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Hunting in Europe: A Rich Man’s Sport

October 20, 2017

This year I’ve decided to take up hunting. My goals in this endeavor are two-fold.

First, I for the longest time have wanted to take ownership of the overall process of taking the life of an animal. For years now, I, like much of our society has been guilty of just going to one of the many large grocery stores and purchasing our meat pre-packaged because it’s convenient and easy. Additionally, when we do this, we don’t think about the animals that are often force-fed who knows what to fatten up quickly for the consumer.

Secondly, I’m frankly bored of eating the same cuts of meat I’ve always eaten. Beef, pork, and chicken rarely excite me, even when they are prepared in ways near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen all these amazing looking recipes that call for wild game yet I have limited access to these cuts, and I’d rather hunt and process the animal myself (see the first point) than rely on a butcher to jack the prices up for the seasonal cuts of meat.

So, with these two points of “why I have decided to pursue hunting” established, let me tell you something I found fascinating. In doing research, I found that approximately 6% of the U.S. population, or 13.7 million Americans hunt. I, being a curious EURO graduate student, wondered how many hunters there are in Europe. After doing some additional research, I discovered that approximately 8 million of the 740 million Europeans hunt, meaning only 1% of all Europeans hunt. This was shocking to me as I figured the European figure would be closer to the American figure.

After thinking of possible reasons why very few Europeans hunt, I first looked at the overall access to hunting grounds Americans have versus Europeans. I hoped to show a figure or graph comparing the public land acreage in the U.S. to that in Europe, but I was unable to find such a figure, as Europeans generally are restricted to hunting on private land, typically with a professional guide – which is expensive. How expensive? On average the 1% of Europeans who hunt spend between $27,000 and $32,000, every year, on hunting, whereas the average hunter in the United States spends $2,484 every year on hunting. This is truly baffling to me as this makes hunting in Europe an activity for the wealthy and privileged, or “the top 1%”.

If you think about it though, hunting in Europe has for centuries been an activity for the wealthy- and this does go back to the access to hunting grounds Europeans have versus Americans. For example, in 1079, William of Normandy established Forest Laws, which prohibited the peasants from hunting deer or pigs from the woods, felling lumber, or any activities that would disturb the wild game. Essentially, William of Normandy kept the woods for his enjoyment and use. The punishment if caught poaching wild game from the King’s Wood ranged between a hefty fine and in severe cases even death. Today, law enforcement uses drones to catch poachers in the UK who illegally kill deer and other wild animals. (For more information on this click here.)


Thanks to the efforts of numerous conservationists including Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S. created the National Park system, which gives hunters access to over 640 million acres of public land to hunt, fish, and explore.


At the end of my research I realized two things, first, European hunting is and always has been, a rich man’s sport. Secondly, the American Dream is still alive and well when it comes to hunting as just about anyone, no matter their stage in life or socioeconomic status can take up this sport, thanks to the efforts of a few conservationists.




Immovable Object Unstoppable Force: Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and the New Politics of Containment

October 13, 2017

Monday, October 2nd, the Institute for European Studies held an event discussing the personal relationship between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. Joyce Mushaben, who received her Ph. D. from Indiana University and is currently Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Comparative Politics & Gender Studies at the University of Missouri St. Louis, was the keynote speaker for this event, talking about her latest book, Becoming Madam Chancellor: Angela Merkel and the Berlin Republic (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Professor Mushaben compared and contrasted Putin and Merkel in order to give us an intuitive understanding of their relationship.putinmerkel1

Professor Mushaben begins the talk by examining the backgrounds of both characters, which shows clear similarities and stark differences. One of these comparisons is their similar rise to power; both leaders grew up under a common enemy and were political outsiders that were pushed into positions of power by their mentors. Before this, another similarity arises from their younger years when they both spent time living in the other’s country. In 1977 Merkel traveled across the Soviet Union as an exchange student and in the mid-1980s Putin was stationed in Dresden, Germany as a KGB agent. In 1989, with the fall of the wall, Merkel, being from East Germany, stated this shows “dreams come true” but for Putin it meant destroying as many secret police files as possible. Merkel had an inside understanding of the Soviet Union and therefore has a better understanding of Putin as well. While in Dresden, however, Putin did not see the dissatisfaction of the Soviet people because he was shut off from most news. Putin was also cut off from the enthusiasm for democratization in his country and only came back to see Gorbachev fall and the collapse of the Soviet Union which he considers to be “one of the greatest geo-political disaster of the century.” Therefore, Putin saw the invasion of Crimea as ‘reuniting’ Russia’s historically legitimate territory and he didn’t understand why Germany did not support his ‘reunification.”

In order to describe Putin and Merkel’s current relationship Professor Mushaben uses the ‘unstoppable force paradox’ as a metaphor. This paradox asks the question “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” She defines Putin as the unstoppable force and Merkel as the unmovable object. While Merkel looks at the bigger picture, Putin uses force and attacks weaker powers like in the Georgian, Ukrainian and Crimean conflicts.


  One way to explain the unstoppable force paradox is with the shield and spear story. A man was trying to sell a spear and a shield. When asked how good his spear was, he said that his spear could pierce any shield. Then, when asked how good his shield was, he said that it could defend from all spear attacks. Then one person asked him what would happen if he were to take his spear to strike his shield; the seller could not answer.

Professor Mushaben continued the talk by highlighting the contrasts between Merkel and Putin’s leadership styles. Merkel is data driven and deals with situations in a scientific way through trial and error, always learning from her mistakes. Meanwhile, Putin uses his machismo and intimidation. He stages photo ops to accompany this persona and his policies take this personality on as well. Putin has broken with the Soviet women’s ‘equality’ movement, barred foreign religion and is against homosexuality and outlawed propaganda of this sort. Putin’s use of intimidation can be seen in one of his meetings with Merkel. Angela Merkel is extremely afraid of dogs, and Putin, knowing this, brought his large dog to meet her. An additional complication in their relationship is that Putin does not understand that western leaders cannot rule the way he does. Putin has a patron client relationship with his people (if you do what I say you will get rewarded and if you do not you will be punished). Putin is, however, vulnerable when it comes to Russia’s economy and Merkel knows this is where she can rein him in with sanctions. Professor Mushaben even states that Obama understood their relationship and turned to Merkel to help handle Putin after the Crimean invasion.


Professor Mushaben further discussed the complexities of their relationship describing how Merkel and Putin are on a first name basis with each other and stressed the importance of them both being able to speak in each other’s native languages, in which they use the informal ‘you’. They usually speak to each other in German and Putin even corrects his German translators when talking to Merkel, perhaps another intimidation technique, to show nothing gets by him. Soon we will see how Russia and Germany’s relationship will evolve as Angela Merkel goes into her fourth term as Chancellor and Putin goes up for re-election in 2018. Recently, however, Putin say he is unsure if he will run for re-election at all, but if he did most polls show he would win in a landslide.


For more information on Dr. Mushaben’s new publication see:






Referendum in Catalonia: Beyond the Headlines

October 5, 2017

According to a recent article in the New York Times reporting on the October 1 independence referendum in Catalonia, “police officers in black RoboCop uniforms and Darth Vader helmets blocked ordinary citizens from voting. They beat people with batons, fired rubber bullets and wounded pensioners. All of it was captured by smartphones and news cameras and spread around the world. It is the kind of violence the European Union would ordinarily condemn in high moral terms and even consider punishing. But that was not so easy this time. The nation in question was one of its own: Spain.” The article goes on to imply that, in a conflict between “the fundamental democratic rights of free speech and free assembly and of individuals to vote,” on the one hand, and notions of sovereignty and territorial integrity, on the other, the EU is choosing to side with the latter for self-interested reasons; namely, discouraging regional separatism across Europe. But, on this occasion, the NYT may have missed part of the point. It is indeed true that the European Commission, while generally condemning violence and calling for dialogue, has so far remained behind Spanish Prime Minister Marian Rajoy, claiming that “[the Catalan referendum] is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain,” and affirming its “trust [in] the leadership of prime minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.” It is also true that the EU is likely to see in Catalan separatism a return to the very nationalism that the project of European integration was meant to overcome. But in this show of support, the concern that remains at the forefront of the cited statements is not that of a blind defense of territorial integrity; rather, it is that of something much more fundamental to European ideals: the rule of law.

Police 1


Beyond the sensationalist headlines, the situation in Catalonia, and its explosion during the attempted vote on Sunday, is marked by a number of complexities that require a serious analysis. Despite the powerful and disquieting imagery of armored police beating down on peaceful voters, the question is not simply (or perhaps even not accurately) one of democracy versus repression, or of popular action versus state power. The dispute is in fact one between conflicting notions of democracy, and ultimately between the rule of law and the desire for self-determination, which is precisely what makes the whole situation so complicated, and so ripe for polarization and uncompromising viewpoints.

To begin with, with regards to democracy, both sides claim to be acting in its defense: one camp defends the right of a distinct community to decide on its own future by means of the ballot, while the other defends the right of democratic majorities to have their decisions respected when dissenting minorities are adequately (and even super-proportionally) represented in the decision-making process. This brings us to the question of the rule of law, which is inescapably tied to that of democracy. Because, in any democracy, the right of citizens to vote must occur within the boundaries set forth by law: not everything is subject to a vote, and certainly not by whatever self-defined group and in accordance to whatever ad-hoc procedures (or else the principle of democratic majoritarianism would be emptied of any meaning).Rajoy The Spanish Constitutional Court declared the Catalan government’s law calling for a referendum on independence unconstitutional for contravening the fundamental principles of the Constitution that all Spaniards, including Catalans, democratically voted for in 1978, and which marks the commonly-agreed-to rules of democratic participation. Insofar the referendum deviated from those rules, it represented a challenge to democracy, a challenge that the central government was legitimized to oppose.

But that is not the end of the discussion. While Catalans’ claim of a right to vote may not be sheltered by democratic principles, it may find justification in the idea of self-determination. The question is thus whether the drive for self-determination is a legitimate one in the present case, a question for which different actors will have different answers. But we should at least clear away some misconceptions. Catalans are at the moment not an oppressed minority (even if they may have been at times in the more distant past): they live in an advanced democracy (Spain) in which all citizens have equal rights to political participation and representation; Catalonia is a region that enjoys an important degree of autonomy (to the point that the region’s political institutions are currently serving as a platform for independence); the Catalan government, elected by the residents of Catalonia, eagerly promotes Catalan culture and language in the region; and, even in the current time of crisis, the central government is choosing not to take control over the regional administration, which it would be authorized to do under Article 155 of the Constitution in cases of exceptional emergency. Nevertheless, Catalan historical distinctiveness, along with more recent conflicts with the Madrid government (especially following the 2008 recession) may provide a degree of legitimacy for demands of increased self-determination. That is a political question for which there is not necessarily an objective answer. But it is evident that the Madrid government also has a legitimate interest in preventing that answer to be provided unilaterally and outside of the boundaries of constitutional democracy.

Preparations Are Made Leading Up To The Catalan Independence Referendum

A different issue, however, is whether the government’s response to the referendum was an appropriate one. Many would agree that it was not. True, the national police were following court orders, after the regional police largely refused to fulfill its assigned role of preventing the polling stations from opening; and the intervention, rather than targeting the voters, was meant to seize referendum materials and close down the locations in which the vote was occurring, which in turn lead to clashes with those seeking to protect their own ability to vote. But there is no doubt that the police response was heavy-handed and likely disproportionate, with officers using rubber bullets and batons against unarmed civilians; in the end, the injury-toll exceeded 800 (representing those who were treated by the health services, the number of persons actually requiring hospitalization being limited to four). In addition, the very notion of thousands of agents acting against the population was overall a troublesome one, and rightly generated the image of a repressive atmosphere in which force was the principal measure resorted to by the state. This image was also problematic from a public-opinion perspective, and led to a predictable reaction by the international community. Even the EU, within the framework of its support for the Spanish government, condemned the use of violence as a means to resolve the situation and called for dialogue among the parties involved.

Moreover, the resort to the police as the method to quell the aspirations of Catalan secessionists may have served to further fuel secessionist sympathies, and to strengthen the Catalan government’s claim of the need for further distancing from Spain. Indeed, Carles Puigdemont, president of the Catalan regional government, was quick to capitalize on Sunday’s events, condemning Madrid’s actions, calling for international mediation, and claiming that the results of the referendum (ninety percent in favor of secession, with an alleged turnout of forty-two percent) gave him a mandate to push forth with a unilateral declaration of independence.

Puigdemont 3

The results of the referendum, however, are questionable, not just because of the irregular nature of the vote, which offered few of the guarantees required for a poll to be certified internationally, but also because of the self-selecting nature of the participants: the Constitutional Tribunal’s declaration of the referendum’s unconstitutionality likely meant that those Catalans who still consider themselves bound by the Spanish legal system (who would arguably also be those holding a deeper allegiance to Spain) viewed the vote as illegitimate. In other words, participation in the referendum was itself a good indicator of the participant’s political stance on the issue of self-determination.

But, going back to the procedural irregularities of the referendum, it is important to note that this may have in fact been one of the main factors behind the central government’s decision to use the police as a disruptive force. The logic behind this decision, regardless of its strategic and even moral questionability, is evident: in the knowledge of the constant threat of intervention by the state’s security forces, the Catalan government would be forced (as it indeed was) to conduct the vote in a semi-clandestine and makeshift manner hardly compatible with the openness that a polling process requires. Examples of this were the print-at-home ballots, the lack of judicial oversight, or the (quite literally) last-minute decision to change the voting rules to provide for a universal census and for voters’ ability to vote in any center of their choice, with voter-ID checks based on a rudimentary and often malfunctioning (or police-intervened) software. Moreover, the very seizure of ballot-boxes and the closure of polling centers by the police may have served to further discredit any announced results of the vote.

Under these conditions, regardless of the causes, it is clear that the results of the referendum cannot be seen as genuinely representative. The question, now, is how the different actors will play their cards in the coming days. And, at this moment, it seems like the EU’s call for dialogue within the boundaries of the Spanish Constitution is the best available option, for right now the situation has become a lose-lose one. On the one hand, any unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan government would lack legitimacy in the eyes of the international community due to its breach of Spanish democratic legality and to the lack of verifiable popular backing, and it would likely compel the Spanish government to trigger Article 155 of the Constitution and assume control over the Catalan administration. On the other hand, a continuation of heavy-handed, hardline policies by Madrid will almost inevitably close the window for any potential political settlement in the future, and will drive more Catalans towards radical secessionism. Naturally, any dialogue would mean that both sides would have to make concessions, but those concessions can still happen within the boundaries set forth by the rule of law, including the resort to a constitutional amendment process if need be (which, for example, could transform Spain into a formally federal system).

As Roger Cohen of the New York Times writes, “[i]t’s obvious that the middle ground needs to be re-created in Spain, that Rajoy (if he survives) must drop his high-handedness and Puigdemont his destructive hubris, and that a dialogue is essential. A creative road to a federal Spain could, with time, be imagined.” In a seemingly insolvable conflict between the rule of law and a nation’s quest to redefine its relation to the state, a process of constitutional reform, respectful of the requirements set forth in the Spanish Constitution, may provide the only opportunity for accommodating both sides of the dispute, or at least the parts of those sides that may still be willing to engage in some form of meaningful dialogue. It is precisely this middle ground that the EU seems to be advocating for in the statements cited at the beginning of this piece, and its advocacy for dialogue appears at this moment to be the most prudent stance. The alternative is a continuation of the current downward spiral of confrontation, in which all sides are likely to lose more than they will ever gain.








Merkel & the CDU’s Hollow Victory

September 29, 2017

All eyes were on the German elections last week as Chancellor Angela Merkel and CDU party retained majority power, however lost 65 parliamentary seats to opposition parties, including the AfD (Alternative for Germany party), who won a surprising 13% of the vote. The AfD party is now the first far-right party in German parliament in over 50 years.


The loss of 65 parliamentary seats will force Chancellor Merkel and the CDU party to negotiate and align with other parties in order to gain majority in parliament.   Many believe that the likely outcome is for Merkel and the CDU party to align with the smaller Green party and the FDP party. Both the Green and FDP parties have been around for quite some time now. The Green party, founded in 1980, as the name implies focuses heavily on environmental policies; renewable energy; and natural recourses. The FDP party, founded in 1948, is a strong advocate for free markets in business and legislation that promotes economic liberalism. As of now, both the Green and FDP parties have expressed their willingness to discuss a possible alignment with the CDU party, however it may be some time until a solid agreement is reached between all parties.

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Europe appears to have staved off far right political movements in France, the Netherlands, and now Germany, contradicting the predictions of many that Europe, like the US would too see far right politics dominate the political landscape. With this said, the uncertainty of a CDU-FDP-Green party alliance in Germany has lead to uncertainty in the European market, causing the Euro to drop for two consecutive days resulting in the lowest evaluation of the Euro in the month of September.

In the end Chancellor Merkel and the CDU party won a tough fight, but face an even tougher challenge as they attempt to regain majority control of parliament with a potential uneasy alliance.

If you are reading this blog and happen to be at IU next Monday October 2nd, please consider joining us in GISB 3067 from 12:00pm-1:30pm for a lecture by Dr. Joyce Mushaben from the University of Missouri – St. Louis titled “Immovable Object, Unstoppable Force: Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and the New Politics of Containment”


Brexit Revisited: EURO-hosted Panel Discusses the Latest Developments

September 21, 2017

On Monday, September 11, the Institute for European Studies hosted a presentation on the development and implications of Brexit a little over a year after the UK’s vote to withdraw from the EU. Paul Craig, Professor of English Law at the University of Oxford and visiting professor at Indiana University, acted as the keynote speaker for the event, and provided an insightful overview of the most important Brexit-related developments since the referendum. According to Professor Craig, these include the Lancaster House Speech and the discussion over soft versus hard Brexit options; the legal challenge against the UK government’s ability to trigger Article 50 without parliamentary preapproval; the unsuccessful attempt at establishing parallel negotiations with the EU on withdrawal, on the one hand, and on future relations (especially in terms of the single market), on the other; and the debate surrounding the EU Withdrawal Bill. Tim Hellwig (IU Political Science), in turn, spoke about the different elections involved in the Brexit process–namely the 2010 election (whose results were crucial in leading then Prime Minister Cameron to make an exit referendum part of his platform), the Brexit vote itself, and the election called by Prime Minister May in a losing gamble to gain a broad mandate for the negotiations stage. Samee Desai (SPEA) then concluded with an analysis of Brexit’s impact on third-party countries, especially in terms of direct trade, financial transactions, and international development.

Brexit Panel 2

Notably, at roughly the same time as the EURO event was taking place, the House of Commons was meeting in London to discuss the EU Withdrawal Bill, one of the key considerations in Professor Craig’s talk. The following day, September 12, news broke out early in the morning that the Commons had voted in favor of the bill, thus getting one step closer to formalizing the post-withdrawal legal regime of the U.K., and making the withdrawal itself a nearer reality. The bill, which would enter into force once the formal break with the EU takes place, is meant to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and to convert all existing European law into U.K. law, thus ensuring that there are no legislative gaps after Brexit. As Professor Craig explained in his address, however, the EU Withdrawal Bill has been laden with controversy from its inception. One of its most discussed aspects has been the introduction of wide discretionary prerogatives for the Executive to amend the ensuing legislation, which the government defends as necessary in order to address the innumerable technical issues that will arise with the jurisdictional transfer (for one thing, all references to EU institutions will need to be changed), but which detractors criticize as an unwarranted and unchecked expansion of Executive power. In addition, the bill also faces opposition from the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which claim that, while many of the matters currently regulated by European law would fall under devolved competencies, it is mainly Westminster’s power that will be increased by the proposed legislation. The question of how the devolved institutions will respond to the bill is an important one, because the government has publicly committed to seeking their consent. And although the withholding of that consent by the devolved legislatures would not be binding on the national government, and would thus not amount to a veto, it would certainly be an important setback for the administration’s efforts to portray the bill (and, incidentally, the entire Brexit process) as one in which the interests and input of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales will be respected. Thus far, the bill has already met with express criticism from the Scottish government, which has described it as an “executive power grab.”

Commons 1

The bill received the support of 326 MPs in the Commons, while 290 voted against it. The vote was divided largely along party lines, with no Conservatives voting against the proposed legislation and only seven Labour MPs defying party leader Jeremy Corbin’s orders to oppose it. The result will certainly be welcome by the government, especially as Prime Minister May prepares to deliver a speech to the EU in Florence this coming Friday (September 22), in which we may be able to learn more about the UK’s expectations for the upcoming round of Brexit negotiations.


Any readers interested in learning more about the Brexit process and the issues surrounding it are encouraged to read Professor Craig’s papers on the topic, available through the following link.

Briefing from Berlin: EURO MA candidate Alex Baker on the upcoming German elections

September 14, 2017

Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) politician Beatrix Von Storch stood at the podium, backed by campaign posters that read, “We’re for a Christian West,” “Truth through Courage,” and “We’re for national security” as she introduced Nigel Farage. “A man that wrote history” she called him. Farage received a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at the Spandau Citadel, a former military fortress in Berlin’s deep west, as he made his way to the podium.

Farage AfD

The event, held Friday, September 8th, comes just a few short weeks before Germany’s federal election. The AfD is a far-right German political party that has grown in popularity in recent years due to its hardline stance on migration issues. However, the party was founded in 2013 on Eurosceptic principles by economist Bernd Lücke. The AfD currently holds seats in thirteen of the sixteen German states and is seeking to enter the Bundestag for the first time, having failed to reach the five percent threshold in the 2013 federal election. The party is currently polling between eight and eleven percent (the party’s polling numbers peaked in mid-2016 at between thirteen and sixteen percent), and has a realistic chance at becoming the third strongest party in the new German parliament. The party is seeking to ride what is left of the 2016 populist wave, highlighted by the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump. Farage clarified during his talk he has no formal ties with the AfD, but called Von Storch bold, wise, and a friend.

Brexit was the topic of choice for Farage on Friday. He questioned why Brexit had been largely absent as a topic of debate in the lead-up to the German federal elections. According to Farage, Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz ignored the issue of Brexit because “it is a huge embarrassment for the European dream.” The crux of Farage’s Farage AfD 2argument is that Germany, and German workers, have a lot at stake depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, calling trade a two-way street. Farage appealed to the audience with his claim that the label “Made in Germany” carries the utmost weight for consumers in the United Kingdom. He also cited the importance of trade between the UK and Germany for German workers, claiming that Germany has a 30 billion Euro trade surplus with the United Kingdom (it was unclear where he came up with this figure). Farage was also critical of the effects that the European Union has on popular sovereignty and national democracies, while also noting that if any country has the ability to fundamentally change the EU, it would be Germany.

Germany is the largest country in the European Union. It has the largest share of seats in the European parliament, with ninety-six (12.8%). The leader of the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European parliament, is the German Manfred Weber. And of course Germany is the economic leader of Europe.

There was no shortage of soundbites Friday night. At one point, Farage called Viktor Orban of Hungary, “the best and strongest leader of the whole of Europe.” When asked about Jean-Claude Junker, Farage said his advice to the president of the European Commission would be to, “drink less at lunch time… I mean, I like a glass of wine, but there are limits, you know.” As for current German chancellor Angela Merkel, Farage said that her decision in the midst of the refugee crisis, her “Wir schaffen das” approach, was “probably the worst decision by any Western leader in modern political history.” He also called Martin Schulz, “a dangerous man.”

Farage did point out something that many Germans are critical of, and that is the claim that Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic party and Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party have become indistinguishable on many issues. Farage called it “two different personalities offering the same menu.” Germany could be looking at its third consecutive ‘grand coalition’ between the CDU and SPD. The two leading candidates faced off in a debate recently which could best be described as dull and lacking substance.



As an attendee to Friday’s event, the first thing that struck me about it was the venue. The Spandau Citadel not only accommodated with ease Farage’s talk; it also represented a deeper symbolic meaning. The fortress is extremely well-preserved: built in the late 1500s, it has survived through many wars and is a staple of Berlin’s, and Germany’s, history.AfD rally 3 In a more practical sense, the Spandau Citadel is a military defense structure. Throughout centuries, the citadel served as a point of protection against invading armies from foreign lands. The AfD see themselves as the modern-day protectors of Germany. Much of their campaign rhetoric has to do with defending what they deem to be the German way of life, and German culture, from perceived threats, such as globalization, European integration, and Islam. Whether AfD leaders thought about this when they chose to host the event at the Spandau Citadel I do not know, but the irony was not lost on me.

Yet, that was not the only ironic theme of the night. During his talk, Farage chastised Obama for his meddling comments regarding the Brexit vote, in which he implored those in the UK to vote remain. This of course was rich coming from Farage, who has stuck his nose in just about every country’s politics so long as there is a right-wing, populist-leaning party on the ticket.

Whether you agree with his points or not, there is no denying Farage is a gifted orator who knows how to work an audience, especially an audience friendly to him and his ideas. He speaks with extreme energy, vigor, and enthusiasm. He also knew exactly on which points to hit in order to strike a chord with his audience Friday. At one point he referenced his experience in the private sector and claimed “there is not a city in the Ruhrgebiet that I have not visited.” He has become a kind of cult hero for those with right-wing populist leanings and sympathies. In previous interviews, Farage called 2016 a “global revolution against global governance,” citing Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and Italy’s removal of their prime minister after a referendum. During his Friday talk, he mentioned multiple times “standing on a stage in Mississippi with that businessman from New York named Donald J. Trump.” Along with campaigning for Trump, Farage backed Marine Le Pen in France, has expressed admiration and respect for Dutch politician Geert Wilders, and is a regular contributor to Fox News.


Predictability, Farage checked all the boxes Friday. He harshly criticized the media, which is a common tactic of the AfD. The AfD have brought back the term ‘Lügenpresse,’ which translates to lying press. The term has appeared several times throughout German history, but its use is most commonly associated with the Nazi period. He criticized the political elite and rich Brussels bureaucrats (even though he falls under this very classification himself). He blasted big banks and big multinationals, as well as taking shots at Merkel, Schulz, Juncker, and Obama.

I found myself wondering before, during, and after the event, what was the purpose of Farage’s Berlin visit? Surely he must know that Brexit is simply not a salient issue for most Germans. There are far more pressing matters in German- and geo-politics to deal with. Of course Farage will go anywhere, anytime, to preach the evils of Brussels to anyone who will listen, but the event served another purpose. It was just the latest example of AfD thrusting itself into the public discourse. Alice Weidel debate.pngA common tactic of the AfD is to make headlines by any means necessary. Just a few nights before Friday’s event, AfD party co-head Alice Weidel walked out of a debate, citing biased moderation. Some in Germany suspected the move was staged, in order to grab headlines and push a narrative. It worked, as Weidel was mentioned more than any other candidate on Twitter that night, and many news outlets led with the Weidel story and her prepared statement.

In a campaign dominated by Merkel and Schulz, the other periphery parties are struggling for media attention. Predictability, Farage speaking in Berlin as a guest of the AfD was not only national news, but international news. At the event, I encountered journalists not only from Germany’s largest national publications and outlets, but from international news outlets such as CNN, Reuters, BBC, and The Guardian. Nigel Farage is a poster-boy for the values that the AfD espouses; they knew the event would sell, and they were right.

I had the opportunity to ask Farage a question during the Q&A period. I decided to press him on Russia, since a proper discussion on Russia and Ukraine has been largely absent from the German political debate in recent months, and there are emerging reports of Farage’s dubious ties with Russia. My motivation for asking about the conflict stemmed also from the AfD’s non-committal, non-unified stance on Russia and Ukraine. The relationship between Russia and the AfD has been the topic of much scrutiny, and the ties between the AfD and Moscow are shrouded in secrecy. On this occasion, Farage chose to simply sidestep the question.


Alex Baker is a second year MA student in European Studies currently on exchange in Germany at the Free University of Berlin. He completed his BA at Michigan State University’s James Madison College of Public Affairs and International Relations, majoring in Comparative Cultures and Politics and minoring in German. During his undergraduate studies, he spent a year living in Dessau, Germany. Alex has an anticipated graduation date of May 2018.


European Responses to North Korean Missile Tests

September 8, 2017


On July 28th North Korea’s test fire of its second ICBM caused United States President Donald Trump to respond by saying if they endangered the U.S. they would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Both North Korea’s persistent missile development and the United States’ hardline rhetoric has caused ripples with allies within the European Union and across the international community.

In Berlin, anxiety is growing over the rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. “Our main concern,” states German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, “Now that this struggle is escalating…both sides are ramping it up, and this can in fact end in military conflict.”

France’s defense minister, Florence Parly, warned that the missiles could now hit London or other European cities. In a speech to the French military, Parly said “The scenario of an escalation towards a major conflict cannot be discarded, Europe risks being within range of Kim Jong Un’s missiles sooner than expected.”


British Prime Minister Theresa May is urging China to put pressure on North Korea to freeze its nuclear development program, a call to action echoed by the White House.  “The Prime Minister and The President (U.S.) agreed on the key role which China has to play,” a Downing Street spokesman said, “It is important (China) use all the leverage they have to ensure North Korea stops conducting these illegal acts so that we can ensure the security and safety of nations in the region.” The Prime Minister has expressed renewed interest in working with the United States and other international partners to continue to exert economic pressure on the rogue nation.

After North Korea performed its second ICBM test on July 28th, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea. The sanctions banned the import of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea. These sanctions did little to deter Kim Jong Un, who pressed on with a slew of missile tests at the end of August. The most recent one, a ballistic missile launched on August 28th, traveled 1700 miles over Japan, landing in the Pacific Ocean. Despite these recent aggressions The U.N. has taken no further action against North Korea.


Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan and told her hosts she was “outraged” by North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile launch. Additionally, The European Union has also come out in clear support of pressure on North Korea. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, issued a statement in which she expressed support for calls for an emergency meeting of the Security Council. She added that the EU would look at an “appropriate response in close consultation with key partners and in line with UN Security Council deliberations.” It is, however, unclear if the EU would commit military forces to the region should tensions deteriorate to the point at which fighting breaks out.



North Korea’s missiles ‘could reach London’ say experts