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Monday 17 May 2021

Challenges and opportunities for the Biden Administration in South East Europe

On 13 May, SEESOX hosted, jointly with the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard, a webinar on Challenges and Opportunities for the Biden Administration in South East Europe. Speakers were Thomas Countryman (former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for the Balkans), Valerie Hopkins (former South East Europe Correspondent for the Financial Times), and Ivan Vejvoda (Head of Europe’s Futures Programme, Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna). Othon Anastasakis (SEESOX) and Elaine Papoulias (Minda de Gunzberg Center) co-chaired.

Countryman began by underlining that the aims of US policy in the region had remained unchanged across different administrations since Dayton: to support the aspirations of West Balkan countries to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic structures (NATO, EU) and prevent any recurrence of conflict. Thus, while there would be no significant policy change from Trump to Biden, the new administration would seek to restore US credibility with its allies and in its alliances. He pointed out that, even under Trump, and despite frictions with Richard Grenell, the US and EU had in fact worked well together and achieved results – the North Macedonia name issue, Montenegro accession to NATO, and Albania’s progress towards EU accession. However, the EU accession perspective had lost credibility (Kosovo non-recognition by some EU member states, hesitations over opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia), while Hungary’s Potemkin democracy did not encourage reform in SEE.

Monday 10 May 2021

Emigration states, existential sovereignty, and migrant responses

On 6 May the first seminar of the joint SEESOX/COMPAS Trinity Term Seminar Series ‘The Politics of Emigration: Representations and contestations’ took place, addressing the theme ‘Emigration states, existential sovereignty, and migrant responses’. The panel included Dace Dzenovska (University of Oxford) and Elena Genova (University of Nottingham) and was chaired by Manolis Pratsinakis.

The presentation of Dzenovska was based on a chapter in the edited volume The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty by R. Bryant and M. Reeves. Drawing on ethnographic research on Latvian migrants in the UK, she argued that sovereignty should not be seen solely as an attribute of state power but also as a claim and desire exhibited by people. According to Dzenovska, Latvians consider the Latvian cultural nation and the state as embattled. This sense of embattlement is a legacy of the Russian occupation and derives from two threats: proximity to Russia as a potential aggressor, and the presence of a large Russian-speaking minority in the territory of Latvia. However, in the post-socialist period another threat appeared; Latvia lost one third of its population to emigration, which intensified existential fears about the viable existence of Latvia as both a people and a state.