Total Pageviews

Monday 30 November 2020

The US after Trump: The prospective Biden presidency, Trumpism and partisan crisis


The US after Trump: The prospective Biden presidency, Trumpism and partisan crisis

On 26 November, at the conclusion of the annual meeting of SEESOX’s Hellenic Advisory Board, there was an online discussion entitled "The US after Trump: The prospective Biden presidency, Trumpism and partisan crisis". The speaker was Professor Desmond King of Oxford University, and the discussant was Despina Afentouli of NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division. The Chair of the Advisory Board, Alexandros Sarrigeorgiou, introduced the session and the speakers; and the subsequent Q&A period was coordinated by the Director of SEESOX, Othon Anastasakis.

Professor King looked closely at the electoral statistics and their consequences. At home, Joe Biden's priorities would be the economy and management of the pandemic. Control of the Senate, which depended on the outcome of the two elections in Georgia, was crucial. Democratic control would allow Biden to pass his essential tax and financial bills. 

Abroad, the election of Joe Biden would give a new impetus to Washington-Brussels relations: at a time of tectonic changes, in which the challenges following the covid-19 pandemic would go beyond the Euro-Atlantic context and require an international response.

US relations with Europe would change, but would not be entirely straight-forward, given the need to try and find a common approach to Russia, and also agree trade deals.

Friday 27 November 2020

30 years on: The end of the road for ex-Communist elites in South East Europe?

This SEESOX webinar took place on the evening of 25 November. The speakers were Eli Gateva (Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford); Mihail Chiru (Oxford School of Global and Area Studies); and Milos Damnjanovic (freelance political analyst). Jonathan Scheele (SEESOX) chaired.

  Eli Gateva covered Bulgaria. The next Parliamentary elections were due in March 2021 (though this might be delayed until May for pandemic-related reasons). The democratic transition in Bulgaria had started in November 1989, following an internal coup in the Bulgarian Communist Party which led to the ousting of Todor Zhivkov. In contrast to Central European countries, the dissent movement in Bulgaria was relatively weak. The Union of Democratic Forces  (SDS) won 36% of the vote in the first democratic elections.  The successors to the Communist Party were the Bulgarian Socialists; and there was a two-party system along the lines of ex-Communists vs non-Communists. In 2001 there was a new party , the National Movement Simeon the Second party (NDSV) ,based around the former King, and later other new parties. The centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, was established in 2006. It had won the 2009 Parliamentary elections, and had been in power since (with a brief interruption in 2013). Currently Borissov was in his third term as PM.  Characteristics of the Bulgarian state were: weak state capacity, patronage, informal networks, the nexus of political and economic elites, and corruption . In the summer of 2020 an MP from Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, tried to disembark on an illegally enclosed beach on the sea near Burgas and was prevented from swimming by bodyguards of the elite. This had galvanised protests and popular support for the rule of law. New parties had appeared: eg There Are Such People, Stand.UpBG, and Bulgarian Summer. There was still sharp focus on high level corruption and governmental weaknesses exposed by the pandemic. The outlook was volatile and uncertain.

Thirty years on: The end of the road for ex-communist elites in Spoth East Europe?


Monday 23 November 2020

From the ashes of Moria refugee camp to a new migration system?


From the ashes of Moria refugee camp to a new migration system?

On 18 November 2020, SEESOX held the webinar ‘From the ashes of Moria refugee camp to a new migration system?’ with the aim of problematising the EU’s migration governance system and critically discussing the prospects for the new migration pact announced in late September 2020 in the aftermath of the Moria catastrophe. The seminar was convened by Foteini Kalantzi and brought together Angeliki Dimitriadi (ELIAMEP), Franck Düvell, (Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), Osnabruck University) and Elzbieta Gozdziak, (Centre for Migration Studies (CeBaM),Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań).

Dimitriadi began by exploring the circumstances and structural causes that made the Moria camp such a dangerous and inhumane place and led to its eventual destruction by fire. Moria was very much a product of EU policy and of the way the EU-Turkey Statement was structured and implemented. This, along with the unwillingness of other EU member states to show solidarity in relation to the relocation of refugees, resulted in significant pressure being exerted on Greece. Yet a large portion of the responsibility also rested with consecutive Greek governments which have approached migration as a problem that needs to be stopped through border control. They endorsed the so-called ‘deterrence approach’, i.e. the idea that conditions in reception centers should not be good to prevent further inflows, which helps explain why such inhumane conditions persisted in Moria. The situation was exacerbated with the toughening of migration policy in summer to 2019. This led to the further securitization of migration, while legislative changes were implemented to allow for quicker return decisions in the asylum process. Finally, the pandemic further worsened the already very poor conditions in hotspots.

Monday 16 November 2020

Black Sea gas: Economic and geopolitical implications

On 11 November 2020, SEESOX held its third webinar of the Michaelmas Term. Chaired by Othon Anastasakis and Okan Yardimci (both St Antony’s College), it brought together a distinguished panel of experts  - Dimitar Bechev (DPIR, Oxford; Russia Institute, King’s College London), Jonathan Lamb (Wood and Co., London), and Anna Mikulska (Baker Institute, Houston, Kleinman Center, University of Pennsylvania) to discuss recent large natural gas finds in the Black Sea.

Anastasakis set the stage by noting that the Black Sea has become even more strategically important since Turkey unveiled the biggest-ever natural gas find in the Black Sea, Sakarya field, in August 2020, with potential to deliver more than 400 billion cubic metres of gas. This has caused a stir in other littoral countries and neighbors, and a key question is whether the Black Sea discoveries can be handled in a more collaborative way than the conflictful gas development in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Yardimci added perspective on the importance of the find. While deep-water natural gas was first discovered in the Black Sea by Romania in 2012, the Neptun block has still not been commercialized. Turkey’s find is ten times as big (though much smaller than identified reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean) and it plans to begin gas production as early as 2023. Since fossil fuels still account for more than 80 percent of the region’s energy use—a high dependency unlikely to change rapidly—the gas find can significantly change the energy mix and Turkey’s relations with traditional energy suppliers. Leaving aside Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the maritime border has been much more stable than in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Migration Diplomacy: Conceptual and historical perspectives

On 5 November 2020, “Oxford-Berlin Partnership: Migration Diplomacy and Turkey-EU Relations” project held its second online brainstorming meeting. The research project is carried out by SEESOX at the University of Oxford, Humboldt University, and the Berlin-based German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM). The meeting was chaired by Othon Anastasakis and Mehmet Karli (both St. Antony’s College) and it brought together three speakers: Fiona Adamson (SOAS University of London), Ferruccio Pastore (Director of FIERI), and Juliette Tolay (Penn State Harrisburg).

Anastasakis introduced the project to the participants by referring to its aims: examining the issues related to Turkey’s foreign policy and the country’s relations with the EU in the shadow of the migration crisis, and also preparing an application for a larger research grant. He recalled the first online meeting that was held on 30 June 2020, which focused on the domestic drivers of Turkey’s migration diplomacy. The goal of the current meeting was to discuss and exchange views on the conceptual and historical perspectives on migration diplomacy, and the speakers and participants were prompted with the following questions:

- How do you conceptualize migration diplomacy?

- How is migration diplomacy linked with foreign policy making?

- What are the linkages between migration diplomacy and geopolitical considerations?

- Where do you think there is need for more research in this field? Where do you think there is a gap in the literature on migration diplomacy and its history?

The first speaker, Fiona Adamson, presented answers to these questions by making references to the insights gained from her and Gerasimos Tsourapas’ work on the issue. She stated that the aim of migration diplomacy research is to expand the field of migration studies, and making use of classical IR theories to look at issues of interstate bargaining over migration; in other words, to understand how migration fits in interstate relations and geopolitics. She suggested a definition of migration diplomacy: state use of diplomatic tools, processes, and procedures to manage cross-border population mobility, and/or state instrumentalization of migration to achieve other diplomatic and strategic interests. Noting that migration diplomacy is not synonymous with migration policy, and that we are trying to limit the scope of analysis to interstate relations, she noted that we are taking a realist/rationalist focus on relations between states or state-like actors such as international organizations.

Monday 9 November 2020

Exploring Turkey’s disinformation ecosystem

On 28 October 2020, SEESOX held its second webinar of the Michaelmas Term. Chaired by Mehmet Karli (St Antony’s College), it brought together two speakers - Akin Ünver (Oxford Internet Institute; Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University) and Afşin Yurdakul (Haberturk News Network) - with Ezgi Başaran (St Antony’s College, Oxford) as discussant. The webinar drew on the findings of a recently-completed research project on Turkey’s digital media ecosystem carried out by EDAM, one of the leading independent think-tanks in Turkey, and funded by the US based Chrest Foundation.

Karli noted that digital media was now an increasing factor in electoral politics, and its use with the intention to mislead created what he characterised as “disinformation warfare”. While there was plenty of literature on such developments in the USA and western Europe, there was little or nothing on Turkey. At the same time, Turkey ranked among the most active countries in using social media for political communication purposes, and successive crises, such as the failed coup attempt in July 2016, terrorist attacks, elections, and protests had been heavily ‘digitally mediated’. But Turkey was also one of the most vulnerable countries to disinformation, bot usage, and cyber-attacks. How could this be dealt with?