Where are you from? On political identity and community

Photo by Marc Ruaix on Unsplash


Where are you from? From the time I was born, this question has continued to define and influence my life until today. Back then, it seemed rather irrelevant. This fact that I was not just born into this world and into a family but also into a very specific location. But through that, I was officially part of a nation. My very first achievement. It was something to be proud of, almost as important as my own name. Naturally, I wanted that nation to be great, just like I wanted my family to be happy. „Where are you from? On political identity and community“ weiterlesen

What rules apply? EU Citizenship and Scotland

To Liza

If there is a citizenship, you would all owe a duty of allegiance to the new Union. What else is citizenship about? There will be a duty to uphold its laws. What will happen if the allegiance to the Union comes into conflict with the allegiance to our own country?

Margaret Thatcher, speech in the House of Lords, 7th of June 1993


In 2014, it was reasonable for a Scot wishing to further enjoy the benefits of her country’s EU membership to vote “Remain” at the Scottish Independence Referendum. In 2017, her variety of options is virtually narrowed down to choosing between the least of the evils. Resisting the Scottish secession and the addition of “r” (“rest of”) to the remaining parts of the state once called “the United Kingdom” will only lead to Scots leaving Europe aboard with their English, Welsh and Irish compatriots. Supporting the campaign for the second independence referendum and, if successful, the case for Scottish independence may eventually lead to securing the future of Scotland in Europe. However, this path is far from being clear.

„What rules apply? EU Citizenship and Scotland“ weiterlesen

Panarchy: The State 2.0

The dominant “Westphalian” model of the state, based on sovereignty over territory with borders and monopoly of violence over the people who happen to live in the territory, is obsolete. It fits seventeenth-century technology and pre-global societies when geographical distances could not be traversed easily and information took months to travel the globe. Instead, states may be founded on social contracts rather than sovereignty, service to citizens instead of monopoly over the use of violence in a territory. Panarchy, a political theory of non-territorial states founded on social contracts, introduced in 1860 by Belgian botanist and economist Paul Émile de Puydt, offers an alternative. It proposes that citizens may literally sign a social contract, a constitution, with a state, and may change their states without moving, just as customers can change their insurance policies. Explicit and voluntary social contracts have several advantages over standard social contract theories: They are neither mythical nor hypothetical, but explicit and actual, voluntary and reversible.

The Westphalian State epitomized in the famous book cover of Thomas Hobbes‘ “Leviathan”

Panarchy allows political agents to make reversible political mistakes and then exit and join another state. In Panarchy, the incentive for political innovation and improvement comes from competition between states over citizens-customers. Politics would then develop its own version of creative destruction, when failed states disappear and are replaced by better managed ones, generating a general progressive trend. „Panarchy: The State 2.0“ weiterlesen

Of Humans, Aliens, and Passports: Recognition as a Refugee for Reasons of Citizenship

Good Passports and Bad Passports

Imagine the aliens have landed. They have parked their spacecraft, or beamed down, and now here they are. And contrary to all the apprehensions the people of Earth have – thanks to every alien movie ever made – they are here to make friends, exchange ideas, maybe help us end poverty, war and disaster… But NOT SO FAST! Can we see your passports first? Don’t have passports, do you? And no visas either, then? Well, terribly sorry, this way please for immigration detention. And deportation as soon as we’ve built a rocket that can get you back to where you came from at the speed of light. Ta-tah!

„Of Humans, Aliens, and Passports: Recognition as a Refugee for Reasons of Citizenship“ weiterlesen

Beyond the Birthright Lottery

The Case for Open Borders and Inclusive Citizenship

How did you get your citizenship? Let me guess. You were born with the one you have now. There is a good chance my guess is right. Citizenship is, first and foremost, a matter of birth.

However, birth can be framed in different ways. A German may say that she is German because she was born to German parents. And an American may say that he is American because he was born on American soil.

One immediately notices the difference. Becoming German is mainly a matter of ancestry. Hence the name jus sanguinis for birthright citizenship qua blood. Becoming American is mainly a matter of territory. Hence the name jus soli for birthright citizenship qua birth on the territory. „Beyond the Birthright Lottery“ weiterlesen

“The best passports in the world” – The structural violence of EU visa policies

Just as none of us is beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.
— Edward W. Said: Culture and Imperialism, 1993

Media outlets around the world have time and again enlightened their readers and viewers about “the best passports in the world“ in the past several years, among them CNN, The Financial Times, Business Insider, and The Telegraph. In April 2016, Arton Capital’s Passport Index has launched an interactive colour-coded map aiming to collect and rank passports according to criteria such as power and ‘hospitality’, each leading to remarkably different results. „“The best passports in the world” – The structural violence of EU visa policies“ weiterlesen

Why I am Pro-European: The Democratic Case for Bremain

In many articles, this blog articulates a pro-European perspective. With the British referendum on UK membership in the European Union only a few days ahead, I thought that it’s about time to explain the basis for this endorsement of European integration. After Jonny has shone light on the two sides of the referendum debate, finding that the Leave campaign’s strategy is aimed at misinformation, I will provide a more general justification for an integrated European polity and thus, also, a remain vote.

Different to many rationales we hear in the debate on the British EU referendum, my argument for European integration is not based on economic or security concerns. Nor does it rest on the idea of a European cultural or philosophical heritage or even a nation-like sense of ‘togetherness’ some Europhiles proclaim can be found in Europe. These aspects can provide good reasons for supporting the EU, but for me, they are not convincing enough. My endorsement of European integration is based on my fundamental support for democracy.

„Why I am Pro-European: The Democratic Case for Bremain“ weiterlesen

Brexit: The UK hurt itself in Confusion

With a week left to go before the referendum, I thought I’d post my thoughts about it. Despite my reservations about having a referendum in the first place, when it was made for-certain that a referendum on our membership of the EU would happen I thought that it would be a chance for the UK to have a much-needed education about the EU. But this does not seem to be what is happening, and the Leave campaign does not want people to be educated about the EU. „Brexit: The UK hurt itself in Confusion“ weiterlesen

In the name of Europe: A new style of politics in the refugee crisis?

This week started with two political events that concerned the EU: On the one hand, Greek voters approved of Alexis Tsipras’ way of dealing with the Greek economic and political crisis. On the other hand, the European Ministers of the Interior agreed on a quota to relocate 120.000 refugees among the EU member states.
These events may appear to be distinct, but if one focuses on their structural causes a lot of similarities between both phenomenons can be detected. They both happened in an insufficient pre-crisis set-up during which warnings were ignored, and national rather than European interests were pursued. Once the problems became manifest and could no longer be ignored both cases led to a situation in which the persistence of the European Union, or part of its political achievements, were put into question. This was the case because national politicians did not seem to be willing, and European politicians did not seem to be entitled, to reach an agreement on a structural reform of the EU. Finally, both crises called for an exceptional role of German politics to absorb the foreseeable and avoidable negative consequences, caused by a regulatory framework which itself is strongly influenced by German politics.

Will 2015 change UK Politics?

Since 1935 the United Kingdom has held its General Elections on a Thursday, unlike other European countries which tend to hold their elections on Sundays. This year, the Election is going to be held on the 7 May and the campaign is well under way. With fewer than three weeks before the election, it’s probably time that this blog’s UK correspondent chimes in!

From the time when the UK moved to being a ‘true’ democracy at the turn of the 20th Century, typically, the UK’s political landscape has been dominated by a succession of Conservative governments, punctuated by the occasional Labour government. This phenomenon can be attributed to, among other things, but probably most significantly, the use of the ‘first past the post’ system. Other than making psephology a relatively easy task in the UK, it has meant that a certain degree of stability can be more or less guaranteed.

Something which, if you’re invested in Labour or Conservative, is great!

„Will 2015 change UK Politics?“ weiterlesen