South East Europe in danger
BSSB.BE SEESOX 05.06.2018
Balkans Danube Ex-USSR
* In the face of numerous geopolitical challenges in the neighbourhood, the EU is lacking a sense of orientation, and South East Europe as the frontline region is vulnerable.
SEESOX Seminar Series: South East European realities amid Europe’s multiple crises South East Europe currently finds itself confronted with numerous external crises, including the Eurozone, the refugee influx, crises in the eastern and southern neighbourhoods, as well as internal political, constitutional or economic. In SEESOX’s Hilary term Seminar Series, we wish to look at how the region has been coping or not coping with these multiple crises and what domestic developments or strategies may either prevent or enable appropriate political responses. The seminar series will address some of the acute problems affecting Europe, as seen especially from a South Eastern European perspective, and combine the thematic (refugee, economic and political crises) with the country specific approaches.
Othon Anastasakis asked whether we are seeing the return of geopolitics. He pointed to the multiple crises that are affecting Europe at the moment, including the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis and the external crises in the neighbourhood. In the face of numerous geopolitical challenges in the neighbourhood, the EU is lacking a sense of orientation, and South East Europe as the frontline region is vulnerable. Russia in the region does not have a strategic orientation but a more tactical ad hoc approach. For their part, some Western Balkan states and Greece are often playing the Russian card vis a vis the EU, not always successfully.
Anastasakis addressed the negative impact of the geopolitical environment on the domestic politics of the countries and pointed to the fact that the region is also surrounded by a triangle of illiberalism and semi-authoritarianism to the east and the south. Finally, there were two rays of “geopolitical” hope: the fact that, the region, including Turkey, is more dependent on the EU in the face of the rising threats; and the intercommunal dialogue in Cyprus.
Kalypso Nicolaidis said that geopolitics and geo-economics had become more important for the region and the world. Fear of existential threats had grown and become more amorphous. Both Greece and Turkey threatened to become black holes, and had been tempted to use this threat to their advantage: but then had shown signs of returning to a more familiar relationship with core Europe. They resembled the limes of the Roman Empire: gateways and bulwarks.
Neil MacFarlane was doubtful about talk of hope. He commented that Geopolitics had never departed from the former Soviet region of the Caucasus. Fear (rational or irrational) had long been present in international relations. One state’s neighbourhood was another state’s backyard. The Caucasus was the definition of a difficult and dangerous neighbourhood: three small states with problematic bilateral relations (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), surrounded by three big ones with divergent interests (Russia, Iran and Turkey).
Richard Caplan also questioned whether Fear and Hope captured the essence of the situation. He saw the Geopolitics of indifference, especially by the bigger Western powers: US, Germany, UK, France. This was partly because of other threats and challenges: Syria, refugees, Russia. There was also a natural pattern of alternation between engagement and disengagement. The West had dropped the ball in both BiH and Kosovo. He agreed that Cyprus was more promising.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: SEESOX