What is Smart Power?

The concept of smart power was first elaborated by Joseph Nye[1] in his book “Soft power. A Future for America” (Einaudi, 2004) in which he defines smart power as the ability to combine hard power and soft power resources into effective strategies depending on the context. Nye explains how the use of force, reward and the setting of action programmes based on them constitute what he calls hard power; while, soft power in its full definition is the ability to influence others by co-opting them through programme setting, persuasion and positive attraction, in order to achieve the desired results. Hard power exerts pressure, soft power appeals.

Soft and hard power are closely related since both are approaches to achieving one’s goals by influencing the behaviour of others:[2]

According to Wilson, the smart power approach stems from the realisation that soft and hard power are not simply neutral instruments to be exercised independently. They constitute separate and distinct institutions and institutional cultures that exert their own normative influences on their members, each with their own attitudes, incentives and expected career paths. Smart power means knowing the strengths and limitations of these instruments[3]. The large amount of investment made by China to promote its own culture around the globe is a clear example of soft power. Nye sees the establishment of hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world and the rapid growth of Chinese international radio and televisions broadcasting as a powerful means of attracting foreign students to China. Combining the growth of its hard power with a compelling discourse on soft power, China has sought to use smart power to convey the idea of the peaceful rise of knowledge and culture[4].

Nye Joseph, Smart power, Laterza, p. 26.
Nye Joseph, Smart power, Laterza, p. 26.

In general, resources associated with hard power include tangible factors such as strength and money, while those associated with soft power often include intangible factors such as institutions, ideas, values, culture and perceived legitimacy of policies. The effectiveness of soft power in achieving certain results depends much more on the recipient than is normally the case with hard power.  But the relationship is not perfect because intangible resources such as patriotism and legitimacy have a significant impact on the military’s ability to fight and win; the threat of using force is also an intangible factor, although it is an aspect of hard power[5].

In international politics, the resources that produce soft power arise largely from the values that an organisation or country has expressed in its culture, in the examples it sets through its domestic practices and policies, and in the way it manages its relations with others; but if the contents of a country’s culture, values and policies are not attractive, the public diplomacy that conveys them cannot produce soft power, indeed it may produce the opposite. For example, as Nye mentions, if one were to export Hollywood movies full of nudity and violence to conservative Muslim countries, this would produce repulsion rather than soft power[6].

It should be specified that smart power is not just “soft power 2.0”, but is an evaluative as well as a descriptive concept. Furthermore, it overcomes the limitation to apply the concept to the United States of America, because as Nye states, smart power is available to all states and non-state actors[7]. The Centre for Strategic Studies and the Commission for International Studies have idealised the concept by stating that smart power means developing an integrated strategy, resource base and toolkit to achieve objectives, drawing on both hard power and soft power[8].

Since the term has been used by the Obama administration, some analysts think it refers only to the United States, while other scholars see it as a slogan to boost propaganda discourse, the concept can be used for analytical purposes and is in no way limited to the United States[9]. Today, the quest for smart power is not only driven by the right or wrong choices of the individual leader. Sophisticated nations have it all: smart bombs, smart phones, smart blogs, to name but a few. Any actor with an ambition to improve its position in the world seeks to build strategies around these new foundations of smartness[10].

Culture is the set of social behaviours by which groups transmit knowledge and values and exists at multiple levels, it is never static and different cultures interact in different ways and over time they influence each other[11]. This is an important resource of soft power. Culture and leadership are two sides of the same coin, because in creating groups and organisations, leaders first create culture. Once culture exists, it determines the criteria for leadership and therefore who can and cannot be a leader. For example, in different areas in the Middle East there are national, regional, local, religious, organisational, and other subcultures. Therefore, leaders face daunting challenges in understanding the cultural contexts of different countries and must also realise that their communication style has different effects on different public opinions[12].

According to Brannen, resorting to smart power is not very complicated, one has to become more aware of the available tools, and above all, re-evaluate alliances and defensive posture, in a way that has changed rapidly in recent years. Resorting to hard power is not always indispensable, as one has to think “beyond the barrel of a gun”[13].

Smart power in the 21st century is not about maximising power or preserving hegemony, but about finding ways to combine resources into successful strategies in a new context characterised by the spread of power and the rise of other actors[14]. This would consist of a strategy that relates means and ends and this requires clarity about the objectives (desired outcomes), resources and tactics for their use. A smart strategy must also answer a second question: what the available power resources are and in what contexts can they be used. In addition, it is essential to have an accurate view of the capabilities and inclinations of potential opponents. In most cases, a good understanding of the target audience is essential for calibrating the tactics used to combine power resources[15].

Antonella Valenti


[1] Nye J., Smart power, Laterza, p.17.

[2] Kennedy R., The nature and demands of Smart Power, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College (2013), p. 67.

[3] Wilson E. J., Hard Power, Soft Power, Smart Power, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616, 2008, pp.110-116.

[4] Nye J., op. cit., pp. 24-26.

[5] Nye J., Diplomacy and Soft Power, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616, 2008, p. 95.

[6] Nye J., op. cit., p. 248.

[7] Wilson E. J, op. cit., pp. 112-113.

[8] Geertz C., Interpretazioni di culture, il Mulino, 1998, p. 73.

[9] Nye J., Leadership e potere: hard, soft e smart power, Laterza, 2009, pp.108-113.

[10] Brannen S., How to make a Great Power a Smart Power, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Vol.10, 2009, pp. 169-174.

[11] Nye J., op. cit., pp.246-247.

[12] Craig G. e Gilbert F., Reflections on Strategy in the Present and Future, in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, Princeton University Press, 1986, pp. 871-872.

Lack of healthcare personnel: is Europe ready?

The social and health crisis that has hit the world in the last few months has made more and more evident that National Health Systems (NHSs) are not sustainable for most of the world’s countries, both in the case of  public and universalistic or private and insurance-based systems[1].

Many factors are at play behind the overall consequences NHSs will face in the short term if no concrete actions are taken by every single country involved in the current crisis: lack of fundings, centralization of healthcare facilities in large urban areas, redefinition of fundamental assistance. Above them all, the one that might affect us the harshest is the lack of healthcare providers operating in public facilities in the near future.

According to the World Health Organization and United Nations forecasts, by 2030 there will be a shortage of more than 18 million[2] healthcare professionals, including doctors,nurses, biotech lab experts, social assistants and all other health-related workers.Despite the popular idea that this crisis will hit Third World and developing countries harder, European nations cannot feel safe from the health wreck coming from it.

The European Commission itself points out that already in 2020 we are facing a deficit of around 1 million workers in European NHSs.[3]

That can’t but have dramatic consequences on the quality that healthcare systems can offer to the national populations.

In Europe…

The uneven distribution of health professionals both inside each country and within different countries can only make things worse. The urbanization of high quality healthcare centers, usually college-based, has been leaving rural and suburban areas with an insufficient and underfinanced healthcare system[4] unable to respond the the health needs of an ageing population with chronic and non communicable diseases.[5] This is true not only in richer, but it has become a common phenomenon throughout Europe

At the same time, on a transnational level, better wages and working conditions act as pull factors on healthcare workers from eastern Europe toward those countries in the central and northern part of the continent.[6]

This results on the one hand in a shortage that their home countries struggle to compensate; and on the other in an excess of healthcare workers that NHSs are not able to absorb with obvious implications such as the widespread inequality.

Within European countries…

The consequences of such disproportions on the national healthcare systems of both areas are easily foreseeable.

in the past few years, various national and international associations and institutions have been focusing on finding realistic solutions to this puzzle. Although very little, if any, concrete implementation has been put into practice by national governments.

Looking at the Italian case we notice that, before the Covid-19 crisis, the country’s 2019 Budget Law contained a financing of 337,7 million euros for medical residencies for the five years between 2019 and 2023; plus 10 more million euros each year of the same timeframe for general practitioners’ education[7]. These investments are deemed as insufficient by many experts as they can’t provide for the number of doctors that would be necessary to replace the ones retiring from the italian NHS in the next 15 years[8].

These dynamics can be found all over Europe. Decades of expansionary policies had allowed Portugal to rely on a proportion between physicians and citizens higher than the European average (in 2017 the country had 497,6 physicians for each 100.000 inhabitants while the European average was of 372)[9]. These positive numbers are now at risk due to the reduction in the number of specialty spots offered by portuguese medical schools in more recent years. In 2019 the national call for medical residencies received 2641 applications[10] for 1830 spots[11], leaving 811 medical graduates unable to work in the portuguese NHS.

In a federative nation like Germany, the differences in healthcare delivery among the various regions get even stronger. Despite the existence of some guidelines developed by the central government regarding health workforce planning (Bedarfsplanungsrichtlinie), their implementation is left to local policies in each member state (Länder). The latter have the power to elaborate their own healthcare plans in terms of facilities-population ratio[12]. While at a first glance this might seem a proper strategy to ensure an adequate workforce planning, within the bigger picture the inequities among different states become much more evident[13].

The IFMSA is the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. It is a NGO associating all Medical students. https://ifmsa.org/

The urgency and relevance of this catastrophic picture has been pushing medical students from all over Europe to advocate towards more competent institution that could provide efficient solutions. This would avoid further emergencies whose impact can already be seen in the recent events, but it would also require a forward-looking response on the planning and implementation of long term healthcare policies.[14]

All actors involved, from patients to health workers, students and institutions are nowadays fully aware of the consequences that the current situation will have on European healthcare systems.

Whatever the solutions to these problems will be, they will need to structurally reform the way we conceive our NHSs and guarantee continuity, efficiency and proficiency in the long term. They cannot be a temporary solution only to face the unprevented emergency situation healthcare systems have been facing for the last few weeks.

The future of each healthcare system in Europe depends on the proper education of future professionals. It cannot disregard an appropriate assessment of the required skills and competencies and the adequate number of health workers needed country by country.

All other solutions, such as the broadening of available positions in med schools without a coherent increase in funding for medical specialties/specializations, are pure demagogy that tries to deceive the population and it’s likely to make things worse in a future closer than we might expect.[15]

So far the  policies implemented by the EU and its member states appear pale and weak compared to the gravity of the crisis. They also proved ineffective when it comes to ensuring healthcare workers the right skills, at the right time and place and in the right amount[16] so as to meet the health needs of the whole population, regardless of their wealth or home address.

Matteo Cavagnacchi



[1] “Country Health Systems Surveillance Platform” – WHO Department for Health Statistics and Informatics (2010)

[2] UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development

[3]  Health 2020: the European policy for health and well-being

[4] Report Osservatorio GIMBE n.6/2019 “La Mobilità Sanitaria Interregionale nel 2017”

[5] The 2009 Ageing Report: Underlying Assumptions and Projection Methodologies for the EU-27

Member States (2007-2060), Joint Report prepared by the European Commission (DG ECFIN) and

the Economic Policy Committee (AWG)

[6] “Recruitment and Retention of the Health Workforce in Europe”, European Health Management

Association, April 2015

[7] Report Osservatorio GIMBE n.7/2019 “Il Definanziamento 2010/2019 del Servizio Sanitario Nazionale”

[8] La Programmazione del Fabbisogno di Personale Medico, Proiezioni per il Periodo 2018-2025: Curve di Pensionamento e Fabbisogni Specialistici – ANAAO AssoMed

[9]  Eurostat/Instituto Nacional de Estatística

[10]  Lista definitiva retificada de candidatos admitidos e excluídos ao Procedimento Concursal IM 2020 – Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde

[11] Mapa de Capacidades Formativas Nacional Procedimento Concursal IM 2020 – Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde

[12] User Guidelines on Qualitative Methods in Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting“Germany, Country Profile” WP6, Centre for Workforce Intelligence, United Kingdom. Fellow and Edwards 2014

[13] Kuhlmann, E., Lauxen, O. & Larsen, C. Regional health workforce monitoring as governance innovation: a German model to coordinate sectoral demand, skill mix and mobility. Hum Resour Health 14, 71 (2016).

[14]  International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) – European Regional Priorities 2019/2020

[15] Anelli F. “No all’aumento dei posti a Medicina senza aver prima azzerato l’imbuto formativo” FNOMcEO 2020


[16] Stokker, Judy & Hallam, Gillian. (2009). The right person, in the right job, with the right skills, at the right time. A workforce-planning model that goes beyond metrics. Library Management. 30. 10.1108/01435120911006520.

Spain 2019: the apex of the politics of fear

It has been 314 days, 7547 hours and 452727 minutes since the beginning of 2019 and it sure looks like this year will go down in the history books as quite eventful. We had multiple voting sessions for the Brexit deal that after the retiring of Theresa May seem to slowly shape the final exit accords. There was also the election of numerous right-wing and far – right (1) presidents and prime ministers worldwide that favor the more conservative ways and approaches to both national and international politics. Nevertheless, a common factor can be seen throughout the electoral campaigns of these leaders, they all used three key points to concentrate on: restricting access to their countries by putting up walls (2) or designing new laws, guaranteeing more employment to the citizens of the country (3) and promising a better future.

However, one of the countries that have captured most of the media´s attention lately is Spain, the chaos in Catalonia has sparked numerous international discussions and now the results of the Second general elections are causing even more discussions in the country itself.

The people are getting tired of the uncertainty that has enveloped the county, Spain has been without a stable government since April, which makes 8 months until the November elections, a country that has a population of 46,7 million (4) people has been without a leader for almost as long as the duration of an average pregnancy. The growth of the Spanish economy has suffered a great blow because of the shaky state of its inner politics, no law could be created, voted or much less passed in the last 8 months and that has also made Brussels nervous.

Pedro Sanchez, the leader of PSOE (the socialist party)

On the 10th of November, 2019, Spain held Second general elections that in part replicated the results from the ones back in April, however, this time there was a certain surprise that left many people baffled. The winner of the November elections was PSOE (The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, social-democratic political party) and with 28% of the vote now has 120 seats in Congress, followed by PP (The People’s Party, conservative, Christian-democratic political party) with 20.82% of the vote has 88 seats in Congress, a number that has increased with 24,67% since April and the third place is for VOX (a far – right political party) with 15.09% of the vote and has 52 seats in Congress.

Here is where things become interesting, back in April, that third place was occupied by CIUDADANOS (Cs or Citizens–Party of the Citizenry, a center – right party) with 57 seats in Congress. Cs lost 57,19% of its supporters and as a consequence its leader, Albert Rivera resigned publicly one day after the elections.

what’s Vox?

Vox gained more popularity during the end of last year and the beginning of 2019, with a campaign that aimed to exploit the fear and ignorance of the voters. Vox´s electoral program has 100 points that will supposedly “revive” Spain but the first ten propositions only cut certain hard – fought rights and the picture doesn´t get any better as one follows reading.

The leader of the party, Santiago Abascal expressed his desires on multiple occasions to “rid the country of leftists”, make documented immigrants pay for using the public health system (apart from the standard taxes they already pay just like the Spanish people), immediately deport illegal immigrant no matter where they are from and why they have fled, the introduction of the paternal PIN and of course, the cherry on the cake, protect the bullfighting by law (5) .

José Antonio Ortega Lara (left) and Santiago Abascal (right)

For those who are not familiar with the paternal PIN, it is quite easy to explain, the parents would have to sign each time their consent and approval for their children to attend presentations in school containing ethical, social, civic moral or sexual values. All this in order to avoid that the current educational system “converts” their children into homosexual adults.

Vox has also been quite vocal about encouraging heterosexual families to have 3 or more children by conceding them certain incentives. Another main point of the party’s proposed reform is changing the law about gender violence (6) that protects women from their abusing partners. Abascal has also proposed and promoted the construction of a wall in Ceuta and Melilla paid by Morocco (7) (because that worked so well already for a certain President).

The very first point of Vox´s agenda is to suspend Catalonia´s autonomy, created in accordance with the Spanish constitution of 1978, with the aim of guaranteeing limited autonomy of the nationalities and regions that make up Spain. In addition, Vox also wants to ban the rest of the parties that advocate for more independence of certain regions as well, this decision would affect parties such as PNV (Basque National Party) that currently has 7 seats in Congress and Na+ (Navarra Suma).

these days protests in Catalonia

The protests in Catalonia

Going back to the problem at hand with Catalonia, it started at least a decade ago but intensified in the last couple of years since the illegal independence referendum that took place in 2017 when a fraction of independentists decided to take matters into their hands. This led to great divisions between the people that live in Catalonia, neighbors to this date are not speaking to each other, numerous families have been fractured (8) as well and the wave of violence that it all stirred has been plaguing the streets of the main cities, like Barcelona, creating unsafe environment for everyone, residents, tourists and students included.

After announcing the verdict of the court case against the leaders of the independentist movement, the main streets of Barcelona got flooded with people from all around the province but it wasn’t for a peace walk. The angry protesters set trash bins on fire, threw bottles and stones at everyone that stood in their way, for these protesters, the person that wasn’t with them stood against them.

There are two main groups of protesters that use the social turmoil to stoke the fires of violence, the so called “Tsunami Democratic” that constantly and anonymously organize big groups of people to block roads and especially the border with France, costing more than 25 million euros of losses per day (9) . And there is also a group known as CDR (The Committees for the Defense of the Republic) that brings nothing but violence on the streets. Only last month, a manual (10) was released by them that described in details the weak spots of the police uniforms so that they [the protesters] can do most damage.

So, let´s guess the questions everyone is thinking: what will happen with Catalonia? The truth is, until there is a properly functioning government in Spain, this question cannot be answered. Most people comment about the possibility of enforcing the article 155 of the Constitution [Article 155 allows the Government to take measures in exceptional cases to restore constitutional order or to prevent any great damage to the general interests of Spain, while preserving and respecting the existence of the Autonomous Community, its Law of Autonomy, and its Institutions.] but there is still a long way to go until a decision is reached.

What now?

This topic brings us back to our initial point, the results of the elections that are only reinforcing the blockade that was in place before them. PSOE will be constricted to reach an agreement and make a deal with other parties if they want to secure their place on the top.

How long will this uncertainty continue? The people are getting tired of voting, the participation on the last elections had decreased by 3.88%. There are politicians who play games that rely on fear tactics and our society regresses, slowly but surely every time we let said fear cloud our judgment, especially when the moment to vote arrives.

How far will we let fear push us?

written by Evelina Tancheva

1 https://www.dw.com/en/brazil-bolsonaros-broken-promises/a-51028781

2 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49805982 ,



3 https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/trump-job-promises

4 https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/spain-population/

5 https://www.voxespana.es/noticias/100-medidas-urgentes-de-vox-para-espana-20181006

6 https://www.eldiario.es/politica/Vox-violencia-LGTBI-propuestas-PP_0_842716530.html

7 https://www.elespanol.com/espana/20190329/abascal-trump-construir-ceuta-melilla-pagadomarruecos/386961753_0.html

8 https://www.elmundo.es/cronica/2017/09/24/59c6863322601d9a458b4667.html

9 https://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20191019/471057535720/la-jonquera-frontera-cierre-colas-perdidaseconomicas-cdr.html

10 https://www.lasprovincias.es/politica/manual-cdr-gaar-barcelona-20191018094314-nt.html


A (dis)continuity in the European Governance

Antonio Tajani descends from the highest seat in the European Parliament. He shakes hands with compatriot David Sassoli, who takes his place. They smile. This snapshot closes the waltz of the leadership positions of the European Union of these days, or of those who more than others will influence the choices of the Union, and therefore our lives, from here for the next five years. Following the elections of the new European Parliament on May 26th, the face of the Union and its representatives have changed. The change, however, did not take on the dimensions that during the electoral campaign they feared. During the first months of 2019, in fact, an apocalypse was expected, a revolution in terms of numbers and values ​​within the decision-making spheres of Brussels [1]. The fact is that this epochal change has not been realised; there have been some adjustments in the control room, and some fluctuations in public opinion, but the European Union maintains its values ​​and its different souls that characterise it.

If some balances have changed, others have remained firm. But which balances do we talk about?


The least known advantages of being in the EU

The EU is an institution that enables its member States to cooperate and coordinate efforts to improve the lives of their citizens and to allow their businesses to compete with those located within the borders of global super-powers such as China and the USA.

Here below. we will focus on some examples of how the EU is deploying efforts to impact our daily life for the best (some of which we ignore altogether).

  1. The European Medicines Agency (EMA)
  2. The European Space Agency (ESA)
  3. The investment plan for Europe
  4. The general data protection regulation (GDPR)
  5. The programs for environmental protection
  6. The European food safety agency (EFSA)

Let’s try and explain what they are about:


Tensions and extremism in Italy, the Macerata wound

Filippo Paggiarin

Filippo Paggiarin

The titles of all the newspaper talk about the cruel murder of Pamela, a young Italian girl. It is not clear yet what happened to her, seems that a Nigerian pusher gave her some heroin before killing her, cut her body in pieces and tried to hide her corpse.

Luca is holding the newspaper in his hands, put his pint of beer on the table of the pub where his friend Matteo is sitting. The pub is one like many others in Italy nowadays: there is a slot machine room in the back and people meets there after work (for those who still have it) or at anytime for those who do not.

“Have you seen what the hell have they done, these animals?” he says to his friend


Political spring in Poland

Half of July 2017. The ruling party in Poland, called the Law and Justice (PiS), despite the near end of the session and the start of summer break for the parliament, changes the plan of the session and pushes a controversial bill on the agenda. A bill to change the way of choosing the judges so that they are chosen by the party. What they do not expect though, is that this time the Youth will join the other age-groups in the anti-government protests.


The Llanito concern

Throughout history there have not been many small territories so outstanding like Gibraltar.

A small peninsula with less than 7km² dominated by a 426 meters high rock. A calcareous massif formed around 200 million years ago at the door of the Mediterranean see. An extremely important strategical and military settlement where the British people dug a tunnel network to defend a hypothetical axis powers’ attack.


All roads lead to Rome

A travel to Europe from 1957 to 2017: 60th anniversary bring back us to Rome again…

“All roads lead to Rome”

Since the monarchic period until the Imperial age, the Roman Forum has been the hearth of the city. The whole Europe looked at it as a reference point.

Magnificent temples, basilicas, Roman Senate, Emperors’ palaces were gathered in few meters.

A lot people used to come to Rome, many roads were spreading to all quarters, they arrived from the green lands of Sannio to Constantine’s Arch, from Spain to Jupiter’s temple, from Palestine to Massenzio’s basilica.

The sun rose behind the hills of Palatino lighting up the “Urbe”, in the landscape the Coliseum appeared.



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