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Thursday 23 February 2017

Social constraints and the decision to leave: Emigration from Greece at ...

Manolis Pratsinakis’ presentation, his inaugural as SEESOX/Onassis fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, focused on the determinants of the decision to migrate in the context of the currently unfolding big wave of Greek emigration and brain drain. This presentation was based on research conducted in the context of the EUMIGRE project, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme (Marie Skłodowska Curie grant no. 658694).

Recession and austerity has made migration a survival strategy for several people who are finding it hard to make ends meet in Greece. However, there are others in less pressing need who are also leaving the country and present their migration as something they were considering already long ago. Focusing on the latter category, Manolis outlined how the crisis in Greece has altered the everyday discourse on emigration and loosened up social constraints towards long distance mobility, ultimately changing the emigration mentalities in Greece. 

In the first part of his talk, he provided a broad overview of the nature and identity of this wave of Greek emigration. Placing it as part of the current crisis-ridden Greek economic environment and complex migratory landscape, he outlined its differences from previous emigration flows and described its magnitude, dynamics and demographic make-up. In the second part of the presentation Manolis shifted the attention to the micro and meso level of analysis. 

Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews which he conducted with Greek migrants in Amsterdam and London and empirical material from participant observation at the Greek Community House in Amsterdam, he explored how migration decisions are actually taken by families and individuals. He pointed that the decision to leave lies somewhere between choice and necessity. The sudden increase in the emigration outflows after the deepening of the crisis in Greece allows for easy assumptions of a direct link between the two. However, Manolis explained that the increase of migration is actually strongly mediated by developments that we would analytically categorize as falling within the “social realm”. Exploring emigrant’s aspirations, social networks abroad and the reactions of friends and kin back home on their decision to leave, he highlighted the paramount significance of "the social" in the decision to migrate, relativizing mono-causal theories that make claims for the deterministic significance of economic factors. 

Lamprini Rori, AG Leventis/SEESOX fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford

Monday 20 February 2017

A Faustian Pact? Selling the Rule of Law in South East Europe

The third of the SEESOX Hilary Term core seminars, on 8 February 2017, on the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe looked at Rule of Law and how it can be promoted in the region.  Speakers were Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s), Damir Banović (University of Sarajevo) and Mehmet Karli (St Antony’s), with Francis Cheneval (University of Zurich) in the Chair.

Kalypso Nicolaidis gave a general introduction to the promotion of Rule of Law. She characterised it as defined by its absence; we only recognise it when we lose it.  It is more than a legal technicality – it is about people’s lives. The EU’s 2007 enlargement had led to the entrenchment of the RoL problems in Romania, with later backsliding in Hungary, Poland and perhaps others Member States. The EU faces a challenge in dealing with this, and its failure to do so undermines the EU’s original contract – a “cathedral of limitations” where the basis for mutual trust and recognition is  the implicit recognition of EU Member State capacity to make and implement laws.
But the dilemma of RoL is that the EU tends to proceed through a means-based, institutions-focused approach, while RoL can only be consolidated if it is outcomes-based and citizen-focused. And the EU is ill-placed to promote RoL, since itself, it  falls outside a normal legal order consistent with definitions of RoL. For Kalypso, the remedy must lie at the level of the individual, through a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down one led from the EU’s centre.

Monday 6 February 2017

Authoritarian turn: The Western Balkans’ move towards EU membership and away from democracy

On 1 February 2017, Florian Bieber (University of Graz, Austria) spoke at SEESOX about the authoritarian turn in the Western Balkans and how the region simultaneously moves away from democracy and progresses towards EU membership. The event was part of SEESOX’s Hilary Term seminar series dedicated to the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe and chaired by Richard Caplan (Linacre College, Oxford). 

Bieber started his talk by recalling the ten rules a contemporary Machiavelli would give the Balkan princes, a blog he wrote two years ago that still seems very relevant today––so relevant indeed that it recently received an update. In fact, there is widespread consensus that Western Balkan states have been moving backwards in terms of democratisation in the recent decade and particular states such as Serbia or Macedonia are more authoritarian today than they have been ten years ago. Yet EU officials still claim that the process of EU integration is intact and progressing, in defiance of the realities on the ground.