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Professor Bale: PRR Parties Can Be Beaten at Elections, But They Can’t Be Eradicated

By analyzing the recent electoral success of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK Party (RUKP)as a representative of European PRR parties, Professor Tim Bale emphasized that “mainstream parties who oppose them have to learn to live with this fact and realize that while they can be beaten at elections, they can’t be eradicated.” Discussing the broader political climate, Professor Bale warned of the challenges posed by both right-wing and left-wing populism. He pointed out that left-wing populism, while lacking the xenophobic and Islamophobic elements of its right-wing counterpart, often proposes overly simplistic solutions that could threaten good governance and economic stability. 

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

In an interview on Tuesday with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Professor Tim Bale, a renowned scholar from the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary University of London, provided deep insights into the enduring presence of populist radical right (PRR) parties in the UK and European politics. Reflecting on his earlier predictions, Professor Bale emphasized that “mainstream parties who oppose them have to learn to live with this fact and realize that while they can be beaten at elections, they can’t be eradicated.”

Professor Bale analyzed the recent electoral successes of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK Party (RUKP), highlighting the demographic trends underpinning its support. Unlike in many European countries, where far-right support often comes from younger voters, in the UK, it is generally middle-aged or older individuals who are drawn to these parties. These supporters, many of whom left school at 16 or earlier, are not necessarily deprived but often feel uneasy about cultural changes and harbor nostalgia for a bygone Britain. RUKP has skillfully expanded its appeal beyond immigration to include resistance to “woke” politics and rapid environmental policies, positioning itself as a defender against perceived excessive social liberalism and fast-tracked net-zero targets.

The interview explored the potential implications of the Labour Party’s recent electoral victory on far-right parties. Professor Bale noted that Labour’s handling of immigrationwould be crucial. While a reduction in legal migration might temper some support for RUKP, ongoing issues such as illegal Channel crossings could still provide fertile ground for Farage’s rhetoric. “Nigel Farage and RUKP will be able to capitalize on that particular problem and Labour’s inability to stop them completely,” he observed.

Discussing the broader political climate, Professor Bale warned of the challenges posed by both right-wing and left-wing populism. He pointed out that left-wing populism, while lacking the xenophobic and Islamophobic elements of its right-wing counterpart, often proposes overly simplistic solutions that could threaten good governance and economic stability. “While left-wing populism has its downsides, it may not be as dangerous for minority communities as right-wing populism has proven to be,” he concluded.

In reflecting on the Conservative Party’s strategy, Professor Bale highlighted the ongoing internal debate about how to address the rise of RUKP. He suggested that the Conservatives’ move towards populist radical right policies has so far been counterproductive, potentially perpetuating a vicious cycle. The party faces a crucial decision: whether to embrace Farage and his supporters or to reaffirm its commitment to centrist, economically focused policies.

Overall, Professor Bale’s insights underscore the complex and enduring nature of PRR parties in the UK and Europe. His assertion that these parties are now a permanent fixture in the political landscape serves as a sobering reminder for mainstream parties of the challenges they face in addressing and countering populist narratives.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Tim Bale with some edits.

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Professor Camus: National Rally’s Electoral Success Goes Beyond Protest Votes

Professor Jean-Yves Camus emphasizes that the social and economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron have driven many voters to the National Rally (NR). However, he cautions against viewing this merely as a protest vote. “When a party remains strong for over 50 years, it cannot be solely due to protest,” he notes. According to Camus, NR’s support base reflects a society grappling with increasing inequalities, where many citizens feel deprived of fair opportunities. This sentiment is compounded by a growing resentment towards foreigners, particularly those from North African, West African and Middle Eastern backgrounds.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

In an era marked by the rising influence of far-right movements across the globe, the unprecedented success of France’s National Rally (NR) in both the European Parliament elections in early June and the first round of national elections on June 30, 2024, has captured widespread attention. Scholars, politicians and citizens are keenly observing this seismic shift in French politics. To delve deeper into this phenomenon, we are joined by Professor Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst and Associate Research Fellow at The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), who is also a distinguished expert on far-right movements.

Reflecting on NR’s recent successes, Professor Camus emphasizes that the social and economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron have driven many voters to the National Rally. However, he cautions against viewing this merely as a protest vote. “When a party remains strong for over 50 years, it cannot be solely due to protest,” he notes. According to Camus, NR’s support base reflects a society grappling with increasing inequalities, where many citizens feel deprived of fair opportunities. This sentiment is compounded by a growing resentment towards foreigners, particularly those from North African, West African and Middle Eastern backgrounds. NR voters often believe in a clash of civilizations, perceiving a lack of proper assimilation into French society, especially among Muslim immigrants.

In this interview, Professor Camus provides historical context, current dynamics and future projections for the National Rally. He discusses how the NR’s appeal transcends mere protest, touching on deep-seated issues within French society, such as economic disparities, social mobility and national identity. Camus also explores how the NR’s messaging resonates across various demographics, indicating widespread discontent with traditional political parties. He examines the party’s evolution under Marine Le Pen’s leadership, particularly its ‘normalization’ process, which has made it more palatable to a broader segment of voters.

Additionally, Camus sheds light on the influence of cultural and historical factors, including the legacy of France’s colonial past and the Gaullist tradition of national sovereignty, in shaping contemporary far-right and populist movements. He addresses the complexities of European nationalist parties forming cohesive alliances within the European Parliament and the role of external influences, notably from the US and Russia, on the NR and similar movements.

As France stands on the brink of potentially significant political change, this interview offers a thorough analysis of the forces driving NR’s rise and what its continued success could mean for the future of French politics. Professor Camus’s insights are invaluable for understanding the broader implications of this shift and the underlying currents shaping the political landscape.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Jean-Yves Camus with some edits.

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Professor Wiesner: Von Der Leyen and EPP Are Playing a Dangerous Game by Preferring Far-right to Greens

Professor Claudia Wiesner voices her concerns regarding the troubling trend of the European People’s Party (EPP) and Ursula von der Leyen, showing a preference for collaborating with populist far-right groups over the Greens. Professor Wiesner argues that this strategy is fraught with risks for the European Union. She questions the strategic interest behind such alliances, emphasizing, “These parties would not support strong European integration. They favor a weaker Europe, whereas the Greens support a stronger Europe. It would be in the interest of a strong European Commission to align with parties favoring a stronger European Union.” Wiesner further highlights the potential legitimacy crisis the EU might face if it continues down this path.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

In an intriguing interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Dr. Claudia Wiesner, Jean Monnet Chair and Professor for Political Science at Fulda University of Applied Sciences, discussed the concerning trend of the European People’s Party (EPP) and its leader, Ursula von der Leyen, showing a preference for collaborating with far-right groups such as Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia over the Greens. Professor Wiesner argued that this strategy is fraught with risks for the European Union. She questioned the strategic interest behind such alliances, emphasizing, “These parties would not support strong European integration. They favor a weaker Europe, whereas the Greens support a stronger Europe. It would be in the interest of a strong European Commission to align with parties favoring a stronger European Union.”

Wiesner further highlighted the potential legitimacy crisis the EU might face if it continues down this path. “If the major faction in the European Parliament collaborates with groups that have previously acted against these principles and the rule of law, it will create a legitimacy problem for the EU,” she warned. She raised critical concerns about how citizens could trust von der Leyen’s commitment to defending democracy when she collaborates with leaders like Meloni, who has been accused of undermining media liberty in Italy, or the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), known for driving democratic backsliding in Poland.

The issue of coalition-building in the European Parliament is another significant challenge. According to Wiesner, the volatility of majorities necessitates a coalition of at least four political groups, including Conservatives, Social Democrats, Liberals, and Greens, to achieve consensus. However, current debates suggest the possibility of excluding the Greens in favor of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which could further complicate efforts to foster a unified and strong European Union.

Professor Wiesner’s insights underscore the complexities and potential pitfalls of current political maneuvers within the EU. Her critique serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to the EU’s foundational values and the risks involved in straying from these principles for short-term political gains. “If the European Union wants to be credible in defending its values, it needs to defend these values internally as well,” she concluded, highlighting the need for consistency and integrity in EU governance and policymaking.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Claudia Wiesner with some edits.

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ECPS Special Panel on EP Elections: Where Is Europe Heading?

Date/Time: Tuesday, June 18, 2024 / 15:00-17:00 (CET)

 

Moderator

Irina von Wiese (ECPS Honorary President; Affiliate Professor at European Business School, the ESCP, and former MEP).

Speakers

“European Democracy’s Resilience to Populism‘s Threat,” by Dr. Kurt Weyland (Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts at University of Texas).

“A Far-right Tipping Point? The Impact of the 2024 European Elections in France,” by Dr. Gilles Ivaldi (Senior Researcher in Politics at CEVIPOF and Professor at Sciences Po Paris).

“The Populist Rebellion of the Young,” by Dr. Albena Azmanova (Professor of Political and Social Science at University of Kent).

“EP Elections in Austria: Between ‘So What’ and the New Normal,” by Dr. Robert A. Huber(Professor of Methods at the University of Salzburg and Co-editor in Chief of Political Research Exchange).

“Beyond the Cordon Sanitaire: Normalization of Far-right and Racist Politics,” by Dr. Ulrike M. Vieten (Assistant Professor in Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast).

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Dr. Anastasakis: Biggest Risk in the EU is Far-right Parties De

From a historical perspective, Dr. Othon Anastasakis acknowledged that the rise of far-right parties in the European elections does not represent a significant rupture from the past. The mainstream political context still dominates European politics, which he finds reassuring. However, he sees two main risks for the future: the unification of far-right parties within the European Parliament and the potential alliance of center-right parties with far-right elements, which could normalize extremist rhetoric.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Following the European Parliament elections, Dr. Othon Anastasakis gave an interview to ECPS, discussing the risks confronting the European Union and European liberal democracies. Dr. Anastasakis, the Director of the European Studies Centre and South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) at St Antony’s College, Oxford University, stated, “What I see in Europe today is a process of securitization and the geopoliticization of the European Union. This shift is largely a response to the wars in neighboring regions, especially Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In the face of these realities and a multipolar global environment, there is a turn towards a defense-oriented agenda.” He emphasized that this process of geopoliticization is shaping the EU’s future direction.

Dr. Anastasakis underscored the significant risk to the EU’s normative agenda, noting that the EU, as a democratic club, shares specific values, rules, and procedures. He expressed concern that as the EU faces increased geopolitical and security challenges, it may struggle to maintain its commitment to these normative values, particularly in external relations, trade, and foreign policy decisions. He highlighted the risk that the EU might compromise its democratic credentials to bring in countries that may not yet be ready for membership.

Another risk Dr. Anastasakis highlighted is the potential for far-right parties in Europe to unite within the European Parliament to create obstacles on issues such as migration and climate change. He also pointed out the risk that center-right parties, particularly those in the Christian Democrat bloc, might be tempted to ally with far-right parties on certain issues or adopt parts of their discourse, leading to the mainstreaming of far-right rhetoric. He noted that this has already been observed in the field of migration, where mainstream parties are often influenced by far-right narratives.

However, from a historical perspective, Dr. Anastasakis acknowledged that the rise of far-right parties in the European elections does not represent a significant rupture from the past. The mainstream political context still dominates European politics, which he finds reassuring.  Overall, Dr. Anastasakis cautioned that while the current situation does not mirror the catastrophic rise of far-right movements in the early 20th century, it poses significant challenges that require vigilant attention to safeguard the EU’s democratic values and stability.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Dr. Othon Anastasakis with some edits.

Dr.Cornejo

Professor Cornejo: Sheinbaum’s Democratic Background Contrasts with Her Actions That Erode Mexican Democracy

Professor Rodrigo Castro Cornejo says Claudia Sheinbaum’s government in Mexico is set to begin in October, and it will be a period of significant interest as both the current president and the president-elect navigate this transition. He noted that Sheinbaum has a democratic trajectory, having worked as a scholar and scientist before joining López Obrador’s movement and stated that “Given her background, one might expect her government not to pose a threat to democracy. However, recent signs indicate she supports measures that could further erode Mexican democracy. We will need to wait until her government starts to see if these policies are implemented.”

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

General elections were held in Mexico on June 2, 2024, marking a significant moment in the nation’s political landscape. Voters elected a new president to serve a six-year term, alongside all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies and all 128 members of the Senate. The election saw Claudia Sheinbaum, a member of the left-wing National Regeneration Movement (Morena), secure the presidency. This result underscores a continuity in the political direction established by the outgoing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

In an insightful interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Dr. Rodrigo Castro Cornejo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and Associate Director of the UMass-Lowell Center for Public Opinion, discussed Sheinbaum’s political trajectory and the implications of her victory. Professor Cornejo highlighted that Sheinbaum actively supported López Obrador’s transformation agenda throughout her campaign, aligning herself closely with his policies. This raised questions about whether she would carve out her own positions once in office or continue on the path set by her predecessor.

Professor Cornejo pointed out that Sheinbaum recently reiterated her support for controversial reforms, such as electing judges by popular vote, which suggests a continuation of policies that may weaken checks and balances. This stance has raised concerns about potential democratic erosion under her administration.

Sheinbaum’s government is set to begin in October, and it will be a period of significant interest as both the current president and the president-elect navigate this transition. Professor Cornejo noted that Sheinbaum has a democratic trajectory, having worked as a scholar and scientist before joining López Obrador’s movement and stated that “Given her background, one might expect her government not to pose a threat to democracy. However, recent signs indicate she supports measures that could further erode Mexican democracy. We will need to wait until her government starts to see if these policies are implemented.”

As we delve into this interview, Professor Cornejo sheds light on the historical development of populist movements in Mexico, the impact of populist rhetoric on voter behavior, and the potential long-term implications for Mexican society and governance. Join us as we explore these critical issues and gain a deeper understanding of the current political dynamics in Mexico.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Rodrigo Castro Cornejo with some edits.

Professor Ulrike M. Vieten

Professor Vieten: Individualized Profit and Socialized Risk Fuel Far-Right Populism

Dr. Ulrike M. Vieten points out that the 2008 economic crisis played a significant role in exacerbating people’s anxieties, highlighting that “profit is individualized while risk is socialized.” This economic instability, coupled with the recent pandemic, has deepened the feeling of insecurity across Europe. These socio-economic factors, she argues, have paved the way for the far-right’s rise, as people seek to channel their distress and anger. Drawing parallels with the normalization of far-right ideologies in the early 20th century, Vieten underscores that this historical context is crucial in recognizing how quickly societal values can shift and the dangers of complacency.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

As critical European Parliament elections take place across Europe, Dr. Ulrike M. Vieten, an Assistant Professor in Sociology of Gender, Migration and Racisms, at Queen’s University Belfast, points out that the 2008 economic crisis played a significant role in exacerbating people’s anxieties, referencing German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, by highlighting that “profit is individualized while risk is socialized.” This economic instability, coupled with the recent pandemic, has deepened the feeling of insecurity across Europe, particularly among young people and students who lost their jobs. These socio-economic factors, she argues, have paved the way for the far-right’s rise, as people seek to channel their distress and anger.

In an interview with European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) on Friday, Professor Vieten discussed the complex dynamics driving the rise of populist and far-right parties in Europe, one of the most affluent regions globally. Professor Vieten, a historical sociologist, offers valuable insights into the multifaceted factors contributing to this phenomenon. “The emergence of far-right, particularly racist populism, is surprising in such a wealthy continent. In my view, this has to do with the population itself; it is a class issue,” she explains, emphasizing the middle class’s fear of losing social status and the sense of entitlement that fuels these fears.

The professor also underscores the importance of understanding history to grasp the current political landscape. Drawing parallels with the normalization of far-right ideologies in the early 20th century, she notes, “The shocking reality is that within just ten years, a very cosmopolitan, modern, and diverse society like Germany in the late 1920s could suddenly transform into a monocultural, antisemitic, and racist society.” This historical context is crucial in recognizing how quickly societal values can shift and the dangers of complacency.

Addressing the role of migration as a propeller of far-right populism, Professor Vieten explains how the politicization of migration creates divisions and anxieties. She highlights the interconnectedness of the housing crisis and xenophobic sentiments, exacerbated by media and political rhetoric. “The ideologically loaded notion of migration and migrants is something that has developed over the years,” she notes, pointing to the lack of effective strategies to address these issues.

In combating the influence of far-right populism, Professor Vieten advocates for a culture of open-mindedness, solidarity, social justice, and equality. She emphasizes the need for counter-mobilization against authoritarian tendencies and the importance of cultivating anti-racism bystander habits to challenge the normalization of exclusionary ideologies.

Through this interview, Professor Vieten provides a nuanced understanding of the rise of far-right populism in Europe, rooted in historical context and contemporary socio-economic challenges. Her insights call for a concerted effort to address these issues and promote a more inclusive and equitable society.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Ulrike M. Vieten with some edits.

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Mapping Global Populism – Panel XIII: Resurgence of Expansionist Tsarism: Populist Autocracy in Russia

Date/Time: Thursday, May 30, 2024 — 10:00-12:00 (CET)

 

Moderator

Dr. Maxine David (Lecturer in European Studies at Leiden University and Foreign Policy Analyst Specializing in Russian and EU Foreign Policy).

Speakers

“Why Putin Is Not a Populist, But Worse,” by Dr. Luke March (Professor, Personal Chair of Post-Soviet and Comparative Politics at the University of Edinburg).

“Katechontintic Sovereignty of Z-Populism in Putin’s Russia,” by Dr. Alexandra Yatsyk (Researcher at IRHIS-CNRS at the University of Lille and a lecturer at Sciences Po, France).

“‘Traditional Values’: Gendered and (New)Imperial Dimensions in Russia,” by Dr. Yulia Gradskova (Associate Professor, Researcher at Södertörn University, Sweden).

“The Economic Costs of Autocracy in Putin’s Russia,” by Dr. Dóra Győrffy (Professor of Economy at Institute of Economics, Corvinus University of Budapest).

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Professor Tormey: The World Is in an Era of Economic Liberalism with Great Power Rivalry

Professor Simon Tormey stated that great power rivalry is more significant than any new ideology, indicating a shift away from globalization, which suggested diminishing differences between countries. Tormey highlighted that nationalist and nativist power struggles are likely to shape political outcomes for at least the next two decades. He noted the reemergence of great power rivalry, alongside economic interconnectedness and trends of de-globalization and decoupling. Tormey predicted continued regional conflicts and the persistence of populism without evolving into a new form of neo-populism.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

In an interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) on Monday, Professor Simon Tormey, a political theorist and the Executive Dean of Arts and Education at Deakin University in Australia, discussed the complex dynamics shaping the current global political landscape. Professor Tormey offered a deep dive into what he describes as an era characterized by economic liberalism intertwined with great power rivalry.

“Great power rivalry is probably more important than any neologism or new ideology,” stated Professor Tormey, highlighting the significant geopolitical shifts that have overshadowed the once-dominant narrative of globalization. He pointed out that we are witnessing a retreat from the idea that the differences between countries are becoming less significant than their similarities. Instead; nativist, nationalist great power rivalries are reemerging and are likely to dictate political outcomes for the next 15-20 years.

The interview covered various topics, including the role of populism in modern democracies. Professor Tormey explained that populism, whether from the right or left, often arises in response to crises. “We are in an era of poly-crisis,” he noted, referring to the simultaneous challenges of economic turmoil, climate emergencies, geopolitical conflicts, and social instability. These conditions create fertile ground for populist movements that seek to undermine trust in ruling elites and offer radical solutions.

Despite the rise of populism, Professor Tormey argued that the fundamental structures of capitalism and economic liberalism remain robust. “Neoliberalism is more entrenched than this description suggests. The belief in the market, capitalism, and the ability of people to invest in various countries is intrinsic to capitalist modernity,” he asserted.

On the topic of migration and social cohesion, Professor Tormey acknowledged the concerns of right-wing populists but emphasized the benefits of multiculturalism. He pointed out that successful multicultural societies, such as the US, Canada, and Australia, enrich democratic life. However, he also recognized the need for a balanced approach to immigration, as seen in the ongoing debates in the UK, the Netherlands and Australia.

Reflecting on the future, Professor Tormey underscored the importance of democratic engagement and innovation. He believes that democracy must adapt to include both traditional institutions and new forms of participation driven by technological advances. “We need both established institutions and the energy of street protests and new forms of political participation,” he concluded.

This insightful interview with Professor Simon Tormey offers a comprehensive overview of the current state of global politics, the challenges of populism and the enduring influence of economic liberalism and great power rivalry.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Simon Tormey with some edits.

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Professor Tim Haughton on Fico Assassination Attempt: Polarization Boosts Charged Political Climate in Slovakia

In an illuminating interview Professor Tim Haughton assessed the recent assassination attempt targeting Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico and underlined that the camp around Fico has pushed numerous polarizing narratives that could be categorized under the populism label. “This polarization has contributed to the charged political atmosphere in Slovakia,” he noted, highlighting the environment that led to the assassination.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Dr. Tim Haughton, Professor of Comparative and European Politics and Deputy Director of the Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (CEDAR) at the University of Birmingham, stated that the camp around Robert Fico has pushed numerous narratives that could be categorized under the populism label. “This polarization has contributed to the charged political atmosphere in Slovakia,” he noted, highlighting the environment that led to the assassination attempt targeting Fico.

In an illuminating interview he gave, on Friday, to the European Center for PopulismStudies (ECPS), sheds light on the complex and evolving political landscape of Slovakia. With a deep understanding of Central and Eastern European politics, Professor Haughton provides insightful analysis on the rise of radical right and far-right movements, the influence of populism, and the role of national identity and immigrationin shaping political rhetoric. He discusses the significant impact of Robert Fico’s leadership, the challenges facing Slovak democracy, and the broader implications for European politics.

Professor Haughton begins by addressing the characteristics of radical right parties in Slovakia, noting the historical roots of the Slovak National Party and the more recent emergence of neo-fascist parties like those led by Marian Kotleba and Republika. He emphasizes the shift in focus from ethnic Hungarians to non-European elements, particularly in response to the migration crisis, aligning these parties with broader European trends.

Regarding Robert Fico, Professor Haughton highlights the nuanced nature of his political stance, combining leftist economic policies with nationalist rhetoric. According to him, this complexity makes it difficult to categorize Fico simply as a far-right populist. Professor Haughton also delves into the polarization of Slovak politics, exacerbated by populist narratives and the divisive rhetoric surrounding the war in Ukraine.

The assassination attempt on Fico and its aftermath underscore the fragility of democracy and the deep-seated tensions within Slovak society. Professor Haughton discusses the influence of Russian disinformation, the significance of journalist Jan Kuciak’s murder, and the broader discontent with liberal democracy. Through his thoughtful analysis, Professor Haughton paints a comprehensive picture of the challenges and dynamics at play in Slovakia, offering valuable perspectives on the region’s political future.

Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Tim Haughton with minor edits.