Formed within five days of the 6 May 2010 UK general election, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) coalition government was a new and unlikely development in British politics. One year on, with the British electorate having delivered a comprehensive “No” in the May 2011 referendum on whether to switch the voting system to the Alternative Vote (AV) and with the Lib Dems having suffered huge losses in English local elections and elections to the devolved Scottish and Welsh parliaments, this unlikely partnership is enduring a rocky patch. Many analysts are predicting imminent divorce.
Those of us engaged in research in the field of European studies are, it is safe to say, “Europhiles”. In many cases this is owing to a story we have relating to the EU, or an 8-year-old’s memory of the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and the birth of EU citizenship. There are many other reasons, historical and cultural, of course, but these are not a panacea; what we perceive as Eurosceptism is now growing. This is apparent not only in the UK, a traditionally distant bedfellow of the European experiment, but in other, more pro-EU member states.
Few will have heard of Beragh, County Tyrone. It is a small village of just over five hundred inhabitants, only eight miles east of Omagh, the site of the worst terrorist atrocity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. However on 6 April, Beragh was the site of one of the most symbolic gatherings in modern Irish history as hundreds of people from across the country’s political divide came to pay their respects to PC Ronan Kerr of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
In August 1995, when Gerry Adams, one of the two most prominent Irish Republican politicians of the last twenty years, said to a sympathetic crowd, “They have not gone away you know”. He was referring to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), a terrorist group which appeared about to be consigned to the history books with the establishment of a viable peace in Northern Ireland. Many thought that with decommissioning and the ceasefire, the men of violence would step away into obscurity, leaving the people of Northern Ireland to enjoy the benefits of a peaceful coexistence.
“Old Europe”. United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s 2003 phrase was one of the more polite, if not fully precise, American descriptions of French and German opposition to the US-UK led invasion of Iraq. It also highlighted the gap at the time between the Anglo-American attitude to military intervention more generally, and that of the French and Germans. Yet the scale of recent French intervention in Africa - notably in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire - indicates that France under President Nicolas Sarkozy has well and truly moved on from the “old Europe” tag.
The topic of integration, immigration and preservation of national culture once again sparked new debate in the Danish media earlier last week. Following a Cabinet reshuffle, current Minister of Development, the right-wing Soeren Pind, also became Minister of Integration.