European Council on Foreign Relations

Eurosceptic surge: View from Rome

The Italian electoral campaign for the May European elections sees more than ten parties competing for seats in the European Parliament: the government’s centre-left Democratic Party (DP), Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI), the New Centre-Right (NCD), the anti-establishment Five Stars Movement (5SM), the eurosceptic Lega Nord (LN), the leftish Tsipras List and other minor parties, which won’t enter the EP. 

According to recent opinion polls on Italians’ voting intentions in the next EP elections by the research institute EMG (as of 7 April), only four parties, DP, FI, 5SM and LN, and one coalition are expected to reach the 4 percent threshold needed to gain seats at the EP. 

The party expected to get the most votes is the DP (33.9 percent of Italians declared their intention to vote for the DP, an increase of 0.4 percent in one week). The DP is the only party that clearly

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French Angst and European malaise

European Elections – The View from Paris

A deeply unpopular centre-left government, a fractious centre-right opposition, a rising far-right party led by a canny politician popular far beyond the ranks of the party faithful - France, with Germany one of the pivotal power in EU politics, is prey to a growing economic and political malaise that could soon send shockwaves through European politics. The  second round of the town hall elections this Sunday look  confirmed that the National Front led by Marine Le Pen benefits like no other party from many French voters' disillusionment with national and European politics. In the first round of voting on 23 March, the Front National scored a number of resounding mayoral race victories, boosted the number of elected officials and, as importantly, positioned itself as kingmaker in numerous races between the centre-left socialist party and

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The politics and economics of sanctions against Russia

Vladimir Putin, it is clear, has a particularly old fashioned view of power: it can always be distilled into something resembling an arm wrestle involving gunboats, ununiformed military specialists, and the odd tank on the odd street corner. The EU, it is clear, is not in the same game. How then, can it have a foreign policy impact when dealing with those who talk loudly and feel free to use the big stick they routinely brandish?

One answer is of course sanctions. They are the frontline response of the EU to the Kremlin over events in Crimea. But they are also controversial: do they work and - if so - how can they be crafted to achieve the best outcome? ECFR's Wider Europe team held a seminar to discuss these and other related issues. The two main speakers were Mark Galeotti of New York University and Timothy Ash of Standard Bank. I packaged up their main thoughts into two clear

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Sisi declares his presidency run

© Zuma Press, Inc / Alamy

During the First World War the British government used a highly effective and innovative series of propaganda posters in which Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener pointed at the viewer declaring "Your country needs you" or variations on that phrase. Almost a year after declaring that there was no personal ambition in his decision to oust the elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, General Abdelfattah al-Sisi has finally declared he will run for the presidency in a propaganda declaration that heavily plays on the same theme - that "Egypt needs you".

The choreography and the message were crafted to advise citizens that the army, the embodiment of the Egyptian state and identity, had deemed his presidency and Egyptians' support as necessary to save the nation. In a speech doused in menacing sentimentality (and abusing the platform of state

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Polarised Turkey goes to the polls

These are tense days for Turkey. I'm spending the week in Istanbul and Ankara as the country is bracing itself for Sunday's local elections. Drama is in the air. Hardly a day passes without a new secretly taped recording of Prime Minster Erdoğan, his family or close associates coming online. The opposition, including Fethullah Gülen's shadowy partisans (the famed cemaat, “the community”) is up at arms, accusing the government of corruption. Twitter is blocked – but everyone is tirelessly tweeting, having become experts overnight on getting around the ban. Last Sunday Prime Minister Erdoğan addressed more than a million fervent supporters threatening to take down Facebook and YouTube (as of yesterday, YouTube is blocked as well). Few seem to doubt his resolve, but it's clear that it’s a battle one cannot win. A court has already suspended the ban pending the appeal.

It is clear that

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