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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.