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Monday 21 December 2015

Cyprus: Prospects for reunification, peace with Turkey and regional stability

David Madden (SEESOX Associate and Senior Member of St Antony's College)

The Cyprus High Commissioner in London, Euripides Evriviades, spoke on 2 December on "Cyprus: Prospects for reunification, peace with Turkey and regional stability". David Madden chaired.

"Geography is Destiny". Cyprus stands at the cross-roads of three continents. This is a blessing but it is also curse. It is something that cannot be ignored; and so is the Cyprus problem.

There is under way another attempt to find a solution. For a permanent, just and viable settlement, everything must come together. There is a clear understanding amongst the parties including the United Nations that nothing can be agreed until everything is agreed.

Cyprus is a member of the UN; the Commonwealth; the EU. Accession to the EU in May 2004 was the most critical strategic development for Cyprus since its independence in 1960. The accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU is equally critical for the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean sea is of pivotal importance for the countries in the region, but also for the UK, Europe and for Transatlantic security. It is imperative to have predictable, credible and reliable partners in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus plays an important role in this regard and is a security producer. This has been exemplified recently with regards to the destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons; the role of Cyprus in the maritime component of UNIFIL; support for humanitarian evacuations, eg Lebanon; and currently for the fight against ISIS / DAESH.

Monday 30 November 2015

Reverse transitology? Elections and political change in Turkey

David Madden (SEESOX Associate and Senior Member of St Antony's College)

On 16 November, Kerem Oktem spoke at SEESOX on Turkey after the elections. Othon Anastasakis chaired, and welcomed Kerem back to St Antony’s.

In the elections on 1 November, AKP won back the 10% of the vote they had lost in the 7 June elections, mainly from pro-Kurdish HDP and the extreme nationalist MHP. There were a number of explanatory models for the vote swing: manipulation of the vote, consolidation of the conservative right wing block, deliberate choice of Islamo-fascistic tendencies, and voter intimidation. In fact, although overall the elections were neither free nor fair, they were probably accurate in the counting of votes. Kerem inclined to the voter intimidation thesis, drawing a parallel with the election campaign of the Committee of Union and Progress in 1912, which is also known as the 'elections with a stick' and which got the CUP victory despite strong opposition.

Looking back, the 7 June elections had appeared to be the liberal moment, or the liberals’ moment. After a divisive and sectarian campaign, the AKP lost the single majority and almost 10% of the votes. The rising stars were Selahattin Demirtaş and the Peace and Democracy Party HDP, offering the promise of a pro-Kurdish party transforming into an all-Turkey party, and the possibility of a Kurdish-Turkish movement with a socially progressive agenda. But the AKP did not form a coalition, and Erdogan never asked the second party, CHP, to do so. Instead he called repeat elections.

Greek-American Radicals. The Untold Story

Adis Merdzanovic (Junior Research Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford)

At an event on 4 November 2015 chaired by Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College), this year’s A.G. Leventis Visiting Fellow at SEESOX, Kostis Karpozilos presented the 2013 documentary ‘Greek-American Radicals. The Untold Story.’ The film, which is partly based on Karpozilos’ own research and for which he acted as a screen writer and historian, documents the story of Greek immigrants to the United States that were active in the radical-left movements, ranging from the early 20th century until the McCarthy era.

The story of Greek-American radicals is so far not well known, as the US is hardly ever associated with strong leftist policies. Quite to the contrary, when people in Greece think of their compatriots in the States, they often assume that these must have been successful businessmen, engaged in the American way of life and pursuing the American dream. Yet while their numbers might not have been large, Greek immigrants nevertheless contributed significantly to the leftist movements.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Migration, protection and reception: the “crisis” in the Mediterranean

Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

SPEAKER: Professor Brad Blitz, Middlesex University 

Brad Blitz gave the first SEESOX seminar of the Michaelmas Term on 15 October, on the highly topical issue of migration. How was the “hardening” of the EU’s external borders, in parallel with the “softer” internal regime under Schengen actually affecting migration flows and respect for the rights of migrants? 

Blitz pointed out that the current situation was not entirely new, with the first problems occurring before Sangatte, Calais in 2000. Nor had there been any lack of success in integrating previous waves of refugees (Vietnamese Boat People, Former Yugoslavian refugees) – in the latter case many had been returned once the fighting had stopped and their temporary protection ended. But refugee policy had historically always been dictated by foreign and security policy considerations and that trend is still evident today.

Flows across the Mediterranean so far this year had reached nearly 600,000, with over 3,000 deaths. And the crisis in Syria had added a new dimension to previously existing flows from failed states in Africa and central Asia. The flows are mixed, with refugees alongside economic migrants – in one instance labour migrants from Bangladesh crossed to Europe to escape the chaos in Libya, where they had previously been employed. The main routes were from Libya north to Italy and from Turkey to Greece and then through the Balkans to Austria and Germany. A new Arctic route had appeared in the summer, through Northern Russia to Norway.

Monday 19 October 2015

Commemorating Max Watson

David Madden (Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

An afternoon seminar was held at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, on Friday 16 October, to commemorate the career and work of Max Watson, a Fellow of both St Antony’s and Wolfson College, Oxford.

The event was entitled “A Tale of Three Cities”: the cities in question being Washington, Brussels and Oxford: reflecting Max’s time with the IMF, the European Commission and Oxford University respectively. The first session also covered Max’s time with INSIAD, a prestigious Paris-based organisation; while the third also swept up those who had known Max from boyhood (Lester Corps), and one of those closest to Max and his later work (John Howell). The three sessions were chaired by David Vines, Jonathan Scheele and David Madden. The event was conceived and organised by Julie Adams.

The first session was addressed by Ajal Chopra, Charles Enoch, Russell Kincaid and Reza Moghadam: who all spoke with knowledge, insight and touches of humour about Max’s time at the IMF, and in particular about his formative role in understanding and helping solve the Latin American debt crisis.

The second part mainly covered Max’s work together with the Commission and the Irish authorities in helping overcome the Irish debt crisis. Speakers were Gillian Edgeworth, Valerie Herzberg and Klaus Regling. It also demonstrated how highly Max’s continuing advice to the Commission over the years was regarded in Brussels.

The third session was devoted to Max’s life at Oxford; and in particular to his work for SEESOX and his creation of PEFM. Contributors included Othon Anastasakis, Adam Bennett, and Kalypso Nicolaidis. Peter Sanfey spoke about the collaboration between SEESOX/PEFM and the EBRD; and Altin Tanku about the Cooperation Agreement between SEESOX and the Bank of Albania in which Max played so great a role.

Throughout the event, including the many contributions from the floor, there were continuous signs of deep affection and respect for Max; and amazement at the amount and breadth of what he achieved. Common themes and epithets running through the many presentations were that C Max Watson was Creative, Multi-Skilled, Aristotelian, Xenophilic, Witty, Active, Trouble-Taking, Self-Starting, Omniscient and Notably Nice.

Monday 22 June 2015

Greece’s National Security strategy: Assessing the past, anticipating the future

Stephen Horvath (A-Level Student at Westminster School)

On 18 June, Professor Panayotis Tsakonas, Visiting Fellow at St. Anthony’s and Professor at the University of the Aegean in the Department of Mediterranean Studies, gave the final SEESOX seminar of the Term on “Greece’s National Security Strategy: Assessing the Past, Anticipating the Future.” Dr. Othon Anastasakis, director of SEESOX, was the chair.

Professor Tsakonas took as his starting point that Greece at present had no national security strategy, and addressed the question of how Greece might move towards developing a ‘grand strategy.’ He defined this term as a plan using clearly identified methods to achieve major goals, both in the medium and long term. How to develop a grand strategy is a particularly important question for Greece as it is caught between Europe, a region of stability, and the Middle East, a region of great instability.

Economic crisis, as well as problematic developments in the Balkans, appeared in a difficult context of globalisation, including forced Europeanisation, for Greece. Given this, the question remains: why did Greece fail to develop a strategy to reach beyond its weight, from 1990 onwards?

Tsakonas looked at a variety of different approaches how Greece might develop its future grand strategy, looking at domestic actors as well as new international threats that have not yet been considered. These divergent options were all united by a consideration of the transformations in regional politics caused by EU expansion. This process had an erratic impact on Greek policy over time, and Greece has come to view the EU as an integral part of its security. The fear of Turkey since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus has affected discourse about military expenditure, although Europeanisation encouraged rapprochement with Turkey in the late 1990s.

Monday 8 June 2015

Turning international intervention into domestic cooperation in post-war societies: The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

David Madden (SEESOX Associate and Senior Member of St Antony's College)

Adis Merdzanovic gave a seminar on this subject on 4 June, with Richard Caplan as Discussant, and David Madden as Chair.

He distinguished between international intervention to end a war, and “political peace-building” in post- conflict politics. There were two phases of the latter: the establishment of constitutional order, including introduction of a power-sharing system; and consolidation of the political order (including the vexed question of veto powers). The latter was often seen as having negative consequences, and raising questions of democracy/legitimacy. In fact this depended on the intervention mode adopted by external actors. The aim should not be to substitute for domestic decision making, but strengthen negotiating capacity. The Arbiter mode would produce more local compromises than the Agenda approach: under the latter the external actor/actors had their own preferred solution which they were prepared to impose if there were no local compromise; the former was based on process, and looked to the imposition of a solution wanted by those locals most willing to compromise.

The Bonn Powers (1997) made Bosnia-Herzegovina a “semi-protectorate”. There was a mixed record: progress in terms of legislation and state structures, but a dependency syndrome. The Agency Model made local use of vetoes and hence imposition more likely; the Arbiter model was more likely to produce local compromise. This proposition was examined using a variety of hypothetical and actual models. The Citizenship Law was an example of Agency, the implementation of the 2002 court decision on “constituent peoples” an example of Arbiter. Overall, the conclusion was that international intervention should focus on enforcing local compromises rather than imposing solutions.

Friday 5 June 2015

Saving the economy: What should Greece do next?

Stephen Horvath (A-Level Student, Westminster School)

On 1 June, Vicky Pryce, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Centre for Economic Business Research, spoke to SEESOX on “Saving the economy: What should Greece do next?” Kalypso Nicolaïdis, Professor of International Relations and Fellow at St. Antony’s, was the chair.

Initially looking at the question of how Greece had arrived in such a problematic economic position, Pryce commented how the Greek crisis came as a surprise in 2010 (when she was Head of the Government economic service), and carried unreasonable caricatures that crowded out sensible solutions.

Pryce stated that Greek entry to the Eurozone created an unstable system that prevented Greece from being able to respond to a crisis, as it could not devalue its currency and had no clear lender of last resort. Interest rates for Greek government borrowing had fallen 90% since entering the Euro, which encouraged unsustainable borrowing, as did the removal of balance of payments constraints. She was keen to emphasise that the unsustainable borrowing of the government did not justify the stereotype of the ‘profligate Greek:’ according to OECD studies, Greeks worked some of the longest hours and had one of the lowest household debt to income rates within the Eurozone. The initial bailout of the banks in response to the 2008 crisis made the Greek problem even worse, she claimed, by transferring the debt of Greek banks, which had overstretched themselves throughout the Eurozone, to Greek taxpayers. This issue was scarcely rectified by the debt relief program: of the €120 billion forgiven, only €6 billion of it was governmental debt.

Monday 25 May 2015

"Causing us real trouble” The 1967 coup in Greece

Eirini Karamouzi (The A. G. Leventis Fellow on Modern Greece, St Antony's College, Oxford)

Sarah Snyder, assistant professor at American University, D.C. and a historian of U.S. foreign relations with specialization in the history of the Cold War and human rights activism, presented on 20 May 2015 a chapter of her upcoming book Dictators, Diplomats, and Dissidents: United States Human Rights Policy in the long 1960s with Columbia University Press. Her talk focused on the 1967 coup in Greece and in particular the US reaction. As Snyder put it ‘The case of Greece serves to illustrate that human rights had a place on Johnson’s policy agenda in the 1960s, albeit not the most prominent one. Of particular international concern was the Greek junta’s harsh treatment of its perceived enemies in the wake of the 1967 coup’. Yet the Johnson administration did not actively oppose the new leaders, while Nixon and Kissinger accepted the regime thus precipitating years of struggle among the White House, State Department, congressional critics, and concerned citizens. Debates concerning United States policy toward Greece drew new adherents to the cause of human rights and galvanized many others. However, Snyder convincingly showed that the strategic considerations privileged military alliance with Greece but unease about human rights violations in Greece and its impact on U.S. policy persisted until the country returned to democracy in July 1974.

Effie Pedaliu, LSE fellow and an expert on human rights opened up the discussion to place the story of the Greek dictatorship within the pan-European discourse on human rights, drawing parallels with the US debates and examining the transatlantic dialogue. She was interested in the legacy of the Western involvement and policy towards the dictatorial regime in the post- junta period and democratization process in Greece. Both speakers agreed in the importance of looking at the long decade of the 60s and high-lightened the vital role that Greece played or what Barbara Keys has gone as far as claiming that ‘anti-junta activism helped lay the groundwork for the worldwide “human rights boom” of the 1970s’.[1]

[1] Barbara Keys, Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2014) from Sarah

Monday 18 May 2015

The Cosmo-Politics of nostalgia: Istanbul, identity, and difference

Adis Merdzanovic (Junior Research Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford)

On 13th May 2015, Nora Fisher Onar, a fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington and Research Associate of the Centre for International Studies at the University of Oxford, gave a talk about “The Cosmo-Politics of Nostalgia: Istanbul, Identity, and Difference”.

She started off by explaining the benefits of Istanbul as a case study for advancing some of the central questions raised in the literature on cosmopolitism. The latter include: (a) the relationship between nation states and minorities within them; (b) the relationship between liberal or secular majorities and religious minorities, following the implicit assumption that one indeed has such a constellation in a cosmopolitan society; and (c) the relationship between universal rights and multiculturalism. For all these questions, she argued, Istanbul offers important insights, inter alia due to its history of being the capital of different empires and the existence of various minorities. Furthermore, we can understand Istanbul as a microcosm of Turkey’s development, as well as the development of other major cities worldwide, which gives it a clear cosmo-political dimension.

Monday 11 May 2015

When East met West: The aftermath of foreign ownership of the press in Central and Eastern Europe

Rumena Filipova (DPhil Candidate, St Cross College, Oxford)

On 7 May 2015, Dr Veselin Vackov (Managing Editor of prominent daily Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny) addressed the phenomenon of foreign ownership of the press in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) at a lunchtime seminar organised jointly by South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX), Programme on Modern Poland (POMP), and the Bulgarian, Czech, and Slovak Oxford University Societies. 

Dr Vackov posited that soon after the political and economic changes of 1989, Western investors entered Central and East European press markets with purely economic goals and motivations, which remained largely fulfilled by 2006/2007. It was around this time that Western investors began to exit CEE markets as more profitable economic opportunities emerged elsewhere (like in Africa) and the 2008 Financial Crisis simultaneously imposed revenue constraints. The period of predominant foreign ownership of the press until this point left two important legacies and unresolved problems. First, the CEE public expressed its grievances concerning the commercialisation and tabloidisation of the press; there is a lingering sentiment that foreign owners had failed to fulfil CEE audiences’ cultural expectations of quality journalism. Second, the departure of Western investors has endowed CEE press markets with significant uncertainty as to the most sustainable business model, which must now be formulated by local investors in the market. Furthermore, the public has expressed doubts over the commitment of local investors to political neutrality.

Friday 8 May 2015

Democratisation in South East Europe – without class conflict?

Stephen Horvath (A-Level Student, Westminster School)

Danijela Dolenec, Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Zagreb, addressed SEESOX on May 6 on the topic of class conflict in the process of democratisation in South East Europe. Dr. Othon Anastasakis, director of SEESOX, was the discussant.

Professor Dolenec focused on situating the current status of South East Europe in the context of the history and theories of democratisation more broadly. Drawing on the work of Lipset and Rokkan, she presented the class-based nature of Left-wing politics as key to the development of functional conflicts in politics. In the first wave of democratisation, as explained by Dahl, a key characteristic of mass suffrage was the inclusion of Social Democratic and socialist parties into the Executive branch. This sort of democratic transition was driven from below, and required political parties to clearly represent social division.

However, Huntington’s theory of the Third Wave, particularly in Eastern Europe, is differentiated by a top down approach where the elites in a country have agreed on programs of transition. This gives rise to the academic literature of ‘transitology,’ as the political arena is seen as a series of economic reforms agreed by all parties and not contested by the common man. A critical approach to party competition illustrates the problems that these representative democracies face, and the implications of the absence of a strong Social Democratic presence.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Global approaches to rule of law promotion in the Western Balkans

Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 11 March 2015, Pierre Mirel, former Director for the West Balkans in the European Commission, and Erwan Fouere, former EU Head of Delegation in Skopje, gave a joint seminar, chaired by Richard Caplin. They spoke on the experience of EU promotion of Rue of Law (RoL) in the Western Balkans and the new EU Member States.

Pierre Mirel began by recalling a recent report highlighting the mass nature of corruption in the Western Balkans and the priority that young leaders across the area gave to RoL – “the first challenge”. Comparing the current enlargement process with that of the fifth enlargement[1], he stressed that the E’s “new approach” made a significantly greater effort to tackle issues of RoL, corruption and public administration reform. Following the fifth enlargement, corruption levels in the new Member States remained high and the Stockholm programme was beginning to look at RoL issues inside the EU. Even though Croatia’s enlargement negotiations included a chapter on RoL, it was opened far too late in the process.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Political contestation, state capture, and European integration in South East Europe

Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 20 February 20145, Milada Vachudova, from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, gave a seminar chaired by Othon Anastasakis. Milada looked the impact of external actors on political reform in SEE.

Milada Vachudova underlined that the starting point in 1990 for each former communist state had been different – the eastern bloc was never a monolith. While the basic equation had always been that the cost of exclusion from the EU was so substantial that it created an incentive for domestic politicians to put in place substantial reform, had this really worked? To take the case of Bosnia, was the relative failure of reform so far due to the specificity of Bosnia itself or to mistakes by the EU? While the leverage represented by an EU accession perspective was indisputable, if one looked at the potential counterfactual for Romania and Bulgaria, it had clearly failed to guarantee an adequate quality of democracy and rule of law. She noted that, in her view, the EU had not so much embarked on a sort of “civilising mission” in the early 1990s, but rather reacted to the fall of communism by offering a longer term prospect of accession in order to prevent early market access opening. The practical advantages of this process were clear in terms of the potential for establishing the rule of law in these countries, but criticism of its outcome needed to be realistic in terms of how much could actually be achieved. And the loss of leverage after accession was a significant factor in determining the longer term effects of the enlargement process.

Greece and EEC membership: Was it a mistake?

Andrew Heinrich (D.Phil Candidate, St Hilda's College, Oxford)
 On 24 February, Eirini Karamouzi addressed SEESOX on “Greece and EEC membership: Was it a mistake?” The talk was chaired by Margaret MacMillan (Nuffield) and Anne Deighton (Wolfson) served as a discussant.

The financial and economic crises that gripped Greece in 2010 set in motion a domino effect that upset the stability of the euro and rattled the Eurozone markets. It also, perhaps inevitably at times of such widespread uncertainty, opened the floodgates to a seemingly endless blame game over the economic, financial and above all, political origins of the crisis. As the Greek financial woes polarised opinion and accelerated the emergence of clear divisions between northern and southern members of the European Union, former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, remembered among other things for the instrumental role he played in welcoming Greece to the European Economic Community in 1981, dived into the fray to admit that supporting Greek membership had been a mistake. Possibly the most high-profile actor to make a direct link between today’s crisis and Greece’s entry into the Community over three decades ago, Giscard helped to renew interest in the history of Greece and European integration. This heighten interest from the public now calls for a deeper understanding of Greece’s relationship with Europe that must go beyond short-termist, ahistorical analyses. It is the historian’s role to step back from conventional readings of the past and what Mark Gilbert has called a teleological approach to the writing of European integration and reconstruct the enlargement talks by showing how multiple choices and alternative paths existed at all times, regardless of the verdict one might wish to give on the integration of Greece into the EEC. Enlargement was part of a wider trend of economic, political, institutional and social transformation in the 1970s and was, as such, a reflection of the broad systemic changes that marked the decade as an era of transition.

The influence of Islamic fundamentalism and new security challenges

Andrew Heinrich (D.Phil Candidate, St Hilda's College, Oxford)

Dr. Kerem Öktem addressed SEESOX on 18 February on Religion and Radicalization in the Balkans and Beyond. Faisal Ahmed of Nuffield College chaired.

Dr. Öktem began by posing the question of whether there is justification to focus on “Jihadism in the Balkans” after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. He defined Jihadism as a combination of Wahhabism, a conservative Sunni movement, and Takfirism, the act of one Muslim accusing another Muslim of blasphemy. It is out of a combination of these two movements that radicialization is born, according to Dr. Öktem.

He then continued to define three waves of international Jihad. The first wave started with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The second was when these ideologies took hold in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Iraq, and the third became individual acts of terror throughout the world, including Europe. While none of these movements has ever succeeded in replacing mainstream Muslim beliefs, Jihadist attacks on civilians have become a defining nature of the outside world’s perception of Islam.

Diasporas in times of crisis: Agents of change?

Andrew Heinrich (D.Phil Candidate, St Hilda's College, Oxford)

On 11 February, Robin Cohen of the Oxford Diaspora Programme, Sarah Garding from Nuffield, and Antonis Kamaras from ELIAMEP addressed SEESOX on “Diasporas in times of crisis: agents of change?” Othon Anastasakis served as the chair.

Cohen began by elaborating on the multiple definitions of Diaspora as they began and have changed over time. Each definition, he argued, offers different pros and cons for understanding diasporas and their contributions to their homestates. The first and most extensive use of the term refers to populations dispersed by conflict or violence, such as the Jewish and Armenian Diasporas. From there, the term came to include those who migrated for economic reasons.

There has been a growing distinction between diasporas and refugees that needs to be addressed: what is the difference between the two? Is it a matter of collective conscious developed over time, as is clearly the case, for example, with the Zionist movement amongst certain components of the Jewish Diaspora? In short, more work must be done to distinguish- or merge- the definitions of diasporas and refugees, particularly if a distinction is to be made based on their respective roles as collective actors in the international system.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Russia: A partner and ally, or a Cold War competitor?

David Madden (SEESOX Associate, Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

Dr Dimitar Bechev spoke at SEESOX on 4 March on Russia and the Balkans in the seminar series Global South East Europe. Roy Allison of St Antony’s chaired.

He started by providing a snapshot of some recent developments: the triumphalist visit by Putin to Belgrade in October 2014 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the city; statements by the new Syriza government in Greece apparently opposing sanctions against Russia; Russian naval visits to Cyprus; and the announcement of “Turkish Stream”, tying Russia and Turkey closer together on energy issues. At the same time there was a harder line coming out of Western European capitals in response to what appeared a challenge from Russia in the region.

Dr Bechev suggested that Russia did not have a special policy towards the Balkans: what happened there was a consequence of Russia’s overall relationship with the West. He divided the post-Soviet period into three phases. Under Andrei Kozyrev as foreign minister (1991-96), there was an opening to the West. Russia supported efforts to resolve West Balkan conflicts. Russia was sympathetic towards Serbia, but not excessively so: Milosevic had blotted his copy book by hedging his bets during the 1991 putsch attempt. With Yevgeny Primakov and Igor Ivanov there was a harder line. But the game was still more about Russia’s global role than about the West Balkans per se: and the stand-off at Pristina Airport lead to a climb-down, and strengthened the case for Bulgaria and Romania to join NATO.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Power of the People: The dynamics and limits of social mobilization in South Eastern Europe

Jessie Hronesova (D.Phil Candidate, St Antony's College, Oxford)

In 2013 and 2014 a wave of protests swept across South Eastern Europe (SEE) and Turkey, taking many by surprise. These events had been long in the making, nourished by similar grievances and disenchantments, though they were triggered by different immediate causes. Despite the fact that not enough time has passed to evaluate their consequences and legacy, an interdisciplinary symposium was put together by Oxford and London-based students to ponder over the lessons from these protests and put forward some tentative propositions about their consequences.

The symposium, organized on the 27th February 2015 at St Antony’s and St John’s College, brought together over 40 students and researchers from all over Europe (especially South Eastern Europe) with different disciplinary backgrounds and methodological approaches to the study of social mobilization. From media analyses of the Gezi protests in Turkey to visual representations of previous protest in Serbia in the 1990s, the day-long event examined the various practical, theoretical, and normative aspects of active citizenship and protests. The comparative nature of this symposium showed that the Balkans cannot be singled out as a worn-torn European periphery but is part of a much wider phenomenon.

Monday 9 March 2015

Jews, Communists and Germans: Greece's handling of its post-war legacies

David Madden (SEESOX Associate, Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 4 March, Kateřina Králová (Charles University, Prague) spoke on the theme “Jews, Communists and Germans: Greece's handling of its post-war legacies". Renee Hirschon chaired.

Deportation of the Jews in Thessaloniki by the German occupiers, July 1942
She began by pointing out that this is recently a hot issue in the current political climate in Greece and in Germany. She then described the German Occupation 1941-44. This was a triple occupation by Axis powers: Italy held most of continental Greece plus a part of Crete, Bulgaria Thrace, and Germany the strategic areas – notably on the borders with Turkey and Macedonia, most of Crete, and the northern Aegean islands. Later Germany took over the Italian zone. Germany carried out a deliberate policy of terror. From the summer of 1942 there was organised persecution of the Jews. Thessaloniki, formerly called the "Jerusalem of the Balkans", saw the annihilation of nearly its entire Jewish population. Bulgaria carried out a parallel policy in its occupation zone. There was also economic exploitation: including through an occupation loan from the Greek state and massive exportation of agricultural products, which resulted in hyperinflation and the great famine, with around 250,000 deaths especially in winter 1941-42. “Greece suffered perhaps more than any other country from Nazi occupation." (American Joint Distribution Committee, 1947).

Sunday 8 March 2015

Migration to South East Europe: Transit or final destination?

Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

Week 6 in the “Global South East Europe” seminar series looked at what was happening in the region in terms of migration. Is it an origin for migration into the EU? A destination for migrants from outside Europe? Or a transit route into the rest of Europe?

A panel of three speakers looked at different aspects: Franck Duvell, from the Oxford Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) spoke on “Shifts in the Regional Order, New Patterns of Mobility and Migration Transitions in Europe – the Case of Turkey”; Eugenia Markova, from London Metropolitan University, on “Bulgaria’s Immigration Experiences”; and Dragos Tudorache, of DG HOME in the European Commission, on “The View from Brussels”.

Franck Duvell highlighted the data and the factors – political, economic and social –leading to his conclusion that the EU has ceased to be the only migration destination region; Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey, as well as the Gulf States and Israel are also migrant destinations. Emigration from, and transit migration through, Turkey has diminished significantly and it has now become an immigrant destination, with consequent legal and institutional adjustments. It currently hosts 1.4 to 2.3 million regular and irregular immigrants plus some 1.7 million refugees from Syria. It is thus right, in his view, to talk of shifts in the global and regional migration order. While the EU may remain migrants’ first choice, they also have others; “we settle in Istanbul, even if we dream of Europe”. While this diverts immigration pressure away from the EU, it also creates competition for qualified migrants. As an example, Turkey is now aiming to recruit medical staff from Greece. Overall, from a situation where everything flows into the EU, we now have one where there is an emerging belt of countries with relatively liberal visa regimes surrounding the EU to the South and East which also receives migrants and refugees.

Monday 23 February 2015

Entering through the back door: China’s interests in South East Europe

Othon Anastasakis (Director of SEESOX; Senior Research Fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On February 4, SEESOX hosted a seminar entitled “Entering through the back door: China’s interests in South East Europe”, with speakers John Farnell (former EU visiting fellow at St Antony’s College) and Rana Mitter (Director, China Centre in Oxford) and chaired by Othon Anastasakis (SEESOX). Farnell in his talk focused on China’s fast global rise and its inclination for long-term strategic planning as a world power. For China, South East Europe is not just a back door to Europe but very much a front door, which is proven by recent diplomatic and economic activity. South East Europe fits into the overall strategic planning of China’s two global routes which end in Europe: the Silk Road economic belt through Central Asia, and the maritime belt through the Suez Canal. China has particular interest on investment in infrastructure and energy (and less on manufacturing) and is creating special relations with some SE European states: with Serbia there is an interest in building a high speed rail from Belgrade to Budapest and there is rapid trade growth; with Greece there is ongoing investment in Piraeus which has become the 4th busiest port in Europe, increasing interest in the port of Thessaloniki and planning for the building of an airport in Crete; and with Turkey where there has been rapid trade growth and cultural exchanges and the country is key to the Silk Road Economic belt; at the same time, there has been an uneasy rapprochement between Erdogan and China since 2012, also because Turkey itself is a rival emerging power in the region.

Friday 6 February 2015

Energy Politics: Empowerment or dependency

David Madden (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

The second seminar in the series Global South East Europe in a multi-polar world, “Energy Politics: Empowerment or dependency” took place on 28 January.

Konstantinos Filis (Institute of International Relations, Athens) spoke about trends in the European gas market, Russian-EU relations and Greece. The market was down by 15% compared with 2010. Demand was reduced by the economic downturn. The emphasis was on diversification (reducing dependence on Russia), conservation, energy saving, indigenous production, interconnectivity of networks and development of infrastructure. There were doubts about the dependability of Russian supply, particularly in the light of events in the Ukraine, but 17 EU member states still relied on Russia for over 80% of their imports. The Turkish Stream would not replace South Stream in terms of quantities, but would weaken Kiev’s transit role, and strengthen relations with Turkey. For gas coming into the EU, it might run into objections on the lines encountered by South Stream, but Russia would expect the EU to sort those out. In the short term SEE was unlikely to reduce dependence on Russia, but would have better access to alternative supplies by 2018/9. Greece needed new investment in infrastructure, but the picture was clouded by the new government and early decisions on privatisation. Generally, lower prices meant reduced interest in deep off-shore fields, including in Greece.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Romania’s new German President: Where do we go from here?

Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX Associate; Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 27 January, SEESOX organised, in cooperation with the Department of International Development, a lunchtime seminar on “Romania’s new German President: where do we go from here?” the panel of speakers was made up of Laurentiu-Mihai Stefan, from the Romanian President’s Office, Michael Taylor, of Oxford Analytica, John Beyer, of St Antony’s, Corneliu Bjola of ODID, and Jonathan Scheele, of St Antony’s.

In November 2014, Romania elected a new President in the second round, pitching the current Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, of the Social Democratic Party, against Klaus Iohannis, of the National Liberal Party, an ethnic German and Mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. The election results were heavily influenced by a massive turnout of the (mainly young) Romanian diaspora, queuing all day outside embassies across Europe to vote – and in many cases failing to get through the door before the polls closed. And, in their frustration, they used social media to encourage relatives and friends back home to vote against the current government. So what does the election of this – relatively – new figure in Romanian national politics, not a Romanian ethnic, though married to one, mean for the next five years – or ten if he is re-elected for a second term – in Romania?

Monday 26 January 2015

Children of Marx, Coca Cola and the Greek colonels? Rethinking student resistance in the long 1960s

Eirini Karamouzi (The A. G. Leventis Fellow on Modern Greece, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 22 January 2015, SEESOX hosted a seminar entitled ‘Children of Marx, Coca Cola and the Greek colonels? Rethinking student resistance in the long 1960s’ with speakers Kostis Kornetis (University of New York), Eirini Karamouzi (SEESOX) and chaired by Paul Betts (St Antony’s College). Kornetis presented the findings of his recently published book "Children of the Dictatorship: Student Resistance, Cultural Politics, and the 'Long 1960s' in Greece", which focuses on the political, social, and cultural history of youthful opposition to the Greek military dictatorship (1967-74). The culmination and the most spectacular of all resistance activities was the student occupation of the Athens Polytechnic in November 1973 - an occupation that lasted three days and came to a bloody conclusion as it was crushed by the regime’s tanks; at least twenty-four people were certified dead and another fifteen went “missing”. If the most emblematic moment in Western European recent protest culture remains 1968, the absolute vertex for later developments in Greece’s political activism were therefore the Polytechnic events of 1973 – paradoxically becoming later on a national “lieu de memoire”. The hegemonic role that this emblematic movement played and continues to play in Greece, renders its close study of paramount importance to understand both the events themselves and their afterlives. The book is innovative and original in the simple fact that is as not as much about the politics of protest, as about the cultural memory thereof, thus promoting a dialogue between private microhistory and public events. By exploring the subjective element in student discourse and action, it looks at the ways in which these identities have changed over time and how individuals look back at their past militancy almost forty years later. Kornetis explicitly underlined during his talk that the aim was not to look only at the facts, but to explore the psychological and symbolic dimension, the unconscious, the imaginary and the projections, the memory distortions and the memory losses of the actors in question.

Friday 23 January 2015

Beyond Europeanisation: European hegemony versus global influences

Othon Anastasakis (Director of SEESOX; Senior Research Fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 21 January 2015, SEESOX introduced its Hilary term seminar series entitled “Global South East Europe in a multipolar world” focusing on the region’s engagement with the world beyond Europe, dealing with big regional powers such as Russia or China, and addressing urgent issues such as economic development, energy security, migration or diasporas. The first session was a panel debate which focused on the region beyond europeanisation and its engagement with other global and regional powers. The panel consisted of Othon Anastasakis (Oxford), Spyros Economides (LSE), James Ker-Lindsay (LSEE) and chaired by Kalypso Nicolaidis (SEESOX).

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Critical juncture? Bulgaria after the Snap Poll

The Conference Organising Committee: Rumena Filipova, Ivo Gruev, Ivaylo Iadjiev, and Stanislava Topouzova

On Wednesday, December 3rd 2014, the South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) programme at the European Studies Centre (ESC), University of Oxford, hosted the first annual Oxford – Bulgaria Conference. The Conference, 'Critical Juncture? Bulgaria after the Snap Poll: Change and Continuity in Politics, Foreign Policy, and the Economy After the 2014 Elections’, was held in the immediate aftermath of the Bulgarian parliamentary elections on October 5th, at a time when Bulgaria faced a period of deep reflection on future reforms in the country. The Conference facilitated three specialised panels in the fields of international relations, domestic politics, and energy and economy, and included discussions on core topics of concern, including: the challenge of devising a coherent foreign policy, the outcome of the parliamentary elections, the role of civil society movements in Bulgaria, and the salience of structural and legal reforms in the energy sector. Over the course of the day, researchers, practitioners, professors, and experts alike, assembled together to incisively examine the core issues presented in each panel.