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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.