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Monday, 17 February 2020

Energy dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean: Cooperation or conflict?


On the 12th February, SEESOX hosted a panel on Energy Dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean, a region rich in hydrocarbon reserves, territorial and maritime border disputes and regional power politics. Once believed to be a catalyst for peace and cooperation, such resources have recently become the source of tensions and disputes not just among the states in the region but involving other countries further afield as well as international companies engaged in explorations. The panel was composed of Bill Kappis, Deputy Director of Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, and Okan Yardimci, academic visitor at SEESOX and St Antony’s College. Both speakers responded to the question whether energy dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean is a source of cooperation or conflict.

Bill Kappis began by looking at the underlying causes for the current turmoil in the Eastern Mediterranean. In his view it is not energy per se that bolsters or compromises relations between countries, but power politics and the current balance of power in the region, although the danger of energy competition per se should not be underestimated. Energy is an accelerator of competition but not the cause of it. He discussed the current state of play in the region, in Syria, Libya and the maritime region of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the competition over energy resources available. He also talked about the current competitions among states, that have to do with the rights to exclusive economic zones and the delimitation of territorial waters.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

EU referenda in Greece and the UK: Questions of legitimacy

On 30 January 2020, Evangelos Fanoulis (Department of International Relations, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University) presented his research on how to assess the legitimacy of EU referenda, using two recent referenda as reference cases: the 2015 Greek referendum on whether to accept a new bail-out programme, and the 2016 UK referendum on Brexit. Although legitimacy is not a sufficient condition for democracy, it is a necessary one; and the legitimacy of referenda is a salient topic for the future of European integration. Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College) chaired the talk.

His central message was that EU referenda—meaning, nationally held referenda on a question relating to EU integration, politics, or policy-decision-making—should be assessed for legitimacy at both national and supranational levels, looking at questions of justice and freedom, and taking account of the type of referendum.

His framework for assessing legitimacy differed from other assessments, being based on agonistic democracy. Prior research on EU legitimacy had looked at either input or output legitimacy, and/or presented legitimacy as either a top-down or bottom-up process. In contrast, agonistic democracy saw public contestation as a prerequisite for legitimacy. Citizen participation was the sine qua non of agonistic pluralism: citizens should have an effective say in democratic politics—with governments obliged to reply if they did not abide by citizens’ views. He noted that this version of agonistic democracy is based on Tully’s approach rather than Mouffe’s, making room for multinational democracies and envisaging the democratic game (agon) taking place within an equilibrium of law and freedom.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Radicalisation in the Western Balkans: Political, social or religious?

Radicalisation in the Western Balkans is often portrayed as the growing influence of radical Islam. Does this stand up to rational analysis and how do political and social factors fit in? These were some of the questions that Asya Metodieva (Central European University) and Florian Qehaja (Kosovar Centre for Security Studies) tried to address during the seminar on Radicalisation in the Western Balkans: Political, social or religious?, which took place on 29 January 2020 and was chaired by Jessie Barton Hronesova (Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford).

Qehaja explained that there were a significant number of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) coming from the Western Balkans and noted that there are different kinds of radicalisation and extremism in the region - driven by the Orthodox Church, by nationalism, etc. The issue of radical Islam in the Western Balkans came about after the conflict through a wave of NGOs using the post-conflict environment to promote non-indigenous to the region ideologies.

While the roots of radicalisation were slightly different in the various countries in the Western Balkans (e.g. depending on whether the country is secular or influenced by the Orthodox Church), in the end they were quite similar. Identity crisis of the individual, corruption, state capture, loss of hope and protagonism were all roots of radicalisation. 40% of the Kosovo FTFs had some sort of criminal background, which made them easy targets for recruiters. Enlargement fatigues also gave ammunition to recruiters and allowed them to argue that the West is not the answer for the future.