Austria was occupied at the end of World War II by the four Allies, but in contrast to Germany the four powers left in 1955—the condition being its declaration of permanent neutrality, on which the Soviet Union had insisted. In the first half of the 1950s, relations with the new-founded European Coal and Steel Community were being discussed in Austria, because the organization encompassed Austria’s two most important trading partners at that time, West Germany and Italy. But after the uprising in October-November 1956 in neighboring Hungary, Austria started to stress more its neutrality, excluding European Economic Community (EEC) membership. Instead, it joined other European countries to create a less integrated economic entity, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. Not until the mid-1980s did debate about membership in the now European Community (EC) start again. Economic problems and a narrower interpretation of neutrality led to Austria’s application for EC (later European Union) membership in July 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the application of other EFTA countries, Austria finally acceded to the EU on January 1, 1995 (along with Finland and Sweden). The political system and its economy adjusted relatively smoothly to the challenges of EU membership; the “social partnership,” while losing some of its power, could maintain its influence on Austrian politics. Eastern enlargement of the EU brought further economic advantages for Austria. As one of the smaller EU countries and a non-NATO member, Austria has a somewhat unique position in the EU. Environmental policy and supporting EU membership of the Balkan countries are among the important “niches” for Austrian EU activities. But the country has no close partners in the EU, because it is not participating in the “Visegrad” cooperation of the other Central European EU members. This difficulty clearly showed during the “sanctions” period of the EU-14 against the new Austrian government in 2000.
Fifteen years ago Malta joined the European Union (EU) and four years later in 2008 it joined the Economic and Monetary Union. Throughout this period its economy performed exceptionally well, to the extent that it managed to escape the worse ravages of the Great Recession. In general, the majority of the Maltese people support EU membership. Rapid economic growth has produced a general “feel good” sentiment, which is not, however, shared by everyone. The Maltese political system has been dominated for many years by two parties, the Partit Nazzjonalista and the Labour Party, the only ones to elect candidates to the national parliament since 1966. In 2003, the Labour Party, which had opposed EU membership for many years, changed its policy. This brought the curtain down on parliamentary Euroscepticism in the country. In the meantime, economic success has meant that populist small parties have not been able to gain much traction with the electorate, and the established political parties were not dethroned by populist upsurge as happened in most of the rest of southern Europe. Growth has not led only to benefits, however. The construction sector is putting pressure to bear on scarce land resources, and the influx of foreign labor and a growing demand for housing have inflated rents and housing prices, often beyond the reach of lower income households. Unemployment stands at a low 3.8%, but more people are close to the poverty line. Malta is failing on some of the national targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. These challenges will have to be watched more closely in the years to come should this rate of growth be maintained.
Ireland joined the European Communities—as they were known then—in 1973, alongside the United Kingdom and Denmark. In many ways, that membership was defined by the bilateral British-Irish relationship. Ireland was, to all intents and purposes, an underdeveloped appendage of the British economy, and membership alongside the United Kingdom was deemed by most of the Irish political and economic establishment as virtually axiomatic. Irish policy makers, however, took full advantage of the opportunities offered by membership; in particular the Common Agricultural Policy, the direct transfers that derived from cohesion, regional and structural funding, and the opportunity to present the country as a successful location for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with access to the entire European market. Irish policy makers also positioned themselves rhetorically close to the heart of European construction, which had the added value of creating an Irish antithesis to Britain’s ongoing European discontents. There are perhaps four key themes to be analyzed with respect to Ireland and its membership of the European Union. The first is the question of a small state and its sovereignty. As a former colony, with a bitter experience of imperialism and a strong sense of independence, Ireland’s pooling of sovereignty with its European partners has most often been presented as a desirable trade-off between legal, formal sovereignty and effective sovereignty. Having a seat at the main table—alongside the former imperial hegemon—was deemed to be a major advance, one that allowed the state more effectively to pursue its interests—including the resolution of conflict on the island of Ireland. The 2008 financial collapse, and Ireland’s experience of the EU-led troika briefly challenged that narrative. Subsequently, the support given by the EU26 to a resolution of post-Brexit border relations on the island substantially reinforced Ireland’s European commitment. A second theme of inquiry is that of Irish economic development within the European Union. In contrast to other similarly under-developed states and regions in the EU, Ireland is seen by many as something of a poster child for making a success of EU membership. In the run-up to the 2004 enlargement and shortly thereafter, Dublin was a magnet for central European and Mediterranean states looking to replicate the success of the so-called “Celtic Tiger.” Debate persists, however, on the precise balance of costs and benefits deriving from the model of economic development pursued by the Irish state, the role of Irish government policy therein, and consistency between Irish and EU policy priorities, especially in the field of corporate taxation and the regulation of large multinationals. A third theme of inquiry is the intersection of local, national, and European democracy. Once membership was secured, the European Union became a central and largely uncontested fact of Irish political life. Early constitutional referenda authorizing ratification of EC and then EU treaty changes, while vigorously contested, were overwhelmingly won by coalitions of the mainstream political parties and sectoral interest groups. With both the Nice (2001) and Lisbon (2007) treaties, however, ambivalence, antagonism, and complacency combined initially to thwart ratification. The gap between popular opinion on EU treaty change, which ultimately divided roughly 60/40 in favor, and the near unanimity among political elites and sectoral interests, opened a conversation on the relationship between local, national, and European democracy, which is as yet unresolved, but which many see as having further centralized policy making and distanced it from effective democratic control. A fourth theme is that of Ireland and Europe in the world. Ireland joined the European Communities with no expressed reservations on its further political integration, but as the only non-member of NATO. During those initial debates, economic arguments overwhelmingly predominated, but the political issues were aired and the implications for Ireland’s traditional military neutrality were robustly discussed. The subsequent membership of other non-aligned states ought, on the face of things, to have made Ireland’s position all the more secure. Thus, with a long and popular history of UN peacekeeping and active international engagement, the development of European foreign, security, and defense policies should not have proven to be problematic. In fact, neutrality, security, and defense remain neuralgic issues for Ireland within the European Union and have contributed in a very modest way to the challenges faced by the Union in its attempts to craft a coherent and credible common security and defense policy. This speaks to debates surrounding Ireland’s proper place in the world, the lessons of its own history and the perceived capacity for smaller states to shape the international community. These four themes underpin much research and analysis on Ireland as a member of the European Union. In an unstable contemporary climate, with many well-established expectations under threat, they also serve to identify the pathways available to navigate beyond political and economic instability both for Ireland and the wider European project.
Tension has long existed in the United State between the equality claims of LGBT individuals, on the one hand, and free exercise claims by those who hold that compelling equal treatment violates their convictions, on the other. This tension increased, however, after the United States Supreme Court extended marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide. Equality advocates hold that antidiscrimination laws simply allow LGBT individuals to enjoy the same rights as others. Many religious advocates, however, believe that they are being prohibited from living out the implications of their conscientious beliefs. Neutrality between these conflicting claims cannot be achieved, as policies that appear neutral to one group appear non-neutral to the other. Private voluntary organizations are one site of conflict. Although private organizations should not typically be forced to reflect the values of the larger society, not all organizations are similarly situated within it. Groups such as the Boy Scouts should be able to exclude at will. Public authority does not itself always support the values of free and equal citizenship, and organizations may evolve over time as the Scouts itself has done. Organizations that exist within larger entities, however, fall into a different category. The Supreme Court was correct to uphold Hastings Law School in forcing the Christian Legal Society as a registered student organization to admit all comers. These groups also represent the values of a public entity and can continue to operate as independent entities if they so choose. The provision of services in connection with same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies has been another site of conflict. In Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop (2015), the Supreme Court found narrowly that bakery owner Phillips could refuse to create cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, as the state of Colorado had displayed animus toward Phillips’s religious beliefs. Commercial establishments, however, are public accommodations and generally should not be allowed to discriminate against customers on the basis of their identities. Discrimination against the activity or conduct of formal commitment is also discrimination against the identity or status of a same-sex couple. These kinds of cases do not admit of neutral solutions. Some suggest that those with religious reservations could advertise that they do not serve same-sex couples, but this is reminiscent of Jim Crow in the post–Civil War South. Jurisdictional pluralists suggest that the government designate a sphere of noninterference as a jurisdictional boundary that it will not cross. Thus individuals and associations with religious commitments would be free to pursue these interests with minimal interference. However, a prior authoritative structure must exist to define the nature and scope of this jurisdiction, just as the Constitution defines the relationships between the national government and the states. Applications for religious exemptions should not be treated more generously when they conflict with LGBT equality concerns than with equality claims based on race or gender. Although religious individuals and groups should be able to exercise their religious convictions within their areas of competence, in a liberal society and state they cannot define the limits of these areas.