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Friday 2 December 2016

Turkey’s 1974 Cyprus military intervention: Can it be evaluated in the context of responsibility to protect (R2P)?

On 30 November, Altuğ Günal, who is an assistant professor at Ege Univeristy, Izmir, and an Academic Visitor at St Antony’s College, gave a talk on the events preceding the 1974 Turkish intervention on the island of Cyprus. David Madden, a Distinguished Friend of St Antony’s, was the discussant, while Yaprak Gürsoy, Academic Visitor at St Antony’s and Associate Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University chaired the seminar.

At the outset of his talk Altuğ Günal stressed the different ways the Greek and Turkish sides of the conflict interpret the same events. He also stated that he prefers to use the term Turkish “intervention” of July-August 1974 instead of “invasion,” as the Greek side believes, or the “peace operation”, as the Turkish side claims.

The main question of the talk was whether the Turkish intervention of 1974 had the right elements to call it a “just war”. The “just war” doctrine, which forms the basis of the more recent concept of “responsibility to protect” (R2P), has 6 criteria: (1) Just cause, (2) Right intention, (3) Right authority, (4) Last resort, (5) Possibility of Military Success or Reasonable Prospects, and (6) Proportionality. Although the concept cannot be used retrospectively to judge past events, seeing the intellectual rewards of such an exercise, Altug Günal applied each one of the 6 principles, which is also shared by the R2P, to the events of the “hot summer”.

Friday 25 November 2016

The economic challenges to Greece: What does the future hold?

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

Jens Bastian spoke on 23 November about The economic challenges to Greece: What does the future hold? Yaprak Gursoy was the discussant, and Kalypso Nicolaidis chaired.

He said that the Greek economic crisis had not gone away. It had been a programme country since 2010, with the third programme due to expire in 2018. This deeply affected the country and how it viewed itself. By contrast, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus had each had one programme and then finished the process. Greek GDP had shrunk by 27%: this was unprecedented in peacetime. Unemployment was over 23%, with two thirds unemployed for over 12 months (benefits ceased after a year). Greece had become a high tax country, and tax arrears were rising. The elephant in the room was sovereign debt: Greece owed 323 billion euros, 85% of it to official credit institutions. Germany was owed 108 billion euros, and opposed debt relief, though the IMF favoured it. Migration added to Greece’s difficulties: with the closing of the Balkan route, over 63,000 refugees were trapped in Greece, which had changed from being a transit country to a hotspot. On the other hand, tourism was strong, Piraeus flourishing (the second largest European port after Rotterdam), there were potentially beneficial developments in the regional energy sector, and resilience in some business sectors e.g. start-ups.

Yaprak wondered about a Keynesian solution of pumping money into the economy. On the political side she detected signs of the deconsolidation of democracy in Greece (unlike eg in Spain and Portugal), with Golden Dawn the most extreme, fascist and violent party in Europe. Recent public opinion surveys had even picked up some evidence of nostalgia for the Junta. The sharp reduction in the granting of TV licences was a new issue.

Monday 21 November 2016

Conversations with Milošević

Slobodan Milošević was one of the central figures in the story of Yugoslavia’s disintegration and the wars that surrounded it. One of the few Western diplomats that had constant and direct access to him during this time was Sir Ivor Roberts, the former British representative in Belgrade and current president of Trinity College, Oxford. Roberts’ new book ‘Conversations with Milošević’, which he presented on 17 November at a SEESOX seminar chaired by Sir David Madden (St Antony’s College), chronicles the forty-odd meeting that occurred between the two men. For many, as Madden told the audience in his introduction, the book’s title echoes Milovan Djilas’ contribution entitled ‘Conversations with Stalin’, for like him Roberts presents a detailed account of encounters with an autocrat.

As Roberts explained at the beginning of his talk, the book was written some time ago but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only recently gave permission for it to be published. Given that the book details meetings with ‘many unpleasant people’ and is full of ‘dark pages’, as Roberts said, this is maybe may not surprising. When Roberts came to Belgrade in early 1994, the posting had been described to him as challenging and Milošević’s reputation as ‘the butcher of the Balkans’ was firmly lodged with him. His assignment was to get to know how and what Milošević thought, for the latter was seen as a solution to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Friday 18 November 2016

The democratic challenge of social reform in Greece under SYRIZA

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

On 15 November 2016, George Katrougalos (former Minister of Labour and Social Security, now Alternate Foreign Minister in the Greek Government) spoke, with a panel of discussants: Bernhardt Ebbinghaus (Mannheim University), Marek Naczyk (Kellogg College) and Pavlos Eleftheriadis (Mansfield College). Kalypso Nicolaidis chaired the session.

Katrougalos explained the context of Greek pension reforms and his perception that SYRIZA had taken what he described as a “neo-liberal” commitment, contained in the MoU signed with the EU and the IMF, and incorporated it into a “progressive” pension reform. 

His presentation of the context of the reforms took in aspects of Greek politics – characterised by a clientilistic culture and general popular distrust of the traditional political parties – and what he described as the EU’s apparent lack of democracy – Syriza perceived the EU as determined to make an example of Greece to prove that only one economic policy was possible and that any deviation from this would lead to failure. The SYRIZA government’s painful dilemma was a choice between no agreement, leading banks to close and pensions not to be paid, and the painful compromise of signing an MoU containing policies it was hostile to. The MoU contained two types of policy – reforms of clientilistic [practices, which they supported wholeheartedly, and neo-liberal reforms that they considered dangerous to Europe itself; SYRIZA’s rejection of the MoU only related to the latter.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Brexit and its impact on the Western Balkans

Speaker: Peter Sanfey, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Chair: Jonathan Scheele. St Antony’s College, Oxford
Discussant: Adis Merdzanovic, St Antony’s College, Oxford

The impact of Brexit on the UK, Europe, and the world are discussed almost daily in the press and much uncertainty remains. Yet, often lacking from such discussions are its indirect impacts on third countries, such as those in the Western Balkans. In his talk, Peter Sanfey presented new research carried out by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on the impact of Brexit on Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, FYROM and Kosovo. His remarks were followed with a brief analysis of the political implications by Adis Merdzanovic from St Antony’s College.

The Western Balkans face an important convergence challenge. Currently, their income is around half of that of other Eastern European countries, and only a quarter of that of Western European countries. Yet, there have been some positive developments, with growth projected to average 3% in 2017, a stable macroeconomic situation, and declining non-performing loans. Over the medium term a set of factors enhance their attractiveness to investors: the prospect of EU membership, good relations with the IMF, a geographic location at a crucial point of China’s New Silk Road, the diverse range of economic activities, and favourable tax and labour costs.  

Monday 7 November 2016

Bosnia’s Paralysed Peace

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

Two decades after the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the country once again finds itself in a precarious situation. While the war has certainly stopped, BiH faces deep political, social, and economic crises that threaten the stability of the state and its structures. But why has BiH, which received enormous institutional and financial aid from the international community, not become a self-sustaining democracy? 

This question is central to Christopher Bennett’s new book Bosnia’s Paralysed Peace, which the author presented at a SEESOX seminar on 3rd November 2016. The event was chaired by Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College) and Richard Caplan (Linacre College) acted as discussant. 

As Bennett explained, the book presents an analysis of the breakdown of Yugoslavia, the war in BiH, and all the political developments since the Dayton Peace Agreement. It was written with the deep conviction that there exists a solution for what Bennett has termed the ‘Bosnian Question’, namely a way for Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats to peacefully live together within a political framework that actually works. In order for this to happen, however, one needs to understand the structural preconditions for the current challenges.

Friday 4 November 2016

Turkey before and after July 15: The story of a failed coup

Yaprak Gürsoy (Academic Visitor, St Antony’s College, Oxford and Associate Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University)

On 2 November, four senior members of SEESOX at St Antony’s College, Ezgi Başaran, Mehmet Karlı, Deniz Ülke Arıboğan and Yaprak Gürsoy, spoke on the 15 July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. The director of SEESOX, Othon Anastasakis, chaired the seminar, which mostly focused on the events of the coup, but also touched upon the political, economic and social aspects of Turkey before and after the botched putsch. 

The seminar started with Ezgi Başaran, a prominent Turkish journalist, describing in detail the events of the night of the coup. The presentation was particularly rich in providing facts and in explaining the surprise and disbelief of many Turkish citizens in the first few hours of the coup. Başaran summarized the main differences between the July 15 putsch and the previous coups in Turkey, pointing out that people going out to the streets to protect the elected government, as well as the unanimous resistance against the coup among the political parties, were unique to the recent attempt. Although opposition to the coup was common, there is still no consensus over political issues, which results in the continuation of political conflict. In her talk, Başaran referred to some of the groups that are part of the conflict, namely the AK Party government, the Gülenists, and those who were charged in the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials based on fabricated evidence. The relationship between these groups has taken several twists and turns over the last decade. The government and the Gülen network are in a power struggle today and the coup attempt was the latter’s last effort to unseat the former.

Monday 24 October 2016

Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn: On the Frontline of Politics and War

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

The Holiday Inn hotel in Sarajevo has a particular place in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history. Designed by the Bosnian architect Ivan Štraus, and built before the 1984 Winter Olympics to house foreign dignitaries such as the former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, it gained particular notoriety in the lead up to, and during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. It was a regular meeting place for political elites – it was, for example, where Alija Izetbegović formally launched the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in 1990 and, later, the informal headquarters of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) under the leadership of Radovan Karadžić. The SDS used the hotel as a meeting place and by February 1992 it had become home to their ‘crisis headquarters’, from where party leaders organised barricades on ‘referendum weekend’ of 29 February/1 March 1992. And on 6 April 1992 the fateful sniper shots fired into the protesting crowds heralding the beginning of the conflict, are alleged to have come from somewhere in the building. Finally, during the war, the hotel was omnipresent in international media, for it hosted hundreds of international journalists reporting on a regular basis from the besieged city of Sarajevo. 

Despite the hotel’s importance, only isolated stories about it have made it into the public sphere, and a comprehensive history was lacking. This is precisely what Kenneth Morrison, professor in Modern South East European History at De Montfort University, provides in his new book Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn: On the Frontline of War and Politics. On 19th October, he presented it at a SEESOX seminar chaired by Elizabeth Roberts (Trinity College, Oxford).

EU, Turkey and Refugee Policy

Altuğ Günal (Academic Visitor, St Antony’s College, Oxford)

Gerald Knaus, founding chairman of the European Stability Initiative and father of the EU-Turkey Deal, gave a well-attended lunchtime seminar on October 19th, 2016, with Ezgi Başaran in the chair. The main focus of discussion was whether the deal could be properly implemented by the parties.Knaus began by criticising the tale Hungarian PM Viktor Orban had been telling throughout Europe. Orban’s main target on the refugee issue was Germany, whose citizens he labelled as emotional, incompatible, sentimental and confused; he had criticised Germany’s refugee policy as insincere, believing that Europeans should have fought against accepting refugees from Germany or anywhere else. The EU had also been a target of Orban’s attacks, as he claimed that “the people in Brussels” were trying to destroy nation states by settling large number of foreigners against the will of their voters.

Knaus also regretted Orban’s and his allies’ limited understanding of the refugee issue, with their belief that it could be solved by strict control of the borders; indeed, Orban had argued that a new border should, if necessary, have been established to the north of Greece. In his view, European Civilization could melt away if large numbers of refugees were not prevented from entering.

A further concern of Knaus was Orban’s attitude to the Refugee Convention. In 2015, the Hungarian PM had maintained that the right to live prevailed over all other rights; therefore, protecting his citizens was more important for him than either the Refugee Convention or any other convention. Knaus saw Marine le Pen’s Front National, the Swedish Democrats, and the other European far-right parties, as among Orban’s natural allies, while Angela Merkel and Dutch-EU Presidency constituted the two biggest obstacles to Orban’s refugee “solutions”. But Knaus warned that it was the mainstream political parties that Europe needed to watch.

Friday 21 October 2016

The Geopolitics of Fear: South East Europe in a Triangle of Uncertainty- Russia, Middle East, North Africa

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

A team from SEESOX presented on this theme to the Global Strategy Forum at the National Liberal Club on 18 October. This followed on from a seminar in Athens on 27 September on a similar theme, funded by the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO. This was the fourth in a series of SEESOX presentations with the GSF.

David Madden set the scene. Traditionally South East Europe had its own long-running internal geopolitical challenges: in Cyprus, in former Yugoslavia, or between Turkey and Greece. But the region was now an importer of crises. To the East there was Russia, with a more assertive and unpredictable policy. To the South East, there was violent conflict, in particular the cataclysmic civil war in Syria, foreign intervention, extremism, inter-Muslim cultural wars and failed hopes: and with a resulting flood of refugees, affecting most directly the countries least able to cope. To the South, there was North Africa, with Libya as its foremost failed state, and another route of Mediterranean refugees. Even to the North and West, the soft power of the EU was hampered by economic and political weaknesses. From both inside the region and from outside, there were the perverse influences of populism and demagoguery. The post-truth era was pervasive in public and political discourse. The Middle East was in turmoil. There were cold wars (Iran/Saudi Arabia, Israel/Palestine), hot wars (Syria, Libya, Yemen) and legacy wars (Afghanistan, Iraq). Russia had clear interests and strategy, because of Syria’s unique position as a Russian client. Syria and the war in the Ukraine had effectively brought to an end the post- Cold War settlement. Russia believed in a system of great powers, with zones of influence.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Migration and the prospects for transitional justice in Cyprus

David Madden (Senior Member and Distinguished Friend of St Antony's College)

On 2 June, Dr Rebecca Bryant spoke on the subject “Forced Migration and the Prospects for Transitional Justice in Cyprus”. David Madden chaired.

Bryant explained that transitional justice consists of a number of measures intended to help post-conflict communities transition to peace. She observed that there are already aspects of transitional justice in Cyprus: the Committee on Missing Persons (though its mandate was limited), the cultural heritage committee, and inter-faith meetings being a few of those. But overall, divisive narratives of the conflict have not changed much on either side, despite the opening of the checkpoints. Moreover, surveys show that crossings to the other side, especially by Greek Cypriots, are few. There are large numbers of Greek Cypriots who have never crossed. There instead is a tendency to wait for a settlement to think about reconciliation.

Given around fifty years of negotiations and the leaders’ agreement on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, the outline of a settlement is already reasonably clear. Because that federation would be composed of two ethnically based states, it is clear that in any federal scenario Turkish Cypriots would be a majority in the north. As a result, not all Greek Cypriot displaced persons would return to the north, and those who return would be a minority. Polls also show that almost no Turkish Cypriots would choose to return to the south. Moreover, we know from other studies that post-conflict minority return tends to be problematic.

Bryant said that her premise and concern is that any political settlement of the Cyprus conflict would entail some remixing of populations, and that the goal in implementing that remixing must surely be to ensure that it will lead to peace rather than to further conflict. For this, she suggested that transitional justice measures may be helpful, and that such truth-seeking relating to displacement may make other transitional justice measures more effective. Her concern, she said, was a general misperception in both communities about potential movements of people in the event of a federal settlement.

Monday 30 May 2016

An end to ‘Merkelism’? German decision-making in the Greek crisis as ‘Stigma Management’

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

At a SEESOX lunchtime seminar chaired by Kalypso Nikolaïdis on 24 May 2016, Lea Börgerding, a second-year MPhil International Relations candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford, presented part of her recently submitted and particularly thought-provoking MPhil thesis. Under the title ‘An end to “Merkelism”? German decision-making in the Greek crisis as stigma management’ she outlined a somewhat different reading on the events occurring between January 2015, i.e. the coming to power of Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA government, and August 2015, the finalisation of the third economic adjustment programme. It was indeed Tsipras who had coined the term ‘Merkelism’ in his election campaign to denote the severe austerity measures on which the creditors insisted; and even though he did not repeat the term after becoming Prime Minister, an end to austerity and a restructuring of debt were the primary goals of his government––putting him directly at odds with the German position.

In the literature, as Börgerding outlined, the German position in the negotiations with Greece is usually explained by one of two paradigms. Applying mostly to the beginning of the crisis, hegemonic stability theories see Germany as a benevolent hegemon that provides public goods in the form of financial assistance. Domestic economic interest theories, on the other hand, question this approach by pointing to more interest-driven explanations relating to Germany’s exposure to the Greek debt and the severe consequences it had on its economic and trade sector competitiveness. These theories focus on systemic explanations and lead to an interesting puzzle when looking at the third financial assistance programme. By that time, German exposure to the debt had declined and the risks posed by Greece leaving the Eurozone were assessed as far less dramatic than before. Moreover, this third package had become rather costly and public support for it had been steadily declining in Germany. So, why did the German government nevertheless agree to it? 

Monday 23 May 2016

Social policy in a Romanian technocratic government: What can change in a year?

Mariela Neagu (DPhil, REES Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford)

In week 4, SEESOX and the Oxford University Romanian Society hosted Valeriu Nicolae, Secretary of State for Social Affairs in Romania’s technocratic government. He gave a frank account of the challenges faced by the government appointed after the ‘Collectiv’ street protest against political establishment. Given the very limited margin for manoeuvre, in the absence of parliamentary support and with a very short mandate, it did not hesitate to do a lot more than simply organising local and general elections. With a Prime Minister and a few cabinet members who came into the government straight from the European Commission’s offices in Brussels, it is little surprise that they began to tackle corruption by changing guidelines for European Union funds to prevent future schemes become incentives for corruption. It is noteworthy that some past EU programmes allowed for 60% of the budget to be spent on hotels and catering costs!

At the same time, it is quite something for people such as Nicolae, with a strong civil society background to cross the line and obtain insider access to the structure and practices of a public administration that has traditionally been riddled by nepotism and unorthodox practices. As Discussant, Jonathan Scheele wondered how far a technocratic government can ever entrench change so that whatever can be achieved during a short and limited mandate is in any way sustainable. 

The message delivered by the speaker was not one of impotence, but rather of a pragmatic approach within the given constraints. Asked why Romania was slower in its progress than the rest of the Eastern bloc, he disagreed that was the case. Perhaps the improvements in the functioning of the justice system, which only took gained traction post 2007, as we heard in a previous seminar, did not make sufficient impact in the Western media? Or the fact that someone with no political back-up could become the Prime Minister? But, with or without headlines, Romania maintains its exceptional character, a country with laws not applied and where the culture leading to effective law enforcement has still to take root. On the positive side, the fact that the new anti-poverty strategy mentions human dignity as the nexus between social benefits and the human rights is in itself a novelty for document produced by the Government of Romania.

An outspoken human and Roma rights activist, as well as a columnist in the Romanian weekly ‘Dilema Veche’, Valeriu Nicolae attracted a large audience of Romanian students in Oxford. They left with a better understanding of what goes on in government, after an honest lecture on governance, which they much appreciated. The broad picture of obstacles and challenges did not spare civil society: ‘we do not have a clean civil society’, said Nicolae, a statement that few politicians would be likely to make. 

Romania will have elections in November. Whether the country will continue to be led by meritocracy or will return to old party habits is remains to be seen.

Model Transitions? Rethinking the “success story” of Southern European democratization

Kostis Kornetis (Fellow, Carlos III University, Madrid)

“Model Transitions? Rethinking the “success story” of Southern European democratization” is the
title of this year’s Santander Fellow Workshop that was held on May 18 and which was sponsored by St. Antony’s ESC and SEESOX, Oxford University, and Carlos III University - CONEX, Madrid. Historians, political scientists and political sociologists debated in a comparative and transnational manner the relation between the economic crisis that broke out in 2008 and the current political attempt to question the memory of the transitions to democracy in Portugal, Greece and Spain - one of the most dramatic turning points in 20th century southern European history.

Almost from the very outset, these processes were celebrated as the Southern European vanguard of Samuel Huntington’s famous “third wave” of democracies. Until the 1990s the democratization of Southern Europe was described as a fundamental historical change, which allowed the building of a stable party-system, putting an end to the international isolation that was linked to the authoritarian regimes, and initiating a modernization process, which enabled the three countries to reduce the economic gap with respect to their European neighbours. At the same time, the “transitology” sub-field that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s to explain this “third wave” identified these transitions not only as model exemplars but also as yardsticks that could potentially be exported to other contexts, especially Latin America in the mid-1980s or Eastern Europe after 1989.

Monday 16 May 2016

Who’s afraid of free speech in Turkey?

Sila Ulucay (D.Phil. Candidate, St Antony's College, Oxford)

South East European Studies at Oxford hosted an engaging panel discussion on the pressing issue of the current state of free speech in Turkey on May 11, 2016. The event was organised in association with Free Speech Debate, Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom, and Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The panel has discussed the different dimensions of the issue of free speech in Turkey today. Ezgi Başaran, as a prominent journalist and the last editor in chief of the now shut down online newspaper Radikal, gave the audience a detailed account of the dynamics of journalism.

Professor Deniz Ülke Arıboğan, who served as the rector of the Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul between 2007 and 2010 gave the audience an insight on the status of affairs in the academic world. Lastly, Dr Mehmet Karlı, who is a Lecturer at the Galatasaray University Law School in Istanbul, explained the legal framework and the legal instruments the government employs in effecting pressure on the exercise of the freedom of speech.

Ezgi Başaran’s presentation featured important facts and figures from the field of journalism that resonated strongly among the audience. She has pointed out how journalists in Turkey routinely face accusations of terrorism in the process of doing their jobs. She has also spoke of the numerous broadcast bans the government had issued on matters of great importance to the public, including among others, the ban on Roboski airstrike, on the story of trucks owned by the National Intelligence Agency, on the SOMA mine explosion and on Ankara bombings. On another note, she has touched upon the Gülen movement’s earlier cooperation with the government in detaining and prosecuting journalists such as Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener in 2011. The audience was informed, however, that the journalists and newspapers affiliated with the Gülen movement are now suffering themselves from the methods they were instrumental in applying on other journalists previously. Başaran also shared some significant figures with the audience, such as the 348 journalists who have lost their jobs in Turkey in 2015 and Turkey’s ranking in 151th place in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders.

Monday 9 May 2016

“The Boat is Broken" – what really went wrong with the Kurdish peace process

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

Ezgi Başaran, award-winning Turkish journalist and former editor of Radikal, the liberal daily closed down in March 2016, has now moved to St Antony’s College. While at Oxford she is preparing a book on what really lay behind the failure of the Kurdish peace process. On 4 May she gave us a comprehensive presentation.

Ezgi explained that the peace process became public in March 2013, when the letter from Abdullah Ocalan was read at Newroz. In it, he announced that the armed struggle was over and that a new era was beginning “where politics gain prominence over weapons”. In fact, this represented a new stage in a process that had begun in 2005, through internationally mediated talks in Oslo, becoming face to face talks in 2008, and which continued despite the Habur incident in October 2009. But talks had been halted when AKP won a landslide victory in the 2011 general election. 

So why did the Turkish government decide to return to the table in 2013? Its decision reflected three factors:
  • Both sides recognised the military stalemate in fighting between the army and PKK,  
  • Internal disputes between Turkish Intelligence circles (who conducted the Oslo talks) and the Gülenists (who opposed any agreement), 
  • The impact of the Syrian situation on both sides - for the government this included the dispute with Gülen, while PKK was increasingly being seen outside Turkey in positive terms. 
The 2013 peace process included multiple actors – from HDP, Ocalan himself (in Imrali prison), the European diaspora, MIT (Turkish intelligence), AKP and PKK (in Qandil). If government was unhappy with positions taken, meetings at Imrali (on an island) were cancelled without notice – “the boat is broken”. And criticism of AKP by any individuals would lead to exclusion from the talks. The process was “alla Turca”, with no clear shared vision, no agreed agenda and no international monitoring. 

Sunday 8 May 2016

Financial reform in South East Europe: Turkey’s response to the past and current crises

Alexandra Zeitz (St Antony’s College, University of Oxford)

Speaker: Gazi Ercel, Former Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey
Chair: Nicholas Morris, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford

How to prevent cycles of financial crises in emerging market economies? What interventions and reforms can stabilize and strengthen these economies in the aftermath of a financial crisis? Drawing on his extensive experience in Turkey, Gazi Ercel, former Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, shared his insights on financial crises and reform in a PEFM seminar in late April, stressing the importance of reducing political uncertainties and ensuring post-crisis reforms are carried through once economic conditions improve.

Examining the record of financial crises in Turkey in the last four decades, Ercel identified common causes. In almost all crises the country has faced in recent history, public sector deficits had expanded, which provoked investors to withdraw short-term capital and in turn plunged the economy into crisis. For instance, Ercel attributed the inflows of large volumes of short-term capital in the lead up to the 1978-1979 crisis to a positive World Bank report. When these investors abruptly and rapidly withdrew in light of worsening public sector imbalances, the country experienced its worst foreign exchange crisis in three decades.

Domestic political economy, especially the pressure for a rising public sector wage bill, is at the root of the persistent public deficits that prompt financial crises, argued Ercel. The instability of Turkish politics exacerbates this problem, disincentivizing fiscal discipline as governments seek to maintain their hold on power.

In addition to identifying these Turkish political dynamics, Ercel argued that the particular causes of financial crises in emerging economies are distinct from those in developed economies. While industrialized economies are more likely to experience crises in their capital markets, emerging economies are frequently hit by debt crises. Emerging markets are likely to have weak and unsophisticated banking sectors, which may cause fragility, while instability in developed economies stems from the complexity and lack of transparency in banking sectors.

Monday 2 May 2016

Unpopular Voices: Greek public intellectuals of the political centre during the crisis

Kostis Karpozilos (SEESOX-A.G. Leventis Visiting Fellow 2015-16)

On 25 April Apostolos Doxiadis presented his view on the rise of Greek public intellectuals during the multifaceted crisis. A prolific writer and well-known author himself Doxiadis spoke to a full room and provided an intriguing periodization of the contesting narratives generated by the Greek crisis.

This periodization was intertwined with the rise of the Centrist Public Intellectuals (CPIs) in the public debate and their gradual transformation over time. The Centrist Public Intellectuals appeared in the Greek scene after the 2008 riots in Athens sharing a common belief that the events exemplified the rise of extremism and a prevailing atmosphere of anomie. Coming mainly from the Left, but being distant from politics for years the CPIs expressed at the same time dissatisfaction with ruling political parties and disagreement with anti-establishment rhetoric. The onset of the financial crisis was the formative period for these voices. The transformative power of the crisis and collapse of established political order necessitated new narratives providing explanations for the past and ways out for the future. At that point Doxiadis identified the common platform of the CPIs: opposition to populism, extremism and established politics on the one hand and support for structural reforms, institutional changes and the common European project. Tracing the development of this platform over 2012-2015 (from the rise of the extremes to the final episode of the Referendum) the speaker identified the five great legends of the crisis. Using metaphors and literary parallels Doxiadis narrated the story of the Money-Tree (in which the government is a source of unlimited money), the Pill of Bla-Whi (in which nostalgia for the past is linked with clear-cut dichotomies), the Great Myth (in which the nation is under attack until a young leader takes command), the David and Goliath story (in which Greece is fighting against superior enemies), and finally the mantra of a Magic Solution (in which there is an easy fix to the crisis). The negation of these five great legends was the rallying point of the CPIs and a springboard for their agenda that entailed a rational discourse focusing on the accumulated structural problems of the Greek economic and social model. Doxiadis talk was not only of interest for those involved or following the Greek crisis. His ability to position the rise of the CPIs within the Greek social context offered an excellent methodological example of how to discuss the role and limits of public intellectuals. In this context a paradox he illustrated -the central position of CPIs in the public debate but the unpopularity of many of their ideas- provides food for thought in light of recent developments in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

Monday 14 March 2016

Political legitimacy in crisis: reflections on Romania, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

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

The final SEESOX Hilary Term seminar, on 9 March 2016, gave an opportunity for comparison of ongoing political legitimacy crises in three South East European states. Gruia Badescu (St John’s College, Oxford) looked at Romania, Cvete Koneska (Control Risks, London) at Macedonia, and Jessie Hronesova (St Antony’s College, Oxford) at Bosnia-Hercegovina; Robin Smith (New College, Oxford) chaired the seminar.

While there were striking similarities in the three countries, there were also surprising differences. While in all three countries there were major public demonstrations against government and the political elite, the circumstances differed. In Romania, the movement in November 2015 had been triggered by a tragic nightclub fire, killing and injuring over 100 people, mainly due to lax and/or corrupt implementation of safety regulations. But the political class are seen as the problem - no matter the political party, politicians would belong to the same “system”: “we think the same, we feel the same, we steal the same”. Nightly demonstrations by tens of thousands of people - the highest numbers since the 1989 events - led to the resignation of the government and the installation of a technocratic government. In Macedonia the leak of tapped telephone conversations from around 20,000 people (1% of the population!), including the PM and ministers, as well as the opposition, had torn down the screen and revealed what everyone had always believed – that the political elite were crude and corrupt and ignored the Rule of Law. People came out onto the streets to demand that something should be done – but not much has changed. In Bosnia-Hercegovina, street protests have become almost a tradition, escalating into mass street protests in February 2014, but there seems to be little belief that anything can change as a result. And the Dayton constitution acts as something of an additional barrier.

Monday 7 March 2016

A crisis within the crisis: Migration flows in Greece in the turmoil of the bailout agreements

George Kailas (St Anne's College, Oxford)

In week 7, SEESOX’s Hilary Term seminar series on South East European Realities amid Europe’s Multiple Crises continued its discussion on the ongoing migration crisis, but focusing in on the country in which its impact has been the greatest, Greece. Chaired by George Kailas (St. Anne’s College, Oxford) and Kostis Karpozoilos (St. Antony’s College, Oxford), Professor Dimitris Christopoulos (Panteion University of Athens) presented his view of developments on the ground in Greece, the achievements and failures of the Greek government, and what he believes must happen next in order to resolve the worsening crisis – all in the context of the economic crisis that continues to cripple the country.

With regard to developments on the ground, Professor Christopoulos argued that the current crisis is not a migration crisis, but a “reception” crisis. Noting that peoples now making their way to Europe amount to only a small fraction of the continent’s total population, he emphasized that there is substantial evidence that over 90% of these peoples are indeed refugees who do have a right to asylum, and pointed to the fact that economic migrants do not bring their families with them when they go abroad. In the same vein, Prof. Christopoulos argued that this crisis is not even a “refugee” crisis, making the case instead that the notion of the EU confronting a “crisis” is only a narrative that originated in Northern and Eastern Europe by states who have not been able to liberalize politically as successfully as they did economically. In this context, the current situation is a reception crisis because Europe as a whole is not willing to accept the refugees who are coming. 

In terms of how the Greek government has managed the crisis thus far, Professor Christopoulos pointed out that even if the government of Alexis Tsipras had done everything perfectly, there would still be difficulties, as the European Union would continue to oppose the resettlement of these refugees. In seeking to explain why the Greek government has struggled so much to adequately confront the crisis, he pointed to the state of the Greek public sector, saying that austerity has decreased capacity to such a degree where the government does not have the necessary means to adequately care for the people surfacing on the country’s shores. In this regard, he emphasized that one of the few actions taken by the SYRIZA government of which he is proud is that the government closed the detention centres that were used in the past to house refugees, labelling them inhumane.

Friday 4 March 2016

Yugoslav legacies and European Union accession: Challenges of liberalism in the Western Balkans

Kostis Karpozilos (AG Leventis Fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford)

Adis Merdzanovic, Junior Research Fellow at SEESOX and author of Democracy by Decree: Prospects and Limits of Imposed Consociational Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Ibidem Press, 2015), spoke on March 1, 2016 on the challenges of liberalism in the western Balkans. Adis has carried out detailed research on Bosnia and is currently expanding his outlook to the question of European Union accession across the western Balkans. The structure of his informed and intriguing talk reflected this expansion. Bosnia operated as a springboard for the main research question: what is the present state and future of political liberalism in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia? 

An interesting case study introduced the audience to the perplexities and challenges surrounding political liberalism in the region. Adis recounted the Sejdić-Finci case as an illustrative example of the tensions between the Bosnian state and individual political rights. The basic premise of post-war Bosnia was the representation of the three main ethno-religious groups that had participated in the war of 1992-1995. The result is a complicated structure of national and local assemblies in which every ethno-religious group has a predefined number of seats. This carefully designed structure though has proven not only weak, but also prevents individuals not belonging to these groups (as in the case of Jakub Finci and Dervo Sejdić) to run for office. The speaker argued that this case illustrates the challenges of liberalism: how can a State at the same time position the individual as the source of political legitimacy and protect the rights of its respective ethno-religious groups?

According to Adis such contradictions require a re-examination and reassessment of the particulars of the liberal project across the post-Yugoslav states. In this context he provided a panorama of existing realities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia. These states share a common language and historical legacies, as they all belonged to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Their similarities though are not confined to the past; all three of them are interested in joining the common European project, while at the same time lacking basic elements of political liberalism. At that point the speaker presented the difficulties surrounding the pinpointing of the notion of liberalism in order to demonstrate an important argument: that European Union policies in the region prioritized economic liberalism over social liberalism. This prioritization reflected the dominant policies within the European Union and the desire for an economic program that would operate as a counterweight to the inefficiencies of the state-owned economy of socialist Yugoslavia. 

Tuesday 1 March 2016

The derailment of democracy in the West Balkans

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

Dimitri Sotiropoulos spoke on 23 February on “The derailment of democracy in the West Balkans”. Dimitri had carried out detailed research in Serbia and FYR Macedonia, but believed that his findings had relevance to other West Balkan countries.

Three means of political domination over states and societies led to a back pedalling away from representative democracy: clientilism, corruption and populism. Clientilism/patronage at the top meant that policy measures were suited to the interests of favoured businessmen. At lower levels were individual appointments of supporters to favoured positions, and many cases of preferential/discriminatory treatment. Corruption was a two-way process between government elites and business interests. Populism was a matter of polarising discourse, nationalism (ethno-populism) and authoritarian tendencies.

This back-pedalling was the consequence of: the disproportionate strength of the executive, and especially the peak of the executive; the weakness of civil society; and the lack of true free market competition. And the consequences (not the causes) were organised crime, lack of rule of law, state incapacity and limited political pluralism. The systems were sliding towards semi-authoritarianism, with elections which were free but not fair, and some attraction towards the Russian (or Hungarian) model. The EU was perceived (wrongly) as being more interested in stability than democracy. But in both countries there were still enclaves of democratic life, which prevented a further slide into more authoritarian government.

The resulting Q&A session broadly confirmed this analysis. Clientilism and corruption were not unknown elsewhere in the region. There was most debate about populism. How did populism in Serbia and Macedonia differ from populism elsewhere in Europe and indeed more widely? Dimitri pointed out that generally it was not used as part of an attempt to cripple democracy.

Monday 29 February 2016

Srebrenica – Mapping Genocide

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

“Our past is blocking our society’s future”, noted Asja Hafner from the School of Knowledge, at the screening of a video animation “Srebrenica – Mapping Genocide”, organized by SEESOX in collaboration with the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) on the 22nd February 2016. Hafner introduced the project’s aims as “preventing manipulation with the fact about the massacre in Srebrenica”. The animation project traces how the killing in July 1995 unravelled. The project draws on the material of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and shows the events before, during, and after the fall of the town to General Ratko Mladic's Republika Srpska Drina Corps in July 1995. It can also be viewed here: 

The Srebrenica massacre – established to have resulted in genocide by the ICTY – took place five months before the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. Up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed in the stretch of less than a week in the are of the then UN-protected enclave (“safe haven”) of Srebrenica. Their bodies were later found in mass graves and also secondary mass graves as Serb forces tried to cover up the crime by moving their bodies to different locations.  

In addition to screening the video documentary, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Dr Svjetlana Nedimovic discussed the repercussions of the Srebrenica genocide both for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the global justice system. Sir Geoffrey Nice, who from 1998 to 2006 worked at the ICTY and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, focussed on some of the key events at the ICTY such as the screening of the video of Scorpions and how such images shook the public opinion in Serbia, which had until then been in denial of its involvement in the Bosnian war. He also alluded to the obstacles he had to faces whilst at the Tribunal with regards to presenting evidence about Serbia’s direct links to Republika Srpska’s military actions. Without finger-pointing to individual actors of countries, he let the audience speculate as to who was against presenting such evidence, which would compromise Serbia’s involvement in the genocide of Srebrenica. He further discussed the various uses of the word genocide and how that can be socially misused, while noting that the legal definition is very narrow and precise. This to him does not mean that other crimes should not be referred to as genocide in the social, rather than legal sense. 

Massive refugee influx, collapsed borders, humanitarian crisis: Quo Vadis Europa?

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

In week 6, SEESOX’s Hilary Term seminar series South East European Realities amid Europe’s Multiple Crises focused on the refugee situation. Chaired by Renée Hirschon (St Peter’s College, Oxford), Franck Düvell (COMPAS, Oxford) held a seminar entitled ‘Massive refugee influx, collapsed borders, humanitarian crisis: Quo Vadis Europa?’ The talk was based on preliminary results from a large-scale project funded by an ESRC Urgent Research grant. It seeks to understand all dimensions of the on-going refugee situation and gathers its data through qualitative and quantitative means that include hundreds of interviews with refugees and stakeholders along migration routes.  

Düvell started his well-attended presentation by explaining that the refugee crisis was, in fact, not a crisis caused by the ‘overwhelming’ number of people coming to Europe. In fact, the refugee situation surrounding the two World Wars was much more severe and the same could be said about the situation in the 1990s when the wars in Yugoslavia forced some 800’000 people to migrate. What we were confronted with in 2015 was an influx of between 850’000 people coming through Turkey and 150,00 coming through Libya, which in total constitutes only 0.2 per cent of the EU’s population. Rather than seeing these people as a burden, Düvell argued, we should maybe reframe the debate and consider what they could contribute to European economies and societies.

Düvell reminded the audience that the numbers are not so clear and vary significantly from one agency to the other because of double-counting and different definitions. Furthermore, we are not confronted with one single refugee stream but rather with several different flows coming from many conflict areas. Needless to say, the largest part of the refugee population comes from Syria, but they are joined by refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Morocco and a considerable amount of people that are national minorities in their own countries – and, again, there is much variation within these groups as well. So, the entire situation is much more complex than daily media would have us believe. The drivers of migration are equally diverse. With an unsecure environment being the main driver, Düvell and his team found ample evidence of people not coming from their origin countries but from secondary and tertiary countries (e.g. Iran) where they had previously stayed. The main drivers of this kind of migration are of course lack of access to protection and insufficient living conditions in such host countries.

Monday 22 February 2016

Refugees, economics, geopolitics: AKP’s handling of Turkey’s multiple crises

Jonathan Scheele (Senior Member, St Antony's College, Oxford

On 17 February, as part of its core seminar series on South East European realities amid Europe’s multiple crises, SEESOX hosted Ziya Meral, from the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research at Sandhurst, to look at the situation in Turkey.

Meral gave a comprehensive presentation on the challenges facing Turkey and the multiple internal crises that are hindering effective responses. He noted that Turkey faces a structural crisis, as it is governed through a state of exception, with the suspension of the rule of law and the boundaries between executive, judicial and legislative branches of state structures. This has been results from the current grey zone generated by a President acting beyond the traditional boundaries of the Presidency, thereby weakening the role of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, where executive power constitutionally rests. It has also been triggered by widespread protests against the AKP and the very public clash between the Gulen movement and AKP. Attempts to limit the Gulen movement's reach and prevent a possible impeachment of AKP meant interventions across state structures, including the judicial and security apparatus, with thousands of officials being assigned to new posts. These developments have undermined Turkey's capacity to respond to challenges. 

Turkey faces a political crisis since, although the recent elections had shown recovery in support for AKP, power structures within AKP are now hazy, with concealed tensions between PM and President and multiple factions within the party. Not all of the party is behind the presidential bid, nor happy about the performance on human rights issues. The not so gracious exclusion of elder AKP politicians and a new eager generation emerging within the party, with very different experiences and outlooks from the founding generation are causing frictions. At the same time, the opposition is in crisis, incapable of defining a clear political strategy; Turkey lacks a robust opposition and parliament, just at the time when it’s needed. There are hardly any voices in the political and public space offering constructive tangible policy proposals to meet the challenges; almost all focus on how the 'other' is categorically wrong.

Monday 15 February 2016

A controversy revisited: Arnold Toynbee, the Koraes Chair, and the Western Question in Greece and Turkey

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

On 10 February Richard Clogg gave a special lecture on the subject “A controversy revisited: Arnold Toynbee, the Koraes Chair, and the Western Question in Greece and Turkey”.

Othon Anastasakis chaired, warmly welcomed Richard to St Antony’s, of which he is an Emeritus Fellow, and referred to his authoritative “A Concise History of Greece”, and his expert works on Toynbee, including “Politics and the Academy”.

Richard briefly rehearsed the story of the rise of Arnold Toynbee from brilliant young academic to global historical guru (though largely forgotten now). On his death in the 70s Der Spiegel had acclaimed him as the most renowned historian of our time. A curious episode in his career was his five year tenure as the first holder of the Koraes Chair at King’s College, London. Appointed in 1919, he resigned the Chair in the mid 20s under heavy pressure from the rich Anglo Greeks who had funded it, and from members of the academic community in London (prominent among them R W Seton Watson). The reason was critical reports Toynbee had written about the treatment of Turkish nationals by the then Greek administration in Asia Minor in 1921.

Richard then turned to his own role. He had written the story of this episode using Toynbee’s own papers. He had included an intriguing suggestion by Toynbee himself that the first holder of the Chair should be “more of an active Philhellene”. It was only subsequently that Richard realised the implications of this comment when he had access to the full story in the form of letters from Toynbee to his mother in 1911-12 which revealed him as anything but a Philhellene: indeed a Mishellene. He considered the Greeks indolent, hangers on, café loafers. This was the kind of “casual racism” which was widespread at the time: even Beatrice Webb was not immune. It was clear that Toynbee was unwise to have applied for the Chair. He concluded with two thoughts: it was easier to write history about times when everything was committed to paper, rather than now; and that some academic institutions were unduly protective of their archives, though this had changed for the better.

Monday 8 February 2016

Alternative religious responses to the ethnic crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Faith-based peace and reconciliation

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

In week 3, as part of SEESOX’s Hilary Term Seminar Series dedicated to ‘South East European Realities amid Europe’s multiple crises’, Julianne Funk, a peace researcher and practitioner lecturing at the University of Zurich gave a talk on ‘Alternative religious responses to the ethnic crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Faith-based peace and reconciliation’. The seminar session, which took place on 3 February 2016, was chaired by Alice Bloch (St Edmund Hall, Oxford), while Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College, Oxford) acted as discussant.  

The main topic of the evening was the relationship between religion, peacebuilding, and stability, which is of particular importance for understanding the current developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In fact, the country currently finds itself in a social, economic, and political crisis that potentially puts the entire post-war peacebuilding project at risk. Just recently, the former president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, deemed BiH the most problematic case in the entire Western Balkan region. While BiH’s inadequate state structure and a lack of engagement by the international community may be cited as reasons for the crisis, within the general framework of post-war peacebuilding the relationship between religion and peacebuilding certainly deserves our attention as well. In fact, this issue goes well beyond the particular case of BiH, as we may ask the general question of what to do with religions in a post-war context where religious affiliation was one of the main distinguishing features among the warring parties. Should we exclude religion from the political arena altogether or should we try to integrate it within our post-war reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts?

The Greek Left from the Balkan wars to the Eurozone crisis: A national/international history

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

On 2 February 2016, as part the European Studies Centre Visiting Academics Seminar Series in cooperation with SEESOX, this year’s A.G. Leventis Fellow at SEESOX, Kostis Karpozilos, presented his on-going work on the history of the Greek Left. Barnaby Raine from Wadham College, Oxford, chaired the event. 

In line with the character of the lunchtime seminar series, Karpozilos gave an overview of a project, which is still very much a ‘work in progress’, thus welcoming critical ideas and thoughts from the audience. Basically, the project seeks to offer a concise and synthetic history of the Greek Left from the Balkan Wars to today. The first socialists entered the Greek parliament in 1915, exactly 100 years before the SYRIZA government of Alexis Tsipras rose to power last year. It was the first time in the post-1989 European history that a party from the left actually had the opportunity and the means to implement a radically different vision of the future – however, a vision that was substantially curtailed by the circumstances in which Greece found itself, especially its dire financial situation. So far, the Greek leftist experiment has failed, with the government bowing to international pressure and accepting further austerity measures; but it remains to be seen what the future holds for the Greek Left.

Monday 1 February 2016

Thinking strategic and acting pragmatic: The European refugee crisis and Turkey-EU relations

Saliha Metinsoy (D.Phil. Candidate, Wadham College, Oxford)

In week 2, the European Studies Centre (ESC) Visiting Academics’ Seminar Series welcomed Basak Kale (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). Kale gave a talk on the recent refugee protection crisis, which has significant political and economic repercussions for the European Union (EU) and its member states. Kale argued that the agreement might reenergise the cooperation between the EU and Turkey and can keep the accession negotiations alive.

Dr Kale started her presentation by explaining the recent developments such as the stalemate in Turkey-EU relations in the post-2005 period, the EU’s increasing internal focus due to constitutional referendums, integration of the new member states and the Eurozone crisis, and the onset of the Syrian civil war and demonstrated how those events culminated in the EU-Turkey action plan for the management of irregular migration. The Syrian civil war is estimated to create more than five million refugees and more than seven million internally displaced persons. In the influx of refugees, Turkey and the EU member states have commonly been challenged by the management of refugees and the humanitarian crisis it gave rise to. The UNCHR anticipated that there were 2.5 million refugees in Turkey by 2015. 

The Eurozone crisis and South East Europe: Recovery or illusion?

Alexandra Zeitz (St Antony's College, Oxford)

Speakers: Adam Bennett, St. Antony’s College, Oxford; and Peter Sanfey, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development 
Chair: Jonathan Scheele, St. Antony’s College, Oxford

In late January, the PEFM seminar series was treated to a data-rich and fascinating account of the crisis experience of South East European states.  Adam Bennett of St. Antony’s College and Peter Sanfey of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) presented the book they co-authored with Russell Kincaid, formerly of the IMF and the late Max Watson, also formerly of the IMF and founding director of PEFM.

Economic and Policy Foundations for Growth in South East Europe (Palgrave, 2015) reviews the experience of crisis in the ten South East European economies and argues for renewed commitment to reform to ensure sustained prosperity.

The South East European (SEE) states comprise Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and the seven successor states of former Yugoslavia. Bennett outlined three distinct phases of development in this region since the onset of “transition” in 1990. The first ten years he characterized as the “valley of tears”, as countries variously underwent the dismantlement of economic systems and then rebuilt them, or were ripped apart by conflict. The second phase comprised the boom years of the first part of this century through the onset of the global economic crisis at the end of 2008, when all countries managed to achieve remarkable (and too good to be true) growth rates—the “sunlit uplands” of peace and fruition of reform. The final phase, where SEE arguably remains today, was characterized as the “wilderness years” of post crisis recession followed by stagnation.

Though there were of course idiosyncrasies in their economic trajectories in the build up to the crisis and stagnation of 2009-2014, the trends across the region are instructive. On the basis of detailed country-level data, Bennett described the emergence of a massive savings gap in these economies during a boom period that stretched from 2000 to 2008.

The rapidly growing current account imbalances that emerged as investments outstripped savings were financed largely by inflows of foreign direct investment, especially from neighbouring European states. As the boom years progressed, however, shorter-term flows made up increasingly larger shares of foreign inflows, bringing with them the possibility of volatility.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Geopolitics of Fear: South East Europe in a dangerous neighbourhood

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

This was the first, scene-setting, seminar in SEESOX’s Hilary Term series: looking at South East Europe as a region in the middle of a triangle of instability: Ukraine, the Middle East, North Africa.

Othon Anastasakis asked whether we are seeing the return of geopolitics. He pointed to the multiple crises that are affecting Europe at the moment, including the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis and the external crises in the neighbourhood. In the face of numerous geopolitical challenges in the neighbourhood, the EU is lacking a sense of orientation, and South East Europe as the frontline region is vulnerable. Russia in the region does not have a strategic orientation but a more tactical ad hoc approach. For their part, some Western Balkan states and Greece are often playing the Russian card vis a vis the EU, not always successfully. Anastasakis addressed the negative impact of the geopolitical environment on the domestic politics of the countries and pointed to the fact that the region is also surrounded by a triangle of illiberalism and semi-authoritarianism to the east and the south. Finally, there were two rays of “geopolitical” hope: the fact that, the region, including Turkey, is more dependent on the EU in the face of the rising threats; and the intercommunal dialogue in Cyprus.

Monday 11 January 2016

Good and Bad Governance – institutions in Romania and the rule of law

Jonathan Scheele (Senior member, St Antony's College, Oxford)

On 3 December 2015, SEESOX organised a joint event with the ESC to look at how and why institutions of governance in Romania, often established during the pre-EU accession process, had been more or less successful in consolidating their independence and transparency, within a generally poor Rule of Law (RoL) environment. Recent tragic events in Bucharest were a case study of good rules poorly implemented; would the new government, formed as a response to these events, be able to improve the RoL? 

Speakers were Sorin Moisa (MEP, St Antony’s College), Bogdan Chiritoiu (President of the Romanian Competition Council), Laura Stefan (Expert Forum, Bucharest), Emanuel Coman (DPIR, Oxford) and Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s College). The session was chaired by Jonathan Scheele (St Antony’s College).

Sorin Moisa began by noting that, in the area of RoL, there had been no real “European paradigm” or acquis to underpin the newly-created institutions; indeed, the paradigm on judicial reform had evolved radically during the accession process, mainly due to the appointment in 2004 of Monica Macovei as Justice Minster. There was high social demand for judicial reform and she had managed to deliver real change through the creation and empowerment of the DNA (Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office). The desire of Romanian political elites to hinder it was prevented by the EU “ratchet effect”, which caused immediate political costs for any attempt to backslide.

Democracy by Decree: Prospects and Limits of Imposed Consociational Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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

At a SEESOX seminar held on 26 November 2015 and chaired by David Madden (St Antony’s College), SEESOX Junior Research Fellow Adis Merdzanovic launched his new book ‘Democracy by Decree: Prospects and Limits of Imposed Consociational Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina’.

The book details the development of Bosnia’s post-war political system, which is based on a specific form of power sharing called ‘consociational democracy’. The latter includes four particular elements, namely (1) a grand coalition government, where all groups are represented in government and parliament; (2) proportional representation in government, parliament, and administration; (3) veto powers, so that each group may prevent legislation directed against its vital interest; and (4) group autonomy, meaning that the central state only decides the most important issues, whereas all other topics are decided autonomously by the groups. Normative consociationalism now claims that a stable democratic rule in divided societies will be the result of the institutional interaction between these four elements.

This is where the case of post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes illustrative. The Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war between Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, installed a consociational political system in the post-war state. Bosnia fulfils all the above-mentioned criteria and, in fact, in some areas prescribes parity rather than proportionality between the groups. However, looking at the political challenges Bosnia is facing today –– a bloated and inefficient state administration; large patronage networks working in the interest of group-based political parties; heated and extremely group-centred election campaigns and political rhetoric; lack of reforms; economic and social problems that led to the most recent protests –– one can hardly speak of a functioning and stable democracy. But instead of interpreting this situation as a failure of consociationalism, Merdzanovic argued that the nature of the Bosnian consociation has changed due to the involvement of external actors. Bosnia, according to him, is in fact not a pure consociation, but an imposed one.