Alexander Clarkson Profile picture
Lecturer for German and European Studies at King's College London. Opinions my own. RT not always endorsement.
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25 Nov
When assessing COVID19 policy in Germany, data journos need to take the federal structure of government and pretty substantial differences in outcome between Länder into account. Power is distributed to regions in ways that shape statistical outcomes.
What has shocked me isn't so much the dilemmas the German federal and Land governments and faced. At various points each European state has faced impossible dilemmas generated by COVID. 1/2
What shocked me was the panicky incoherence of the messaging in response to the COVID dilemmas in the last three months of Land and Bund governments, at a time at which public compliance and institutional responses require the public to have confidence in state authority 2/2
Read 4 tweets
24 Nov
It's good news, but I'd wait for the exact legal text of the next round of citizenship reform under 🔴🟡🟢 coalition before assessing its exact impact on the status of millions of immigrants in Germany
Would be nice if completing school or university education in Germany would count as besondere Integrationsleistung that accelerates access to German citizenship. German economy needs skilled workers and professionals desperately
With Turkey in severe economic difficulty (UAE is cash is like putting a bandaid on a shotgun wound) there are a lot of skilled workers and professionals heading from Turkey to Germany already. A clearer citizenship path will accelerate that brain drain
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24 Nov
COVID Inzidenz is at 900 in Sachsen, yet the UK is still declared a Hochrisikogebiet at 439 by the Robert-Koch Institute, which indicates how absurd German travel controls are now

The RKI border regime hinges on a belief that Germany always does better than the rest of the world
The plague island meme is silly. UK government fouled up a lot in 2020, which UK society is still working through now. But at current trajectory, outcomes across Europe end up pretty much the same, with some countries getting calls right and doing better earlier and some later
Italy is also a useful case study in how as the crisis drags on a European country whose state messed up at the start has over time developed mechanisms to manage the crisis as a long term challenge.

Germany did well at the start, but did not treat this as a long term problem
Read 5 tweets
22 Nov
London pundits come to the terms with the fact that Boris Johnson does not actually know what he is doing
This what you want from a Chihuahua, not a British Prime Minister Image
Or maybe there is no technique at all Image
Read 7 tweets
20 Nov
A key contradiction in much analysis of the Putin regime's actions is the dual claim that Putin does not want war but also does not want to be seen to be bluffing. If the former matters more than the latter then Kyiv rides this out and Putin looks like all he can do is bluff
Seven years after Maidan is falling back into old Russia watcher paradigms of focusing entirely on the Russian state's goals and agency while not adequately taking Ukrainian and East European agency and goals into account.
The core Russian strategic mistake is the belief that US can easily remote control what Ukraine and other East European states are doing. So you keep getting Russian leaders approaching the US to get some grand deal only to get blindsided and furious by how the US can't deliver
Read 6 tweets
18 Nov
German media and political discourse coming to terms with the possibility that South European states can sometimes do things better than Germany might prove a transformative cultural moment in itself
And yes of course seasonal effects mean cases will go up in Spain and Italy. But vaccination programmes have been more efficient so I doubt the political class in either will tip into the panic that is proving so counter-productive to finding effective strategies in Germany
It's not the concrete problem of the rising cases that I find shocking in Germany. COVID19 generates tough dilemmas to manage. It's the headless panic of the German political class in response and its confusion around the basics of a vaccination programme that is off the scale
Read 4 tweets
18 Nov
There is a point after years of crisis where state institutions and populations become ground down by fatigue and structural attrition. It might be unrealistic to expect the German state and public to have the discipline and capacity in November 2021 that they had in March 2020
Watching Germany now is a bit like watching debates in the UK in November 2020 before the vaccination programme helped to restore trust in the NHS and other state healthcare institutions
And this really isn't a UK vs EU thing. A lot of EU states such as Italy, France or Spain have done OK with vaccination programmes and reopening. This is specifically a debate that needs to be had about German state resilience
Read 4 tweets
18 Nov
A lot of what got put under the "hybrid war" bracket is what the EU faces with all kinds of difficult neighbouring states on a regular basis without automatically treating it as a military problem rather than as a law enforcement and diplomatic problem
How "hybrid war" spread from Russia analysis to debates around handling states like Morocco, Turkey or Libya has proven unhelpful as well. Often what then becomes portrayed as an issue for military power is in reality an issue that needs to be handled through gendarmerie power
What gets called "hybrid war" is often the grasping around of weaker states trying to find vulnerabilities that can be used to exert pressure on much stronger neighbours. More often than not these tactics of the weak fail because they can't make up for asymmetries of power.
Read 4 tweets
17 Nov
If your core assumption is Sinn Fein becoming biggest party in NI to take over the First Minister position craters power-sharing then what would pundits making such points expect the EU to do? Even if the EU does what Johnson wants (it won't) it can't save the DUP from DUP idiocy
We're heading to outcomes where Sinn Fein dominates politics in Dublin as well as Belfast at this rate. Does the UK government expect the EU to stop that from happening?
Unionist concerns need to be taken account of in negotiations over the Protocol, but there are much bigger structural shifts playing out through Brexit itself and the '09 financial crisis that UK pundits can't wish away
Read 5 tweets
16 Nov
Anyone surprised at the tough and at times brutal approach the EU is taking to controlling its borders now has not been watching the EU's trajectory on border management since 2015
In the UK the idea the EU is not some kind of geopolitical pony farm emitting innocence and light but is rather increasingly state-like and does what states do to survive when it thinks it is threatened does not fit either Remainer or Brexiter talking points
Meanwhile it looks like Lukashenka having started a border crisis to demonstrate he still has the strength to push a state like Poland or Lithuania around is now at a point where he is getting pushed around by EU as well as Russia in ways that make him look weak
Read 4 tweets
9 Nov
Worth considering whether Russia's leadership is now so marinated in its own propaganda that it genuinely believes only military pressure on neighbours prevents an attack on Russia

Ukraine, US and EU stuck in a position where every signal they send gets misinterpreted by Moscow
People trying to work out strategic thinking by Russia's leadership based on realistic assessment of Ukrainian, US or EU intent might be missing the possibility that Russia's leadership is so paranoid its internal system rationality is detached from political realities around it
If Russia's leadership genuinely believes a NATO/Ukrainian/US/EU etc attack is imminent, it can convince itself that buildups along Ukraine, Black Sea, Belarus, Baltic states are defensive while also once troops are there be paranoid enough to talk itself into war at short notice
Read 4 tweets
9 Nov
UK pundit blames EU for UK government not sticking to agreement UK government signed and negotiated with the EU.
Guys it's getting silly now
Might be worth using an alternative timeline where UK governments don't torch all trust with the EU and Irish governments in the run up to negotiations as a starting point before speculating about EU and Irish flexibility.
Read 4 tweets
7 Nov
Find this stuff tiring. The moment mandates are dropped in EU states (they eventually will be) the same drops in mask use will play out in the same way. And once they're dropped most EU states will find it more difficult to ramp them back up again with same levels of compliance
You can argue that the UK government sent the "it's over" signal to the population prematurely in July. But what's done is done, the message was internalised. Every EU state will end up doing the same after the current spike is over and face the same dilemmas afterwards.
Sometimes the UK government's tendencies have pushed it ahead of the pack in Europe, sometimes it caught up with others that moved early. But I suspect if we look back in a few years we'll find UK policies, dilemmas and outcomes won't turn out much different to the rest of Europe
Read 5 tweets
31 Oct
What UK observers need to take into account is if Paris assumes that coercion is the only way to get UK governments to stick to treaty commitments than the fish issue is a much lower cost dispute for France than it is for the UK.

It's not French supply chains being squeezed here
The UK really does not want to end up in a situation where as with Turkey the French hardline view that a neighbouring state of the EU cannot be trusted and will only stick to commitments if coerced spreads to other EU states that may have been more likely to help the UK out
Using the Northern Ireland Protocol to hit the EU ends up pushing in Ireland a state that could have been the UK's greatest friend in the EU towards France's hawkish approach to handling neighbouring states of the EU.
Read 6 tweets
30 Oct
Because the UK government still does not have personnel and infrastructure in place to run a functioning trade border regime with the EU, the UK does not have the means to reciprocally retaliate against French moves to slowroll goods checks on UK exporters
If you don't invest in the personnel and infrastructure to run anything beyond the lightest touch border system, you don't have the means to retaliate against businesses exporting to you from states that use their heavier touch border systems to pressure your exporters
It's like not investing in modern surface to air or anti-ship missiles and then being surprised when a rival state can flatten your positions from a carrier cruising just off your shoreline
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28 Oct
Is there a supply backlog or shortage of spare parts and components for key infrastructure equipment in energy, water, transport and tech sectors? If so, how would such supply chain issues affect maintenance, system resilience and reliability of provision to states and customers?
At what point do all those containers piling up in ports, ships backed up unable to unload, production facilities slowing down affect supply chains that are essential for maintenance of power plants, rail systems, internet infrastructure, water systems and so on?
Read 4 tweets
27 Oct
US-based economists and economic historians that decry the EU for not emulating US stimulus packages that to a large extent replicate what EU states have been doing for decades
We still get op/eds in American newspapers predicting the decline and fall of the EU because it won't emulate the cash US governments throw at stimulus packages even as the current US government can't even get paid leave legislation through the US Senate.
Read 4 tweets
27 Oct
There is a pandemic as a socio-political crisis and there is a pandemic as an epidemiological process.

Sometimes the former is perceived by voters and politicians to have ended long before the latter actually plays itself out.
Public and state risk calculus can shift pretty quickly in ways that can severely disorient practitioners and social groups still anchored in crisis discourses
Economists and specific milieus with the Eurozone crisis or the military world and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind when it comes to being caught out by the speed with which risk calculus and political consensus can shift
Read 7 tweets
16 Oct
The entire pitch for Brexit in 2016 was that the sovereignty gains in leaving the EU would make the UK more economically prosperous and more politically stable than the EU.

That's the Leave Campaign's benchmark for establishing success or failure.
The way greater sovereignty from the EU became inextricably linked in the Leave Campaign's pitch with greater prosperity in comparison to the EU is one of the reasons why Soft Brexit as a balanced compromise to ensure UK stability became squeezed out of contention after 2016
Also interesting to look back at the Vote Leave manifesto and see what is still highlighted now and what isn't mentioned. A new European institutional architecture assumes a lot about the UK's power and leverage over the EU as well as about EU weakness
voteleavetakecontrol.org/briefing_newde…
Read 8 tweets
15 Oct
We'll be getting the @BritainPodcast back running soon, but in the meantime 3 episodes that now seem timely in the wake of debate over Britain's foreign and defence policy:

1. With @ToniHaastrup 'How Global is Britain' on UK foreign policy beyond Europe
buzzsprout.com/1611550/881390…
2. With @warmatters aka Matthew Ford on 'The Quest for Global Britain' on the future of Britain's military in the wake of Brexit, Debates over Scotland's future and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars
buzzsprout.com/1611550/862318…
3. And with @bleddb aka Bleddyn Bowen on 'Global Strategy amidst Uncertain Unity' on the crisis of the British state and the UK government's Integrated Review in foreign and defence policy in geopolitical context
buzzsprout.com/1611550/841368…
Read 6 tweets
14 Oct
This "I don't think the EU really understands" shtick on the UK side is getting silly and does not help UK credibility. EU and Irish officials have worked every angle of Brexit over and over for five years. Of course they understand. But that doesn't mean they'll do what you want
It's eerily close to the Russian "you don't really understand our relationship with Ukraine" trope that goes on and on. After a certain point you wonder who has problems understanding the state of play
"You don't really understand the situation in Northern Ireland" by officials and ex-officials in London is pitched to whom exactly? Irish officials?
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