A survey carried out by Central European Network of Youth Research (CENYR) in 2005 established that young people’s interest and participation in political issues is low. Furthermore, the report suggests that youths have shifted their attention to contemporary issues affecting society such as environment changes and human rights. Ziebertzand Kay (2005,as cited in the CENYR report, p.146) note that the disinterest in politics among youth is due to a lack of comprehension of politics, corrupt politicians, failure of politics to address social challenges, and self-interest among politicians. Additionally, youths feel that politics fails to address their needs and their individual efforts cannot bring about change in society. Des and Sedelmeier (2011) further state that Europeans have gradually lost trust in their leaders due to undelivered expectations. Trust in political institutions and leadership affects people’s perceptions towards politics. Research findings have established that trust is high in Scandinavian nations and as such, people in these nations tend to have a relatively high interest in politics. Berglund (2006, p.166) adds that people’s disinterest towards politics is as a result of poor perceptions towards politics, failure of politics to address prevailing challenges, and scepticism.

Political interest may be measured by coming up with sustainable indicators. The indicators will seek to establish the voter turnout in elections compared to the total eligible electorate. The indicator will also evaluate the annual number of enrolment into political parties. The indicator may also show the total number of people who attend political conferences. Political interest is also measured by conducting a poll to establish the number of times people talk about politics. The poll will also address people’s general outlook and perceptions on politics.

Taxing of MNCs

The tax structure of a nation plays a crucial role in defining location and success of MNCs and other essential businesses. Multinational companies engage in profit shifting by transferring operations from high tax areas to jurisdictions with favourable tax rates to reduce operation costs and maximize profits. Contemporary research has established that an increase in statutory and corporation tax leads to profit shifting. Therefore, European nations engage in restructuring their tax bases in order to attract capital inflows, firms, and profits. O’Donnell (as cited in Barry 2000, p.487) indicates that Ireland remains a favourable investment destination for MNCs due to its reduced corporation tax. The low tax has led to increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) that lead to increased economic welfare. A move to increase tax among MNCs will result to a reduction in FDIs and reduced revenue since MNCs shift profits from high-tax jurisdictions to low-tax areas. O’Donnell (2010, p.488) notes that MNCs shift profits in two ways, via financing avenues for affiliates and via prices used in intra-industry trade of commodities. The existence of transfer pricing results to the reduction of tax revenues. European nations also lack reliable mechanisms for accounting for transferring pricing due to tax differentials. An increase in tax will result in fiscal challenges that emerge from reduced revenues. The lack of coordination among European nations to increase tax for MNCs also emerges from a desire to promote investments, increase revenue base, tax differentials, and transfer pricing.

 

List of References

Barry, F., 2000, “A Note on Transfer Pricing and the R&D Intensity of Irish Manufacturing” Dublin: Centre for Economic Research

Berglund, S., 2006, “The Making of the European Union: Foundations, Institutions, and      Future Trends”, Northampton, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Checkel, J. T., & Katzenstein, P. J., 2009, “European identity” Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press.

Copsey, N., & Haughton, T., 2009, “The JCMS annual review of the European Union in         2008”, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell.

Des, M., & Sedelmeier U., 2011, Developments in European Politics 2. New York, NY. Palgrave Macmillan.

European Conference on E-Government, & O’donnell, D., 2010, “The 10th European Conference on e-Government 17-18 June 2010”, Reading: Academic Publishing.

Hay, C., 2007, “European politics” Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press

Lewis, P., 2000, “Political Parties in Post-Communist Eastern Europe” New York, NY. Routledge.

Magone, J, M., 2015, “Routledge Handbook of European Politics” New York, NY. Routledge.

PrüGl, E., & Thiel, M. 2009, “Diversity in the European Union”, New York, NY: Palgrave          Macmillan. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=599379.

Sanders, D. , 2012, “Citizens and the European polity: mass attitudes towards the European and national polities”, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Williams, M. H., 2006, “The Impact of Radical Right-Wing Parties in West European Democracies”, New York, Palgrave Macmillan. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=308242.

Ziebertz, H.-G., & Kay, W. K., 2005, “Youth in Europe” Munster, Germany, Lit Verlag

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