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COMMENTS 

Britain has lost a role, and failed to find an empire

Theresa May's long-awaited Brexit speech must be understood as an aspiration, rather than a roadmap, since its realisation requires the consent of other parties and the removal of important contradictions, argues Benjamin Martill.
17 January 2017
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Starts: Jan 17, 2017 12:00:00 AM

The aftermath of Berlin: what implications for German politics?

Uta Staiger, Executive Director of the European Institute, comments on the German political and media responses after the Christmas market attacks, in a piece originally published by the New Statesman.
20 December 2016
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Starts: Dec 20, 2016 12:00:00 AM

What will Brexit mean for London's digital entrepreneurs?

Oliver Patel, Research Assistant at the European Institute, offers three reasons why the Brexit vote is worrying for London's tech community.
Oliver Patel (UCL European Institute)
19 December 2016
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Starts: Dec 19, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Bulgarian PM’s resignation & Public Disorder in Europe

Publication date: Feb 20, 2013 05:28 PM

Start: Feb 20, 2013 12:00 AM

Eric Gordy

Dr Eric Gordy
February 2013

The main difference between public disorder in Bulgaria and everywhere else in Europe is that in Bulgaria the government responded. Although the immediate catalyst for protests was the state’s failure to control growth in the price of electricity, the core causes are shared in every European state: dissatisfaction resulting from the forced dismantling of social support services brought on by the European debt crisis, and a sense that policymakers are orienting their activity not to the needs of the public but to the service of large European banks.

These forces are accompanied by the perception that national governments have neither the capacity nor the will to address the consequences of a fiscal and social policy that are widely seen as imbalanced against the public interest. In Greece, Hungary and Italy the contribution of public dissatisfaction to the rise of antidemocratic movements of the extreme right is already apparent.

While conservative political leaders in the EU, particularly from Germany and the UK (and until last year, France) have largely been successful in pushing for a shift of priorities to debt service and “austerity,” the consequences of this should concern everybody in Europe. In the period after the end of the First World War, there was a similar euphoric and triumphalist announcement that liberal democracy could declare its inevitable victory across the continent.

Inattention to the responsibilities of states to their publics on the part of that generation of liberal democratic elites led to a rapid and general decay of constitutional systems and an accelerating tendency of governments to neglect of social responsibilities.

If we take one lesson from the failures of democratic order in the 1920s and 1930s, it should be that governments that fail to address social needs will be challenged by forces, some of them extremist ones, that promise to do so.