Following the BRICS summit in Xiamen, ESR Ali Lantukh was invited to comment on Russian perspectives of the event by IAPS Dialogue, the online magazine of the Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies. Her article, entitled “Xiamen BRICS Summit: The View From Russia,” is available to read online here.
This week, Carnegie Europe’s Judy Dempsey asked experts on her blog for insights on the question: Is the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal on the Ropes? PRIMO ESR Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti (Middle East Technical University) argues that even though EU-Turkey relations are currently strained, strategic interests between Brussels and Ankara prevail. In particular, Turkey needs financial resources provided by the EU and should remain wary of overdependence from Russia.
Read the full piece here.
(by Manaíra Assunção)
After six method workshops since the beginning of the Marie Curie doctoral training programme, the final PRIMO workshop brought a practical reflection on how to build an inclusive perspective on international politics, specifically on analytical and methodological tools for research on rising powers and conducting field research in rising powers. The workshop was held at Saint Petersburg State University at the Department of World Economy, between 26th and 28th June 2017.
Under the heading “How to practice global IR?” the Marie Curie early stage researchers (ESRs) together with experienced researchers delivered an input and a discussion paper for each of the scheduled sessions. The overall goal was to bring concrete examples on how research has been conducted either in the context of the ESRs’ doctoral theses or of the research projects and professional experiences of the external experts. It was a hands-on debate on how to apply the respective approach or method, exposing its strengths and weaknesses, and outlining potential methodological and practical challenges whilst conducting field research.
Quick off was the session on Interpretative Policy Analysis (IPA) with an input paper provided by ESR Insa Ewert on the European Commission’s discursive practices towards China and with Dr. Xymena Kurowska (Central European University Budapest) as discussant. Between the different traditions within IPA the hermeneutic approach was stressed the most. Accordingly, meanings in policy making are not defined a priori but reconstructed from within the policymaking process whilst the researcher learns what is meaningful to the policy actors under investigation. Moreover, the implications when conducting research and exposing research results once conflicts arise in the process of data generation were discussed. In the afternoon session Prof. Dirk Nabers (University of Kiel) and ESR Mónica Rodríguez de Luna raised reflections on Discourse Analysis. Whilst Mónica placed emphasis on Critical Discourse Analysis and Post-structural Discourse Theory giving concrete examples from her research on climate politics in Brazil, Prof. Nabers presented the notion of “corpus linguistics” to inquire the structure, generation of meaning within discourses and dominant signifiers. Day 1 ended with a marvellous boat trip and a historical city guide, organized by Dr. Alexandra Koval and the University’s department hosting the event.
On the second day, Dr. Beatrix Futák-Campbell (Leiden University) comprehensively discussed the “bread and butter of social science” research: Qualitative interviews. Treating interviews as social interactions and showing examples from her research, she highlighted the implications for interview transcripts, as well, as the limitations concerning memory and generalizability if only relying on individual participant’s accounts. ESR Martin Pioch picked up questions with regards to expert interviews and the highly institutionalized settings these interviews take place, for example within his study on the BRICS and the WTO. Last but not least, ESRs Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti and Ali Lantukh talked about their experiences as young female researchers Conducting field research in the East of the EU. Through a discussion about how hierarchies and power dynamics have impacted the conduct of their research within PRIMO, as well as the particularity of handling research in turbulent and sensitive political moments, Eleonora and Ali provide some general guidelines for researchers. Dr. Berit Bliesemann de Guevara (Aberystwyth University) gave a valuable contribution incorporating her experiences conducting inquiry and making the most out of the information collected whilst recognizing the power relations of professional, educational, socio-economic and gendered nature. At the end of the second day, the panel “The impact of the Trump Presidency on global economy and international politics” was opened for the general public, with Prof. Sergei Sutyrin (Head of the World Economy Department), Prof. Cord Jakobeit (Coordinator of the PRIMO Programme), Prof. Hartmut Mayer (University of Oxford and one of PRIMO’s scientist in charge), Dr. Nikita Lomagin (St. Petersburg State University), Nikita Lisitsyn (CEO, Seismo-Shelf), and Irina Kozlova (Department of Cooperation with Foreign Representatives, Committee for External Relations St. Petersburg). The panel debated the continuities and ruptures that Trump’s office represents with regards to the focus on American national interest, the trade-first policy, and the impact on individual members of the international community, particularly the EU and the BRICS countries.
On the last day, Dr. Julian Eckl discussed the broad notions of Knowledge, practices and power in social science research. Placing emphasis on the different views of power and which implications the usage of “power over” has for empirical power analysis, he showed how ethnographic methods are useful tools to reveal social mechanisms through which power operates, and particularly addressing hidden cases of power in quotidian practices. ESR Manaíra Assunção highlighted the links between knowledge and power based on her study about experts from the South and their allegedly distinguishable role in international development cooperation. The Southern experts’ claim of holding a different type of knowledge when compared to Northern donors and which builds on their development experiences is assessed through narrative inquiry. Finally, ESRs Fleur Huijskens and Miklós Kornél Lázár made a panel presentation of their research results for a general audience. Fleur argued that despite the fact that China has become an active norm-shaper and even institution and initiative creator, China’s engagement with the changing ‘global, liberal’ order is selectively liberal and focused on domestic stability through development. Miklós’ presentation on “Private-Public Regulation versus National Capabilities?” addressed the resurgence of geopolitical arguments vis-à-vis the different types of norms and standards around the globe taking the example of noxious emission standards and the ways businesses enter emerging markets.
The workshop provided a valuable opportunity for the ESRs to discuss their methodological approaches and the difficulties when dealing with the study of rising powers. Indeed, the event also meant to be a preparation for the Final PRIMO Conference, to be held between 5th and 7th September 2017 in Brussels, in which the ESRs will present their research results to a general audience. Another potential outcome is a textbook gathering the analytical and the methodological tools that have been addressed by the workshop’s participants, and the Marie Curie early stage researchers in particular, based on the input and discussion papers currently under revision.
PRIMO ER Faiz Sheikh was awarded this years‘ Sussex International Theory Prize for his book ‘Islam & International Relations - Exploring Community and the Limits of Universalism‘ (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). The book scrutinizes concepts of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘secularism’ in International Relations, showing how these might be redefined through the study of political Islam. The jury highlighted the “innovative intellectual framework for rethinking the relationship between Western IR and Islamic political and international thought […] establishing the foundations for a constructive reconceptualization of a highly topical and troubled relationship.”
The Sussex International Theory Prize is awarded annually by the Centre for Advanced International Theory for the best piece of innovative theoretical research in International Relations published in book form.
Faiz Sheikh will deliver his Prize Lecture at the University of Sussex in March 2018.
On 7-8 July, the leaders of the G20 will gather in Hamburg for the 12th G20 summit. Together the group represents two-thirds of the world’s population, and 85 percent of the global economy. Founded in 1999, the G20 acts as a more inclusive body than the G7/8, bringing together as it does a larger range of countries recognised as powerful drivers of the world economy. Since 2008, summits between G20 leaders themselves have become an annual event. The summits are hosted by the country which holds the presidency of that year. After Turkey in 2015, China 2016, and Germany 2017, Argentina will be the next host in 2018. This year’s summit is expected to be met with a wide range of environmental and human rights protests, as well as demonstrations from anti-capitalist movements. Here, PRIMO fellows discuss the interests and roles of Turkey, China, and Russia in the G20, and question how inclusive the G20 really is.
The contributions do not reflect any official opinion of the institutions within PRIMO. Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies with the authors.
Turkey and the G20
Turkey attaches great importance to the G20, as it sees it as one of the main international fora where the country, alongside other emerging powers, is allowed to play an important role in global governance.
Turkey presided over the G20 in 2015, and hosted the G20 Leader’s Summit on November 15-16 in the southern city of Antalya. During its term presidency, Ankara highlighted the theme of “Collective Action for Inclusive and Robust Growth.” In this context, three priorities were spelt out: inclusiveness, implementation, and investment (the so-called the “3Is”). “Inclusiveness” referred especially to three groups: young people, women, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In this sense, one of the Turkish presidency’s flagship initiatives was the Women-20 (W20) engagement group, a forum to address women’s issues and increase their participation in the global economy. This was seen as something of a paradox by many in Turkey, given the country’s current backsliding on women’s rights, and human rights in general. For instance, the year the W20 was launched, the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) published a report claiming that, under the Justice and Development Party’s rule, Turkey has experienced a rise in gender-based violence in all its forms; a decrease in women’s labour-force participation; and continuously lowering political participation, including in peace processes in the Kurdish, Cypriot, and Syrian conflicts.
Despite inconsistencies between Turkey’s inclusiveness campaign and actual domestic policies, the “3Is” approach was hailed in domestic and international fora, and widely advertised by Turkish Airlines — Turkey’s national airline, and probably its main public diplomacy asset. Interviewed in the framework of my research, some Turkish high-ranking officials highlighted the importance of the G20 chairmanship for Ankara’s international image, in part because it granted Turkey international recognition for its key role in the refugee crisis. A senior diplomat referred to the “3Is” approach as a clear example of Turkey’s foreign policy ambitions to become “the voice of the least developed countries.”
Furthermore, under Ankara’s leadership, the G20 leaders agreed for the first time on a strong statement against terrorism, in a year that proved very challenging for Turkey: on 10 October 2015, roughly a month before the G20 Summit in Antalya, two bombs exploded outside Ankara Central railway station, killing 109 civilians and becoming the deadliest terror attack in modern Turkish history.
China and the G20
By Insa Ewert
This year’s G20 summit takes place in turbulent times with many observers noting shifts in the global order. Indeed, China has been taking advantage of the situation and is presenting itself as a defender of global free trade and the climate change agenda in the wake of American retreat. The G20 Summit presents a suitable platform to further this agenda. This engagement does not reflect short-term opportunism but rather fits a long-term approach. Among the group of so-called rising powers, China has always been among the most active in the G20, making moves to establish the format as a long-term mechanism for global governance on economic issues.
As such, China has developed specific interests in the G20, most visible in last year’s agenda, which focused on innovation as a driving force in the global and digital economies. The 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, was also seen as an opportunity to demonstrate China’s ambition at the global leadership level and its importance on the global stage. The upcoming summit is also seen as an opportunity to formalise the EU-China alliance on tackling climate change in the wake of the US’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement with an official statement. A previously planned statement had been withdrawn at the latest EU-China Summit in Brussels over disagreements on trade issues, in particular regarding China’s bid for Market Economy Status.
Thus, while China actively promotes the main topics on this year’s agenda including enhancing global free trade, climate change, and development cooperation, in particular enhancing investment partnerships with African countries, the devil is in the detail. Ahead of the summit, Chinese representatives have emphasised that free trade should be the basis of fair trade, but disputes must be dealt with according to the situations of the individual countries.
Thus, substantial progress over sensitive trade issues should not be expected within this multilateral framework. Instead, the G20 Summit presents an opportunity for global leaders to come together and discuss issues in bilateral side meetings. For instance, China will use the opportunity to coordinate BRICS interests ahead of the BRICS Summit later this year in Xiamen. For instance, Xi Jinping will be in Berlin ahead of the summit. Equally, the US government has announced that President Trump plans to meet with Xi Jinping over the DPRK’s nuclear program and overcapacity in the steel market. Germany and other European countries have similar grievances regarding Chinese steel imports as well as regarding rising Chinese investments in sectors of the economy perceived as sensitive.
While the final statement of the G20 leaders will remain very general due to disagreements among the variety of countries represented, progress can be made within smaller coalitions of “like-minded” countries. China will likely play a role in many of these, demonstrating its importance in a global context.
Russia and the G20
By Ali Lantukh
For the Kremlin, G20 club membership provides an important function — it validates and reinforces Russian leadership at the global level. Since its undignified exit from the G8 over the Ukraine crisis, the G20 gains a greater significance in this reputational equation. Ahead of the Hamburg Summit, the Russian G20 sherpa Svetlana Lukash has noted that this week’s agenda chimes with the Russian government’s priorities — with digitalisation, one of the German presidency’s key topics, being particularly significant.
However, the Summit’s formal content seems less consequential than the format, and the informal opportunities this provides. Multilateral institutions have generally been a lower priority among the dealings of the Russian political class. One Russian academic notes that the G7 “largely belongs to the past,” and that the G20 is “useful” but “unable to fill the geostrategic vacuum” seen in global leadership. A recent article from Kazushige Kobayashi notes the fundamental difference between the Russian government’s perspective on global governance, and the “liberal approach” of global community building and multilateralism. Rather, Moscow holds on to a “state-centric worldview” which “emphasises international competition, great power management, classical sovereignty, and centralised authority.”
Indeed, take a glance at the Russian press ahead of the Summit and it becomes clear that state media is most interested in Vladimir Putin’s datebook entries for 7-8th July — the state-centric approach personified. The Hamburg get-together provides a stage for Putin to showcase his statesmanship in encounters with other world leaders — in informal discussions (on Syria, Ukraine, and so on) and in the way they are portrayed. Slated meetings with Erdogan, Xi, Juncker, and, of course, Mr. Trump, are particularly highlighted in press coverage, with the latter being previewed as the “central event” for Putin, and even crucial for “international stability.” Relatedly, experts from the Valdai Club view the Summit as “fundamental” for the informal insights it will provide on how international relations may shake down in the new age of Trump, Macron et al — and, by implication, the potential Russian role therein.
The G20 and Inclusivity: The Congress of Hamburg?
By Miklos Lazar
One can have many expectations regarding the upcoming G20 Summit — some good, and some bad. On the one hand, we expect the gathering leaders to advance matters of commerce and global development, and address the challenges of the globalisation process, with future generations in mind. On the other hand, we ought to be concerned if a forward-looking approach to global governance is even possible with what is essentially an age-old tool for diplomacy: major powers coming together to decide the future for everybody else.
After all, intrinsically, the G20 summits are congresses for powerful nations selected as prestigious club members, based on a set of obscure and semi-obsolete development and economics related ideas such as trade turnover and GDP. Even so, there is no objective process for the selection of new invitees. For instance, based on economic size, it would have been apt for Poland to swap places with Argentina for some time now, but the former is not even invited as a guest.
In my reading, GDP and trade are merely proxies for a different set of considerations, namely participant states’ capacity to independently organise industry and trade. These states also tend to aggregate and effectively shape their neighbours’ interests. Either way, there is no question that the G20 is concerned with capabilities for delivering on multilateral agenda.
In this respect, order and compromise are just as central to the G20 today as, say, to the Congress of Vienna in 1814. The G20 may commit its resources to public goods, emerging norms, social standards, and environmental ideals, but this does not exactly remove the concerns of the other 175+ countries which are meant to choose between trading favours with current members, or straightforward exclusion.
Yes, the UN and its bodies are not necessarily better when it comes to governance, but at least they were born from and shaped by the very lessons learnt from centuries of European rivalry and jealous in-fighting: the exclusive meetings of the powerful merely provide temporary stability at a typically high price for everybody else. This cannot be sustainable unless they also practice some self-restraint.
Doubtless, we live in times when it is tempting to resort to the leadership of the largest nations to provide quick solutions to the problems of the international community, which is visibly wavering. However, two centuries ago the Congress of Vienna was in a very similar position. Needless to say, the gentlemen assembled in 1814 worked in the name of stability, prosperity, and peace. They tackled crises, resolved frozen conflicts, settled disputes, and provided comprehensive solutions to otherwise bilaterally or multilaterally unresolvable issues. However, they could not help seeking more power through various backroom deals either. They mutilated and removed countries from the map of Europe, and otherwise traded favours over the political and economic fortunes of lesser nations.
Now, it is clear that the Doha Development Round hasn’t been a success story so far. It is also clear that the world is changing fast and that our current institutions seem to be incapable of responding to emergent global threats and challenges. However, there is a fine line between addressing crises responsibly and efficiently, and the possible demise of the truly inclusive, global, multilateral institutions we’ve built together since 1945. The states that meet in Hamburg ought to remember all this as they engage in diplomacy over the coming weekend, so that their leadership might be trusted, and be of benefit to all.
 Interview with Turkish senior diplomat on March 7, 2017.
(by Martin Pioch)
As part of the PRIMO outreach activities I visited my former high school Gymnasium Buckhorn in Hamburg, Germany, and held a workshop with two classes about the global economy, the WTO, and emerging economies. During an alumni reunion half a year ago I met with my former teacher Dr. Hubert Rinklake, who is also teaching PGW (Politik, Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft – politics, society, and economy). After talking about my current work in the framework of the PRIMO network, he expressed strong interest in also discussing those highly relevant issues with his pupils. At the same time my PRIMO outreach activities anyway contained a workshop day, it all fitted very well together.
In May 2017 then, while I was on a short trip in the city, I visited my former high school and gave a 4 hour workshop to around 40 pupils from 9th and 10th grade. It was astonishing to see, how much those 15 to 16 year old pupils already knew about the global economy, about tariffs, about the European Common Market, or even about emerging economies. The normal curriculum of the pupils includes normally only simple economics and the functions of the European Union. Therefore, the WTO and emerging economies was a very new and interesting issue for the pupils, especially considering the origin of all the products they are using on a daily basis. We collected all their knowledge and then looked detailed at the underlying structure of international trade, in order to understand the greater picture of the global economy.
The workshop began with a short introduction of my personal career and the quite tricky questions to the pupils, whether anybody already knows if they want to study at a university after graduation, whether anyone would like to live and work in another country, and who might actually be interested in working in academia. Of course this led to very mixed answers, however the opportunities of a globalized world offers much more opportunities to their future careers, then in previous generations. However, most of the pupils had of course very little ideas about their future after graduation. Therefore we then spoke about my current live in Russia and about my PRIMO colleagues in the other 8 countries. For the pupils is was interesting to hear about the small differences in the everyday life, and understood that the similarities that exist inside of the EU are not global standards.
Next we looked at more substantial issues, as the functions of the WTO, a short introductions of the single BRICS countries and their economies, and the importance of the global economy for Germany. The pupils were very aware of the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg and asked a lot of questions in this regard. In general Dr. Rinklake and I organized always small introductions to the single topics and then let the discussion follow the questions of the pupils, and they had a lot of them. Thanks to the digital smart board in the classroom, we could study many issues with the help of maps, graphs or pictures, to visualize the respective issues.
During the final question round many pupils obviously asked a lot about the future of Germany, the Euro and the European Union, however also some had questions about US President Trump, the role of China and asked which countries I would recommend to work in. And the questions, why Mexico or China will not just simply sue the USA at the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, if President Trump introduces punitive tariffs, showed me, that some of them really could take away substantial knowledge – however I had to disappoint them with my answer, that those dispute often take several years, and might only be solved at a time when there might be a new face in the White House.
At the end of the workshop Dr. Rinklake asked the pupils to summarize what they have learned, and many answered that they now much better understand the complexity and coherences of the global economy. Some said that they learned that working in academia is more than just teaching students, and also appreciated the overview of job opportunities in political economy that I gave them. And others highlighted the knowledge about other countries outside of the EU, which they do not discuss so often at school. All in all I guess this workshop was a great opportunity for the pupils to get an introduction into a very important area that might strongly affect their future lives. But also I learned a lot about how to prepare, present, and discuss a workshop with people, who have a little less knowledge about my professional area, than my colleagues from the academic ivory towers.
Group picture with some of the 9th graders after the workshop.
(by Martin Pioch)
On the 21st of April 2017 the Department of World Economy held a round-table at the Faculty of Economics of Saint Petersburg State University with the title “The EU and BRICS in the International Trade System”. This PRIMO related event took place within the framework of the International Economic Symposium in St. Petersburg, where Russian and foreign experts discussed contemporary economic challenges of Russia and the world. This panel was organized and moderated by Prof. Sergei Sutyrin, Head of the World Economy Department, and his colleague Dr. Alexandra Koval, who are also the supervisors of ESR6 Martin Pioch.
During the round-table Russian and foreign academics discussed economic challenges of the EU and the BRICS, as well as their rather complicated economic relations. Miroslav Jovanović, Professor of the University of Geneva presented hisrather critical view on the Eurozone and modern European Union problems, while the report of Dr. Patricia Garcia-Duran Huet, Associate Professor of the University of Barcelona, was dedicated to the EU trade policy reaction to the BIC (i.e. BRICS before Russia and South Africa joined the club).
Boris Kheyfets, Chief Researcher of the Institute of Economy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, talked about the potential of informal integration, BRICS+ and BRICS++ in particular, and about modern perspectives of development for the BRICS group. Of great interest were also the findings of Natalia Volgina, Professor of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, on BRICS participation in global value chains and their distribution of gains.
Irina Platonova, Professor of Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO), opened the discussion about low economic growth rate as a “new normal” situation of our times. The final report of the round table discussion was made by Arkady Kuradovets, Associate Professor of Belarus State Economic University, who talked about current economic situation in Belarus and future perspectives for the country as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.
Foreign guests took an active part in the discussion, in particular, interesting comments and questions were made by Prof. Guan Xueling, the Director of the Russian Research Center at Renmin University of China and Meryl Thiel, Researcher of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the discussion Discussants also talked about the future of the EU and Brexit consequences, the limits imposed by formal institutions, the benefits of economic mega-partnerships, and prospects of the EU-BRICS cooperation. More information in the presentations of key speakers of the round table…
by (Miklós K. Lázár)
Last August I travelled to Germany for what is likely to become not only my latest, but also my last professional internship experience. The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce (Handelskammer Hamburg) agreed to host me as part of their engagement with PRIMO despite my limited control of the German language and assigned me to a number of projects which were better suited to my own academic and professional profile. It goes without saying that given this positive welcome my expectations were fairly high and I was also looking forward to a period of progress in my own strain of research.
On this occasion I found Hamburg to be just as green, clean, and welcoming as usual. Indeed, due to my being part of PRIMO – a researcher training programme which happens to be headquartered in Hamburg as well – the city already felt a little bit like a second home prior to arrival. However, this was my first proper, long stay in-town and so it was also the very first time I came to more fully realize how many subtle forms of prosperity and comfort Hamburg actually offered. Indeed – in stark contrast with the romantic grandeur and often tourist-oriented features of cities like Paris and Rome (or the subcultural scenes of places like Berlin and Amsterdam) – Hamburg’s smart, sophisticated, and distinctively hanseatic legacy continues to permeate many aspects of local life. Although one might not fully comprehend how those traits are maintained, but general politeness, attention to detail, ingrained elegance, and business-like talk remain some of the key ingredients of local culture and will be encountered throughout the city.
Whilst staying at this actual ‘Gateway to the World’ (Tor zur Welt) I also learnt a little bit about the particular ideas and traits that enabled Hamburg to become the mercantile powerhouse it is today. Over time, my experiences there helped me to realize how location, opportunity for trade, and skilled navigation were but wheels in a more complex machinery; the city’s success has perhaps more to do with mentality than geography, luck, or even sheer capacities. Hamburg has social capital fit for a global scale.
Amongst the many forms of subtle affluence present in Hamburg, I should definitely mention the excellent cultural, leisure, and shopping opportunities or the fact that – when it comes to international cuisine or authentic fish dishes, the culinary institutions of Hamburg are comparable only to the other major hubs of the world. Those early morning breakfasts at the Central Fish Market and the collegial business lunches at the Fischfeinkost Delikatessen des Meeres restaurant will be equally hard to forget.
Considering the internship itself, I must immediately thank my supervisor, Dr Doris Hillger, who had a major part in the overall positive experience. She endeavoured not only to properly show me what her daily duties entailed, but also took me to a great number of interesting business meetings; introduced me to intriguing social as well as sensitive business topics; and was always ready to listen to my – in retrospect: occasionally utterly – idealist views with enduring patience (only to give excellent answers and great advice in return). With her, I learnt a great deal about the EU’s new non-financial reporting directive and its potential impact on SMEs as well as the meaning and implications of ‘fair trade’ to Hamburg based businesses. At this juncture, I must emphasize that I could write pages about positive experiences, but the bottom line is that I will always think of Doris Hillger as one of my best bosses (yes, Doris, you are!).
I am also very grateful to all my colleagues at the International Department of the Chamber and especially those working for the Foreign Trade Promotion and International Markets Unit. I felt most welcome from day one, as they were always ready to help and include me in daily affairs. I am also very grateful to our head of department, Corinna Nienstedt and deputy head Heinz Werner Dickmann for hosting me in such a friendly and open way; to Susanne Küchmeister for choosing to work with me on Russian trade related matters; to Johanna Seidl and Cornelia von See for all their kind assistance throughout the period; and to Lisa Gathen, Philip Koch, Axel Rostalski, Audrius Vaitiekunas, and – especially – Timm Rohweder for making my stay with the HCC a great collegial experience (the latter list is by no means exhaustive!).
As for my academic progress, I wish to thank Doris Hillger yet again for introducing me to the Chamber’s respective experts and allowing me to work on my doctoral research in a flexible way. While in Hamburg, I was able to reach out to a number of people within my own field of academic interest and got a great deal of work on my thesis sorted as well. In light of these impressions with the Chamber and my overall experience with the city, I found my internship in Germany to be immensely productive and successful.
Given the objective difficulties facing the EU membership negotiations in Turkey, what are the prospects of the EU-Turkey relations in the short and medium-run? The conference “Rethinking Turkey and Europe in a Turbulent World” – held on April 19 at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, with the support of the EU delegation to Turkey and the PRIMO project – put together prominent International Relations (IR) scholars, practitioners and students to address this timely question. The conference was organised on the occasion of the retirement of Prof Atila Eralp, a leading Turkish scholar in the field of EU studies, founder of both the IR Department and the Centre for European Studies (Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence) at METU.
The conference featured predominantly Turkish scholars (with the exception of Prof Wolfgang Wessels, Director of the Centre for Turkey and European Union Studies at the University of Cologne), who took stock of the latest political and economic developments both in Turkey and in the EU, as well as the latest theoretical approaches to the academic study of EU-Turkey relations. While the representative of the EU delegation to Turkey, Gabriel Munera-Vinals, reiterated the EU’s firm commitment to the negotiations, the vast majority of the participants ruled out the prospect of Turkey joining the EU in the next decade(s). Yet, all of the participants acknowledged the fact that Turkey is currently integrated to the EU in multiple fields, ranging from trade, common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs to energy cooperation. Some of the participants also suggested alternative approaches to overcome the current impasse in the relations; in particular, they mentioned the concept of “differentiated integration” as a way for non-EU members to maintain their sovereignty, while remaining an integral part of the European integration process.
Should Turkey follow this “differentiated integration” path, it would be more than a “strategic partner”, but remain less than a full-fledged EU member state. However, this may well be a pragmatic and solid scenario, also in light of the current disenchantment with the membership process both in Turkey and in the EU. The participants vocally agreed on one point: given the difficult political situation and the rift splitting Turkish society (made clear by the result of the recent constitutional referendum), the EU is all the more needed in Turkey. While the EU needs to keep maintaining close ties with the Turkish government to cope with transnational issues such as the so-called “refugee crisis”, it should not forget about Turkish civil society and the European democratic values that many of its members still identify with.
(by Martin Pioch)
As a PhD student you study your topic intensively, measure it as good as possible and try to read every relevant publication about it, however, nothing teaches you more than the direct engagement with your research objectives though research trips. And this is even more the case when you study international institutions, which in most cases have a very special life of their own. In my case, for the last 2 years I read in my office and discussed on conferences the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the effects of the rise of the BRICS states Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. I analyzed data, reviewed the literature and published articles. But while I actually moved to Russia for the PRIMO project and visited China for a PRIMO workshop, I haven’t been to the WTO so far.
Therefore we organized in early 2017 a research trip to the WTO in Geneva, where I had the great possibility to study for 3 weeks in the WTO library, which also gave me access to the whole WTO building and thereby offered the possibility for many talks with the WTO staff and some country delegations. Furthermore, this trip was not simply organized to get to know the WTO, but also to conduct interviews for my PhD research. After I have already done most of my analytical studies, the time had come to test and discuss my findings with the actually involved actors at the WTO. Therefore I conducted several interviews with different staff from the WTO’s secretariat and with some of the BRICS states delegations to the WTO. Moreover, in Geneva also a huge part of the United Nations, especially the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), where I also spoke to officials. And I also conducted interviews with staff from the Advisory Center for WTO Law (ACWL) and with other former diplomats or officials, who work in Geneva on international trade.
While the interviews were very helpful and gave great insight in the life and dynamics of the institution itself, I was confronted with several problems of field research. The two biggest obstacles were access and anonymity. I managed to speak with some BRICS delegations, however, other we just not replying to any requests. Also, while many interviewees gave me further contacts, these were mostly the same circle of persons, leaving out other significant parts. At the same time, some delegations, and especially the staff of the WTO’s secretariat demanded anonymity, or even no mentioning of the meetings at all, while other delegations and officials did not object to direct quotations and recordings of the talks. Therefore I am now confronted with several (expected) methodological questions about the further operationalization of the interviews and their explanatory power.
In preparation of this trip, I was already in December 2016 for one week in Moscow, where I conducted interviews with academic experts on the BRICS and the WTO. I visited in Moscow the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), the People’s Friendship University of Russia, as well as the Russian Institute for African Studies and the Institute of Economics, both from the Russian Academy of Science. Here the interviewees were much opener about quotations, probably because all of them were scientists and not state or WTO officials. Also, working myself in a Russian university helped to establish contact.
In conclusion, both trips gave significant input for my research in the framework of the PRIMO network. Also all interviewees were very interested in the PRIMO project itself and highlighted the importance for this kind if global research networks. I can only recommend every PhD student to do field trips and to visit the objectives of interest. For me, for my research, but also for my future career prospects this trips were very helpful.