All posts by Mathis Lohaus

About Mathis Lohaus

Postdoctoral research associate at University of Greifswald. I have a PhD from Freie Universität Berlin, where I was a member of the Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies (BTS). I'm interested in international anti-corruption, comparative regionalism, international law, human rights, international political economy, learning about macro economics, and of course pictures of kittens. More information and contact details can be found on my website.

German Grundgesetz & Asylum

kermani-bundestag
(c) Deutscher Bundestag / Achim Melde

On Friday, German-Iranian writer Navid Kermani gave a speech in German parliament. His remarks were part of a longer ceremony to celebrate 65 years of the constitution (Grundgesetz).

Kermani’s powerful speech [here, in German] focuses on the unique role played by the 1949 constitution in the German language area, “comparable maybe only to the Lutheran bible”. He shows how elegantly designed and politically consequential several parts of the Grundgesetz were at their time (and still are). Equality before the law, and between women and men, for example.

Overall, the speech makes an excellent case for what Germans call Verfassungspatriotismus: patriotism based on pride in our constitution. One aspect of the speech, however, was meant to provoke – and promptly led to criticism.

Kermani sharply criticized GG §16a, which deals with the right to asylum. The initially very short paragraph was amended in 1993, and now the right “is practically abolished” according to Kermani.

Others were quick to point out that Germany is in fact the European country receiving the most requests for asylum.

Considering that there might be more debates on this issue in the future, I collected some data from Eurostat. The table below shows:

  • the number of positive decisions on asylum requests per 100,000 inhabitants
  • the total number of positive asylum decisions 2008-2013

Asylum statistics

As you can see, Germany accepted 7.3 asylum seekers per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013, but was clearly below the EU-28 average in earlier years. Germany was the #3 host country over the last six years. But others are much more generous: Sweden, Austria and recently Norway come to mind, as does tiny Cyprus. But the UK and France in particular have a far more generous record than Germany, both in total and in relative terms.

In case someone wants to play around more, here’s my quick and dirty data file (MS Excel). I recommend two Eurostat documents on the topic: Country-specific figures 1998-2011 (including information on how many requests were rejected versus accepted) and a brand new report on the 2013 developments. Both could help to create a more instructive comparison.

I’d also be interested in links to articles on this topic.

Notes on MPSA 2014

mpsa2014

At the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association  in Chicago. Some reflections:

  • MPSA makes an effort to address grad students. Multiple poster sessions take place in the exhibition hall (so you actually run into them), and there’s a reception for first time attendees as well as a mentoring session.
  • While I did not sign up for mentoring, I attended the reception. It’s a great idea and free food is always nice. However, there are no real guidelines for the hosts, who are supposed to give advice to a bunch of grad students at their table, and at least my table did not fill up as planned. Maybe it would make more sense to have some sort of intro speech and then form groups?
  • Can we get better WiFi in the hotel?
  • Compared to #ISA2014 – which Felix Haas has thoroughly analyzed – the #MPSA2014 Twitter activity was underwhelming. @EvilMPSA and @DrunkMPSA were great, though.
  • The smartphone/tablet app was a good idea poorly executed. The search function did not work consistently, the dates and times were messed up (leading me to miss stuff), and sometimes it wouldn’t display the room. I think the best idea would be to have a good mobile website, on which you could display room numbers after people log in with their MPSA account.

Now let me shout out a non-exhaustive list of people whose presentations I found interesting (dropping the non-IR stuff I attended):

  • I liked what Swati Srivastava had to say about varieties of constructivism in IR. She argues that “thin” vs. “thick” is not very helpful, and we should instead look two dimensions: how does the author assume that social construction work, and at what level of analysis?
  • Jonathan Ring presented two papers on the diffusion of gender quotas. One used agent-based modeling, the other dyadic event history analysis. I hope we’ll learn more about mechanisms of diffusion from Jon’s work.
  • Ari Weiss presented research on which states are more likely to be involved in international conflict after regime change.  While some explanatory factors were not addressed yet, I found the approach extremely interesting and am looking forward to further results.
  • Finally, my co-panelists tackled the politics of global anti-corruption from different perspectives: Ellen Gutterman works on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, how it is enforced, and what that means for IR theory. Hongying Wang presented an overview of how the rise of China affects anti-corruption. And Holger Moroff spoke about how global anti-corruption is based on a very narrow consensus between powerful actors.

Links: International Law; Mali; Rwanda; Blogs in Germany

With a couple of bloggers back from ISA and MPSA, I hope we’ll be able to do some follow-up work in the next days. Meanwhile, here are some links to start the week:

At e-IR, Eric Lenier Ives writes about international law as the “permissive promise”:

[I]nternational law reflects a real-world distribution of power such that nations are free, in a sense, to test the will of other nations, to stretch the law and assert their own sovereignty. (…) Though international law may allow for this elasticity, and though it may be abused, it is precisely this relaxed approach that allows international law to act as both a codification of appropriate norms and a growing, living system.

Kim Yi Dionne takes a look back at what happened in Mali since 2012. In particular, she points to a discussion of a recent Afrobarometer poll: “In a complete reversal of opinion from one year earlier, two out of three Malians say that their country is moving in the ‘right direction’ at the end of 2013.”

Laura Seay has put together a very instructive reading list 20 years after the incident that triggered the Rwandan genocide. These are her opening remarks:

Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested.

On a completely different note: Now we have some backing for my perception that German scientists don’t really use Twitter. In this recently published survey [in German], 15% of respondents said they use microblogs, and 61% of that subgroup then said they actively post. 30% of all respondents said they use blogs, with a third of that subgroup saying they write posts themselves. Overall, male respondents were much more likely to report an active use of (micro)blogs.

A rather curious finding: The number of people saying they don’t know what a blog is was higher than the number of people saying they don’t know what a microblog is. I guess there really is a lot of hype around Twitter. (The questionnaire mentioned Twitter as an example of the latter category, but did not mention WordPress or any other recognizable brand name for the former.)

Finally, the list of links curated by our colleagues at the Bretterblog [in German] is worth checking out as usual. (Uh, I’m doing meta-links now, I guess!?)

Links: Grad School Pros and Cons; Job Search; Understanding Putin

He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)
He studied law, but seems interested in IR. (Source: Kremlin.ru via Wikimedia)

In an article from 2011, Karen Kelsky (who works as a consultant to graduate students) criticizes academic supervisors. According to her, professors often fail to advise their grad students on planning publications and their career choices.

Another more recent piece introduces a new approach for university career centers. Basically, the idea is to break up the division between the job markets inside and outside of academia: “If graduate students are to maximize their efforts, then academic departments and career services need to pool theirs and work together”.

But should you even be working towards a PhD? Foreign Policy just published a very interesting discussion with people from American IR departments and foreign policy schools. The subtitle: “Do policymakers listen? Should you get a Ph.D.? And where are all the women?” It also has a fascinating graph on which IR scholars are valued by foreign policy practitioners, which reminded me of last year’s discussion about IR and the public sphere.

Dan Drezner wrote about whether to go to grad school in 2012. His piece focuses on women in academia, but also has a couple of interesting links to the discussion in the American blogosphere.

OK, so (against a lot of good advice) you have decided to pursue an academic career. The bad news is: from now on, your writing style will be terrible. The good news is: nobody will notice, since most papers are hardly read after publication. [Note that the article implies that the number of citations equals the number of readers, which is not fully convincing.]

Now, to something completely different. I enjoyed these two pieces about Vladimir Putin: First, Tyler Cowen offers four different ways to “model” Putin’s behavior, pointing out that “[a]ssumptions about Putin’s rationality will shape prediction”.

Second, Eric Posner analyzes the claims made in the Russian president’s speech to the Duma: “Vladimir Putin, international lawyer”. The crucial bit of analysis: Putin has signaled that “the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it”.

Links: Sex Work and Free Choice; ISA Conference 2014; Data Journalism

Roman fresco (Pompeii) via Wikimedia Commons
Roman fresco (Pompeii) via Wikimedia Commons

Sophia Gore discusses whether sex work can be an “expression of women’s  choice and agency”. She specifically focuses on prostitution and considers both liberal and radical feminist arguments.

I expect we will have more debates on the issue in the near future. Right now, policies in the European Union range from abolitionist (with Sweden’s policy of prosecuting customers but not prostitutes as best practice), to ignorant / dysfunctional / antiquated, to liberal as Germany, where prostitution is legal and (poorly) regulated. (As other researchers have pointed out, there is a lot of variation even within Scandinavia.)

Seeing how human trafficking and organized crime are increasingly discussed and fought across borders, I think at some point we will see international efforts to harmonize laws on sex work, in the EU and elsewhere.

On a lighter note, the folks at Duck of Minerva are getting ready for the 2014 ISA conference. Everyone, please go to the Blogger Reception on Thursday, March 27! To get you in conference mode, here’s Megan MacKenzie on how to improve the ISA experience, and then there is Amanda Murdie on how ISA resembles a family reunion:

Deviled eggs or no-bake cookies are my go-to dishes for a Kansas family reunion.  Half-baked empirical papers are typically what I present at ISA.  For either “dish,” I’m typically scrambling right until the last minute.

I won’t be in Toronto, but if anyone wants to meet up at MPSA in Chicago the weekend after that, please let me know.

New York Magazine has an interview with Nate Silver, who has taken his FiveThirtyEight brand from the NY Times to ESPN, where the new site will launch on Monday.

He criticizes pundits and columnists for their anecdotal, ideology-driven style, and at the same time promises that his new venture will rely on lots of data and stay clear from advocacy. (If you haven’t heard of the fox and the hedgehog by now, don’t worry, they explain it again in that interview.) Tyler Cowen is skeptical because Silver implicitly shows a bias against principled opinions and seemingly obvious claims, both of which aren’t necessarily bad journalism or policy.

I say: Silver should make sure to hire as many political scientists as he can. That should lead to lots of data points (of varying quality) and ensure that clear opinions are nowhere to be found…

Edit: I just found this piece by Brendan Nyhan, who shows how a number of political scientists have recently been hired to do journalism. (Brendan is part of that group, and also proof that my cynical comment above should not be taken at face value.)

IR Blog Anniversary #1

Birthday cake (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Birthday cake (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

We’re celebrating one year of IR Blog with some virtual cake and, unless you’re underage, sparkling wine. Many, many thanks to all contributors and readers!

This is a heat map indicating where our readers came from:

visitor-heatmap-year1

Not surprisingly, almost two thirds of our traffic originated in Germany, the U.S., and Canada. Still, it’s nice to see that there is some diversity in the remaining third…

And these are our top-10 post by visits:

  1. “A North American Perspective on Doing a PhD in Europe”
  2. “Impostor Syndrome as a PhD Student”
  3. “Paper Stacks vs. Android Apps”
  4. “Elections in Germany: Forecasts and Polls”
  5. “Nap Your Way to a PhD!”
  6. “The Toddler-Thesis Nexus”
  7. “German Foreign Policy Bingo”
  8. “Protests in Brazil and Turkey: Not Yet Social Movements”
  9. “About ‘The Gender Gap in IR and Political Science'”
  10. “The Amateur Forecaster’s Diary”

We’re looking forward to the next year(s)! Please consider spreading the word if you (occasionally) like what you see here.

Links: Updates from Bahrain, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela

With most of the attention understandably focused on Ukraine right now, I thought I’d do a very short summary of recent events elsewhere. (Image credit: someone silly on reddit.)

In Bahrain, three policeman were killed by a remotely detonated bomb during a protest in a village west of the capital. The demonstrations in Bahrain are connected to last week’s  death of a protester in custody as well as the third anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring protests. It looks like there will be heightened security (read: a crackdown, but also potential for an escalation?) in the coming days:

The Royal Court declared Tuesday a day of mourning and King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa “directed the security agencies to take all the necessary measures for the strict application of the law against all those who are implicated in the disgraceful terrorist bombing aimed to cause the loss of lives.”

Police have arrested twenty-five people for allegedly being involved.

North Korea launched two Scud missiles (into the sea) on Monday. This was the first launch since 2009.

The OPCW just announced that a third of Syria‘s chemical weapons stockpile has now been shipped out of the country. Another batch is on the way to a U.S. vessel right now, which will then bring the chemicals to Germany and the United Kingdom for destruction. So far, the process is slower than initially planned, and a deadline of giving up the whole stock by mid-2014 looks likely to be missed.

And what about the civil war? Well, after the failure of the last round of talks, it looks like nothing is going to change for the better anytime soon.

In Venezuela, the protests keep going “despite carnival season”. After more than three weeks of demonstrations, at least twelve people have died. If you want to learn more about the background, Political Violence @ a Glance published a helpful collection of links last Monday, including this resource guide by AS/COA.

Steinmeier on Transatlantic Relations

steinmeier-brookings

This morning, I went to see German foreign minister Steinmeier’s speech at the Brookings Institution. Under the heading “Transatlantic Ties for a New Generation”, he argued that to be attractive for young people, the European-American partnership has to be based on shared values and standards of governance. The text is on the ministry’s website. In addition, Brookings published the audio and video recordings of the speech and the Q&A.

To be fair, this speech was more interesting and better prepared than the last foreign policy speech delivered by a Social Democrat that I have attended. Still, if you go beyond the personal anecdotes and jokes he made, Steinmeier said very little, let alone . The Q&A, regrettably, was hurt by the fact that Steinmeier – who had given the speech in English- answered in German. So a lot of time was spent on translation and we only covered four or five (pretty harmless) questions in total.

So, here are the few concrete things I took away from this event. (Plain English translation in italics.)

  • The “no spy” treaty is a non-starter. Instead, Steinmeier wants to have several rounds of talks between U.S. and European officials, which should cover both eavesdropping on government leaders and large-scale surveillance of general population. These talks should include civil society and academia. (We know that’s kind of embarrassing, but what are we gonna do? Nobody wants to kill TTIP because of civil rights.)
  • On the choice to spy: the U.S. government should realize that their surveillance/ spying practices are inappropriate in a setting of close partnership. It must be made clear that democratic bodies have the last words rather than corporate or intelligence interests. (Please be a little bit nicer, for old time’s sake, OK?)
  • Europeans and in particular Germans are committed to show more leadership in foreign policy (“expand the toolbox of diplomacy”). As head of the G8 group in 2015, Germany will push for climate change politics. (But please don’t mention Syria, because we really don’t know what to do.)
  • On Europe: Between Germany and the UK, fundamental disagreements remain about the general trajectory of EU integration. We might see more subsidiarity in select issue areas, but no reversal of integration. (Those ***** Brits! As if we didn’t have enough problems already. Oh, and maybe we should tweak those austerity policies in Southern countries, but please don’t ask about specifics).
  • While the Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin played in a constructive role in the talks with German, French, Polish FMs last week, Steinmeier is just as puzzled about Crimea as everybody else. (Nobody knows what’s going on in Ukraine, and even if we knew, we probably couldn’t do much about it. It’s not like we’re a  superpower or anything.)

So, as you can see, no grand commitments or surprise announcements were made today. German foreign policy remains, ahem, underwhelming.

CfA: 2014 Berlin Summer School

I just received the call for applications for the 2014 Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences. It’s run by Humboldt University’s Graduate School and the Social Science Research Center (WZB).

The call for applications is on their website, and if you click again you can find the program in more detail. Sadly, the site is not as pretty as the poster:

summerschool2014