Archive for the ‘Political Economy’ Category


By Deniz Torcu, MIR 2014/2015 Current Student

The image that has started to go viral in social media amongst Greek users is simple, yet strong enough to explain the stand of the majority. It says a clear “NO”, however the rejection is composed of the sentence “YES TO THE EURO”.

My recent trip to Athens was a clear depiction of how devastated the country really is. The once busy neighbourhoods filled with restaurants, cafés and shops are now being replaced by two yellow signs that mark the desperation of the people: “for rent” and “for sale”, appearing side by side.

Yes, Greece owes billions of dollars. Yes, Greece cannot pay her debt to the IMF and has to redeem billions of bonds held by the ECB or run the risk of going into default.

These are the dry, non-human facts that we read in the news every day.

However, what we don’t get to read as much is the following: after the measures taken by the Greek governments over the past 5 years, the situation only got worse where the real GDP fell as much as 27%, unemployment rates broke a new record, pensions were cut by 48%, unofficial and non-registered labour started to make up as much as 34% of the entire labour force, and public debt kept growing finally reaching a level of nearly 180% of the GDP.

Do those developments seem as a healthy way to bring back an economy? Maybe to Angela Merkel and the German creditors who hold a majority of Greece’s debt, but definitely not to the Greek people.

Go to Greece, speak to ordinary people on the streets, the cafés, taxis, etc. You will hear stories like that of the taxi driver Antoni, who, despite having two degrees in hospital management, has to work in a rented taxi because the highest salary that he can get practicing his own profession doesn’t even reach 500 euros per month; he is thinking of migrating to Canada with his wife, even though he doesn’t want to leave Greece.

You will encounter the taverna owner Dimitri, who is concerned about the anti-Syriza propaganda that has been going strong from the creditors, pointing out to the fact that two extreme right-wing parties are already backing the government. There are fears that if Syriza is not given a proper chance to try to make things right, the fascist Golden Dawn would gain even more power.

Read more…

Published on 1 July, 2015 in

Deniz Torcu has a degree in Economics and previously worked for the Spanish governmental organization Instituto Cervantes and the Turkish National Commission for UNESCO. She currently studies International Relations at IE School of International Relations in Madrid as the Turkish scholar for 2014-2015.


The last year was a bad one for international peace and security. Sure, there were bright spots in 2014. Colombia’s peace process looks hopeful. The last round of Iran’s nuclear talks was more successful than many think. Tunisia, though not yet out of the woods, showed the power of dialogue over violence. Afghanistan bucked its history and has, notwithstanding many challenges, a government of national unity. President Barack Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba can only be positive.

But for the most part, it has been a dispiriting year. Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past.

The Arab world’s turmoil deepened: The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, much of Gaza was destroyed again, Egypt turned toward authoritarianism and repression, and Libya and Yemen drifted toward civil war. In Africa, the world watched South Sudan’s leaders drive their new country into the ground. The optimism of 2013 faded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ebola ravaged parts of West Africa, and Boko Haram insurgents stepped up terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. The international legal order was challenged with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and war is back in Europe as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine.

So what do the last 12 months tell us is going wrong?

On a global level, increasing geopolitical competition appears, for the moment at least, to be leading to a less controlled, less predictable world. This is most obvious, of course, with regard to the relationship between Russia and the West. It’s not yet zero-sum: The two nations still work together on the Iran nuclear file, the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, and, for the most part, on African peacekeeping. But Russia’s policy in its neighborhood presents a real challenge, and its relationship with the United States and Europe has grown antagonistic.

China’s relations with its neighbors also remain tense and could lead to a crisis in the East or South China Seas. The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia shapes the contours of violence between Sunnis and Shiites across the Middle East. Major Sunni powers are themselves divided: The contest between the Saudis, Emiratis, and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other, plays out across North Africa. Elsewhere on the African continent, powers jostle in Somalia and in South Sudan’s increasingly regionalized war; and the DRC has long been a venue for its neighbors’ competition over influence and resources.

Rivalry between major and regional powers is nothing new, of course. But hostility between big powers has stymied the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine and Syria — and leaves its most powerful members less time and political capital to invest on other crises. As power gets more diffuse, antagonism between regional powers matters more. Competition between powerful states increasingly lends a regional or international color to civil wars, rendering their resolution more complex. Read more…

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno: Jean-Marie Guéhenno is president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

Published on January 2, 2015 in



The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Written on December 26, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba’s record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba’s economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela’s fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama’s standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba’s geopolitical challenge to the United States is important. Read more…

Written by George Friedman on Dec. 23rd: Mr. Friedman is chairman of Stratfor.

Published in


On December 4th, the IE School of International Relations welcomed Marcos Troyjo, co-founder and co-director of BRICLab at Columbia University, who discussed with MIR students the coming of Reglobalization and its impact on reemerging markets.

According to Mr. Troyjo, if we were sent 25 years back in time and had to identify four main trends that defined International Relations, he would highlight the following:

Marcos Troyjo 2

  1. The idea that a combination of free markets and representative democracy represents a superior model in History, a sort of natural law to bring about prosperity.
  2. The dramatic shift of the world economic center from the West to the East illustrated by the influential role of Japan and the rise of the so-called Asian Tigers.
  3. The notion that innovation is about the capacity of big corporations to reinvent themselves.
  4. A deep conviction that political, economic and legal integration is the way forward for regional integration and ultimately for establishing a global government.

Read more…


Is the state making a comeback? It can certainly look like it. Old-fashioned interstate conflicts are roiling the China Sea and Russia’s western borders. Inter-governmental meetings such as the last Apec conference and the Group of 20 leading economies in Sydney took on an unwonted urgency. More positively, it is old-fashioned diplomacy that is making the running on issues from Iran’s nuclear programme to global warming.

Yet the dominant view since the early 1990s has been that globalisation meant the transformation of the world through non-state actors. The end of the cold war ushered in an almost Marxist expectation that the state would wither away – overshadowed by free flows of money and goods, undermined by non-state actors of which terrorist groups were only the most obvious. It was an expectation shared right across the political spectrum.

On the left, critics of market globalisation anticipated the rise of people power. Non-governmental organisations would supersede the supposedly worn out institutions of the nation state and create new, more vibrant forms of political activity. Technology would bring better solutions to old problems, bypassing stagnant state institutions.

The neoliberal right hailed the rise of global finance, the dismantling of capital controls and the deregulation of banking, not least because all of these weakened national governments’ capacity to control markets. In manufacturing and services, enormous new powers accrued to corporations able to take advantage of differing tax regimes and wage levels across the world.

Yet these hopes underestimated the sheer staying power – indeed the legitimacy – of the state and its institutions, and the extreme difficulty of creating new ones from scratch. NGOs remain on the sidelines: international organisations are vehicles for clusters and coalitions of national states to act in concert where they can. To that extent they are essentially derivative, reflecting the wishes of their most powerful members. The idea that they could be freed from the clutches of national governments was a pipe dream. Read more…


Published in the Financial Times on 26 November by Mark Mazower.

The writer is professor of history at Columbia and author of ‘Governing the World: The History of an Idea’

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