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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.