Five minutes with Catherine de Vries: “The left is now split over whether they simply oppose the EU’s policies or oppose what the EU stands for overall”

How has opposition to the European Union changed in light of the Greek debt crisis, the UK’s planned referendum on EU membership, and the migration crisis in the Mediterranean? In an interview with LSE EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown, Catherine de Vries discusses the impact the UK’s referendum might have on the continent, the nature of left-wing Euroscepticism, and why immigration remains the most important issue for David Cameron in his efforts to reach a deal on EU reform.

How might the UK’s referendum campaign affect Eurosceptic movements in other parts of Europe? Could there be a domino effect with other Eurosceptic parties motivated to demand their own referendum on EU membership?

I think this is certainly possible, but it depends on the outcome of the UK’s referendum. I doubt there will be any such referendum prior to the one held in the UK. There were initiatives in the Austrian and Dutch parliaments, but they were voted down. So it really depends: if the UK voted to leave it might well reinvigorate the Eurosceptic right, in particular in countries like the Netherlands and France, but if the referendum is a vote to stay in then it’s unlikely to prompt similar moves elsewhere. Continue reading

A Europe obsessed by its borders: The political meaning of senseless migration policies

fenceIn recent weeks, Europe’s borders, and the individuals trying to cross them, have rarely been out of the news. Whilst EU member states are struggling to reach agreement on how to deal with the crisis, thousands are moving across Europe in search of asylum. Denis Duez, Director of the European Studies Institute at the Université Saint-Louis in Brussels, reflects on how political borders are created, and points to fundamental flaws in a migration policy that operates chiefly through border controls.

This is a revised version of an article that appeared in French in La Revue Nouvelle, June-July 2014

In his autobiography published in 1942, Stefan Zweig wrote that ‘perhaps nothing more graphically illustrates the monstrous relapse the world suffered after the First World War than the restriction on personal freedom of movement and civil rights. Before 1914, [there were] no permits, no visas, nothing to give you trouble; the borders that today […] are a tangled fence of red tape were then nothing but symbolic lines on the map, and you crossed them as unthinkingly as you can cross the meridian in Greenwich’ (Zweig, The World of Yesterday (trans. Anthea Bell) p.436). Continue reading