Europe’s populist surge – Italy’s move to the right

March 4th, 2018 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

The initial exit polls indicate what many commentators have predicted for the Italian elections: The country has moved to the right. The first predictions of the election results show a decisive loss for the currently ruling Democratic Party and substantial gains for the populist Five Star Movement, most likely the largest single party, as well as Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition. Yet, it seems that none of the three blocs have a majority to govern the country. With a hung parliament likely, Italy will face difficult negotiations to form a viable government.

While the shape of Italy’s future government is uncertain, the electoral campaign and projected outcome highlight how significant nationalistic, anti-immigrant sentiments have become in competitive party politics. Italy is still suffering from the fallout of the 2008 financial and economic crisis. The country’s economic output is still almost 6% under pre-crisis levels, the unemployment rate sits at about 11% (over 30% for youth) and 18 million people were faced with the risk of poverty last year.

It is in this climate that in particular the nationalist League has campaigned with an aggressive ‘Italy First’ slogan blaming the ills of society on the influx of immigrants in general and over 600.000 refugees over the past four years in particular. The League’s leader Matteo Salvini has vowed to deport more than half a million refugees and migrants; this party regularly depicts immigration in terms of an uncontrollable ‘invasion’. Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia similarly embarked on an anti-immigrant rhetoric in their political mobilization: After the shooting rampage of a neo-fascist targeting African migrants in the town of Macerata, Berlusconi warned of refugees as a ‘social time bomb’. Much of the political campaign of Berlusconi’s coalition was directed at immigrants as an alleged threat to the wellbeing and security of Italians (notwithstanding the fact that crime rates have dropped considerably over the past years and that most immigrants in Italy take care of those jobs in farming or the service industry that Italians no longer want to fill).

It might still be uncertain what kind of government might be formed over the next weeks and months. Yet one thing is certain: These elections have further marginalized immigrants in Italy and provided legitimacy to intolerance. In this respect, Italy seems to follow a trend in Europe’s liberal democracies that we have witnessed unfold most recently in Austria: The centre right has partly endorsed the rhetoric of populist nationalism and its anti-immigrant agenda. In almost all of Europe, the extreme right is still not in a position to win a majority. Yet, the likelihood of becoming part of a governing coalition and of shifting the overall political climate towards an exclusionary nationalism is increasingly acute. We still need to see the final results of the elections but it could very well be the case that a coalition government includes the staunchly anti-immigrant League and the neo-fascist party of the Brothers of Italy.

Populists looking to make gains in Italian Election

March 1st, 2018 - by Julian M Campisi, PhD Candidate in Political Science at York University

If current trends and polls are replicated in this weekend’s elections, Italians might find themselves with a coalition of Berlusconian neo-populists at the helm.

After a tumultuous 2016 electoral season with surprising results for Brexit, Trump, and other populist gains, 2017 seemed to usher in a measure of calm, with strong victories for the pro-EU Macron in France, Rutte’s Liberals in the Netherlands, and another, albeit weaker, win for Chancellor Merkel in Germany. Yet as 2018 grinds on, another looming populist threat beckons, and with it, a real chance for renewed political uncertainty in Europe.

Italy, home to Europe’s fourth largest, heavily indebted and perennially stagnant, economy, heads for national elections on March 4th, which will for the first time utilize a new mixed electoral system comprised of first-past-the-post and proportional representation for the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. Thousands of Italian-Canadians will be able to vote for one of the overseas representatives standing for office. Some may have been surprised to hear that the original Billionaire-media-mogul-turned-President, Silvio Berlusconi, is back on the national stage to contest an election at 81 years old, nearly 25 years after his first of three stints as Prime Minister.

Comparisons with Donald Trump abound, but ‘Nonno’ Silvio, as he has been recently re-branded, is an experienced statesman and political force to be reckoned with. While he cannot technically run for office until at least 2019 due to previous legal battles and convictions for tax fraud, he is appealing at European courts. Regardless, he will be at the helm of the centre-right coalition that leads in the polls. The danger this time, however, is the not only the sideshow of bunga-bunga parties, tax evasion, or centralization of media power, but the moderating façade that Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party might provide for the right-wing, anti-immigration and Euroskeptic parties he may yet form a government with, such as Salvini’s Lega Nord and the nationalist Fratelli d’Italia.

Curiously, the return to the centre of Italian politics for il cavaliere (the knight), only a few years after his embarrassing resignation in 2011 due to European and global fiscal pressures, has been met with cautious optimism by that same European political class. Given the potential alternatives like the 5-star movement who has for years expressed skepticism for the EU and has sought to upend Italian politics, the far-right parties mentioned above, and the fact that former Prime Minister Renzi’s ruling Democratic Party looks set to lose by a wide margin, many Italian citizens and EU politicians see Berlusconi as a ‘reliable’ centrist option. Yet his coalition partners are the same anti-immigration parties that want to re-establish an Italian currency, subvert European regulations, and crack down on migrants with a law-and-order agenda, and ultimately could take important cabinet posts.

None of this is new in Italy. Berlusconi was ahead of his time in the early 1990’s as one of the more convincing leaders to use populist tricks. Much of the preferred dialogue by Italian populist parties is recognizable, along the lines of historical differences, European subservience, economic unfairness, tax redistribution, nationhood and immigration. And while many Italians have for decades put little trust into their government institutions, in recent years there has been a spike in anti-establishment discourse, declining trust in the European order, vitriol against bank bailouts, and extreme reaction to the migrant crises which has disproportionately affected Italy.

This culminated a few weeks ago in a small, central Italian city, Macerata, when, after a young Italian woman was found murdered by a Nigerian migrant who overstayed his residency permit, a right-wing Italian extremist who had previous ties to the Lega Nord, angrily fired shots at a group of African migrants in a café, injuring six. This tragic incident speaks to the social tensions around underemployment, xenophobia and migration, and general economic malaise that have hampered Italy for years, and have now reached a politicized pinnacle this election cycle. Berlusconi characterized this, and the underlying migrant crisis, as a ‘social bomb’, something that his allies have spoken of for years, while opposing politicians laid blame on the dangerous rhetoric and incitement of the right.

Granted, the nature of politics and coalition-forming in Italy is, at the very least, uncertain, meaning that it is still very difficult to predict a winning group with much of the electorate still undecided, and with different possibilities of governing parties. The instability notwithstanding, nobody should be surprised to see a smiling Nonno Silvio beaming again on his television stations come March 5th.

Julian M Campisi is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at York University, focusing on European politics and the analysis of political and economic risks.

How did Polish decommunization policy from the late 90s became a “Holocaust Bill” in 2018?

February 8, 2018 - by Iryna Matiyenko, Uniiversity of Victoria

No, there is no “Holocaust bill” in Poland, however international media have put it this way. What happens in Poland today needs a clarification because the focus of the United States and Israel media and public officials are shifting global attention away from the process of anti-democratization that is happening in Poland since 2015. The new changes will not only impact Holocaust survivals, the most importantly, it will severely restrict political competition in Poland and quality of its democratic institutions. The ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS) is cementing its future victory in the next Parliamentary and Presidential elections. They have updated a tool, The Law on the Institute of National Remembrance, which historically happened to manipulate political competition.

In 1998, Polish government established a public institution, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), to address the crimes of the communist regime and prevent individuals, who were cooperating with a regime secret police, from holding public offices in democratizing Poland. The initial goal of this policy was the process of decommunization through the political lustration. However, since the beginning, the mandate was broader and included prosecution of crimes against Polish nation during occupations by Nazis and Communist. As a result, Poland established a “Ministry of Memory” a government-affiliated research institution, an archive and an educational center with prosecutorial powers, which practically, became an antidemocratic tool involved in numerous political provocations, scandals and diplomatic crisis .

In 2015, not only the Law and Justice (PiS) won the majority of seats in Polish Parliament, but also an unprecedented right-wing populist non-partisan political movement Kukiz’15 took 42 seats and initiated changes to IPN that according to them should protect Polish nation from growing antipolonism and polonophobia. The initial policy justification to review mandates of IPN was not a problem with the international usage of the “Polish concentration camps” terms. The problem, according to the Kukiz’15 policy agenda, was in Ukraine and its nationalistic anti-Polish policies. In fact, Ukraine was developing its own public institution for the decommunization in 2015 and reexamining truth about the past, particularly the role of Stepan Bandera in country’s independence movement during WWII. The diplomatic crisis between Poland and Ukraine due to the different interpretation of the war events resulted in the Parliamentary resolution in 2016 about Volhynia events in 1943 as a genocide on Poles, making Stepan Bandera and Ukrainian Uprising Army (UPA) responsible. The issue became urgently popularized, within months there were movies and educational events and TV programs about Ukrainian threat for Polish memory. The need to change the law on IPN found a growing popular support and entered policy agenda.

On February 6th 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed amendments to the law on Institute of National Remembrance and new provisions are targeting any allegations that Poles or Polish state bear any responsibility for the crimes of WWII that would be now punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Particularly, the mentioning of the “Polish death camps”, “denial of crimes of Ukrainian nationalists and military formations” and other attempts to review the historical events through the perspective of the antipolonism can be interpreted as a criminal offence and prosecuted beyond the territory of Poland. This law can be used to control any individual or political movement that criticize the ultra-right and populist values and actions of the current government and political movements in power. Another dangerous outcome would be a growing racial and xenophobic hatred towards immigrants and minorities that could be interpreted by certain groups as justified through the perspective of the law.

Catalan crisis

Jan 15th, 2018 - by César Arjona, Professor at ESADE Law School in Barcelona

On October the 1st 2017, years of conflict between the Catalan and the Spanish authorities reached its peak. The official and legitimate Catalan government had formally called for a vote on independence that day. The official and legitimate Spanish government had formally declared that vote illegal. Catalan citizens found themselves having to make a rare political choice. Some of those who decided to attend the call and go to vote peacefully – either for or against independence – found themselves attacked by anti-riot Spanish police, as recorded in several videos that became viral world-wide.

Catalan secessionism is a complex issue that involves historical, linguistic, cultural, economic, and political aspects, in a plural and complex society. However, the main issue today is not whether Catalonia should be an independent Republic or not, since we are entangled in a previous stage – namely, how to decide on this question. The Catalan crisis is an issue of separatism, but it is above all an issue of how do we solve political problems in complex and plural societies in the 21st century, and what is the role that law and the Constitution must play in that solution. In other words, the Catalan crisis is above all an issue of how do we legally and constitutionally solve political problems in complex and plural societies in the 21st century.

When we look at the problem that way, it turns from a domestic dispute into a global problem. And from a global perspective, I hold that the Catalan crisis is a problem of paradigmatic significance, inasmuch as it mirrors global tendencies about the way in which law, politics and legal-political thinking are evolving in a post-Westphalian world.

My opinion is that what we are witnessing in Catalonia today is the transition from modernity to postmodernity in law and politics. Differently to 19th century Romantic nationalism, the Catalan separatist movement is today a post-modern phenomenon. This explains the clash of mentalities with the Spanish government, which represents legalistic positivism in its purest form. The role of the international community in general, and the European Union in particular, is crucial. By aligning itself with the position of the Spanish government, and qualifying this issue as a domestic internal problem of Spain, the EU is rooting itself in the Westphalian paradigm that is certainly alive – although maybe not well.

Instead of using the traditional Westphalian state-centered positivistic paradigm, I suggest that we look at this problem from the alternative perspective of legal pluralism. When we do that we see that in Catalonia there have been, at least for a while, two legalities running in parallel. This clash of legalities, or shall we say of illegalities – given the controversial nature of political and legal events on both sides – is a rare situation in a EU member state. Broadening our lenses, this may be indicative of how we are moving from a monist conception of law towards a more plural and complex overlap of normativities, as the world turns progressively into one single legal space.


César Arjona is Professor at ESADE Law School in Barcelona; Visiting professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona), ICADE (Madrid), Bucerius Law School (Hamburg), and Center for Transnational Legal Studies (London), as academic co-director.

The divisive force of migration politics and the end of the coalition negotiations in Germany 

November 20, 2017 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

CTV News Channel - interview

To the great surprise of the German public, the attempts to form a coalition government have failed. Last night, the Liberal Party pulled out of the negotiations putting an end to the effort to bring together the free-market liberals, the environmentalist Greens and the two Christian Democratic parties under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Next to the controversial phasing out of coal-burning power plants, the main sticking point in the negotiation seems to have been how to handle the ongoing challenge of governing immigration and refugees in Germany. While the Green party was adamantly in favour of allowing family members of refugees to move to Germany, both the Bavarian CSU and the liberal FDP demanded strict restrictions on family unification.

The current stalemate in German politics has been shaped in a twofold way by the thorny question of migration. First, it was the rise of the so called Alternative for Germany (AfD) that, for the first time in the postwar history of the country, has succeeded in being elected to federal parliament. The 13.3% support for the national populists indicates how Germany’s response to the ‘refugee crisis’ over the past years has antagonized the German electorate. The AfD could tap into growing anti-foreigner sentiments and the anger over the lack of a genuine opposition during the time in which Germany was governed by the Grand Coalition.

The issue of migration also had a decisive effect on the negotiations to put together the four-party coalition under Chancellor Merkel’s guidance. Not at least for electoral reasons, the Bavarian CSU and the Liberals opted for a reversal of Germany’s liberal refugee policy. While the right-wing AFD is shunned in parliament, its political ideology has already changed the political culture in Germany. As was evident in the recent election in Austria it is difficult for centre-right parties to resists the lure of populist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Welcoming our first junior expert in our CEDoM network

Ahmed Hamila is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal. Currently he is also the  FNRS-F.R.S. research fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Université Libre de Bruxelles and the President of the Young Researchers Network of the European Community Studies Association – Canada. Ahmed was awarded the Robert Bourassa Foundation Excellence Award for the most promising doctoral thesis project in European Studies. The title of his PHD is: European Asylum Policy Related to Sexual Orientation: A Common System, Several Implementation Models. Ahmed's research areas include asylum policies in the EU and the refugee crisis in Europe. You can read more about his reasearch here

New expert profile

November 1st, 2017

Harald Bauder joint our CEDoM network last month. He is the founding Director of the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, and the Graduate Program for Immigration and Settlement Studies (ISS). Professor Bauder published several books, dozens of popular and academic articles on issues of immigration. In 2015 he was awarded the Konrad Adenauer Research Award in recognition of his academic achievements and to promote further collaboration projects between Canada and Germany.  For more check out his full CEDoM profile!

Catalan Independence: A view from the demos

October 30, 2017 - by Pablo Ouziel, University of Victoria

On October 27th of 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain. Following from this, the Spanish Senate activated Article 155 of theSpanish Constitution. Since then Catalan parliament has been dissolved, andearly elections in Catalonia have been scheduled for December 21st of 2017.

At present the citizens of Catalonia are living in a socio-political and legal context in which two different parties are telling them which nation-state they belong to. On the one hand, the Spanish state which has applied Article 155 reducing the rights of citizens in the autonomous region. On the other, a Catalan Republic that has been declared by the Catalan parliament and automatically been rejected by the international community.

 Democracy has been the catchword used by both the Catalan and the Spanish governments over the past few months, while the population as a whole has seen its rights being crumpled.

This is the first unilateral declaration of independence by a region within a European Union member state. It is important to make sense of the process in order to understand the vicious cycle we seem to have entered. Better understanding can help democratize our democracies and present virtuous responses to the threats we face as citizens.  


For more

Listen to the last  radio interviews of Pablo Ouziel: / This interview starts at the beginning of the show. / This interview runs until minute 9:45, and then it should be forwarded to minute 19:35 for the second part (it was rendered wrong and at minute 9:45 it repeats what has already been heard so one needs to just jump past it to minute 19:35

The Austrian elections mirroring the failed European migration policy

October 2oth- by Arnold Kammel, director of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES)

The outcome of the Austrian parliamentary elections on 15 October 2017 confirmed the anti-immigration sentiment as an emerging trend which will certainly be reflected in other parliamentary elections in Western Europe. Following the count of all votes, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), considered far-right, anti-immigration and anti-Islamic, finished third after the former coalition partners, the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and the Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). The dominating topic of the elections centred on the question of how to best address the challenge posed by migration to both, Austria and Europe. One of the main arguments of the leader of ÖVP, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, was to close the main migrant routes into the European Union (EU), via the Balkans and the Mediterranean Sea. This proposal was strongly supported by the FPÖ in whose view all refugees should be deprived of access to the social security system and the Austrian welfare state. In the view of the FPÖ, securing and closing off the Austrian border was a necessary step in order to achieve their party political goal of zero immigration. In contrast, the SPÖ relatively late changed its attitude towards migration and as a consequence of polls moved from a very friendly migration policy towards a more restrictive one.

The high impact of migration issue on the outcome of elections came for many foreign observers as a surprise as Austria has always been considered as a country with an open society supporting refugees as past experiences especially in the 1990s with the Balkan Wars had shown. At the beginning of the crisis, Austria was together with Germany among the more welcoming nations in Europe for refugees. However, many voters stated that they felt that Austria was overrun in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of people entered the territory without any proper controls and security mechanisms in place. In 2015, almost 90.000 people applied for asylum in Austria, making it the third highest country for such applications within the EU, and Austria registered more than 40.000 asylum applicants in 2016.

Kurz, who most probably will become the world’s youngest head of government, frequently referred to the fact that as foreign minister he had closed the Balkan route for asylum seekers in the spring of 2016 by shutting Austrian borders to new arrivals in close cooperation with the countries on the route. He has promised to pressure the European Union to do the same now with the central Mediterranean route, the main path for migrants and refugees seeking to enter the continent. At the European Council meeting of 19 October, Council President Donald Tusk has supported this idea.

What will be the consequences of the election outcome? As it stands, a coalition between the ÖVP and FPÖ seems to be the most likely option for forming a new government. The other two options, ÖVP with SPÖ or even SPÖ with FPÖ, are quite unrealistic in terms of political feasibility. Aside of closing the central Mediterranean route and cutting access to the Austrian social system, it seems that the new Austrian government – also in the view of the upcoming Council Presidency in the second half of 2018 – will try to shape the European agenda on migration which will aim at securing the external borders of the EU and promote the establishment of hotspots in North Africa and the fight of illegal migration.

Elections in Austria: Refugee and Migration Issues Moves Austria to the Right

October 19, 2017 - by Markus Reisenleitner, York University

Last Sunday, Austria elected a new government. Less than a year after the Green party-backed social liberal, Alexander van der Bellen, was elected president, both the centre-right Conservative party (Austrian People’s party), the junior partner in the incumbent coalition government, and the far-right Freedom party made big gains while the Social Democrats, the senior partner in government, stagnated, and the Green Party all but disintegrated, losing 2/3 of its previous votes, which brought it below the 4% threshold that is required for parliamentary representation. The Conservatives landed a solid first place with 31.47% of the popular vote (a plus of 7.48%), the Social Democrats hung on to second place with 26.9% (+/-0), and the Freedom party ended up with 26% (a plus of 5.46%) of the vote.

This outcome, which constitutes a major shift to the right and will most likely lead to a coalition between the Conservatives and the Freedom Party (negotiations are ongoing at the time of writing), had been more or less predicted by the polls. Both the Greens’ and the Social Democrats’ campaigns had been marred by scandals, internal rivalries and missteps, while the recently elected new leader of the Conservatives, Sebastian Kurz, Foreign Minister in the last government, had successfully campaigned on his youth, personality, and a populist, socially divisive program of reform that promised to lower taxes, secure borders, and limit the influx of refugees and migrants, thus adopting many topics that had previously been the stronghold of the Freedom Party. Kurz renamed his party “The New People’s party”, presented it as a “movement”, and give it a new colour scheme, obvious but effective strategies that convinced many Austrians that a party that had been in government since 1986 (albeit as a junior partner for most of the time) would usher in a new era in Austrian politics.

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CEDoM events at the International Conference: Borders in Globalization - Ottawa, Dec 6-7

Engaging public, policy makers and civil society actors during the International Conference "Borders in Globalization"

CEDoM invites scholars, policy makers and the wider public to participate in a dialogue on current issues in the wider field of borders and migration studies . During two events experts will provide the audience with the newest responses on visions in the EU and in Canada with a view on how to proceed in the future.

Dec 6: Doug Saunders (Author, Journalist, The Globe and Mail) will deliver a talk on "Making population growth work: European and North American lessons in removing barriers to integration and inclusion"

Dec 7:  Panel Canada Europe Dialogue on Migration (CEDoM). This event addresses the recent irregular migration from the United States into Canada and the  Canadian public debate on migratory movements, Canada’s Safe Third Country agreement with the United States, approaches to refugees and refugee systems in both countries, and the extent to which Canada’s current approach, system, and legal framework are adequate. This comes at a time when Canada’s Prime Minister had already initiated an independent review of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board. This panel looks at available data to gauge patterns, trajectories, continuity, and change in irregular migration across the Canada-US border, offers perspectives by Canadian and US border practitioners, as well as a comparative European assessment of lessons from Germany’s recent experience.

Participants: Dick Fadden (former National Security Advisor), Lesley Soper (IRC), Oliver Schmidtke (University of Victoria), Kelley Humber (Queen’s University), Christian Leuprecht (RMCC), Brandon Behlendorf (SUNY Albany), Superintendent Jamie Soleme (RCMP), Leslie Lawson (Department of Homeland Security), Axel Kreienbrink (German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees)

Draft program International Conference Borders in Globalization

The events are free - please register for the Wednesday event here, and for the Thursday panel by sending a note to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Spain's deep crisis of democracy and Catalonia's controversial quest for independence

October 4th, 2017 - by Pablo Ouziel, Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria

Looking into Spain from the outside it seems as if the current crisis in Catalonia has been caused by a Spanish State unable to accommodate the legitimate demand of the Catalan people to have the right to decide on their future. Although this is the case, from inside the country things look a lot more complicated. On the one side we have a right wing governing party in Spain the Partido Popular (PP) that is immersed in corruption scandals; Spanish courts are currently investigating 900 of its politicians. On the other hand we have a governing coalition in Catalonia JuntspelSí (Together for a Yes vote) which won the Catalan elections in 2015 with 1.1 million votes (36%) and 62 parliamentary seats. 29 of these seats are held by the right wing PdeCat (Catalan Democratic Party) and the current president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, is a member of this party. The problem with the current independence process being led by this party is that it is the successor to the now-defunct CDC (Democratic Convergence of Catalonia) party, which like its Spanish counterpart is immersed in corruption scandals. In 2014 its founder Jordi Pujol, the leader of the party from 1974 to 2003, and President of the Catalan government from 1980 to 2003, was indicted together with his wife for money laundering and tax evasion. In addition his son who was also a member of the party is now serving a prison sentence for corruption.

            It is important to remember that in Spain in 2011 we lived through the occupation of public squares by citizens referring to themselves as 15M and clearly opposing their representatives. In Catalonia 15M surrounded the Catalan Parliament in an attempt to stop the governing coalition in Catalonia from approving a set of draconian austerity measures. The then president of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, successor to Jordi Pujol in CDC, arrived to parliament in a police helicopter in order to be able to enter the building. It was months later that he announced the drive for a referendum in Catalonia blaming all the ills of Catalan society on the Spanish central government. In September of 2012 he publicly announced that it was time for the people of Catalonia to exercise the right of self-determination. A few years later in the 2015 Catalan elections Artur Mas was forced to step down amidst concerns regarding his own integrity as a politician. He then personally selected Carles Puigdemont as the person from his party that would assume the presidency of Catalonia.

            What we have today in Catalonia is a situation in which it is in the interest of both the Spanish and the Catalan presidents to augment the conflict between nationalisms. Such a conflict helps both presidents save their parties from disintegration by consolidating their voter bases. The PP presenting itself as the only party capable of stopping the secession of Catalonia, and PdeCat portraying an image as the only party capable of making Catalonia into an independent republic. Such a conflict allows these two parties to remain in power while avoiding the crisis brewing in Spain because of their corruption scandals. The social contract that was reached by Spanish citizens in 1978, during the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy has been broken. What we are seeing in Catalonia today is the beginning not the end of an escalation of conflict that will affect Spanish people in numerous ways; secession will be just one expression of social discontent in this deep crisis of democracy affecting Spain. The antidote to this crisis expressed by 15M in 2011 has now been silenced.


 Dr Amy Verdun (Professor of Political Science) and Dr Pablo Ouziel (Postdoctoral fellow) will be speaking to CFAX 1070 radio live on Wednesday 4 October 11:30am- 12:00pm noon. Each of them will speak about different aspects of the recent referendum in Catalonia.

EUROPE's NOW Special feature "Governing the Migration Crisis"

Oct 1st, 2017 - CEDoM's new activity: The new special feature of EUROPE NOW with the focus on Governing the Migration Crisis - 

Introduction by Oliver Schmidtke, Jennifer Elrick and Nicole Shea 

"Over the past several years, we have reached a new quality in the global migration crisis: The years 2015 and 2016 were the most turbulent in recent history of refugee movements in Europe and North America. From 2011 to 2015, the number of forcibly displaced people rose from 42.5 to 65.3 million globally. Especially in Europe, the images of people fleeing across the Mediterranean in overloaded and unseaworthy boats have become almost routine. After the massive influx of arrivals in 2015/16 Europe has come to an agreement with Turkey and, more recently, a collaborative approach with Libya, designed to keep what are perceived as “irregular” migrants away from the European continent. Borders have become more and more militarized and the EU’s border protection agency FRONTEX has taken increasingly aggressive steps towards deterring refugees from embarking on their treacherous trip to Europe.

Excerpt from EUROPE NOW Issue October 2017 - Read more  

Elisabeth Vallet on how the refugee crisis in Europe is discussed in Canada

Dr. Elisabeth Vallet, University of Quebec, comments on the evolution of the refugee crisis debate in Canada, the role experts have during the debates about migrants and the impact of the border walls in a globalized world.

Watch the video comments here

"How is the refugee crisis in Europe discussed in Canada?"

"What is the role of experts in the debate around migrants and refugees?"

"The impact of the border walls in a globalized world"


Militarizing the Mediterranean Sea – Putting Refugees at Risk

August 15, 2017 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria

This spring and summer, tens of thousands of refugees have again embarked primarily from Libya and taken the dangerous so-called Mediterranean route to Europe. According to the current estimates of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 111,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far this year, the vast majority of them arrived in Italy in overloaded and unseaworthy boats. According to the IOM’s figures, more than 2,300 have died on their journey in 2017 so far.

As a reaction to these figures and growing frustration in Italy over the lack of sharing the burden of these refugees more fairly in Europe, Italy and Libya have undertaken some significant steps to curb the endless stream of desperate refugees. For weeks, Italian authorities have raged up the rhetoric against those organizations that operate vessels committed to rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Italy has accused these NGO to facilitate the work of the smugglers, if not openly collaborating with them and even benefitting financially from this collaboration (a claim staunchly denied by the groups assisting the refugees at sea). Italy demanded these NGOs to sign a new ‘code of conduct’ that would severely restrict their options at sea. The charities involved in the rescue missions argue that such action would put thousand of lives at risk. In early August, Italian police impounded a boat operated by the German aid organisation Jugend Rettet (Youth Rescues) based on the suspicion that, through its rescue mission, this organization has facilitated illegal migration.

At the end of last week, Libya has made the next, radical step in this push towards curbing the flow of refugees towards the shores of southern Europe. It issued a navy ban declaring that all foreign vessels assisting refugees are not allowed to enter a so-called “search and rescue zone” off the Libyan coast (the exact size of this zone is still unclear). Only some days earlier, an NGO vessel reported being shot at by a Libyan coast guard boat. As a result, Doctors Without Borders announced a temporary halt to its mission in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday. Other NGOs have already followed suit. The Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano has wholeheartedly welcomed the move by the Libyan government and declared in an interview in La Stampa on Sunday: “This sends a signal that the balance is being restored in the Mediterranean.”

For a whole range of reasons Libya and Italy – in concert with the EU’s Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) have clearly embarked on a strategy of deterrence in their attempt to curb the massive influx of refugees (in the Italian case, the looming general elections are a significant factor). Yet, clamping down on rescue operations and militarizing the governance of the border in the Mediterranean Sea is likely to have some devastating effect on those refugees whose desperation drive them to risk their lives to embark on the journey to Europe. By banning refugees from the public eye and impeding humanitarian assistance, Italy and the rest of Europe threatens to undermine their own constitutive values. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights commits all member states to the Right to Asylum (Article 18) and the EU portrays itself as vitally devoted to the protection of human rights. However, in their practical implications, the current strategy of banning humanitarian aid at sea and of addressing the suffering of the refugees with military force and deterrence will result in the outright violation of these fundamental values. For Italy, like for other liberal democracies in today’s world, the global refugee crisis poses a fundamental moral challenge, - one that will not be solved with the closing of borders.



Elisabeth Vallet: Expert on Border Fences in a Globalised World

Dr. Elisabeth Vallet, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography and scientific director of Geopolitics at the Raoul Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec at Montreal, presents her research on border fences in a globalised world. She speaks about her research on the triggers for the increase of more borders/fences around the world and the impact this has for the redefinition of border lands and citizenship. See the video here.

French Presidential Election: Macron's clear mandate to govern and long term political effects for France and Europe

May 10, 2017 - Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

Watch Helga Hallgrimsdottir (Public Administration), Marc Lortie former Canadian Ambassador to France) and Oliver Schmidtke (Centre for Global Studies)  discussing the second run of the French presidential election. 

Video 1: Reflections on the electoral results: a commanding victory for Marcon

Video 2: The ongoing electoral contest: towards the Parliamentary elections in June

Video 3: An opportunity to reinvigorating the EU under a Macron Presidency


French presidential election: The crisis of the political establishment and the desire for political change


CTV interview with Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

April 23, 2017 - by Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

A sigh of relief is palpable in Europe after the first round of the French presidential election: While the Front National leader Marine Le Pen advances, as expected, to the runoff election on May 7th, she will face Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist candidate who is widely seen as the contender most likely to beat Le Pen in the second round.

Yet, the strong performance of Macron and the likely defeat of the Front National leader in the runoff election is anything but business as usual. For the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic since 1958, none of the candidates of the mainstream parties has entered the final round of the presidential race. Their contestants struggled respectively with serious corruption allegations (Republican François Villon) and with the legacy of the highly unpopular Socialist president François Hollande (Socialist Benoît Hamon). The first round of the presidential election was an anti-establishment vote driven by a deep desire for the fundamental renewal of politics. The fourth placed candidate, the leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, owes his strong showing to similar sentiments. If Emmanuel Macron were elected president in two weeks, he would preside in the Élysée Palace without the backing of any party. His organization En Marche! is not a party and does not have any seats in the French Parliament. In this respect, a Macron presidency would pose entirely new challenges to how the country is governed. The presidential election and the legislative elections in June will change French politics and most likely the French political system in far-reaching and largely unpredictable ways. 

On May 7th, the French electorate will face a blunt choice with two fundamentally opposing visions for the future of the country. Le Pen’s nationalistic, Islamophobic program evokes the vision of France outside of the Euro zone and possibly the European Union as well as a country in which migrants are no longer welcome and diversity is perceived as a genuine threat to French national identity. In contrast, Macron advocates for a pro-European, cosmopolitan vision with a strong commitment to international trade and transatlantic cooperation (including CETA). In his own words, Macron promises to be a president of “patriots” against the “nationalist threat”. The runoff election in early May will show whether Macron's rhetorically powerful, albeit elusive promise of hope and change will prove appealing enough to steal the political thunder from nationalist populism.