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Monday 2 December 2019

Unresolved issues in the Western Balkans: Progress or Deterioration?

There are many issues that currently plague the region of the Western Balkans – from poor rule of law and crippling corruption to the authoritarian tendencies of many national leaders in the region. This seminar on 27 Novenmber, chaired by Sir David Madden, did not aim to cover them all but only focus on some of the most urgent problems and the key unresolved situations.

Adis Merdžanović, Research Associate at SEESOX, focussed on the diminishing role of the European Union which has hitherto acted as the main reform driver in the region. In the wake of Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Non’ on the opening of talks with North Macedonia and Albania, Merdzanovic presented a nuanced analysis of how we got here and what options are on the table. While disagreeing with Macron’s mode of creating alarm about membership, which has led to a great loss of credibility across the region, Merdzanovic’s analysis was also based on the need to rethink the accession process. While he did not see much space for the implementation of Macron’s non-paper which introduced a gradual accession in seven steps, he applauded the regional ‘mini-Schengen’ proposal aimed to imitate the EU Schengen open border area. He also stressed that ideas of ‘functional integration’ (Jan Zielonka) and ‘membership on probation’ (Pierre Mirel) have a lot to offer to the debate. Merdzanovic concluded that we need to ‘return to a value-based’ approach to membership and the European Integration itself.

Monday 25 November 2019

European elites’ discourses of the Greek crisis

On 20 November 2019, Dimitris Papadimitriou (University of Manchester) gave a talk on European elites’ discourses of the Greek crisis, tracing their evolution in a ten-year period: from the collapse of Lehman brothers in 2008 to the end of Greece’s 3rd bailout program in 2018. His aim was to explore the key messages of this discourse and identify junctures of change over time. Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College, Oxford) acted as the chair.

Based on the analysis of 1,872 direct quotes on the Greek crisis by 83 senior European and IMF officials which were drawn from a dataset of 22,533 news wires from Reuters, Papadimitriou highlighted the significant volatility characterizing the European elites’ discourses of the Greek crisis in the period under examination. The quotes were coded in five categories in terms of their tone on Greece and the proposed solutions for the Greek financial crisis. Those five categories were, Grexit’, ‘hard conditionality’, ‘neutrality/neglect’, ‘soft conditionality’ and ‘strong support’. The distribution of the codes varied considerably in time thus leading to the identification of six distinct narrative frames: ‘neglect’, ‘suspicious cooperation’, ‘blame’, ‘reluctant redemption’, ‘conflict’ and ‘accommodation’. Those frames were punctuated by five discursive junctures in 2010, 2011 and 2012, 2014 and 2015, all marking significant events on the Greek crisis and reflecting the content of the changing communicative discourse of the Greek crisis.

Monday 18 November 2019

Turkey – Russia arms deal: What can NATO do?

The seminar that took place on the 13 November at SEESOX focused on Turkey's recent purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and its implications on security and defence within NATO borders. Dr Ziya Meral who is a Senior Resident Fellow at the UK Army's internal think tank, Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research, began his talk by perusing the current issues, trends and threats that the NATO faces in general. He then elaborated on what these challenges and trends mean for NATO's relationship with Turkey, which has the second-biggest military within the alliance. Turkey's recent arms deal S400 with Russia has recently become one of the main contention points among the NATO allies, but it is not the only one. Meral argued that Erdogan had sought NATO's support on several fronts before the purchase of S-400s but was disappointed by the lack of reflexivity from the alliance. He gave Erdogan's speech at a 2016 NATO Summit in Poland as an example during which Erdogan stated, 'I told him [NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg]: 'You are absent from the Black Sea. The Black Sea has almost become a Russian lake. If we don't take action, history will not forgive us." According to Meral this incident was the first among many that pushed Turkey away from NATO. The second significant event, according to Meral, was the widespread conviction within Erdogan's party that NATO officials tacitly condoned 15 July coup attempt in Turkey.

Monday 11 November 2019

Albania’s “noncompetitive” elections: A means to what end?

On 7 November, Gjoralin Macaj of the University of Leiden led a seminar on the local elections that took place in Albania on 30 June, 2019. These covered the mayoralties and councils of the 61 Albanian municipalities.

Dr Macaj gave the background to the elections, which were held against a background of continuing opposition protests. Since February 2019 the opposition had been boycotting parliament, citing corruption and vote-buying by the Prime Minister Edi Rama. President Meta in early June canceled the local elections scheduled for 30 June, citing public safety concerns, and shifted them to take place in October. Parliament, however, rejected this cancellation, and continued preparations for elections on 30 June. The election commission, which by law should have a balanced political composition, was unable to fulfil this due to opposition boycott, and therefore comprised only the government nominees, a bare quorum. The President again sought to postpone the elections, but the government continued with their preparation, using government officials where local opposition officials prevented preparations through the usual channels.

The Last Bluff: How Greece came face to face with financial catastrophe and the secret plan for its euro exit

On the 4th of November, SEESOX hosted a panel on the latest book by Viktoria Dendrinou and Eleni Varvitsioti “The Last Bluff: How Greece came face to face with financial catastrophe and the secret plan for its euro exit”. The book deals with the calamitous events of 2015 when Greece, at the precipice of economic disaster, came close to exiting the eurozone under dramatic circumstances and amid confrontational politics between the country and its European partners.

Viktoria Dendrinou started the discussion by explaining how the book came about, why the two authors chose to deal with this topic and how they had to revisit every day of their own work at the time based on emails, notes and opinion pieces in the context of their reporting for newspapers and Greek television channels from Brussels. One of the great values of the book is its reliance on a number of interviews with some of the actors who played a pivotal role at the time. Eleni Varvitsioti in her presentation expressed the two authors’ opinion that the EU and the Greek side, while dealing with a mainly economic matter regarding the country’s survival in the eurozone, ended up in a much more political confrontation: both during the process of negotiations with the government of SYRIZA, and also during the last stages of the final settlement.

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Measuring Peace: Principles, Practice and Politics

Richard Caplan’s new book Measuring Peace: Principles, Practices and Politics (Oxford University Press 2019) may be small but is mighty. Caplan covers a lot of scholarly ground that evidences his extensive knowledge and empirical research. Representing parsimony at its best, the book offers a succinct discussion about the key principles, best (and worst) practices, and political constraints in measuring peace.

Such were the conclusion of the panel on Wednesday 23 October consisting of Jessie Barton Hronesova, Neil MacFarlane and Lord Alderdice. The panel started with Caplan’s summary of the book.

Caplan’s key findings are highly important and timely. He demonstrates that ethnographic methods are superior to universal technical assessments in acquiring accurate data about local peace. He also shows that local knowledge and contextualised conflict analysis give the most accurate picture and that idiosyncratic benchmarking is important to understand how the conflict or peace is changing over time. The question to Caplan is not about what does peace require to survive but what does this peace require? Regional scholars can rejoice.

Barton Hronesova noted that the key contribution of the book is its ‘convincing and well-researched argument that is highly accessible beyond academia’. She stressed that the book succeeds in giving peacebuilders a ‘compass’ to navigate the peacebuilding landscape. She also stressed that the book focuses on how to measure the quality of peace (not what to measure as each context will vary). She noted that the term reconciliation might be added among related terms such as security, stability and resilience. She also outlined some additional challenges in measuring peace such as security of local researchers.

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Greece after the crisis: Stocktaking, legacies and prospects

George Pagoulatos spoke on this subject at a SEESOX seminar on 24 October. David Madden chaired. He began by saying that the subject was over-researched: little remained unknown; but it was politically contested, and to some extent still emotionally divisive. It was still too early to gauge its longer-term implications, but it was a textbook failure in the EMU. There had been long-standing structural weaknesses in Greece, yet on this occasion the vulnerability came through the external account -the current account deficit and foreign debt.

Procyclical adjustment accentuated recession; all policies were contractionary during the crisis (fiscal; incomes; no monetary transmission), and there was no countercyclical response, leading to fragmentation. Common ground was that the EMU was unready, there was insufficient response and that Greece needed reform. Debt restructuring should have been earlier. Some recession was inevitable. Contested points were the magnitude of fiscal and incomes austerity (minimum wage cut), the content of structural reforms (labour market liberalization), the magnitude of adjustment, and the degree of hysteresis effects. There was tension between positive outcomes of forced economic adjustment and the hysteresis effects of depression. Labor migration was a correction mechanism, but a double-edged sword: mitigating unemployment but bleeding human capital.

Friday 18 October 2019

EU Leaders to Western Balkan Reformers: You’re on your own!

By Adis Merdzanovic

The European Council’s decision not to open formal accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania today might go down in history as one of the most ill-advised policy decisions the EU has ever taken with respect to the Western Balkans – and that is quite something considering how contested that particular field is. Today, the Council did not just change a particular policy, but betrayed one of the fundamental principles of the European Union: the adherence to the pre-set rules of the game. Since today, at least from the Western Balkans perspective, the EU is no longer a “rules-based order”, but has become part of “politics as usual”.

Granted, there are good reasons for not taking this step today. Everybody knows that the accession process, as it is currently conducted, suffers from some major problems. That the countries of the Western Balkans could have progressed on their path towards EU membership in recent years while at the same time the quality of their democratic systems backslided and illiberal and authoritarian politics became ever more dominant, points to just one of the challenges the current system faces. Also, the role of parliaments, the civil society, and the power asymmetries involved in the process need to be looked at. Furthermore, the quintessential formula of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law needs to take a more prominent position in the entire enlargement process––something even the “fundamentals first” approach adopted by the Commission has done only to an insufficient degree.

All this is well known, and all of it is correct. But what makes today’s decision so colossally misguided is the fact that the EU broke its word. For years, it has been telling North Macedonia that it will progress on its path towards the European Union and benefit from all the goodies of being a candidate country if it only found a solution with Greece with respect to the name issue. North Macedonia delivered: its voters ousted the old government, the new government agreed to the historic Prespa agreement with Greece and changed the country’s name. True to its word, the EU Commission recommended to reward these efforts with the candidacy status.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Contemporary Greek diaspora in the UK and beyond

On the day of the third meeting of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board, on 10 October 2019, and making use of the presence in London of the members of the Board, SEESOX organized a public event devoted to its Greek Diaspora Project at the Hellenic Centre, in partnership with the Centre and the Greek Embassy in London. This public event was a great opportunity for SEESOX to present its three-year research output to the wider London community, at a time when it had just completed its first cycle and was already setting its goals for the next three-year period.

The event at the Hellenic Centre was introduced by David Madden, Chair of the Steering Committee of SEESOX and Othon Anastasakis, Director of SEESOX/Principal Investigator of the Greek Diaspora Project and included welcoming speeches by the Greek Ambassador in London, Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras and First Chair of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board, Nikos Karamouzis. The panel discussion that followed was the core feature of the evening, and included as speakers, diaspora experts at SEESOX, policy makers and members of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board which is supporting the project financially. This setting was a great opportunity for a fruitful debate on the Greek diaspora among academics, policymakers, as well as the business word. Both the SEESOX findings, as well as the inputs of the panelists, adopted exciting angles, in a well-attended auditorium composed mostly by diaspora Greeks in the UK.

A most impressive, as well as accessible and user-friendly, result of this research, is the digital map that SEESOX created in order to record and depict the presence of Greek diasporic populations all over the world. Such a map offers a unique platform for the interaction of the Greek nation on an international level, as presented by Foteini Kalantzi, A. G. Leventis Research Officer at SEESOX. It is by no means a mere theoretical exercise for academic purposes – instead, it is a valuable tool, both quantitively and qualitatively, for policymakers, as well as the legislative.

Friday 5 July 2019

"The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey"

What does the 23 June Istanbul mayoral election tell us about the present state of Turkish politics? 

Special event on 1 July on the Turkish Mayoral elections

"The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey"
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

What happened?
The mayoral elections in Istanbul on 23 June saw an alliance of opposition parties: the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP), and the centre-right iYi party. They call themselves the Nation Alliance.

The elections were a rerun of the 31 March elections that were controversially annulled by President Erdogan’s AK Party due to alleged irregularities. This saw President Erdogan’s AK party’s candidate for Mayor lose by a decisive margin, and power in the capital moving away from AK for the first time in a quarter of a century. President Erdogan himself has said that: ‘The one who rules Istanbul, rules Turkey’, and these results mark an important turning point for Turkish politics.

These elections are only one of the six national elections and one referendum held in Turkey since 2014. This includes the local and presidential elections in 2014, the two general elections in 2015, a 2017 constitutional referendum, the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, and finally, the local elections of this year. These elections have seen a gradual, but definite, shift away from the ruling coalition towards the opposition. Based on the results of the recent Istanbul elections, the governing coalition no longer commands popular support in the country. However, the divisions between the large urban centres and rural areas are stark.

Monday 24 June 2019

Generational memory and the resurgence of the past in Southern Europe and Latin America

The Santander conference “Generational Memory and the Resurgence of the Past in Southern Europe and Latin America” took place at the European Studies Centre on 18 June 2019. It focused on the varying ways in which the memory of the transitions matters for society and politics today in Southern Europe and Latin America. Post-authoritarian societies currently face serious political complexities, chief amongst which is the fact that the second or third post-authoritarian generations demand a different social and political contract than the one concluded after the mid-1970s. In Spain, young Catalans challenge the 1978 Spanish constitution, claiming that Franco is back from the grave. In Portugal young people complain that the political class has “betrayed” the values of the 1974 Revolution. The past is returning with a vengeance also in Latin America: in Argentina new generations protest against wrongdoings of the dictatorship period, rejecting the idea of “national reconciliation”, while in Chile the political transition and its masterminds have come under serious attack by students who regard them as a generational breakpoint.

It is precisely on such complex political battles between official and unofficial memory, established history and counter-history, but also various generations defending different versions of the past, that the conference focused. How do political generations in post-authoritarian societies in Southern Europe and Latin America remember the past, and how is this memory constructed? This is one of the key questions that the conference tackled, going back to the initial use of the term “political generation” by Karl Mannheim and its connection to social change. It featured three panels with specialists in history, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies who tackled these issues, focusing mainly on Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal and Greece) and Latin America (Argentina and Chile).

Monday 17 June 2019

Memory wars and war therapies in conflict resolution and peace building

With Dr. Kepa Fernandez de Larrinoa as convenor, and in collaboration with SEESOX, the BASQUE VISITING FELLOW CONFERENCE, on Memory Wars and War Therapies in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, took place on 14 June. It gathered scholars from Oxford University (Professor Stathis Kalyvas, Lord John Alderdice), University of London (Dr. Jessie Hronešová), Queen’s University Belfast (Professor Dominic Bryan), Oxford Brookes University (Professor Jeremy MacClancy), University of Reno Nevada (Professor Joseba Zulaika) and RMIT University, Melbourne (Research Professor Hariz Halilovich). Speakers presented case studies and perspectives from Northern Ireland (Lord John Alderdice and Dominic Bryan), Bosnia-Herzegovina (Hariz Halilovich and Jessie Hronešová) and the Basque Country (Joseba Zulaika and Jeremy MacClancy). The Conference did not focus only on a comparative approach, but also on interdisciplinarity. Thus, the programme brought together anthropologists, historians and political scientists, who discussed analytical ethnographies of cultural expressions and depictions of political violence, particularly in scenarios where distinctive sociocultural communities come to be involved in the politics of supporting or rejecting the creation of new nation-States.

Three academics from Oxford University moderated the open debates. Dr. Othon Anastasakis (St. Antony’s College) chaired the first panel, on Neighbours, Criminals and Heroes: The Politics of Memory in the Post-War Balkans. Dr. Marc Mulholland (St Catherine's College) chaired the panel on Anthropologies and Psychologies of Visual Displays of Political Violence and Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland. And Professor Tom Buchanan (Kellogg College) chaired the one on Transcending the Politics of Intimidation in the Basque Country: Political Religions and Cultural Identity in State and Counter-State Violence. Overall, the conference dealt with the politics of war remembering and forgetting, visually and verbally in processes of community healing and social reconciliation. Gladstone Professor of Government Stathis Kalyvas, from the Department of Politics and International Relations and All Souls College (Oxford University) wrapped up the Conference, speaking on theoretical issues, lexicography and analytical categories at stake while studying civil, political and religious violence in inter- and intra-State armed conflicts.

The origin and the impact of labour market institutions in Greece

On 10 June 2019, Daphne Nicolitsas (University of Crete) gave a talk on labour market institutions in Greece, tracing their impact on the loss of competitiveness in the Greek economy and questioning the flexibility of institutions as the labour market reacted with a delay to the downturn in economic activity. David Madden (St Antony’s College, Oxford) acted as the chair.

Labour markets are not frictionless, and dealing with these frictions calls for the establishment of institutions to protect employees from inter alia extreme income volatility. Institutions, Nicolitsas argued, have to be in sync with the context in which they operate however, and thus need to be revised over time. Alternatively, they risk, for example, protecting those who are not in need and delaying the growth process.

The gradual loss in competitiveness in the Greek economy in the years preceding the crisis was not met with institutional reform and likewise there was limited initial reaction of labour markets to the downturn in economic activity. These developments call for an investigation of the role of labour markets institutions in Greece.

The loss in competitiveness became evident in the large deterioration in the current account (the current account deficit as a percent of GDP stood at 15% in 2008) and the increase in unit labour cost at an annual rate of 5% between 2000 and 2008, a rate around three percentage points higher than the EU-15 average. Nicolitsas further added that Greece suffered from structural deficiencies as manifested by, inter alia, the gap between Greece and other EU-15 countries in the ease of doing business and the lack of technological content in Greece’s exports.

Friday 14 June 2019

The diasporas of South East Europe and their role in International Relations

On 12 June, for the 7th consecutive year, Global Strategy Forum invited SEESOX to give a presentation on the region. This drew its inspiration from the Hilary Term seminar series, which constituted a comparative study of the diasporas of South East Europe.

Manolis Pratsinakis described the new South East European diasporas as an outcome of ongoing extended emigration flows from the region over the past three decades. He defined the differing types of migration outflows and explained their historic evolution and their relative size per country of origin. He then linked the data about the migration flows to the demographic profile and the demographic projections of the countries in the region. He also set out the current significance of South East European diasporas, as well as the challenges and opportunities they presented for their respective countries and governments, and for host countries. He highlighted the phenomenon of brain drain; and set migration in the context of free movement within the EU. He concluded on the potential contribution of the South East European diasporas, drawing on examples from the presentations in the SEESOX Hilary Term seminar series.

Foteini Kalantzi continued the comparative focus, with examples of both similarity and dissimilarity. The case of Greece, where emigration resulted from economic crisis, was analysed to show the political participation of Greeks abroad, and specifically their right to vote. The cases of Bosnia and Cyprus illustrated the diversified political engagement of diasporic groups: their activities reflecting a certain readiness to move away from ethnic-nationalist political debates. Members of the Serbian diaspora had often been seen as leaning towards nationalist stances, but recent emigrants showed far more concern for governance issues. In the case of Turkey, internal politics and divisions were reproduced within Turkish communities abroad. The diaspora could be a progressive force seeking peace, reform and resistance to authoritarianism; or a status quo force seeking stability; or a backward force promoting ethnic divisions and nationalistic attitudes.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

7th Annual SEESOX Ambassadors' Forum

On 6 June, in St Antony’s College, Oxford, SEESOX hosted its annual lunch for the Ambassadors of the countries of South East Europe posted in London: the seventh such gathering. A number of topical issues affecting the region were discussed.

In view of the Bulgarian, Romanian and forthcoming Croatian Presidencies of the EU, there was consideration of what the obligations of the rotating Presidency meant for the newer member states of the Union, and how Embassies prepared themselves for these. This led into a discussion of the experiences of longer-term member-states including Austria and Greece.

The successful solution of the Macedonia name dispute was noted and applauded, with an assessment of how the agreement had been reached, and implications for the two countries directly concerned, the region and the EU. This led to a wider discussion of the direction and future of the Union, with a strong focus on the merits of making progress on enlargement. This should not await the prior deepening of the monetary union.

Monday 10 June 2019

Social movements in Greece between past and present

SEESOX co-sponored a conference in Athens on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 April, 2019 at Deree – The American College of Greece. The two-day conference was co-organized by University of Sheffield, University of Exeter, SEESOX, University of Peloponnese, and hosted by The American College of Greece and its Institute of Global Affairs.

Report by Kostis Kornetis
The conference entitled “Greek Social Movements between past and present”, held at DEREE College, Athens, April 5-6, 2019 brought together social scientists, psychologists and anthropologists to discuss grassroots mobilisation in Greece on left and right from 1974 to the present day. It was co-organised by the University of Sheffield, Pierce DEREE Institute, SEESOX, the University of Exeter and the University of the Peloponnese.

The first panel, on “The past and present concept”, adopted a long-term perspective, looking at longer stretches of time to understand current political attitudes, using different approaches and tools: political science, memory studies and social psychology. Marilena Simiti gave a comprehensive story of social activism in Greece between 1974 and 2015, looking at various cycles of protest and changes over time, including a growing transnationalisation of protest, a growing fluidity and heterogeneity of collective identities and non-state centric forms of action. Through an analysis of the student, feminist, ecological, antiglobalisation and square movements, she looked at protest complementing electoral policies. Beginning from the post-junta student movements (bearing the influence of the political parties of the time) the paper ended up with the squares in 2011 that signified a waning of the left-right cleavage and the emergence of a new division between memorandum and anti-memorandum. Eirini Karamouzi and Lamprini Rori combined history with quantitative political science in a longitudinal analysis – in the context of framing theory. The paper brought original questions to the field of anti-Americanism, including how anti-Americanism was linked to pro-Sovietism or pro-Russianism, whether belonging to the Right or Left made a difference, whether party affiliation played a role, and to what extent collective memory over critical events is a driver to adopting an anti-American stance. The paper showed that whereas anti-Americanism was party specific or Left specific until 1993, from then on until 2005 it became widespread. It also argued that collective memory about the past is fading over time. Lastly, the paper by Nikos Takis, Angeliki Skamvetsaki and Vilma Papasavva used tools connected to psychoanalysis and trauma analysis to test the applicability of psychoanalytical theory on the Greek civil war and transgenerational trauma transmission. The paper argued that a resurgence of past trauma occurred during the economic crisis years, boosted and instrumentalised to a large extent by SYRIZA, which insisted on the presence of the memory of the 1940s, using past symbols and frames to polarise.

Friday 7 June 2019

Britain as a model? Turkish politicians’ perceptions of the UK

Dr Yaprak Gürsoy (Aston University), formerly a visiting academic at SEESOX, presented her ongoing research on June 5 2019. Dr Gürsoy’s project is funded by the British Institute at Ankara, an affiliate of the British Academy.

Gürsoy’s research focuses on Turkish politicians’ perceptions of the UK. During the first phase of the project, she carried out extensive elite interviews and analysed the parliamentary minutes of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). While she presented her initial findings from the years 2011-2015, she noted that she was still continuing with the qualitative content analysis.

Gürsoy underlined that the period between 2011-2015 has been marked by important shifts in Turkish politics. Over this period, the AKP was in government with an overwhelming majority. However, the political climate had begun to change. The Gezi events in 2013 represented an unprecedented level of opposition against the AKP government, while the Syrian civil war and its side-effects on Turkey had affected Turkish politics.

Gürsoy then explained the rationale of the project, indicating that, especially after 2016, Anglo-Turkish relations have gained a new importance. Prime Minister Theresa May visited Ankara, President Erdoğan visited London, and the then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson visited Turkey immediately after the 2016 botched coup attempt. While in the post-2016 period Turkey’s relations with most Western countries had deteriorated, Britain had been the notable exception. Turkey is a country of interest for Britain, especially if Brexit materialises, but Britain is also very important for Turkey for various reasons. The Turkish economy is in a precarious state and the financial sector in London is particularly important for Turkish markets. It is in this context that it is important to examine how Turkish decision-makers perceive Britain. Do they hold a positive or negative view? Which issues dominate their views of Britain?

Monday 27 May 2019

Greece in the post-memoranda era: What next?

The 2019 SEESOX Annual Lecture was given by Nikolaos Karamouzis, President of Grant Thornton, Greece, Former Chairman of the Board of Eurobank, Emeritus Professor at the University of Piraeus, and Chair of the SEESOX Hellenic Advisory Board. The lecture offered timely insights into the future of the Greek economy as it resurfaces after many years of EU and IMF memoranda and programmes.

Mr Karamouzis first reviewed the Greek experience of the past few years. GDP fell from 250 billion euros in 2008 to only 185 billion now. The Greek crisis was of unprecedented depth, length and social cost, challenging social cohesion. Unemployment rose from 7% to 27%, private investment fell to one third of pre-crisis levels, and the population fell by half a million due to emigration and a decline in fertility rates. Poverty levels rose to above 30% on the EU’s measure.

Some of this could have been avoided. The competitiveness and fiscal crises were allowed to spill on to the financial side. Banks lost half their deposits—a bigger fall than in Argentina. There were three major capital increases, as capital of the banking system fell from 60 billion euros to zero. NPLs rose to 107 billion euros; even today they account for 45% of total portfolios. The Eurozone institutions stepped in twice, in 2012 and 2105, to keep the banking system working.

Monday 20 May 2019

North Macedonia: The logic of the solution

On the 15th of May, Nikos Kotzias, former Foreign Minister of Greece and Professor at the University of Piraeus, delivered a lecture entitled “North Macedonia: The logic of the solution” on the Macedonian name deal and how the two sides, the Greek and the then Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, came to a successful conclusion. Having Nikos Kotzias, the main architect of the name deal from the Greek side as a speaker at SEESOX, was a rare opportunity to listen to his personal account of the opportunities, the challenges, the process, and the lessons learned that led to a final deal in one of the most intractable foreign policy issues of post-1989 Greece.

Kotzias began by dividing foreign policy approaches into “active” and “passive”, the former aiming at reaching conclusions to foreign policy problems, and the latter leaving matters open-ended. He then went on to argue that a foreign policy which tries to find solutions has to look for compromise, otherwise it ends up prolonging inactivity and becoming hostage to political cost. As Foreign Minister, Kotzias argued that he tried to pursue an active foreign policy on a number of lingering foreign policy matters including the Cyprus issue, Albanian historical bilateral disputes and the Macedonian name deal; it was in the last that he managed to achieve results and agree on a solution with the other side. According to Kotzias, the long-term inability to find a solution with Greece’s northern neighbour had led to a “lose-lose” situation between the two countries, allowing third parties to benefit from the situation at the expense of these two neighbours. Seen in this light, the Macedonian name dispute was becoming a matter of significant geopolitical weight, leading to Turkey’s intrusive role in the then FYROM, competition between the US and Russia over NATO membership, or the long-term fear of the dismemberment of the country.

Monday 13 May 2019

South East Europe’s diaspora: The dark side

On 8 May SEESOX held a seminar examining the dark side of South East European diasporas. The speakers were Dr Liz David-Barrett of Sussex University, Edrin Gjoni (Community Engagement Officer for the Albanian community, Home Office) and John Howell of JH&Co. David Madden chaired.

Dr David-Barrett described corruption as an abuse of entrusted power. It could be ad hoc/transactional or organised/systemic. Systemic corruption was often associated with clientilist policies which in turn provided opportunities for organised crime groups (OCG). Police, border controls/customs, the judiciary and Ministers/civil service were all in a position to provide services to OCG. In return, OCG could provide services to politicians and public officials: protection/localised ‘security’, favourable media coverage, party/campaign donations, bloc votes etc. What were special about diasporas? She advanced three hypotheses. OCG relationships relied heavily on trust, and transnational diaspora networks helped create such trust: facilitated by shared ethnicity /culture/language and by trust reinforcement mechanisms eg threats to family “back home”. Secondly, OCG relied on access to markets and resources, and diasporas could provide economic opportunities and local knowledge; and were vulnerable to extortion. Third, loyalty and a “small town” mentality, which reduced the readiness to inform on compatriots.

Monday 22 April 2019

Cypriot and Greek diasporas in comparative perspectives

The Diaspora workshop which took place on Sunday 7 April in Nicosia, Cyprus mainly focused on Cypriot diasporas. The workshop was opened by Isik Kuscu Bonnenfant, who introduced the British Academy funded project titled ‘Reuniting Cyprus: The British Cypriot Diaspora as Peace Agents’. The team is interested to conduct the project by looking into the diasporas as peace agents in the reunification of Cyprus. Some of the core questions of this project that Neophytos Loizides analysed concentrated on the diaspora’s political engagement. Important research questions focus on the participation of the diaspora in a prospective referendum, on diaspora’s representation in the elections, and on the properties issue. Other presentations dealt with different aspects of the relation between diaspora and homeland in conflict. Themes covered were Turkish Cypriot diaspora electoral demands post 2004 (Isik Kuscu and Hayriye Kavheci), the transformation of Turkish Cypriot diaspora in Turkey and student peace activism (Yucel Vural and Ibrahim Ozejder), the role of post-1974 diaspora intellectuals redefining new reunification narratives (Nicos Trimikliniotis), and on the myths surrounding size of Cypriot diasporas (Mete Hatay). Foteini Kalantzi gave a presentation entitled ‘The Greek Diaspora at SEESOX: Homeland – Diaspora Nexus in times of deep economic crisis’ in the panel ‘Cypriot Diasporas in Comparative Perspectives’. She presented the project’s three main areas of investigation, namely the new emigration, diasporic philanthropy and diasporic political engagement. She also spoke of the project’s methodological innovations, namely the survey with the respondent-driven sampling, the commission work and the digital map.

Monday 11 March 2019

Diasporas and peace mediations: Cypriots abroad and the reunification process

Professor Neophytos Loizides of Kent University gave a seminar on this subject on 6 March. David Madden chaired.

Professor Loizides set out the historical context and development of the Cypriot diaspora, and the specifics of the current debate. These included demands for participation in a future referendum, political and electoral rights of diaspora citizens now and in a reunited Cyprus, and the “right of return” including property considerations. The inclusion of diasporas and their views in a peace settlement were seen as essential (interconnectedness, evolution of international human rights law, the diaspora’s own potential role in reunification efforts); but the (perceived and regularly inflated) size of the diasporas often cause resistance in extending voting rights to diasporic Cypriots. More broadly, the Cypriot conflict was largely defined by diasporic experience (Internally displaced persons, settlers, refugees): but the very different histories of these groups provided important challenges for the peace process. Research challenged the views of diasporas as agents of conflict and non-cooperation. There were multiple examples of diaspora activists for peace, and diaspora returnees who supported bicommunalism. The 2004 Annan plan referendum was a wake-up call for the diasporas and demonstrated their strong desire to be involved in Cypriot politics, including naturally in discussion of property compensation(which could amount to at least 12 billion Euros).

Friday 8 March 2019

Anti-gender movements in Europe and the case of Turkey

On 5 March 2019, Alev Özkazanç presented her work on Anti-gender movements in Europe and the case of Turkey. The session was chaired by Othon Anastasakis.

Özkazanç began by defining anti-gender movements (AGM) and outlining their main features. AGMs started making their appearance in 2010 and gained massive support around 2012-14. Followers of these movements protest against what they call “gender ideology” i.e. what they see as an attempt by the neoliberal order to destroy family values by overpromoting the position of women against that of men. More specifically, AGMs target many aspects of gender equality policies, mostly concentrating on reproductive rights, LGBT rights and same sex marriage and sex education for children. “Gender ideology” is considered to pose a serious threat to the very fabric of society.

The phenomenon is widespread and occurs not only in Europe, but in the USA and Latin America. The movements are in most instances grassroots and locally based, and usually, but not necessarily, triggered by the Catholic Church.

While gender is the focus of AGMs, gender is used rather as a metaphor to stand for the entire progressive agenda. The narrative of anti-genderism is mostly based on the populist dichotomy of “ordinary people” against the “global powers” of transnational organisations and corporations that are held responsible for the dissemination of and imposition of the liberal world view.

Friday 1 March 2019

Securitisation of migration in the EU: The case of Greece

On 26 February 2019, Foteini Kalantzi (A.G. Leventis Research Officer at the Diaspora Project in SEESOX, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, for the academic year 2018-19), gave a talk on the topic of “Securitisation of migration in the EU: The case of Greece”.

Kalantzi’s talk centred around the idea of the evolution of state attitudes towards migration, resulting in a shared tendency she called “securitisation”. The EU as a whole has considered the challenges and concerns caused by migration as a security challenge – especially since the 2004 and 2005 terrorist attacks in Madrid and London respectively. Her case study is Greece, which had to comply with EU rules on migration, including border controls, visa policy and the fight against illegal immigration, especially within the context of the Schengen Treaty. The paper traces the country’s own attitudes towards migration from 2000 and up until 2014, against the background of the dramatic changes Greece underwent after the onset of the economic crisis in 2009. The methodology used was based on discourse analysis of three major newspapers (Kathimerini, To Vima and Ta Nea) and parliamentary debates, as well as interviews with activists and people involved in various capacities in the migration waves since the early 2000s. Using these sources, she tried to look at the ways in which migration was linked to security issues in the public sphere, especially by elites.

Articulating identity options: Eastern and Southern European migrants in Britain

On 27 February 2019, in the seventh of the Diaspora seminar series, Laura Morosanu (University of Sussex) spoke on Articulating identity options: Eastern and Southern European migrants in Britain. The seminar was chaired by Jonathan Scheele (St Antony’s College, Oxford), with Manolis Pratsinakis (DPIR, Oxford) as discussant.

Morosanu’s paper was based on qualitative research carried out in the framework of a wider Horizon 2020 funded project on youth mobility in Europe (YMOBILITY), drawing on preliminary analysis of 77 interviews with younger migrants (in the 18-35 age bracket at point of migration); the interviews focused on a range of topics, including their perceptions of identity and where they felt they belonged. The presentation compared interviewees from Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Italy, resident in London, Oxford and Brighton.

She drew on literature originally from the USA (Waters), where ethnicity choices among “white” ethnics (of European background) were, in contrast to non-white minorities, often symbolic and seen as optional, and frequently a source of pride. She also referred to literature on “everyday” cosmopolitanism. The advance of globalisation and increasing cross-border mobility had contributed to a growing interest in cosmopolitan identities, and the concept of “rooted” cosmopolitanism, which sees these as compatible with ethnic choices. The research aimed to address the saliency of national and ethnic identities of European migrants in the UK and highlight other identities in their narratives, as well as the factors shaping their identity options.

Friday 22 February 2019

Gendering Remittances: Women`s empowerment in Albania

On 20 February 2019, SEESOX hosted a seminar by Dr Julie Vullnetari (University of Southampton), entitled Gendering Remittances: Women`s Empowerment in Albania. The Discussant was Emre Eren Korkmaz (Department of International Development, Oxford) and the Chair Alev Ozkazanc (St Antony`s College, Oxford).
In her presentation, Vullnetari first gave a general statistical picture of the state of family remittances worldwide, then explaining the Albanian context of migration, drawing on her long-term research and academic engagement in the country. Finally, she went through the key findings of the research project she had conducted in 2007-2009, together with Prof. Russell King, for UN-Women.
Albania is one of the most interesting case studies given the massive scale of internal and international migration after the 1990s (9% of its resident population lost since 1989, mainly to Greece and Italy) and the significance of family remittances as a share of the country’s GDP. As regards the fiscal and economic significance of the remittances, she noted that the total amount was €1. 16 bn in 2017, or 10.8% of Albania`s GDP. At a micro-level, existing research has found that financial remittances constitute as much as 42% of recipient households` total income in the surveyed sample.

Friday 15 February 2019

How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship

On 14 February at SEESOX Ece Temelkuran launched her latest book “How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship”. There was a large and enthusiastic audience.

Ece said that there were many books on populism. This was an attempt to get beyond the echo chambers, and also to speak to people without access to academic information.

There were three discussants. Ceren Lord commented that Turkey was not unique but was a text-book case of right wing populism, with a leader appealing to the “real people”, manufacturing victimhood, and presenting the “lesser evil”. Murat Belge liked the book. It was easily read and had a nimble pace: but was full of substance and informative. He agreed that Turkey was far from an isolated case. He had only one criticism: the reference to “democracy” as the starting point of the current Turkish dive into authoritarianism. Laurent Mignon pointed to the role of opposition politicians, and the role of religion, in the rise of populism.

In answer to these points, and other questions, Ece rhetorically asked how idiotic projects prevailed. Farage and Brexit were an example. How had mankind become so evil and stupid. There was undoubtedly a fear factor. Also, populism appealed to the “we” not the “I”. Populists used/abused concepts like security, home, dignity, protection. In their minds human dignity morphed into pride. They also misused the natural search for a meaning to life, and persuaded people to join their “cause” without explaining what it was.

Social protection and return migration: The Albanian-Greek migration corridor

On 13 February 2019, Zana Vathi (Edge Hill University) spoke on social protection and return migration, focusing on the case of the Albanian-Greek migration corridor. Biao Xiang (University of Oxford) acted as discussant.

Return migration to Albania has critically intensified in the past few years, due to the economic crisis in the different European countries to which many Albanians have migrated since the beginning of the 1990s, notably Greece, the country hit the hardest by the crisis and where the largest number of Albanian migrants have settled since the early 1990s. Based on qualitative research with migrants, their children and key informants in Albania, Zana explored the experiences of the returnees with social protection and their positionality towards social protection stakeholders. She argued that, despite return migration being overlooked in the social protection literature, her case study shows that return migration may be planned and experienced as a complex social protection strategy. In turn, social protection experiences are central to migrants’ perception of their return and (re)settlement process.

Friday 8 February 2019

Fragmented communities: Diaspora politics in the Turkish-speaking community

The seminar on 6 February, on ‘Fragmented Communities: Diaspora Politics in the Turkish-speaking community’, focused on the current dynamics of the Turkish-speaking diaspora and their political engagement, viewed from a historical perspective in the UK context. Dr Mustafa Cakmak (Keele University) also offered a view of the new ways in which a new diaspora is generated via exclusionary political practices. Reflecting on the dramatic increase in the number of migrants and asylum seekers from Turkey since the failed coup in 2016, he discussed the new diaspora in the making. He also explained how long-distance nationalism functions, providing several examples of political engagement of major political groups among the Turkish-speaking diaspora. The other dimension he focused on was how the Turkish state tries to mobilise the diaspora in order to strengthen its power both at home and with its European and international counterparts.

His analysis was based on empirical data gathered through ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews of civil society leaders, activists and volunteers in community centres, political associations, and religious centres of the Turkish-speaking communities in the UK.

Monday 4 February 2019

Contested diasporic identities in times of crisis: The Other Bulgaria in the UK

On 30 January 2019, Dr. Elena Genova (University of Nottingham) spoke on “Contested diasporic identities in times of crisis: The Other Bulgaria in the UK”. Her presentation was based on her paper entitled “(New) Bulgarian Enlighteners and Ambassadors? The Reinvention of National Identity in Times of Crisis”. The session was chaired by Mehmet Karli (St Antony’s College). Manolis Pratsinakis (DPIR) acted as discussant.

Genova explored the intersection of the discourses produced by the European crises and migrants’ national identity. She argued that both the context of Brexit Britain and the Bulgarian context of socio-economic instability and political volatility, subject Bulgarian migrants to stigmatizing representations. Relying on her empirical data, she submitted that young Bulgarians drew on the related ideas of the “new” Enlightener and Ambassador to counterbalance negative discourses.

She began by stating that the Bulgarian diaspora was subject to a double-sided “othering”. Not only were they affected by the strong Eurosceptic sentiments in Britain, but also they were seen as ‘guests’ in Bulgaria too. Hence the title “Other Bulgaria”. After laying down the theoretical underpinnings of her research, with references to the discursive approach of Hall - the identity is about becoming not about being - and Elliott - reinvention of the self - Genova laid the ground of her analysis by giving the estimated number of Bulgarians in Britain; these were estimated at48.000, but in some estimates the number could be as high as 100.000.

Friday 1 February 2019

The intergenerational memories of the democratic transition in post-junta Greece

On the 29th of January 2019, Kostis Kornetis, Santander fellow at the European Studies Centre for the academic year 2018-19, gave a talk on the topic of “The intergenerational memories of the democratic transition in post-junta Greece”. In his lecture, Kornetis asked “what is the role of memory of transition to democracy in Greece?” “How is the past remembered among the different generations?” and “Why does this matter?”
Starting from the present, Kornetis pointed out that during the course of Greece’s post-2009 economic crisis, we observed a generalised and influential discourse about Greece’s past which was often used for political purposes. The memory of the Greek transition from the military junta to democracy was the one central historical reference during the economic crisis, in that it was often used as a criticism for an imperfect transition which was to blame for the ills of the present. It is indicative that, in July 2017, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras claimed in one of his speeches that “what Greece needed, was a new metapolitefsi” implicitly pointing to the failures of this process. 
Kornetis emphasised that particular developments, such as the Polytechnic uprising of 1973, the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the return of Karamanlis to Greece, were amenable to passionate and controversial memory discourses for the generations to come. 

Friday 25 January 2019

Transnational citizenship: Views of Serbia’s active diaspora

On 23 January 2019, Tena Preleć (University of Sussex) gave a seminar concerning the Serbian diaspora. This seminar was chaired by Ezgi Başaran, with SEESOX Director Othon Anastasakis as discussant. Preleć began by defining what she describes as the “active diaspora”. According to her, the active diaspora includes those diaspora members who took, or wanted to take, part in the voting process.  

Preleć’s paper was based on two surveys conducted around the 2017 Serbian presidential elections. Also taking into account the results of the diaspora voting in the elections, she argued that the Serbian diaspora’s political views had changed from the 1990s, where the prevalent political ideology among Serbs living abroad had been nationalistic. She outlined the results of the surveys as follows:

Firstly, the Serbian diaspora decisively rejects the course the country has taken.

Secondly, the top concerns for the Serbian diaspora relate to governance, rather than geopolitical issues.

Thirdly, Serbs living abroad highlighted a wide-ranging set of issues concerning the voting procedure, which hindered their ability to participate in the vote.  

Friday 18 January 2019

Diaspora entrepreneurs and contested states

On 16 January 2019, Maria Koinova (University of Warwick) opened this year’s SEESOX Hilary Term seminar series - Comparative Diasporas - on the topic of “Diaspora Entrepreneurs and Contested States”. Koinova drew on her 5-year long ERC Starting Grant project “Diasporas and contested Sovereignty”, which focused on the homeland-oriented political mobilization of 6 diasporas (Albanian, Armenian, Bosnian, Kurdish, Iraqi and Palestinian) whose homelands experience contested sovereignty. The project involved research across five different host countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK) as well as at the EU level. Koinova explored the question: under what conditions and by way of which causal mechanisms do different diaspora entrepreneurs mobilize in contentious and non-contentious ways, or use a two-pronged strategy simultaneously, when connected to contested states? Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College) acted as discussant.

Koinova defined the notion of the diaspora entrepreneur and outlined the methodological approach and comparative scope of her study of the Kosovo Albanian, Armenian and Palestinian conflict-generated diasporas to de facto states, based on more than 300 interviews in 50 locations in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Kosovo and Armenia, which she conducted between 2012-2017. She put forward the central findings of her research: a novel typology of diaspora entrepreneurs, based on their socio-spatial linkages to different global contexts, not simply to home-states and host-states, and a two-level typological theory, accounting for the causal pathways in which these diaspora entrepreneurs participate to pursue homeland-oriented goals with more or less contention, and through host-state, transnational and supranational channels. Despite the fact that diaspora entrepreneurs appear to be well integrated into their host-societies, they mobilize differently, as they respond in their own ways to stimuli from a political environment, relevant to them. This diversity raises the need to delve deeper into existing competing claims that diasporas become transnationally engaged when more or less integrated into their host-societies. Koinova’s account shows the conditions and causal mechanisms, which shape their transnational behaviours.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Paddy Ashdown’s legacy for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Paddy Ashdown played a special role in the life of SEESOX. He visited SEESOX on a number of occasions: for a briefing/discussion session before taking up his appointment as UN High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH); for a launch of his book describing his experiences in BiH, Swords and Ploughshares; and to speak at our Tenth Anniversary celebrations in 2012. When a SEESOX team gave a presentation on BiH at the Global Strategy Forum in London, Paddy was guest speaker at the lunch following the event.

Adis Merdzanovic was a Visiting Fellow at St Antony’s, and a core member of Team SEESOX during his time at the College. He interviewed Paddy for his book on BiH, Democracy by Decree. Here is his tribute to Paddy.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the British Liberal Democrats and from 2002-2006 High Representative (HR) of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), has died aged 77. While British obituaries focus (see, for example, here and here) on his impact on domestic politics and credit him with turning the Liberal Democrats into a true political power in Westminster, people in the Balkans remember his engagement in their region. During the war in Yugoslavia, he visited the besieged city of Sarajevo and, after a dinner in London, he leaked to the press a map Croatia’s president Franjo Tuđman had drawn on a menu, outlining the planned partition of BiH between Serbia and Croatia.