‘BTP Effect’


A new term of reference is entering the vocabulary of international relations these days. It was coined by Carl Bildt (photo), the ex-premier of Sweden, a determined adherent of multilateralism and an ardent fan of maintaining the European Union’s commitment in the nuclear agreement with Iran. ‘BPT’ is the acronym for ‘Brexit – Putin – Trump.’ It is thus suggested that the policies represented by the three terms designate a wide-scale political process that prompts unexpected developments in the sphere of international relations. We first noted the use of this new term in the discourse of international relations experts in the posting tweeted by Swedish politician Carl Bildt on May 23: “BTP effect: polls show the highest support for the EU in 35 years. Brexit Trump Putin.”

What is it about. Basically, Bildt announces the recently published results of a Eurobarometer poll on the Europeans’ attitudes toward the European Union, a poll presented by Antonio Tajani, the leader of the European Parliament, on May 23. As known, the European Parliament elections will take place next year, in May, and the poll tested the member states’ public opinion on this event. According to this opinion poll, half of the respondents are interested in these elections, and almost a third of them know their date (May 23-26). Similarly, it is outlined that the spitzenkandidaten process – which gives the electorate a voice in electing the President of the European Commission – is approved by the respondents, as determinant of more transparency (63 percent), and around 75 percent want its election to be accompanied by a real debate on all European issues and on the future of the organisation. The poll also reveals that the main issues that concern the European electorate are: the fight against terrorism (49 percent), youth unemployment (48 percent), immigration (45 percent), economic growth (42 percent). The electorate’s confidence in the EU has grown, the highest approval rate in the last 35 years taking shape – the respondents consider that their country’s presence in the organisation brings benefits – (67 percent).

The fact that from 2013 to 2018 over 70 new parties and alliances have appeared in EU member states is outlined as a sign of the advance of democracy in EU states; 55 percent of respondents are satisfied with the progress of democracy in their own countries, and 46 percent with its progress at EU level (it is also significant that the citizens of larger member states show a lower percentage of satisfaction regarding the evolution of democracy in the EU, this trend becoming clearer when placed against the backdrop of the higher rate of unemployment and GDP per capita). “The next European elections will undoubtedly be a battle, not just between the traditional parties of the Right, Left and Centre but between those who believe in the benefits of continued cooperation and integration at EU level and those who would undo what has been achieved over the last 70 years,’” Antonio Tajani said. “It is essential to continue the effort of demonstrating to citizens that the EU contributes in many ways to their well-being and protection,” he added.

The poll whose main results we have presented was carried out in April 2018, on a sample of 27,601 respondents from all 28 member states of the organisation.

As can be noticed, the poll’s results verify an invigorating confidence of the European electorate in the strength and future of the European Union, as significant today as the ‘containment’ of crises that the continental organisation is going through is visible. In what concerns Brexit, for instance, the UK leaving the EU has a special significance, a crisis of proportions being thus generated within the organisation through the spill-over force it exercises – certain potential attempts to imitate London’s move –, but also through the strengthening of Eurosceptic currents (see the recent elections in Italy), along with a slide toward isolationism on the part of some member states – Netherlands, Denmark, even some Scandinavian states – used to assess the United Kingdom’s membership as very positive for the continental balance. However, it is true – and Carld Bild refers to this phenomenon when he places Brexit at the beginning of the proposed acronym – that the UK’s gesture has prompted, firstly within the UK, an extremely strong movement in favour of the European organisation. The difficulties met by London in reaching either a hard or a soft Brexit deal in the negotiations with the continent have had this unexpected effect of strengthening the European electorate’s confidence in the strength and future of the EU. The fact that the Northern Ireland issue is becoming extremely sensitive for the UK against the backdrop of these difficult negotiations – recent polls show that a significant part of the inhabitants of this part of the UK are considering unification with the independent Irish state, in order to remain within the European organisation – is a veritable political test for pro-Brexit government in London.

The rest of the acronym is clear. It stands for the two leaders of the two states that show, during the current historical circumstances, an attitude that – even though not strongly hostile in an overt manner – is clearly reserved and that, at any rate, move in their attitude toward the European Union along a scale that starts from reserve and goes as far as hostility and disintegration impulse, namely Russia and the U.S. While, in what concerns Russia, the attitude toward the EU is closely linked with its great power aspirations, for which the EU-U.S. transatlantic partnership and the existence of NATO are major impediments, when it comes to the U.S. we are talking about a position recently adopted by the Trump administration, for which a new international order in which Washington would maintain the main role results in strategies and positions that are still far from being fully clarified or explained. Regarding the transatlantic relationship, the EU is on standby, deeming that the Trump administration’s position is temporary, however without downplaying the outlook of its policy being continued by future White House leaders.

In the current circumstances, one can conclude that the “BPT effect” that Bildt considers decisive for the results of the recent poll on the EU’s attractiveness for the European electorate is proof that the latter identifies the European organisation with solid support for the existence and consolidation of Europe’s international role in a world of a clash of interests between the great global powers.