Total Pageviews

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.