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Friday, 30 November 2018

British-Turkish relations after Brexit: A strategic partnership?

For the final SEESOX seminar of the 2018 Michaelmas term Simon Wardman (King’s College, London and Istanbul Policy Centre) considered how UK-Turkish relationships would evolve after Brexit; Yaprak Gürsoy (Aston University) acted as discussant.

Simon Wardman’s presentation was based on his work at the Istanbul Policy Centre, almost the last independent think-tank in Turkey. He stressed that he had not experienced any interference in his work. He began by defining “strategic partnership”—this is a specific term, deriving from management studies, involving sharing of resources, and with the aim of improving profitability of both partners. It has been used in international relations since the end of the Cold War, for instance as regards the EU and China. The term as regards UK-Turkish relations was first used by Gordon Brown; Cameron also made mention of it, considering Turkey to be “Europe’s BRIC”, and a model democratic Islamic state.

After 2013 however “the bubble burst”. The IMF loan, under which Turkey had made a range of democratic reforms, was paid off. There were large scale investigations into corruption, which the government blamed on Gulen. Protests in Istanbul over the redevelopment of a park were broken up with force. The South East degenerated back into violence with the ending of the PKK ceasefire and the suppression of the Kurdish political party. On the economic front, the government sought to assert increasing control, for instance to reduce the independence of the central bank by challenging its interest rate policy. All these factors intensified after the 2016 attempted coup.

Monday, 19 November 2018

The Macedonia name issue: Solved at last?

On 15 November 2018, SEESOX hosted a lunchtime seminar given by Marilena Koppa of Panteion University, Athens, on the Macedonia name issue. Jonathan Scheele was in the chair.

Koppa had been involved with this issue since the mid-1990s. She began by setting out the historical background to the issue, which went back to the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913. The Ottoman region of Macedonia had been divided into four unequal parts, with the largest part going to Greece, about one third to Serbia, and the remainder to Bulgaria (mostly) and Albania. The small share allotted to Bulgaria (9%) had been the basis for continuing Bulgarian irredentism and led to Bulgaria joining the Central Powers in 1914. Across the entire region, Greek had been spoken in the towns and cities, while the rural population spoke a Slavic language.

After 1913, Serbia had not managed to assimilate the population it had acquired, so had followed a policy of ensuring they didn’t feel Bulgarian, by promoting a Macedonian identity. This gradual transformation of a geographical into a national identity had been formalised in the 1945 Federal Constitution of Yugoslavia. The myth of an Ancient Macedonian identity had developed to exclude Bulgaria.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Centralisation of Power in Turkey: Is it sustainable?

On 12 November 2018, ESC hosted a panel discussion organised jointly by SEESOX and PEFM, entitled “Centralisation of Power in Turkey: Is it sustainable?” The discussion was chaired by David Madden (SEESOX), and the speakers were Ezgi Başaran (SEESOX), Mehmet Karlı (SEESOX) and Charles Enoch (PEFM).

In Başaran’s presentation on “Structural Inconsistency and New Constants in the New Turkish Foreign Policy”, she pointed to the factors leading to the emergence of a new foreign policy, which marked a radical shift. These included the complete erosion of domestic checks and balances, parliament’s loss of its role in foreign policy, the subduing and suppression of any critical views on foreign policy, and the erosion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ traditional role as a strong foreign policy actor. Consequently, the new policy is highly transactional, personalised and temperamental. Başaran highlighted three cases which revealed the changed character of foreign policy: the American-Turkish crisis over the arrest and the eventual release of pastor Brunson; the crisis in Turkish-EU , and not least Turkish-German, relations following the 2016 coup attempt and the recent rapprochement following Turkey’s economic crisis; and Turkish-Russian relations, especially in the context of the Syrian crisis. Finally, Başaran also questioned whether there are any constants in the new foreign policy. She argued that a vague Middle Eastern orientation, prioritisation of international criminal co-operation to contribute to Turkey’s domestic security operations, and continuing paranoia regarding the Kurdish role in international relations, appear to be the constants in this otherwise fluid policy framework. 

Balkan Legacies of the Great War: Centenary re-launch

On Wednesday, 14 November 2018, in a year that marks the hundredth anniversary of the ending of the Great War, Othon Anastasakis, David Madden and Elizabeth Roberts, discussed how South East Europe, the region in which the initial spark of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand ignited the War, was irrevocably altered by it. Drawing on the book Balkan Legacies of the Great War which they co-edited in 2016, the three presenters focused on the different ways in which WWI is remembered and framed in the various countries of the South East Europe, as well as on its various legacies that have left an abiding sense of a lack of finality and of closure for the region.

David Madden opened the session by explaining the history behind the book which came about as the result of a symposium at St Antony’s in 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. He provided a brief summary of the individual chapters and then explained why ‘the war was first and foremost an eastern European conflict’, as Dominic Lieven has written. The region in fact suffered ten years of conflict which resulted in the fall and rise of states that ultimately shaped the region’s 20th century history. Madden highlighted four historical legacies: First, the Greece/Turkey relationship, which remains uneasy and has spilt over into lack of progress over Cyprus. Second, the whole swathe of issues involving population exchange, population expulsion and ethnic cleansing, and encompassing also such horrors as the Armenian Genocide. Third, diasporas, including the role they play in the thinking and lives of their homelands. And, fourth, the various South Slav questions over the relationships between the successor states and related communities living outside their borders (such as the Serbian, Croatian, Albanian, Bosniak questions), as well as the Macedonian question, which has effectively morphed into the Macedonia name issue.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Civil Society on the edge: A discussion of the Greek experience

Xenophon Kappas (Director of the Captain Vassilis and Carmen Constantakopoulos Foundation), spoke on 7 November 2018 on Civil Society on the edge: A discussion of the Greek experience. He offered his long-time experience gained while volunteering for organisations such as Amnesty International, the Hellenic Ornithological Society (Birdlife Greece) and Médecins sans Frontières.

He began by defining “civil society”, a term that first emerged during the Enlightenment, but which also appears in the writings of Aristotle as “politiki koinonia” and of Cicero as “societas civilis”. Adam Smith defended the rights of civil society, and Marx and Hegel, despite their different approaches, supported the idea as well. He noted that neither of the terms “state” or ”family” include voluntary associations and enterprises.

He offered a historical perspective of how the idea of civil society developed in Greece, pointing out that the Enlightenment had played a vital role leading towards the Greek War of Independence, as at its core were the right to free speech and education. He pointed to examples of civil society, such as Filiki Etaireia - established at the beginning of the 19th century as a form of freemasonry. Filiki Etaireia had tried to connect Greeks and Greeks abroad in a common cause. A second example was a peaceful demonstration in 1843, with massive popular participation, requesting a constitution from King Othon. A postcard was even created to mark this day as a national celebration. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Diaspora and political participation in Greek political affairs

On the 29th of October 2018, the Greek Diaspora Project at SEESOX organised a two-panel public debate entitled “Diaspora and political participation in Greek political affairs” held at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens. The event was put together by SEESOX, in cooperation with the Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG) of the Political Science Association, the think tank DiaNEOsis and the Onassis Foundation, and was co-convened by Othon Anastasakis, SEESOX Director and Principal Investigator of the Greek Diaspora Project at SEESOX, Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Director of Research in DiaNEOsis, and Lamprini Rori, Lecturer in Politics at Exeter University, Press Officer of GPSG and associate of the Greek Diaspora Project at SEESOX.

Photo gallery

The issue of the Greek diaspora’s political participation in Greece’s internal affairs is a very important topic given the number of Greeks abroad, including the recent wave of crisis-led migration, estimated at approximately 400,000 people. In addition, Greece is one of the few European countries which – with the exception of European elections – does not allow out of country voting. The event was particularly topical in that it coincided with the creation by the Greek Ministry of a Special Committee of Experts, to discuss and prepare a draft law for the Parliament on the issue of the diasporic vote, in view of the upcoming elections in 2019.

Friday, 26 October 2018

SEESOX in Athens, October 2018

A team from SEESOX, with invited guest speakers, visited Athens for a series of events from 22-24 October, 2018. This was generously funded by the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO.

The centrepiece of the visit was a presentation at the Megaron on 23 October. Richard Caplan, Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, addressed “Contemporary Global Security Challenges”. Lucas Kello. senior lecturer in International Relations at Oxford, and Director of the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs, spoke on “Evolving Cyber Threats”. Ino Afendouli, Programme Director at the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO, presented on “The new security environment: The View from NATO”. Marilena Koppa, a former MEP, and now an Associate Professor at the Panteion University, and currently an Academic Visitor at St Antony’s College, Oxford, covered “Europe and Common Security and Defence Policy.” The session was chaired by David Madden.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Beyond the economic crisis: Greece’s other existential challenges

Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Director of Research at the Greek Think Tank diaNEOsis since 2016, gave the first SEESOX seminar of the Term on 17 October on the subject “Beyond the Economic Crisis: Greece’s other Existential Challenges”. Manolis Pratsinakis chaired.

As background, Pierrakakis noted that 1.5% annual growth for Greece was insufficient given that Greece is bound by the last memorandum to maintain a surplus target of 4.5% of GDP over the medium term. She needed 4%. Greece had required 3 bail-out packages to the one apiece for Cyprus and Ireland. There were opportunity costs to this, and Greece had to catch up.

Turning to the challenges, the first was a) demography. Greece’s population in 2011 was 11.1 million. This had declined to 10.7 million, and was still declining. There were more births than deaths, and sizeable emigration: approximately 450,000 emigrated, a large part of which concerns young and educated Greeks. Overall Greece was likely to lose 2 million people by mid-century. This had consequences for pensions and economic growth. There was also youth unemployment and over-reliance on family. Immigration policy needed to be rethought.

Friday, 8 June 2018

The Berlin Process on its way to the London Summit

This presentation followed and built on SEESOX’s research, seminars and workshops on the Berlin Process including, among others, a panel discussion in Oxford on 14 February, and a day workshop held in Thessaloniki on 16 March in cooperation with the British Embassy in Athens.

David Madden commented that 2018 was the year of the Western Balkans. In January the House of Lords published their report. On 6 February the European Commission set out their enlargement perspective for the region. This included specific initiatives, an action plan, and even an indicative date- 2025: though certain member states did not favour enlargement, and there were opposition to importing bilateral disputes. In July London will host the annual Summit of the Process. The Process had been launched in 2014. Back then, Chancellor Merkel was concerned by Russian action in the Crimea, socio-economic unrest in the Balkans, and protests in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and launched the initiative whereby a group of member states would focus on the region, and revitalise the waning process of European integration. The core agenda was economic connectivity, regional cooperation and civil society (the UK wished to concentrate also on security). It had got the largest countries of the EU involved, and ensured an annual focus on the priorities for the Western Balkans. But some questioned the inclusion of the UK and Poland next year, and the exclusion of some neighbouring South East European states.

The Berlin Process and the London Summit

SEESOX held events in Oxford, Thessaloniki and London in advance of the London Summit on 10/11 July.

On 14 February, we had a panel discussion in Oxford on “The Berlin Process: a bridge between the Western Balkans and the EU?” Tobias Flessenkemper considered the Process as a response to the brakes put on EU accession; Goran Svilanović its positive contribution to enhanced intraregional cooperation; Spyros Economides the need to look beyond “hard” security to developmental issues as a foundation for reconciliation and defence against organised crime and corruption; James Ker-Lindsay the limited relevance of the UK to the region outside any security agenda; Andrew Page to confirm the UK’s strong interest in stability in the region and its relevance to the UK’s national security agenda; and Marika Djolai underlining the welcome growing involvement and centrality of civil society in the Process.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Bosnia and Herzegovina: What’s happening now… and what’s next?

On 23 May 2018, SEESOX hosted Valentin Inzko (High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina). Discussants were Richard Caplan (Linacre College) and Jessie Hronesova (Aktis Strategy Ltd), with David Madden (St Antony’s College) chairing.

Inzko discussed the past and the future of the country, focusing on the role of international actors in Bosnia, their past achievements and future potential, and the pervasive role of corruption, captured institutions, civil society, the poor economy and the rise of extremism in the country.

Aiming to draw lessons for other contexts, Inzko reviewed the main obstacles international actors have dealt with in Bosnia both during his time in office (since 2009) and before, stressing particularly the lack of political will among the incumbent political elites to implement reforms, and the state of the rule of law, of reconciliation and of the economy. He stressed the unprecedented progress made in the first post-war years and the achievements of the office under Paddy Ashdown, implementing most of the state-building reforms by 2006 (e.g. one army, judiciary, tax system, flag&anthem). Despite the limitations of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which created a very complex and cumbersome state, the first ten years provided hope. However, the following period had only demonstrated the extent of the frozen conflict in the country and how ”local ownership” in Bosnia had mutated into state capture. Despite the vast amount of external support and funding, the peace that exists in Bosnia is far from secure and entrenched – instead, Bosnia remains a socially fractured state where the achievement of long-term societal peace may take generations. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

6th Annual Ambassadors’ Forum

On 3 May, SEESOX hosted its annual Ambassadors’ Forum at St Antony’s College, Oxford. This was the sixth in the series: in the well-established tradition of inviting to Oxford and presenting its work to all the diplomatic missions from the region of South East Europe in London. This year the working lunch was attended by nine Heads of Mission, two Deputy Heads of Mission and one First Secretary and the SEESOX group.

SEESOX briefed on the main themes which it addressed during the academic year 2017-2018, concentrating in particular on EU integration and the European Commission’s new strategy for the Western Balkans, the region’s geo-political challenges, the Berlin Process and the political economy of the region, including the impact of Brexit and other macro-economic challenges. The Bulgarian Ambassador briefed on the priorities for the Presidency and the Sofia Summit on 16/17 May, with the focus on the Western Balkans, and the themes of connectivity, regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations. There was general round table discussion of these issues, and on the forthcoming summit meetings in July (Berlin Process in London, and NATO in Brussels). Our Forum discussed the future of the Berlin Process, the meaning of the London Summit and what messages this gives now that the UK is leaving the EU, especially regarding a range of security concerns. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Greek-Turkish tensions: Impending Conflict?

On Monday 30 April 2018, a panel discussion on ‘Greek-Turkish tensions: Impending Conflict?’ took place in the European Studies Centre. The panellists talked about the present tense climate in Greek-Turkish relations, potential risks for escalation, and related wider geopolitical considerations in the region. David Madden (SEESOX) chaired the session, Ezgi Basaran (SEESOX) began with an overview of recent developments in Greek-Turkish relations, Othon Anastasakis (SEESOX) talked about the Greek context, Mehmet Karli (SEESOX) presented the Turkish perspective, Katerina Dalacoura (LSE) spoke about relevant developments in the Middle East, Yaprak Gürsoy (Aston University) focused on the role of NATO and the US, and Kalypso Nicolaidis (SEESOX) ended with some final comments on the probabilities of conflict.

Basaran spoke about the Greek-Turkish tensions that began on 15 July 2016, with the eight Turkish soldiers who landed at the Alexandroupolis airport the day after the attempted coup in Turkey, asking for asylum from Greece. Turkey sought their extradition, which the Greek Supreme Court denied. On 7t December 2017, the first official visit by a Turkish president to Greece in six decades took place. However, in 2018 relations between the two countries worsened, with numerous incidents in the Aegean, and further escalated with the imprisonment of two Greek soldiers after they got lost and crossed into Turkish territory. She stressed the point that tensions with Greece are not high on the public discourse agenda and although it is hard to guess how things will turn out, Erdogan would not gain very much in domestic politics if there were an escalation in the crisis. She added that in Greece a considerable number of Golden Visas are given to Turks. 

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Balkans in the wider European context; the Slovene view

On the first day of Trinity Term, SEESOX hosted a seminar given by Iztok Mirosic, State Secretary for European Affairs in the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia. He gave a wide-ranging overview of current and future developments in the Western Balkans, and their relationship with the EU, complemented by an extensive Q & A session. The seminar was chaired by Othon Anastasakis.

Mirosic began by stressing that, despite the Brexit vote, the underlying interests of the EU and the UK in the region remained the same – the preservation of stability. In geopolitical terms, the region was now at a crossroads. EU accession, as a process supporting stability, the rule of law and economic reform and development, alongside the region’s role as an energy transit route, meant that accession was in the mutual interest of both the EU and the countries of the western Balkans. This had been recognised at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003, when the Western Balkan countries had been given a clear perspective of full membership, differentiating them from the EU’s eastern neighbours.

Rival power: Russia and South East Europe

On the 7th of March 2018, the last (chronologically) but not least session of the Hilary term seminar series, Dimitar Bechev (University of South Caroline, Chapel Hill) gave a talk on his most recent and very topical book “Rival power: Russia and South East Europe”.

In his excellent book, Dimitar discusses the different dimensions of Russia’s influence in the region and the specific spheres of influence, including energy, military security and soft power, through media, religion and culture. For Dimitar, the current competition between Russia and the West is not about the return to the Cold War, neither is Russia trying to establish an Empire in the region of South East Europe. Russia is not able to offer to the countries in the region a coherent model alternative to the EU’s more comprehensive one. But what Russia does very effectively is to play a disruptive game of influence by tactically exploiting both its own limited strengths and the weaknesses and divisions among the European players.

In his presentation Dimitar emphasised Russia’s impact in the energy sector which, while extensive, has weakened since its high point in the 2000s, especially given the decreasing significance of the region as an outpost or a corridor for Russian gas. He spoke about the rising close alliance between Russia and Turkey, the “marriage of convenience” as he calls it in his book: with the occasional intra-marital spat such as the fall-out over the shooting down of the Russian fighter. What we are witnessing, according to Bechev, is a Putin-Erdogan double act, where convergent country interests, especially in the energy field, have recently become highly personalised. He also spoke about other bilateral relationships, including with Greece or Cyprus; and pointed to the gap between Russia’s limited commitments, and the at times high expectations of the two states, most clearly witnessed during the Eurozone crisis. He also spoke about relations with Bulgaria, a bilateral bond with deep historical roots; but where, despite the current strong Russian lobby in the country’s economy and politics, Bulgaria’s political elite has clearly shown a commitment for the EU and NATO. Finally, in some Western Balkans, Russia has found some fertile ground for infiltration with divisive potential in Serbia, Republika Srpska (especially), Macedonia and Montenegro: but appears involved in tactical manoeuvring rather than following a strategic master-plan.

Monday, 5 March 2018

The erosıon of free speech ın Turkey: Why were key instıtutıons defeated?

Convenors: Free Speech Debate, Timothy Garton Ash; SEESOX, Othon Anastasakis, Mehmet Karli

Chair: Dr. Mehmet Karli, SEESOX
Rıza Türmen, Former ECHR judge and former MP
Kemal Göktaş, Reporter from Cumhuriyet newspaper, Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute
Funda Üstek-Spilda, Goldsmiths, University of London

The seminar entitled “The Erosion of Free Speech in Turkey: Why were Key Institutions Defeated?” was held at the European Studies Centre, St Antony’s College on 28 February 2018. The seminar was co-organized by SEESOX and the Free Speech Debate, headed by Professor Timothy Garton Ash. Rıza Türmen, a former ECHR judge and former Turkish MP from the main opposition party CHP, Kemal Göktaş, reporter from Cumhuriyet newspaper and a visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute, and Dr. Funda Üstek-Spilda from Goldsmiths, University of London were the speakers in the panel which was chaired by Dr. Mehmet Karli of SEESOX.

In line with the guiding question of the seminar, each speaker focused on the failure of key institutions to check and balance the authoritarian slide in Turkey. Mr. Türmen focused on the judiciary and parliament, Mr. Göktaş on the press, and Dr. Ustek-Spilda on academia.

Monday, 26 February 2018

(Ir)regular states of migration: Contested sovereignties on Europe’s margins

On Wednesday, 21 February Katerina Rozakou (University of Amsterdam) presented her paper ‘(Ir)regular states of migration: Contested sovereignties on Europe’s margins’. Franck Duvell (University of Oxford) acted as discussant. Rozakou’s presentation provided critical insights on sovereign power and state bureaucracies focusing on a moment of rupture –the “European migration crisis” and the “Greek crisis”. Rozakou provided a detailed ethnographic account of the situation in Lesbos island in the summer of 2015, in the midst of both “crises”, examining the role of state, supra-state, and non-state agents in governing irregular migration. In late August 2015, there was a backlog of 20,000 unrecorded border-crossers who were stranded on Lesvos, camped in parks, playgrounds, the port, sidewalks and on the streets. There were demonstrations where border-crossers pleaded to be allowed to get off the island. Border-crossers lit fires near the camps and on the outskirts of town. Their frustration targeted NGO and INGO personnel for failing to provide the aid foreseen in their mandates. Moreover, in the first weeks of the summer 2015 police officers and border-crossers alike accused the state but, by mid-summer, the UNHCR had acquired a status parallel to that of the sovereign state. And, like the state, the UNHCR was also considered absent. 

Greek to Me: A Memoir of Academic Life

Richard Clogg witnessed the 1967 coup in Greece, while living in Athens and researching modern Greek history. He then went on a joint appointment at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and King’s College, London: becoming Professor of Modern Balkan History at the latter. During this time he published his controversial book on Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, before moving to St Antony’s as a Senior Research Fellow (and then Emeritus Fellow). Greek to Me focusses on the secretive fields of academia and university politics, as well as providing unique eyewitness accounts of modern Greek history.

Peter Mackridge commented that the book was written with trademark gusto and humour. It was highly topical in providing insights into Universities and academic freedoms, and the difficulties for those investigating controversial subjects: and appeared at a time when the marketization of higher education represented a threat to academic standards.

Stathis Kallivas described the book as a page-turner. It was fascinating on Clogg’s discovery of Greece and experience of academic politics. Central themes were academic funding, and criticism of constraints on freedom emanating from donors; and the lively turf battles between academics. He paid tribute to Clogg’s eye-opening books about Greece, in particular the Concise History, and the Short History, and the imaginative use of images and illustrations to convey themes and ideas.

Richard Clogg quoted approvingly from Ranke: ”History should describe events as they actually were”; and also from Kissinger “Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.” He described the extraordinary secretiveness of the London University archives: for example, the minutes of the Board of Studies were effectively closed for a hundred years.

Discussion centred in particular on the openness of Greece to works by foreign historians, whose credentials for writing about the country were readily accepted. Clogg and his writings had played a major role in this.

David Madden (St Antony's College)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Contesting Greekness: Soviet Greek migrants and the Pontic identity

At a seminar on February 14th, 2018, Manolis Pratsinakis (Onassis Foundation Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, St Antony’s College, Oxford) presented his forthcoming paper titled ‘Contesting Greekness: Soviet Greek migrants and the Pontic identity’. The event was chaired by Othon Anastasakis (Director of SEESOX, St Antony’s College, Oxford).

How do minority groups shape their identity and make claims for national belongingness in an attempt to strive for national recognition? Dr. Pratsinakis started his presentation by critically engaging with the existing literature and overcoming the essentialism of classical assimilation, cultural pluralism, and integration theories, as well as the barriers of the constructivism of transnationalism and hybridity theories. Building on the literature on everyday nationalism and on ethnicity and categorization, he explained that migrant groups reconstruct their identity through the negation of externally determined ethnic labels and through the selective redefinition of others in an attempt to gain national acceptance and to prove their belongingness in the nation.

Drawing on rich data that derive from his ethnographic research conducted in Nikopoli, a working-class neighborhood in Thessaloniki where the author lived for 14 months (2007-2009), Pratsinakis’ research aims to throw light on immigrant-native relations, putting emphasis on processes of identification. While focusing on the case of the Greeks from the former Soviet Union (FSU), Pratsinakis explained the reasons why and the processes through which FSU Greeks became ‘Pontians’ by altering their self-identification following their immigration to their perceived national home.

Berlin Process: A bridge between the Western Balkans and the EU?

Tobias Flessenkemper agreed with the term bridge. Chancellor Merkel had launched the initiative after Juncker had effectively ruled out early moves towards EU accession by the Western Balkans, Russian action in the Crimea, and major protests in BiH as a result of recession. She had revived inter-governmentalism and regional cooperation as tools for making progress.

Goran Svilanovic also agreed that the Berlin Process filled a yawning gap. It encouraged cooperation in the region on free trade in services, harmonisation of investment related services, free movement of labour and encouragement for international roaming.

Spyros Economides commented that the security agenda tended to sound old-fashioned, but the issues still existed and wording needed to be updated. Security meant also development, prosperity and resilience, as well as conflict-prevention, reconciliation and defences against organised crime and corruption. The UK needed to be kept interested and involved in all this, despite Brexit.

James Ker-Lindsay said that beyond the security agenda, there was little to bind the UK with the Western Balkans. Only 65,000 from the region lived in the UK, trade was low, and Ministerial attention in the context of Brexit was mainly focussed elsewhere (US, China, India).

Andrew Page confirmed that as a major security player the UK had a strong interest in South East Europe. All forms of crime and trafficking and Russian meddling had an impact on the UK, and were priorities for the National Security Council. The Summit in London in July 2018 was a major event, and the plan was to develop policy on a multi-year basis, as part of the UK’s economic, security and political agenda.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Greco-German Affair in the Euro Crisis: Mutual Recognition Lost?

On 7 February 2018, the fourth SEESOX Core Seminar in the Hilary Term was a presentation of The Greco-German Affair in the Euro Crisis: Mutual Recognition Lost?, by the authors, Claudia Sternberg (UCL), Kira Gartzou-Katsouyanni (LSE), and Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s). Discussants, all from St Antony’s, were Mehmet Karli, Adis Merdzanovic and Manolis Pratsinakis. The session was chaired by Jonathan Scheele.

Sternberg explained that their approach was to look at how we Europeans live together within the EU, through the lens of one of the most highly charged bilateral relationships of the crisis - between Greeks and Germans - and focusing on the war of images and stories, of mutual representations in the media. The book looked at how each side imagined and represented the other during the course of the crisis, how in that process they also re-imagined themselves, and how this transformed the picture of Europe as a whole. And what all this did to mutual recognition – a foundation of demoi-cracy. For the authors, the crisis cast a merciless light on the tensions between aspiration for, and denials of, mutual recognition. Their conclusion was however one of hope – behind all the problems, both sides were deeply engaged with each other and this engagement fed back into a reshaping of their images of the other and of themselves, leading to the re-emergence of a common collective.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Energy and geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean

Speakers: Constantinos Filis (Panteion University) and Vassilis Kappis (University of Buckingham)

Energy and geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean (EM). Dr Vassilis Kappis (University of Buckingham) and Dr Constantinos Filis (Panteion University).

This seminar, chaired by Ezgi Basaran, comprised two distinct presentations, with only implicit overlap apart from the regional commonality. Dr Kappis looked at big power rivalry in the region, while Dr Filis examined prospects for energy exports.

Dr Kappis quoted de Blij to postulate that geopolitics is the interplay among geography, power, politics and international relations. A branch of political geography in essence, it considers the strategic value of land and sea in the pursuit of national interests and influence. In Mackinder’s theory, who controls the heartland controls the world island, while Spykman argued that who controls the Rimland controls the continent; he is regarded as the godfather of containment.

Post-cold war the West was dominant over Rimland. NATO had absolute control over the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as further east. The Gulf War and NATO’s eastward expansion, most recently with the inclusion of Montenegro in 2016, demonstrated this. The Bush doctrine, post-9/11, intensified the push to the east; this was a “unilateral moment” in international politics, emphasizing pre-emptive wars in the view that deterrence alone was not adequate.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans

On 24 January 2018, SEESOX hosted Jasmin Mujanović (EastWest Institute), who came to present his new book Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans. Danijela Dolenec (University of Zagreb) acted as discussant, while the seminar was chaired by Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College, Oxford).

Mujanović started his presentation by outlining the major themes of the book. As he explained, the process of democratisation never truly began in the Balkans, even though particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo had been poster children for top-down state building. His book, therefore, is a critical intervention on what needs to happen for true democratisation to start. It centres on two arguments. The first one concerns the nature of democracy, which cannot be reduced to mere institutions and practices, but needs to be understood as a generational project that necessarily includes a bottom-up, citizen-activist component. As Mujanović said, it’s a process that includes both the ballot box and the public square.

The second argument centres on the question why the quality of “democracy” in the region is so poor, and, in fact, has been steadily declining for the past decade. How was that possible? According to Mujanović, one of the central parts of the explanation concerns agency, particularly the agency of local elites. In a process that he termed “elastic authoritarianism”, ideological movements and foreign empires have come and gone in the region, but the elite structures remained largely unchanged. The elites were capable of transforming their ideologies because they were so good in understanding when hegemonic orders are falling apart. Understanding how they did it and what consequences their strategies had are thus very important for a future push towards the successful establishment of a democratic regime that truly includes the demos, the people.

With respect to the future, Mujanović outlined two possible scenarios: the first, pessimistic one concerns a possible marriage between the local authoritarian tendencies with new, similarly authoritarian international patrons, particularly in Russia, China, Turkey, or the Gulf states. The second, optimistic scenario may be found in a different kind of politics, which Mujanović sees emerging in the region. Recent public protests and demands for reform, elite and regime changes in Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have made clear that there is a bottom-up, activist surge happening at the moment. Its goal is to make democracy, as the rule of the demos, a reality in the region. Citizens seek to transform the polis through an antagonistic, popular opposition to the current elites. While Mujanović, therefore, sees reasons to be cautiously optimistic with respect to the future of the region, he emphasised that this as well was a generational project.

Monday, 22 January 2018

The Rise of Erdogan: The Crisis of Turkey

The Hilary Term Core Seminar Series kicked off with Soner Çağaptay’s seminar entitled “The Rise of Erdogan: The Crisis of Turkey” on 18 January 2018. The talk was chaired by Ceren Lord (Oxford University), with Gareth Winrow as Discussant.

Çağaptay is a prominent Turkey expert and the Director of Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute. He is a historian by training and received his Ph.D. from Yale University. His latest book focuses on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and where he sits in the sweep of Turkey’s political history. As he did in his book, Çağaptay gave an overview of Erdogan’s rule since 2002 and told the story of an increasingly authoritarian and Islamic Turkey. In his view, Turkey has become a bipolar country, with one block consisting of conservative AKP voters who adore Erdoğan, and the other made up of mostly left-leaning people who detest him.

The July 2016 coup attempt consolidated this societal divide. President Erdoğan has become the unchallenged leader of the country, while those who refuse to support him have been portrayed as enemies of the state. Çağaptay argued that there are two motives behind Erdoğan’s authoritarianism. Firstly, even though he has turned out to be the most powerful leader since Atatürk, Erdogan still feels an existential threat. Therefore, in his thinking and rhetoric, authoritarianism is required to survive. The second reason behind Erdogan’s tight grip, Cağaptay contended, can be found in his working-class roots in Istanbul’s Kasımpasa neighbourhood. Çağaptay considered that he and his pious family – like all devout families - were treated as second-class citizens by the secular establishment. Thus, he consolidated his power by claiming that he is the only one who has restored - and will restore - Muslim dignity in Turkey.