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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Measuring Peace: Principles, Practice and Politics

Richard Caplan’s new book Measuring Peace: Principles, Practice and Politics (Oxford University Press 2019) may be small but is mighty. Caplan covers a lot of scholarly ground that evidences his extensive knowledge and empirical research. Representing parsimony at its best, the book offers a succinct discussion about the key principles, best (and worst) practices, and political constraints in measuring peace.

Such were the conclusion of the panel on Wednesday 23 October consisting of Jessie Barton Hronesova, Neil MacFarlane and Lord Alderdice. The panel started with Caplan’s summary of the book.

Caplan’s key findings are highly important and timely. He demonstrates that ethnographic methods are superior to universal technical assessments in acquiring accurate data about local peace. He also shows that local knowledge and contextualised conflict analysis give the most accurate picture and that idiosyncratic benchmarking is important to understand how the conflict or peace is changing over time. The question to Caplan is not about what does peace require to survive but what does this peace require? Regional scholars can rejoice.

Barton Hronesova noted that the key contribution of the book is its ‘convincing and well-researched argument that is highly accessible beyond academia’. She stressed that the book succeeds in giving peacebuilders a ‘compass’ to navigate the peacebuilding landscape. She also stressed that the book focuses on how to measure the quality of peace (not what to measure as each context will vary). She noted that the term reconciliation might be added among related terms such as security, stability and resilience. She also outlined some additional challenges in measuring peace such as security of local researchers.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Greece after the crisis: Stocktaking, legacies and prospects


George Pagoulatos spoke on this subject at a SEESOX seminar on 24 October. David Madden chaired. He began by saying that the subject was over-researched: little remained unknown; but it was politically contested, and to some extent still emotionally divisive. It was still too early to gauge its longer-term implications, but it was a textbook failure in the EMU. There had been long-standing structural weaknesses in Greece, yet on this occasion the vulnerability came through the external account -the current account deficit and foreign debt.

Procyclical adjustment accentuated recession; all policies were contractionary during the crisis (fiscal; incomes; no monetary transmission), and there was no countercyclical response, leading to fragmentation. Common ground was that the EMU was unready, there was insufficient response and that Greece needed reform. Debt restructuring should have been earlier. Some recession was inevitable. Contested points were the magnitude of fiscal and incomes austerity (minimum wage cut), the content of structural reforms (labour market liberalization), the magnitude of adjustment, and the degree of hysteresis effects. There was tension between positive outcomes of forced economic adjustment and the hysteresis effects of depression. Labor migration was a correction mechanism, but a double-edged sword: mitigating unemployment but bleeding human capital.

Friday, 18 October 2019

EU Leaders to Western Balkan Reformers: You’re on your own!

By Adis Merdzanovic

The European Council’s decision not to open formal accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania today might go down in history as one of the most ill-advised policy decisions the EU has ever taken with respect to the Western Balkans – and that is quite something considering how contested that particular field is. Today, the Council did not just change a particular policy, but betrayed one of the fundamental principles of the European Union: the adherence to the pre-set rules of the game. Since today, at least from the Western Balkans perspective, the EU is no longer a “rules-based order”, but has become part of “politics as usual”.

Granted, there are good reasons for not taking this step today. Everybody knows that the accession process, as it is currently conducted, suffers from some major problems. That the countries of the Western Balkans could have progressed on their path towards EU membership in recent years while at the same time the quality of their democratic systems backslided and illiberal and authoritarian politics became ever more dominant, points to just one of the challenges the current system faces. Also, the role of parliaments, the civil society, and the power asymmetries involved in the process need to be looked at. Furthermore, the quintessential formula of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law needs to take a more prominent position in the entire enlargement process––something even the “fundamentals first” approach adopted by the Commission has done only to an insufficient degree.

All this is well known, and all of it is correct. But what makes today’s decision so colossally misguided is the fact that the EU broke its word. For years, it has been telling North Macedonia that it will progress on its path towards the European Union and benefit from all the goodies of being a candidate country if it only found a solution with Greece with respect to the name issue. North Macedonia delivered: its voters ousted the old government, the new government agreed to the historic Prespa agreement with Greece and changed the country’s name. True to its word, the EU Commission recommended to reward these efforts with the candidacy status.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Contemporary Greek diaspora in the UK and beyond

On the day of the third meeting of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board, on 10 October 2019, and making use of the presence in London of the members of the Board, SEESOX organized a public event devoted to its Greek Diaspora Project at the Hellenic Centre, in partnership with the Centre and the Greek Embassy in London. This public event was a great opportunity for SEESOX to present its three-year research output to the wider London community, at a time when it had just completed its first cycle and was already setting its goals for the next three-year period.

The event at the Hellenic Centre was introduced by David Madden, Chair of the Steering Committee of SEESOX and Othon Anastasakis, Director of SEESOX/Principal Investigator of the Greek Diaspora Project and included welcoming speeches by the Greek Ambassador in London, Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras and First Chair of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board, Nikos Karamouzis. The panel discussion that followed was the core feature of the evening, and included as speakers, diaspora experts at SEESOX, policy makers and members of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board which is supporting the project financially. This setting was a great opportunity for a fruitful debate on the Greek diaspora among academics, policymakers, as well as the business word. Both the SEESOX findings, as well as the inputs of the panelists, adopted exciting angles, in a well-attended auditorium composed mostly by diaspora Greeks in the UK.

A most impressive, as well as accessible and user-friendly, result of this research, is the digital map that SEESOX created in order to record and depict the presence of Greek diasporic populations all over the world. Such a map offers a unique platform for the interaction of the Greek nation on an international level, as presented by Foteini Kalantzi, A. G. Leventis Research Officer at SEESOX. It is by no means a mere theoretical exercise for academic purposes – instead, it is a valuable tool, both quantitively and qualitatively, for policymakers, as well as the legislative.

Friday, 5 July 2019

"The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey"

What does the 23 June Istanbul mayoral election tell us about the present state of Turkish politics? 


Special event on 1 July on the Turkish Mayoral elections

"The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey"
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

What happened?
The mayoral elections in Istanbul on 23 June saw an alliance of opposition parties: the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP), and the centre-right iYi party. They call themselves the Nation Alliance.

The elections were a rerun of the 31 March elections that were controversially annulled by President Erdogan’s AK Party due to alleged irregularities. This saw President Erdogan’s AK party’s candidate for Mayor lose by a decisive margin, and power in the capital moving away from AK for the first time in a quarter of a century. President Erdogan himself has said that: ‘The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey’, and these results mark an important turning point for Turkish politics.

These elections are only one of the six national elections and one referendum held in Turkey since 2014. This includes the local and presidential elections in 2014, the two general elections in 2015, a 2017 constitutional referendum, the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, and finally, the local elections of this year. These elections have seen a gradual, but definite, shift away from the ruling coalition towards the opposition. Based on the results of the recent Istanbul elections, the governing coalition no longer commands popular support in the country. However, the divisions between the large urban centres and rural areas are stark.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Generational memory and the resurgence of the past in Southern Europe and Latin America

The Santander conference “Generational Memory and the Resurgence of the Past in Southern Europe and Latin America” took place at the European Studies Centre on 18 June 2019. It focused on the varying ways in which the memory of the transitions matters for society and politics today in Southern Europe and Latin America. Post-authoritarian societies currently face serious political complexities, chief amongst which is the fact that the second or third post-authoritarian generations demand a different social and political contract than the one concluded after the mid-1970s. In Spain, young Catalans challenge the 1978 Spanish constitution, claiming that Franco is back from the grave. In Portugal young people complain that the political class has “betrayed” the values of the 1974 Revolution. The past is returning with a vengeance also in Latin America: in Argentina new generations protest against wrongdoings of the dictatorship period, rejecting the idea of “national reconciliation”, while in Chile the political transition and its masterminds have come under serious attack by students who regard them as a generational breakpoint.

It is precisely on such complex political battles between official and unofficial memory, established history and counter-history, but also various generations defending different versions of the past, that the conference focused. How do political generations in post-authoritarian societies in Southern Europe and Latin America remember the past, and how is this memory constructed? This is one of the key questions that the conference tackled, going back to the initial use of the term “political generation” by Karl Mannheim and its connection to social change. It featured three panels with specialists in history, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies who tackled these issues, focusing mainly on Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal and Greece) and Latin America (Argentina and Chile).

Monday, 17 June 2019

Memory wars and war therapies in conflict resolution and peace building

With Dr. Kepa Fernandez de Larrinoa as convenor, and in collaboration with SEESOX, the BASQUE VISITING FELLOW CONFERENCE, on Memory Wars and War Therapies in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, took place on 14 June. It gathered scholars from Oxford University (Professor Stathis Kalyvas, Lord John Alderdice), University of London (Dr. Jessie Hronešová), Queen’s University Belfast (Professor Dominic Bryan), Oxford Brookes University (Professor Jeremy MacClancy), University of Reno Nevada (Professor Joseba Zulaika) and RMIT University, Melbourne (Research Professor Hariz Halilovich). Speakers presented case studies and perspectives from Northern Ireland (Lord John Alderdice and Dominic Bryan), Bosnia-Herzegovina (Hariz Halilovich and Jessie Hronešová) and the Basque Country (Joseba Zulaika and Jeremy MacClancy). The Conference did not focus only on a comparative approach, but also on interdisciplinarity. Thus, the programme brought together anthropologists, historians and political scientists, who discussed analytical ethnographies of cultural expressions and depictions of political violence, particularly in scenarios where distinctive sociocultural communities come to be involved in the politics of supporting or rejecting the creation of new nation-States.

Three academics from Oxford University moderated the open debates. Dr. Othon Anastasakis (St. Antony’s College) chaired the first panel, on Neighbours, Criminals and Heroes: The Politics of Memory in the Post-War Balkans. Dr. Marc Mulholland (St Catherine's College) chaired the panel on Anthropologies and Psychologies of Visual Displays of Political Violence and Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland. And Professor Tom Buchanan (Kellogg College) chaired the one on Transcending the Politics of Intimidation in the Basque Country: Political Religions and Cultural Identity in State and Counter-State Violence. Overall, the conference dealt with the politics of war remembering and forgetting, visually and verbally in processes of community healing and social reconciliation. Gladstone Professor of Government Stathis Kalyvas, from the Department of Politics and International Relations and All Souls College (Oxford University) wrapped up the Conference, speaking on theoretical issues, lexicography and analytical categories at stake while studying civil, political and religious violence in inter- and intra-State armed conflicts.