The chroniclers of the time say that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address surprised everyone in its brevity. His predecessor on the platform, a well-known orator, took two hours to perform a speech of 13,000 words, all forgotten. But Lincoln’s 300 words, delivered in a few minutes, went down in history as containing a definition, in just 11 words, of what a democratic government must be.
That definition was “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” and is not just rhetoric. It is still there today, enshrined in Article 2 of the Constitution of the French Republic, which held its presidential elections on Sunday. Yes, the 1958 Constitution establishes Lincoln’s triple distinction, in the same terms, as the guiding principle of the Republic. Thanks to Lincoln, everyone has a simple yardstick to distinguish a government that is democratic from one that isn’t. Government of
Power can be exercised directly, by submitting an issue to a vote, or more subtly, by eliminating all discussion on a policy and its alternatives from public discourse. What is not talked about does not exist. This is why politicians devote so much energy to controlling the public agenda. This was the way things were in the EU with regard to austerity. But in less than a week the dykes have broken and we are awash in discussion. As with any sudden change, it is easier to explain it after the fact than to predict it before.
In the last two years many voices have been raised in favor of a change of strategy. Yet they always came to nothing. They failed mainly because the people these messages were addressed to might question the legitimacy of those who proposed a change of course. On the one hand, messages from across the Atlantic were rejected on the grounds that the US and the EU
The outcome of the French elections will have a significant impact on the future of austerity and growth in Europe - and the ‘Fiscal Compact’ has become a major topic in this context. As part of our Reinventing Europe project, Sebastian Dullien explains in more detail how the ‘Fiscal Compact’ actually shapes fiscal policy and austerity in Europe and argues that a meaningful 'Growth Compact' may provide the best way forward. Jose Ignacio Torreblanca seems to agree and says that it's time to say “basta” to the nonsense of austerity.
Ulrike Guerot does not think that Hollande is the ‘most dangerous man in Europe’. On the contrary, Hollande might be the right president to reform the French economy and reinvigorate Franco-German relations. Thomas Klau is also convinced that Europe should have no real reason to fear Hollande's victory.
The key debate among journalists these days is what will happen to ‘Merkozy’ if Hollande wins on Sunday - and most seem to agree that it would indeed be a drama for Europe. The Economist even thinks that Hollande would be dangerous for Europe.
I think the Economist got it wrong for the following reasons: Firstly, they tend to overlook how poor the reform balance of Nicholas Sarkozy actually is. Sarkozy wanted to shake things up in 2007 but ran out of steam after fiddling with the 35-hour work week and raising the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. His most recent move has been to reduce labour costs by cutting social insurance charges on payrolls and raising value-added tax on goods and services instead, as Paul Taylor pointed out a couple days ago.
But did Sarkozy reform the French economy in a convincing way? No he didn’t - if he did there wouldn’t be so much talk about it
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Ukraine’s favourite foreign policy game is called ‘multi-vectorness’ – a constant process of ‘eschewing choice’ as this recent study explained. For years Ukraine sought to extract concessions and be treated nicely by both Russia and the EU or US - not because it was sticking to its promises, but because it played sometimes skilfully and sometimes brazenly on contradictions between external actors. A simplified version of the rules of the game, in its Ukrainian version, looks like this:
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