Category Archives: EU

Italy: Five Stars and the League – an analysis

M5S_LN_14-17.png

Made with Python/Matplotlib, and Inskape after. Feedback welcome!

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How much EU is there around Brussels?

Two years ago Andy Woodruff wrote a fun blog entry about land area plotted by latitude and longitude, where he proceeded to squish the continents’ area along the X and Y axes (just like Bill Rankin did with Earth’s population earlier).

land_by_andy_woodruff
Andy’s two images combined

His post was the catalyst for me to try mapping the next step: squishing an area towards a point.

In fact, there was an a question floating around my brain earlier about the EU: “If I sit in Brussels, the de facto capital, how much union is there in each direction?”

It might feel like the answer is : “Look at a map!”, but due to history and geography, the EU’s territory snakes around the Baltic Sea, the Western Balkans candidate countries, not to mention that big hole called Switzerland. On the other hand you have detached areas, such as the UK and Ireland, or Cyprus.

So I plotted the EU onto a an Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection where I took Brussels as the center, thus lines spreading out radially from the center wouldn’t be distorted, while the areas of the countries stayed constant no matter how far from the center. To add a bit of color, without making one for each of the 28 member state, I colored them by the year they joined the EU.EU Melt - Before

I then wrote a python script that in essence iterated along each line starting in the chosen center and ending on an outer pixels, and moved the colored pixels as much as possible towards the center. For finding the relevant pixels I used this adaptation of Xiaolin Wu’s algorithm, and it took some fine tuning before I got a good result.

So here it is: Brussels sucking the EU towards it…

EU Melt - After sq

And in .gif version (click to enlarge):Gif EU Melt

As one can see, I only used the main European territories of the EU plus the Macaronesian Outermost Regions (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands), due to their geographical proximity to Europe, but I ignored the other OMRs such as French Guyana, Reunion or the ones in the Antilles.

In the end, the resulting shape is somewhat Rorschach-ish, and to me it kinda looks like a bat, or a sad bumblebee. I wonder what others see?

Rorschach test

European parties on the political compass

Found an interesting set of data via Alexandre Afonso’s blog, called the Chapel Hill Expert Survey which “estimate[s] party positioning on European integration, ideology and policy issues for national parties in a variety of European countries. Questions on parties’ general position on European integration, several EU policies, general left/right, economic left/right, and social left/right are common to all surveys.” It has data for various years in the 1999-2017 period, and below are the various political families* mapped on the political compass:

EU Party 99-17 annotated

Made with python / matplotlib and assembled in GIMP.

*) – According to the explanations, political family here is not the EP Group or the Europarty but: “classification is primarily based on Hix and Lord (1997), except that we place confessional and agrarian parties in separate categories. Family association for parties in Central/Eastern Europe is based primarily on Derksen classification (now incorporated in Wikipedia), triangulated by a) membership or affiliation with international and EU party associations, and b) self-identification”.

European President

The EU is often accused of being too complicated and difficult to understand by the European every-man.

One aspect of this critique is that every institution is headed by a President, and wouldn’t it be great if things were more like in a normal country, where the Parliament is headed by a Speaker, the government by a Prime-Minister, and the state – if it’s a republic – by a President?

Not all European countries have this neat linguistic differentiation of roles. Italy is just presidenti all around, and Croatia next door are just one predsjednik after another. Even in countries that do make distinctions, things can be complicated. The Third and Fourth French republics had a President of the Council (sounds familiar?) instead of a Prime-Minister, and the PM of Greece (Πρωθυπουργός) is also called the President (Πρόεδρος) of the Government, using the same word as the Head of State or the Speaker.

EU President.png

But I must concede that a re-branding of the main institutions could go a long way to making the European Union more intuitive to the average Joe, and thus less stressful. So here are some suggestions:

  • President of the European Parliament” should be called the “Speaker“. This is a no-brainer for English, but it could be problematic in other languages.
  • “President of the European Council” should become “Chairman of…” because his role is one of mediator more than a decider, and the Council itself is actually the Head of State of the Union, collectively. One problem that could arise is that in some language -like Romanian – there is only one word used for both president and chairman
  • President of the Commission”. While I like this as it is, given the position’s prominence, alternatives could include “Head-Commissioner”, “Chief-Commissioner” or “Commission Head” in situations where the above Council President cannot be referred to as “Chairman”.

All in all, I think the linguistic imperative should be to separate the titles, more than make them identical in all the Union’s languages. Having the EuroParl President be called “Speaker” in English and “Marszałek” in Polish might not be problematic, and it might give the listener a sense of familiarity.

Note: The aesthetics of the visualization were inspired by my recent trip to the British Museum. I have wanted for some time to make a more artsy viz. Feedback always appreciated.

Members of the European Parliament: The linguistic origin of their names

A fun little dataviz idea that came up while researching my previous project on the Average Face of MEPs. Are Germanic names common among Germany’s MEPs, or are they seen as too nationalistic? How widespread are Jewish names due to Christianity? Are there any common names of interesting origin?

Disclaimer for my French readers: I know two names joined by a dash are considered a single name, but given that they are made up of two distinct elements, for the purpose of this dataviz, I handled them as two names. Désolé!

Names of MEPs

The Average Face of the European Parliament

Inspired by similar works, such as Giuseppe Sollazzo’s “I calculated the average face of the UK Member of Parliament” and redditor /u/ everest4ever’s “Average face of the Chinese Bureaucracy“, I decided to calculate the average face for the Members of the European Parliament, and see what our average representative in Brussels/Strasbourg looks like. The following results are valid for the EP as it was on 1 November 2017.

The average MEP

Average MEP
As expected by the 2-to-1 male to female ratio, the average face looks like a somewhat feminine middle aged man. White, but not too pale, light hazel eyes, light brown hair. Men tend to have greying hair and hazel eyes and a more reserved smile than women. Female MEPs have lighter eyes, but darker hair, probably because dying to hide greying hair is more frequent among women.

If I had to guess where they are from, I would probably say somewhere in the Alpine region/Central Europe – southern Germany, Austria, maybe northernmost Italy, Slovenia or Czechia.

By Political Group

First of all, if you are not familiar with the Political Groups of the European Parliament, click here for a quick rundown of the basics.

All MEPs
Average faces, when broken down by political group, tend to highlight the gender (in)balance in each group. For example, the small Non-Inscrit group obviously has the lowest female-to-male ratio in the EP (under 20%) while the leftist GUE-NGL – quite androginous here – has the highest (50%).

By Gender

Female MEPs
The Female MEP photos tend to show a lot of diferences among themselves. The Conservatives – dominated by UK and Polish MEPs – and the Nationalist ENF – dominated by France’s Front National – are the blondest, with the latter appearing to have a higher average age.

Due to only having 3 female MEPs in the Non-Inscrit group, the result came out pretty creepy. I therefore averaged it with its own mirror image to smooth out the “lizard overlord” vibe of the original.

Male MEPs.png

Male MEP photos tend to resemble each other more. Even so there is some variation, probably influenced by its national composition, just like in the female version. One additional variation tends to be facial hair: the average GUE-NGL tends to have a full “five o’clock shadow”, the NI representative is more of a grey mustache type, while the average EFDD member has more of a thin goatee king of person. The EPP and ECR on the other hand tend to be the most clean-shaven.

The Data

The photos were downloaded from the European Parliament’s Audiovisual Service for Media. While I’m glad the MEPs have official portraits available for the public, the site could use an upgrade to a more user-friendly way of doing things. The download procedure is cumbersome to say the least, there is no updated folder of all the current MEPs. Therefore I had to download all the photos, crosscheck with a table of current acting MEPs (because some of the original MEPs elected in 2014 quit, in order to take up either positions in their national governments or in the European Commission), see which photos are not needed, which ones are missing, which ones are duplicates and so forth. Two MEPs (Jadwiga Wiśniewska and Jiří Payne) didn’t even have official portraits, so I had to look elsewhere.

The Code

I used the code from learnopencv.com, which I tweaked to my needs. I had just two recurring problems: the fact that above a certain number of photos, I could’t calculate the average due to not enough memory, so I had to split the photos into smaller groups (for example the 475 EPP MEPs were split into 19 groups of 25 photos each, which were averaged, and then those 19 averages were averaged again into one).

My second problem was that sometimes the facial landmark detection part of the code recognized buttons and certain textures as faces, and I realized it pretty late, so I had to redo some of the work.

On a side note, I cannot thank Satya Mallick enough for the clear way he writes his tutorials. They were easy to follow and almost everything worked from the first try (when it didn’t it was usually my fault). Some of the best “how to install and run” articles I’ve ever used.

Made with OpenCV/dlib in Python (Anacond/Spyder as per linked tutorial). Final arrangements in Inkscape.

Who gets the UK’s 73 MEPs

UK-73

The UK will leave the European Union, most likely at the end of March 2019, two years after it invoked Article 50. Currently, the United kingdom has 73 seats in the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, but the question is what happens to these seats once the country leaves?

Three solution

One option would be redistribution among existing member states. Since there is no predetermined formula, the redistribution has to be agreed on like any other change, through negotiations within the European Council. I doubt the EC has the time and energy for this before the 2019 European elections.

Another option, favored by the French president as well, is to create a new 73-seat European constituency. While I am sympathetic to this option, I think the most likely outcome will be the one of least resistance: leaving the seats vacant until new members join the EU, who then gradually fill them up.

It is from this scenario that the current visualization was born, as a means to explore which countries could join before the 73 seats run out. By using population numbers, I estimated how many MEPs a country was likely to get, and on somewhat subjective criteria, I added what I considered the most likely scenario.

The Western Balkans

While the Western Balkans are at different stages of accession, from opened negotiations to “not-candidate-(yet)” in the case of Kosovo, they seem the most likely states to gain membership in the near to medium future, and I think the EU is also very interested in getting them under its wing.

Turkey

Given the way Turkish politics evolved in recent times, and adding to that the fact that many member states fear the addition of a Muslim state the size of Germany, one can safely assume its membership is frozen.

The Eastern Partnership

Things here oscillate between “impossible”, when it comes to Belarus and Azerbaijan, and “maybe, but not right now”, when it comes to Georgia, who made strong progress on its European path. I think smaller states such as Georgia, Moldova and Armenia might have an easier time getting EU membership than bigger ones, such as Ukraine.

Other countries

Iceland, Norway and Switzerland don’t seem too eager to join any time soon, and Russia is both too big, too undemocratic and too confrontational to consider for this thought experiment.

On a side note: I think there is some potential in an interactive tool that could explore various scenarios starting from this premise. A map were you could add/remove candidate countries, enable/disable automatic redistribution of seats (based on the Duff proposal), and create a custom European constituency of any size. Unfortunately, I have yet to master the art of JavaScript.

The History of the European Council

The EU’s Collective Head of State, the European Council held its inaugural meeting on 10 March 1975. In reality, the institution has its roots in the “Summit Meetings” or “Summit Councils” that started with the Rome Summit of 1961. To this date, 182 formal Council meetings have been held (not counting Eurozone Summits, but including Informal ones).

Unlike the European elections, where the makeup of the Parliament changes every 5 years, the composition of the Council changes every time elections in a member state bring about a change in government or president. As such, the Council is in a constant state of flux, especially when it comes to its political leanings. I wanted to track this evolution visually, to get some sense of how the Council evolved.

EC_Summit_Timeline
Click for full size

But the above chart was in fact a preliminary study for a dynamic map (inspired by similar ones featuring the political affiliation of US Governors throughout history).

European Council History

[EDIT] – YouTube LINK to the dynamic map in video format.

Some things I’d wish to highlight:

Interestingly enough, in 1961 the Charles De Gaulle’s party was a member of the “Liberals and Allies” group in the European Parliament (it switched to the conservative “European Democratic Union” in 1965).

“Independents” are PM’s/Presidents who are not party members, while “Non-Inscrits” (“Unaffiliated”) are PM’s who are members of a party that isn’t/wasn’t member of any EP party group, or whose MEP’s sat in multiple groups, essentially denying the party as a whole a political group.

In 2009, Fianna Fail switched from the Conservatives to the Liberals in the EP, even though the Irish PM stayed the same. In such a case, the color of the country changes as well.

There seems to be a consistent shift from the christian-democrats to the liberals in the last five years.

Greens tend to be center-left usually, but the only PM from a Green party was Latvia’s Indulis Emsis whose party is rather conservative, so I chose to position it centrally on the chart.


PS. Happy Europe Day!

Chart and map made in Python. (Updated 24.06.2017)

Great Britain and the European Union of 27

EU27-UK Flow

This latest visualization has its genesis in this reddit thread. I wanted to represent the data therein in a way that would be easier to compare than a print-screen of an Excel table. As time went by, I found more detailed and accurate data, and I started looking at a way in which I could represent the relationship between the UK and the EU27 from the angle of the Four Freedoms :

1. Free Movement of Goods and 2. Services – The main focus of my visualization. Talk about Britain’s future relationship with the EU has often revolved around how free the trade will be and how high the risk of barriers will be. While the flow of goods has been much easier to free than that of services, and will be much easier to keep unrestricted in the post-Brexit world, I treated the two as somewhat two sides of the coin called Trade. A challenge of this infographic was to visualize both the absolute values, and the relative values to each other (imports vs exports, goods vs. services, UK-to-EU27 trade vs. global national trade)

3. Free Movement of People – Easily the most controversial of the Freedoms, at least in the United Kingdom, and a somewhat thorny subject in the early stages of negotiations, the size of Immigrant / Emigrant communities can inform on which countries might have strong incentives to protect their diaspora during negotiations.

4. Free Movement of Capital – By far the one I grasp the least, I limited myself to showing which countries are members of the Eurozone, and which ones still use their national currencies.

Made with Python (svgwrite module) and Inkscape. Data from Eurostat