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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.