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Environmental Policy and European Union Politics  

Diarmuid Torney

The European Union (EU) has developed an extensive body of environmental policies spanning a wide range of areas. No other international organization shapes the environmental affairs of its members to anywhere near the same extent. However, implementation of environmental policy has remained a persistent challenge, and Europeanization of member states’ environmental policies remains partial. There has not been a wholescale convergence of environmental policy, though the differentiation between leaders and laggards is not as stark as it once was. The rules, regulations, and policies that make up EU environmental policy have increasingly impacted not only member states but also the wider world, and the EU has emerged as a key player in global environmental politics across a range of policy domains. It has been central to the creation of many international environmental regimes and has integrated environmental issues into a variety of facets of its external relations. Looking forward, increasingly stark warnings from bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services should raise questions regarding existing responses to environmental challenges, which to a significant extent favor incremental over transformational change. The EU faces the task of responding to these profound challenges against the backdrop of increasing political turbulence at home and abroad. Over the past decade, the EU has been beset by profound challenges that have shaped both its internal and external environmental policies. At home, the EU has been shaken by the global financial crisis as well as the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU. The EU’s external environment is to a growing extent shaped by nativist regimes such as Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, both of whom seem determined to undermine not just the foundations of global environmental governance but the rules-based international order more generally. The coming generation of scholarship on EU environmental policy will need to reflect upon how these competing forces serve to reshape the EU’s environmental policies.

Article

Future Scenarios of the European Union  

Brigid Laffan

Debate on the future of the European Union (EU) never abates because the Union is a polity characterized by considerable change in its internal and external environment. Scenarios are an important tool in mapping possible futures for the Union as they bring underlying trends into focus. Four scenarios on the future of the EU are presented: disintegration, piecemeal adjustment, functional federalism, and a United States of Europe. The political and policy battle concerning the future of the Union is between scenario piecemeal adjustment, the dominant response to the crisis and to events on Europe’s borders, and functional federalism, defined as more integration but in defined fields. Piecemeal adjustment represents a Union that muddles through, incremental reform, whereas functional federalism represents a Union that garners sufficient political capacity to be more strategic in particular functional areas. Systemic disintegration is regarded as unlikely, but partial disintegration may occur because of the exit of the United Kingdom, challenges to a number of EU regimes, and the threats to the Union’s normative order from some member states. A united states of Europe, is highly unlikely as the member states are not in favor of transforming the Union into a state-like federation. The degree of contestation about the future of the EU precludes a transformation of the system at this juncture. Three intervening factors will have a major impact on the future of the EU: the profound changes in the global environment, turbulent politics in the member states, and the Franco-German relationship as a source of leadership in the Union.

Article

The BRICS Countries and the European Union  

Bas Hooijmaaijers and Stephan Keukeleire

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) have, since the beginning of the 21st century, gained greater influence in global political and economic affairs and, since 2006, also steadily developed and increased their political dialogue and cooperation. South Africa joining the BRICS political grouping in 2011 was matched by a strengthening of the BRICS dialogue. This was reflected in the broadening range of issues covered, the increasing level of specificity of the BRICS joint declarations and cooperation, and the institutionalization of BRICS cooperation in various policy fields, including the creation of the New Development Bank (NDB). Notwithstanding the increased interaction between the BRICS states on the various political, economic, and diplomatic levels, the countries differ considerably in their political, economic, military, and demographic weight and interests and in their regional and global aspirations. China particularly stands out among the BRICS due to its political and economic weight. There are sufficient reasons to question the significance and impact of the BRICS format. Still, the BRICS countries have found each other in their commitment to counter the “unjust” Western-dominated multilateral world in which they are generally underrepresented. The EU did not develop a “BRICS policy” as such, which is understandable given the major differences between the BRICS countries and the ambiguous nature of the BRICS format. To deal with the various emerging powers and complement its predominantly regional partnerships, the EU instead institutionalized and deepened the political and economic bilateral relations with each of the BRICS countries, including through the objective of establishing a bilateral “strategic partnership” with each of these countries. However, the analysis of the EU’s relationship with the BRICS countries indicates that the label “strategic partnerships” mainly served as a rhetorical façade which belied that the EU failed to turn these relationships into real strategic partnerships and to behave strategically toward the BRICS countries. Another challenge for the EU appears when analyzing the BRICS within the broader context of various emerging power constellations and multilateral frameworks, including variations of the BRICS format (such as BRICS Plus, BASIC, and IBSA), multilateral frameworks with one or more BRICS countries at their center (such as the SCO, EAEU, and BRI), and regional forums launched by China. Taken together, they point to an increasingly dense set of partially overlapping formal and informal networks on all political, diplomatic, and administrative levels, covering an ever-wider scope of policy areas and providing opportunities for debate, consultation, and coordination. Whereas most of these forums are in and of themselves not very influential, taken together they have an impact on the EU and its traditional view on multilateralism in several ways. Seen from this perspective, the BRICS and other multilateral forums pose major challenges for both European diplomats and European scholars. They will have to make considerable efforts to understand and engage with these various forums, which are manifestations of an increasingly influential and powerful non-Western world wherein the role of Europe is much more limited.

Article

Global Actors: Networks, Elites, and Institutions  

Mikael Rask Madsen and Mikkel Jarle Christensen

Over the past several decades scholars have intensively debated what factors drive globalization. Answers have ranged from the emergence of the information society and the global economy to value-conflicts embedded in different civilizations. A different yet closely related question is who is driving globalization? That is, however, much less studied, even if it is arguably key to making global governance intelligible. A whole list of actors seem to offer possible answers to the question of who the globalizers are: Are they global institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the International Criminal Court (ICC); communities of experts providing technocratic solutions; transnational networks of activists seeking to alter global and national politics by pursuing, for example, environmental or human rights agendas; or are they powerful individuals forming transnational elites taking the fate of the global society in their hands at a safe distance from ordinary politics in places such as Brussels, New York, or Davos?

Article

The Politics of Domestic Taxation  

Lucy Barnes

All governments require revenue, and domestic taxes are the primary means for generating it. Yet both the size and shape of taxation vary significantly across countries and have been transformed over time. What explains variation in domestic taxation? To answer this question, recent scholarship on taxation has focused on the politics of taxation as a tool for redistribution. This has led to a wide body of research on the fiscal impact of taxation and on the introduction, evolution, and variation in direct and progressive tax regimes, particularly the income tax. Yet the focus on taxation as a redistributive tool yields a puzzle, as more progressive tax systems tend to be found where redistribution is in fact the lowest. Explanations of this paradox often center on the impossibility of high and progressive taxes on capital in the context of international economic integration. Not as well studied are taxes other than the taxation of income, and the deliberate politics of nonfiscal, regulatory, and incentive effects of different tax choices. Methodologically, problems of endogeneity are ubiquitous in the study of tax policy choices, but more sophisticated experimental work is well underway in research on individual preferences for taxation.

Article

Climate and Environmental Crises  

Victor Galaz

Climate change is increasingly being framed as a “climate crisis.” Such a crisis could be viewed both to unfold in the climate system, as well as to be induced by it in diverse areas of society. Following from current understandings of modern crises, it is clear that climate change indeed can be defined as a “crisis.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5oC special report elaborates, the repercussions of a warming planet include increased food insecurity, increased frequency and intensity of severe droughts, extreme heat waves, the loss of coral reef ecosystems and associated marine species, and more. It is also important to note that a range of possible climate-induced crises (through, e.g., possible increased food insecurity and weather extremes) will not be distributed evenly, but will instead disproportionally affect already vulnerable social groups, communities, and countries in detrimental ways. The multifaceted dimensions of climate change allow for multiple interpretations and framings of “climate crisis,” thereby forcing us to acknowledge the deeply contextual nature of what is understood as a “crisis.” Climate change and its associated crises display a number of challenging properties that stem from its connections to basically all sectors in society, its propensity to induce and in itself embed nonlinear changes such as “tipping points” and cascading shocks, and its unique and challenging long-term temporal dimensions. The latter pose particularly difficult decision-making and institutional challenges because initial conditions (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions) do not result in immediate or proportional responses (say, global temperature anomalies), but instead play out through feedbacks among the climate system, oceans, the cryosphere, and changes in forest biomes, with some considerable delays in time. Additional challenges emerge from the fact that early warnings of pending so-called “catastrophic shifts” face numerous obstacles, and that early responses are undermined by a lack of knowledge, complex causality, and severe coordination challenges.

Article

Globalization and Regionalism in Africa  

Pádraig Carmody

Globalization, or increased interconnectedness between world regions, is a dialectical and recursive phenomenon that consequently tends to deepen through time as one set of flows sets off other related or counterflows. This is evident in the history of the phenomenon in Africa, where transcontinental trade, and later investment, were initially small but have grown through different rounds including slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, and the early 21st-century era of globalization. However, globalization on the continent, as in other places, is not unilinear and has generated a variety of “regional responses” in terms of the construction of organizations such as the African Union and other more popularly based associations. The phenomenon of globalization on the continent is deepening through the information technology “revolution,” which also creates new possibilities for regional forms of association.

Article

Colombia: Civilian Control and Militarized Repression  

William Aviles

The relationship between the Colombian armed forces and civilian leaders within the state has been marked historically with the continuity of civilian control and the general avoidance of military coups or regimes. After a series of major civil wars during the 19th century, civil–military relations were guided by the need to preserve the power of economic and political elites, with the military consistently acting as a central pillar in the survival of this elite. Interestingly, in the context of civil–military relations in Latin America, Colombia has been a model of how a regime can pair formal “civilian control” with intensive levels of state repression and violence against opposing forces within civil society. This model has been maintained during periods of relative political stability as well as during periods of widespread internal conflict. Thus, illustrating the limits that formal institutional arrangements within the Colombian state have led to shifts in the behavior of its military.