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Friday 19 June 2020

Greek diasporas and the pandemic

The webinar ‘Diaspora and the pandemic’ took place on 16 June 2020. It was co-convened by Othon Anastasakis (SEESOX) and Foteini Kalantzi (SEESOX). The goal of this webinar was to discuss and exchange views on the current unfolding crisis related to the pandemic and how this is connected with Greek diasporic issues.

The first speaker, Professor Alexander Kitroeff (Haverford College) compared the Greek-American community’s responses to past crises, namely World War II and the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey in 1974. He highlighted the fact that conditions in the host country and society shape to a considerable degree the readiness and capacity of the diaspora community to come to the aid of the homeland. That being said, different diaspora organisations, depending on their scope, size and strength, vary in the way they respond to a homeland crisis.

The US’s engagement in WW II, and the rising affluence of the Greek-American community as a result of the economic demand boosted by the war effort, meant that Greek-Americans were politically, societally and economically ready to come to the aid of their compatriots - and they did. The organization they founded for this purpose, the War Relief Association, benefited from both the engagement of leading Greek-Americans such Spyros Skouras, President of 20th Century Fox, as well as by the commitment of the community’s mass organisations, particularly AHEPA. Likewise, the effort of the Greek-American lobby to curtail the provision of military equipment to Turkish armed forces in the mid to late 1970s benefited from the post-Watergate rollback of Presidential power effected by the US Congress. During the fiscal crisis, efforts to assist Greece have been less focused, and organisationally more diffuse, perhaps reflecting the crisis itself, unfolding in comparatively slower motion and with its negative effects, distributed more widely and less visibly and starkly, as opposed to the effects of armed conflict. Turning to the pandemic, the Greek-American community has been favourably impressed by the efficiency of the public policy response of the Greek government. The shambolic nature of the management of the pandemic crisis in the US itself has had contrasting effects.

Friday 12 June 2020

Geopolitical challenges in the Balkans in the shadow of the pandemic

On 10 June 2020, SEESOX held its first public webinar of the very disrupted Trinity Term. Speakers on the theme of “Geopolitical challenges in the Balkans in the shadow of the pandemic” were Arolda Elbasani (New York University, New York), Dimitar Bechev (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Anastas Vangeli (ChinaMed Project, Turin World Affairs Institute). The discussion was co-chaired by Othon Anastasakis (SEESOX Director) and Jessie Barton-Hronesova (Oxford Department of International Development).

Anasatasakis introduced the discussion by recalling the SEESOX Hilary Term Seminar Series on Security Challenges in South East Europe in a changing geopolitical context. This had covered three broad topics, but today’s webinar would address only one of them – the role of external actors. He summarised the points raised in the series, which served as both a background to today’s discussion and the status quo ante for the post COVID 19 picture we now face.

The new geopolitical picture in the Balkans challenged many traditional assumptions: that regional security was based on territorially defined borders and old nationalistic feuds; that political elites, diplomacy and military means were the main actors, working in a top down approach; and that external actors behaved in a unified way. Against this background, he asked the panellists to consider three questions:

1. What kind of influences/interferences/support from EU/China/Russia have we seen across the region since the start of the pandemic?

2. What have been the domestic reactions to competing interventions during the pandemic?

3. Do we see a significant impact emerging out of this competing set of influences? Do we expect things to change in the future and how?