Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2000


Manussos Marangudakis and William Kelly (2000) 'Strategic Minorities and the Global Network of Power: Western Thrace and Northern Ireland in Comparative Perspective'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 4, <>

To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary

Received: 10/11/1999      Accepted: 22/2/2000      Published: 29/2/2000


The relationship between ethnic communities who share a common national space is often affected by factors above civil society, such as inter-state relations, political and economic alliances, and geopolitical interests. The relevance of ethnic minorities' identity and behaviour to the international political environment becomes clear whenever an ethnic minority occupies territory of geopolitical and/or geo-economic importance to countries with conflicting interests in the area - we will call such a minority, 'strategic minority'. Using a model of 'network compatibility' we could delineate the mechanisms and factors which affect the social outlook of a given minority.

To highlight the paramount importance of national and international relations in shaping ethnic minorities' identity and behaviour the paper examines and compares two strategic minorities situated at the fringes of Europe: The Northern Irish Catholic minority and the Muslim minority in Western Thrace, North Eastern Greece. Using as our analytic tool the theory of 'networks of social power' we tentatively conclude that the formation as well as the current identity, status, and behaviour of the two minorities cannot be fully understood unless we examine the role of the two sets of neighboring countries (G. Britain - Ireland, and Greece - Turkey), as well as the two major Western political powers, i.e., the European Union, and the United States, in the two contested regions.

Colonialism; Economic Development; Ethnic Conflict; Geopolitics; Hegemony; Nationalism

A Model of Power Relations

The formation of a social group, such as an ethnic minority, its organisation and behaviour, depend upon a multiple of social arrangements. These arrangements could be analytically understood as sui generisor ad hoc networks of people striving to maintain or improve their social condition. Since these goals are achieved by controlling human and natural resources, social activities could be understood and analysed in power terms. Though power in general is attained by controlling the social and natural environment, there are four particular kinds of power, that is political, economic, ideological, and military ones which are attained by controlling four particular kinds of resources controlled by network of social actors.[1]

In detail, the political network of power aims at the control of a given territory and its inhabitants; the economic network aims at the control of economic praxis (control of production, transportation, distribution, and consumption of resources); third, the ideological network aims at the control of thought, symbols, and aesthetics; and fourth, the military, and its accomplish, diplomacy, aims to achieve power over matters of life and death. These networks could be analysed not just in four horizontal 'layers' but also in three vertical levels: The local, national, and international levels.

Furthermore, any organisation embodies two aspects of power, the collective and the distributive. The collective aspect of power refers to the ability of the social group as a whole to advance its mastery over nature as well as over other social groups. The distributive aspect of power refers to the ability of a few to profit more than the rest of the group. Thus, we could argue that, any ethnic group, and any ethnic movement, gives rise to two kinds of power. Firstly, a fictitious, or real, primordialism, under the form of identity, advances the collective power of the group. Cooperation makes available resources non-existed before the ethnic group put its action together. Secondly, hierarchical structures and division of labor advances the distributive power, that is the differential and privileged access to power the leadership of the ethnic organisation, or movement, enjoys.

In relation to ethnic groups, two points network analysis makes are of particular importance. First, people who control crucial "junctions" of the flow or resources in all four networks become elite actors able to affect the life chance of other, less strategically situated network participants. It follows that the more these networks overlap with one another in particular locations, the fewer the elites which control the available resources will be and in general the power arrangements will be more rigid than in areas where the four networks of power are diffused into the wider flow of resources. Second, qualitative similar networks facilitate kin bonds. The more overlapping the four networks in particular locations, the tighter the social group will be in kinship ties appearing as an 'ethnic group'. Thus, a possible overlapping of power networks in the case of minorities-majorities promotes compact group behaviour that facilitates cleavages, inter-ethnic competition, discrimination, and potentially, conflict.

The above points situate the modern ethnic minorities in the endless pursuit of power every social organisation is involved in. Without denying other aspects of ethnicity, it suggests that the unique tools (political, economic, ideological, and diplomatic/military), modernity has offered to nations, are available to ethnic minorities as well, minorities which could feel that existing national boundaries and national ideologies curtail their own access to power they deserve. The same logic situates ethnic groups into the wider context of global networks of power. The fact that the social networks of power do not cease at national borders is crucial to comprehend ethnic minorities' behaviour. Ethnic groups are heavily affected by the international scene, that being ideological trends, economic regimes, political leagues, diplomatic affiliations, military alliances, or geopolitical interests. Thus, the factors that affect a minority's behaviour are triggered by considerations, which are not exhausted on matters of individual rights and group self-determination, but, potentially, involve other kinds of interests external to the minority itself.

For ethnic relations, the crucial factor in determining the relationship of the ethnic majority to the ethnic minority is compatibility and, subsequently, degree of diffusion among the networks of power. In other words, the less compatible the social networks appear to be in all local, national, and international levels, the more exclusive and vivid the differences will be between ethnic groups. The argument network analysis suggests is that quality of the relations between ethnic groups is dictated by whether incompatibility is situated at the local, national, or international levels.

Strategic Minorities

Certainly, all ethnic minorities are affected by the above factors, yet, there is a particular kind of ethnic minorities that are crucially situated at the nexus of the international economic, political, ideological, and the military-diplomatic networks of power. We wish to call them "strategic minorities" in that they concentrate the attention, and their predicament affects not just themselves, or the nation-state they are part of, but a wider range of all four global power networks.

Most of the recognised minorities cannot be called strategic. The indigenous populations of the New World, and many of the Old one, constitute an internal issue, in some cases a problem, an annoyance to the status quo rather than an international issue (see Arab and Eastern European minorities in W. Europe). Nevertheless, there are few minorities, particularly so in Europe, Caucasus, and the Middle East whose power-value exceeds their numbers while their status greatly affects national borderlines and the international status quo. Mostly they are pre-modern minorities, that is, agrarian populations heavily concentrated in particular areas, spatially located in the countryside, linked to land-ownership, and with a strong feeling of primordial attachment to "their land". Primordial feelings of blood-and-soil greatly facilitate political messages for secession and self-determination.

The Chechens in Caucasus, the Bosnian Muslims in the Balkans, the Kurds in Anatolia, the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and the Greek Muslims in Western Thrace are examples of strategic minorities. Geopolitically and geoeconomically their value is high. Tsetsnia is strategically situated in the oil-reservoir region of Caucasus. The Kurdish region is situated at the crossroad linking oil-producing Middle East with oil-consuming Europe. The Muslim Greeks are overwhelmingly concentrated in Western Thrace, a strategic communication route between Europe and Asia, East Europe and Near East, adjacent to Turkey and part of the route Caucasian petroleum will take to reach Europe. Lastly, Northern Ireland Catholics are situated in the heart of the West. Discrimination and irredentism in the region challenges the western model of civility, human rights, and prosperity, and has concentrated significant economic and political resources from both European Union and the US for its solution.

Nevertheless, while the above four examples of strategic minorities exhibit high levels of cultural homogeneity vis-á-vis the dominant ethnic majorities, and wish for political autonomy, they do not exhibit similar patterns of behaviour. The Chechens have been involved in a successful war against Russia and have achieved autonomy; the Kurds are also involved in guerrilla warfare against Turkey and Iraq yet they are deeply divided thus minimising their chance of success; in Northern Ireland a political 'solution' has just broken the vicious thirty year old guerrilla and counter-guerrilla campaign shifting the struggle from the streets of Belfast and Derry to the Stormont chambers; the Muslims in western Thrace have recently developed a campaign for political autonomy with the aid of the Turkish state. How could we understand such a diversity of behaviour, and such a variance in the rate of success of their targets?

In this essay we intent to provide a comparative perspective based on network analysis for the understanding of the behaviour of two strategic minorities: The Catholic population in Northern Ireland, and the Muslim Greeks of Western Thrace. Though not similar in form and behaviour, they do share a few unique features:

  1. Both minorities are pre-industrial with strong claims to the land they occupy;
  2. officially, both minorities are religious minorities, though large sections of them identify themselves in national terms (Irish - Turks);
  3. both minorities, at least large sections of them, perceive neighboring states as their homelands (Republic of Ireland and Turkey);
  4. both minorities comprise a large portion of the total populations of the two regions: the Catholics comprise 45% of the total population of N. Ireland, while the Muslims 35% of the total W. Thracian population;
  5. both minorities have been subjects of discrimination;
  6. both the Republic of Ireland and Turkey claim the lands where the minorities live (N. Ireland and W. Thrace);
  7. both N. Ireland and W. Thrace are parts of the European Union;
  8. the two sets of "rival" states belong to common major western alliances: The Republic of Ireland and the UK to the European Union, while Greece and Turkey to NATO.

In spite the above similarities, the Catholic and Muslim minorities show different levels of militantism. While Northern Ireland has experienced a bloody civil conflict since the late 1960s with the development of paramilitary groups on both sides, and the heavy British military presence, W. Thrace enjoys an uneasy peace, although few political analysts believe it will last for ever under the current status quo. In the next pages we will endeavor to understand such an apparent difference in behaviour with the aid of the suggested model.

In the case of strategic minorities such as the N. Ireland Catholics, and the Greek Muslims in W. Thrace, and for analytical purposes, we could scrutinize power in four different settings: The local, the national, the bi-national, and the international. Though qualitatively the same, the four settings allow us to examine the particular sources that affect the overall conditions and behaviour of the two minorities. Mostly, they can inform us of the qualitative differences that exist among ethnic minorities, differences embedded in the differential input of elements of the four networks of power in the four settings.

1LOCAL-Administrative structure
-Local political representation
-Party influence
-Access to party power

-Development policies
-Difference in wealth bet. religious denominations
-Occupational differentiation among religious denominations
-Access to Administration and Educational Programs
-Access to funds and loans
-Fair employment
-Education structure
-ElitesŐ ideologies
-Populace ideologies
-Influence of class, religious, nationalist ideologies

-Security operations
2NATIONALState Structure
Political Regime
Electoral System
Electorate mobility
Party ideologies
Civil society develp.
Economic Structure
Social Mobility
Development level
Development stratg.
-Dominant National Ideology
-Access to Alternative Ideologies
Geopolitical Dogma
Military Strength
Diplomatic Structure
Absorbtion Capability
Geopolitical Significance
Military Alliances
3BI-NATIONAL-Compatibility of political regimes
-Compatibility of political parties
-Participation in common international fora
-Degree of economic cooperation
-Degree of economic transactions
-Participation in common international fora
-Religious differences
-Historical memories
-Perception of the other
-Military Dogma
-Territorial claims
-Diplomatic policies
-Dominant political regime
Dominant Super-Power
-Dominant economic regime
-Dominant ideology
-Dominant networks of information
-Dominant defense and diplomatic associations

In the following pages we will present as briefly as possibly the history of Northern Ireland and Western Thrace. Then, applying the above typology to the otherwise chaotic, unconnected, ethnic histories of N. Ireland and W. Thrace, it will be shown that the two cases are not just compatible, but they succumb to the same social prerogative: The organisational outflanking, or the appropriation of the opponent's resources.

A Short History of N. Ireland and W. Thrace

Northern Ireland was founded in 1922 under the Government of Ireland Act signed between the UK and the newly recognized Irish government. The partition of the island of Ireland aimed at securing the British status of the Protestant minority in the north where they formed a local majority. It also gave Britain a base on an island which was, at this time, of strategic importance to the security of the UK as a whole. The Government of Ireland Act established two separate jurisdictions: a Northern Ireland government on the Westminster model based at Stormont, and an Irish Free State under Dominion status.

Between 1922-1972 in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist party enjoyed a comfortably absolute Protestant majority, maintaining what was essentially a one-party state. The demoralised Roman Catholic minority (35%), forced into this state against their will, were virtually excluded from any effective role in government.

Protestant/Unionist supremacy in Ulster was challenged in the late 1960's with the emergence of a Civil Rights movement influenced by events in the United States of America. A campaign for civil rights developed characterised by civil disobedience and demonstrations. Liberal elements of the Unionist party who would have went some way to accommodate the demands of the civil rights movement were ousted and repressive measures were taken to combat civil disobedience and public demonstrations. Large-scale civil disorder in 1969 prompted a British deployment of troops in Ulster. After troops opened fire on civil rights marchers in Derry in January 1972 the Stormont administration was abolished and Britain ruled the province of Ulster directly from Westminster.

The increasing violence of the late 1960's also prompted the re-emergence of loyalist and nationalist paramilitary groups. In response to attacks on the Catholic community by the security forces and loyalist groups the IRA grew in strength in the early 1970's. The IRA and British army rapidly became embroiled in a guerrilla war and for the next two decades a counter-insurgency conflict was fought in Ulster - punctuated by episodes of sectarian atrocity.

Most recently, determined efforts have been made by both sovereign states, the British and Irish, supported by a sympathetic US administration, to bring the conflict to a close. These efforts resulted in an IRA cease-fire and the Good Friday Agreement which outlined plans for an inclusive government in Northern Ireland. To date, however, that government does not function, NI is still governed from Westminster, and the peace process has bogged down in negotiations over whether or not the IRA should surrender weapons. The decommissioning issue, as it is generally known, is widely regarded as a red-herring, used by Unionists who are unable to address the issue of sharing power with Nationalists.

Western Thrace was also formed the same time as Northern Ireland: In 1923 with the Treaty of Lossane between Greece and Turkey which determined border lines and the fate of minorities 'left behind'. Accordingly, 100,000 'Greeks' were left in Turkey, and an equal number of 'Muslims' remained in Greek W. Thrace; 45% Turks, 36% Pomaks, and 18% Roms. Furthermore, the Muslim minority was guaranteed an Islamic system of economic and educational structures, under the religious authority of the Muftis.

The conflict of Greece and Turkey over Cyprus that followed the end of WWII had grievous consequences for the two minorities. The Greek element in Turkey was virtually obliterated in a series of progroms between 1955 and 1968 (200,00 in 1923, 3,000 today) while the Turkish-speaking Muslims of Western Thrace (87,000 in W. Thrace in 1923, 100,000 today) made of Turkish ethnic origin (45%), Pomaks (36%), and Roms (18%) were treated as second-class citizens by state administration. This, coupled with the educational autonomy of the Muslim schools, resulted in alienating the Muslim population which consequently was attracted and became fully controlled by the Turkish state adopting in the process a Turkish identity.[2] Recently, recognising past 'mistakes' and under European pressure, the Greek administration has initiated a series of administrative, economic and cultural measures to incorporate the minority into mainstream Greek social life and alleviate the living standards of Western Thrace (the poorest region of the EU), as a whole.

Making Sense of History

The greatest challenge of macro-sociology is to create theoretical models which could incorporate historical cases (de facto unique historical events) without these models becoming reduced to tautology. The above theoretical framework tries to achieve such a goal: To frame theoretically the cases of Northern Ireland the western Thrace. In the following pages we will apply the model of power networks to the above cases.

Local Level: Political Power Network

Northern Ireland was until 1974 a politically semi-autonomous region of the United Kingdom while Western Thrace, as any other Greek region, was, until recently, controlled by the central state authorities in Athens. Structurally, this might look as a significant difference between the two regions. Yet, in terms of network analysis, these differences are minimal, since both governments (the local in Northern Ireland and the central government in Greece) followed pro-majority policies.

Discriminatory policies did not change with Direct Rule that was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1974 as British policy remained pro-Unionist. A major reason was that after Direct Rule unionist MPs remained loyal to the Conservative Westminster governments as long as Westminster remained loyal to the Unionist cause - a major reason John Major's governments hesitated to take drastic measures to solve the dead-lock in Northern Irish politics. It is significant that Northern Ireland is often referred to in government circles in Britain as the 'Province.' This colonialist mentalite is a reflection of political reality: the province is ruled from Westminster. Local politicians have a large measure of control over the domestic matters of local government but above that level the 'Province' is effectively run by the Northern Ireland Civil Service establishment whose powers far outweigh those of their counterparts in the UK. Politics follows the sectarian pattern with few exceptions. Class politics are undermined by sectarianism and class based parties are of little or no significance in Northern Ireland.

The Muslim minorities in Western Thrace are concentrated in distinct rural locations. The primary (municipal) and secondary (prefectural) levels of administration are only decentralised (1998) with the partial incorporation of the Muslim elites. During the pre-1998 time period, the Muslims in Western Thrace were controlled 'by neglect'. Though no large scale anti-Muslim policy took place (e.g., progroms, mass deportations, prosecutions, detainment), the Greek administration did next to nothing to alleviate the poor living standards of the Muslim population, either economically, or politically. Furthermore, as it has been admitted by the Christian perfecturer of Komotini himself, the Muslim minority has had indeed suffered from discrimination. Discrimination consisted of unwillingness of the Greek state to provided Muslim farmers with agricultural loans, close scrutiny of their political activities and relations with the local Turkish embassy, withdrawal of the civil rights of individuals who affiliated with ultra-nationalist organisations in Turkey, and in some cases, prosecution of those who spoke of a Turkish, rather than Muslim minority. If the unofficial unionist dictum in Northern Ireland was 'keep them low', in Western Thrace was 'let them stay low'. The limited autonomy the region, as all other Greek regions, enjoyed until 1998, did not allow for local initiatives. The Muslim as well as the Christian population enjoyed little autonomy of decision making and policy implementation. Yet, the central political administration was in Christian hands and political parties were national, Christian, parties. Thus, while Christians could find representation through formal political channels, the Muslims could not. Yet, the fact that there are no local political parties means that sectarian political networks are comparatively week. This had a positive side effect: Unlike the Northern Irish case, local Western Thracian politics did not add to divisiveness of the two communities.

Interesting enough, the status quo of local political representation changed in both regions at almost the same time-period. In Northern Ireland in 1999, and in Greece, in 1998. Starting with the former case, the Good Friday Agreement opened the door to Northern Irish political semi-autonomy. This means that, if the last crisis over IRA decommissioning is solved, local Nationalist and Unionist parties will consolidate their control over local political resources such as education, health, and housing. The Assembly will therefore share power in a sense with the locally elected borough, district and city councils. Though the British government will retain control of the security forces, Chris Patten's accepted reforms would transform RUC to a bi-communal integrated police force. The latter will erode the power of the Protestant Orange Order, which has a considerable influence on RUC staff.

In 1998 the Greek government initiated the autonomy of municipal and regional political life. Political representatives at these levels are elected and have the ability to initiate plans of cultural and economic development with the bureaucratic aid of the central government. Specifically for W. Thrace, acts of discrimination tend to wither away under a more pro-active stand of the Greek government towards the Muslim minority. Article 19 of the Civil Code has been withdrawn under pressure from Greece's European partners (May 1998), and the fact that the Greek perfecturer has been re-elected with the overwhelming support of the Muslim vote suggests that his campaign to check discrimination policies during his previous service on the post were successful. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the Christian majority and the Muslim minority remain isolated and suspect of each other. The Christians continue to perceive the Muslims as a "fifth phalanx" bound to cooperate with the Turkish embassy towards turning Western Thrace to an autonomous province bound to unite with Turkey in some future time. The majority of Muslim minority perceives Western Thrace as Turkish given to Greece in an act of good will with the provision to guard the well being of its Turkish inhabitants. In all, Christians and Muslims are involved in minimal contact, with the possible exception of administrative structures where network diffusion has been partially achieved. Segregation is extended in economic, ideological, and cultural matters. For example, the final game of the Muslim football league is plaid in Istanbul and the event is celebrated in Turkey as a national holiday.

Economic Power Network

1.B. Northern Ireland is economically dependent on subventions from the metropolitan government. Northern Ireland does contribute through taxation to the British Exchequer but the subvention far exceeds the returns in tax revenues. Moreover over one third of employment is in the public sector. Discriminatory employment policies have led to cleavages between Protestants and Catholics in the labour force especially in the working, and low-middle classes. This cleavage is precipitated by the spatial concentration of population in Catholic and Protestant areas. High unemployment rates reinforce this 'ghettoisation' as workers do not interact in the living space. Mutually exclusive ideologies are thereby also reinforced among the labour classes especially since they are denied the opportunity of testing traditional beliefs by interaction in the workplace. EU financial projects for Peace and Reconciliation do not seem to serve their purpose to unite the two communities though they have boosted the local economy.

A similar vicious circle of unemployment, ethnic cleavage, and underdevelopment is to be found in Western Thrace, which is the poorest region of Greece. Though it is unclear if this is solely the result of ethnic divisions, the local population, both Christian and Muslim, exhibit the lowest average income in Greece with the Christians doing only marginally better than the Muslims. Until recently discriminatory employment policies were in place as well as restrictions of economic transactions and development imposed on the Muslim population, though it remains unclear if they have been imposed by the central government or by the local authorities. In any case these have been recently made ineffective. Furthermore, under the auspices of EU, Greece has developed a comprehensive plan to attract national and foreign capital through EU projects. Among them, the construction of the Egnatia Highway (horizontally crossing the full width of N. Greece) and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis[3] pipeline are considered as the most important projects. In general, the economic development of the region is trusted to solve most of the inter-communal problems, by moving Muslims away from Turkish influence and integrating them to the national economic system.

Ideological Power Network

1.C. Divisions between Catholics and Protestants are reinforced, some would say perpetuated, by a denominational education system. Primary and Secondary schools are controlled by the various churches. This is especially true of the Roman Catholic Church which maintains its own schools with government support. Sports are also divided between British and Gaelic games. The Gaelic Athletic Association promotes Gaelic football and hurling and has been viewed by the security forces as a subversive organisation. Rule 21 of the Association's charter forbids membership by members of the security forces. In fact, membership of the GAA was often viewed, quite wrongly, in security circles as an indication of extreme Nationalist politics. There is little doubt nonetheless that GAA promotes a distinctively Irish as opposed to English ethos. English games such as rugby or cricket tend to be much more popular among Protestants. Even soccer, played on both sides of the community divide, tends to be supported along sectarian lines with teams perceived as either Catholic or Protestant much in the manner of Celtic v Rangers in Scotland. We have noted above the mutually exclusive nature of working class ideology. The basic tenets of this conflictual view of the world is shared at the level of social elites.

An equally strong cultural cleavage is to be found in Western Thrace. Religion, language, and above all segregate educational systems conserve and precipitate these deep divisions. Educational segregation is due to the Treaty of Lossane (1923)according to which the education of the Muslim youth is under the control of the Muftia (Muslim religious authorities). Thus, Christian and Muslim youth, similarly to Protestant and Catholic ones, remain unaware of each other. The strong polarization of identities between Christians Muslims is precipitated through sectarian press, TV channels, and religious festivals and rituals. The Turkish state has been instrumental in building a Turkish identity, by funding local minority press, educational facilities to the minority's youth, and home satellite facilities for every Muslim household in the region propagating Turkish irredentism. Furthermore, the area has been infiltrated by Greek and Turkish ultra-nationalists whose extent of influence remains unknown. In spite the fact that the local Christian Church and the Muslim Muftia and Turkish embassy follow an overall hard, nationalist line, there are signs that a substantial proportion of both populations remains moderate. The fact that the majority of the Muslim minority chose overwhelmingly vote for a Christian prefect, rather than abstain from the voting process, is a sign of pragmatism and anti-sectarianism.

Military/Diplomatic Power Network

1.D. Northern Ireland is characterised by high levels of violence. Paramilitary groups play a very important social role in the community. Nationalist rejection of the police means that the only recourse to law and order is often through local paramilitaries. A high profile paramilitary presence is a feature of working class Catholic and Protestant enclaves. There is evidence of socialisation into violence as a means of political action. It has been argued (Bell xxxx) that violence is a cultural trait that has evolved from a particular sub-culture. It is transmitted from generation to generation in the same manner as other cultural traits and the young are socialised to behave in this way. There are youth sections in all the main paramilitary groups and in loyalist areas in particular participation in marches and rituals is viewed almost as a civic duty. Moreover, such is the power of these communal ideologies that they tend to override other sub-cultures or subsume youth culture. Security forces, police and army, also have high, and very visible, profiles. Armoured vehicles, helicopters and armed men are a daily feature of life. The panoply of war and civil conflict is therefore normalised.

Western Thrace on the other hand is characterised by absence of institutionalised and organised violence. Levels of overt conflict remain low concentrated on in ordinate demonstrations and scattered police measures against nationalist minority leaders. The Greek fringe ultra-nationalist group "Golden Down" and the popular Turkish "Gray Wolves" are involved into a campaign of verbal propaganda though acts of violence are few and between. Instead, members of the Muslim elite become increasingly involved in promoting the Muslim case and exposing the Muslim problems to international fora, such as the European Union, Helsinki Watch, etc. The Turkish embassy in Komotini City is instrumental in organising the efforts of the Muslim elite while the Turkish state itself has repeatedly protested to the same organisations for the institutional maltreatment of the minority by the Greek authorities. Furthermore, a possible venue for the absorbion of the Turkish male youth into Greek culture, the compulsory army service, had long been proved counter-productive since Muslim conscripts were not allowed to carry guns, but instead they were allocated secondary and unarmed services. This practice has only recently changed (1998) with the added provision of promoting young Muslims to the ranks of NCO. Yet, the results of such a radical change in army policy are not yet clear.

Preliminary Conclusions

There is little doubt that the power networks in Northern Ireland and Western Thrace are primarily sectarian. The sectarian quality of networks allows little, if any, space to alternative concentration of resources. Any inflow of resources from Athens or London are bound to be absorbed by organisations already in existence, that is, sectarian organisations. Furthermore, sectarianism is due to expand as long as inhabitants of the two regions identify themselves in culturally exclusive terms, that is, as long as the ideological networks remain incompatible. Both governments rely heavily on economic development to solve sectarianism though available evidence suggests that such a strategy promotes absence of violence rather than genuine reconciliation. Absence of violence in Western Thrace, the only clear cut difference between the two regions, could be explained in two ways. First, it is the nature of class composition. The 'troubles' in Northern Ireland and the subsequent violence was triggered by a frustrated new Catholic middle class whose aspirations were blocked by the ruling Protestant elite. The fact that the Muslim population lacks a substantial middle class functions as a buffer against unpleasant comparisons with the Christian equivalent. Furthermore, the fact that the Christian population is not remarkably better off, keeps 'comparative deprivation' low. The second, and probably most important reason is the attitude of the neighboring states toward the minorities. The Republic of Ireland followed an ambivalent policy towards Northern Ireland, and left the local catholic minority in a stage of perpetual insecurity. Subsequently the Catholic population was 'forced' to take the initiative itself. In contrast, the Turkish state made it clear from the beginning that it considers itself the defender of the Muslim minority.

National Level: Political Power Network

2.A. Great Britain is a parliamentary democracy characterised by class divisiveness and elitist politics. Recently, British politics have moved towards a more European model of Social Democracy with little to choose between the major parties of Labour, Conservative or Social Democrats. Further radical alterations in the nature of the British political system seem inevitable as both external and internal pressures are brought to bear on the present system: devolution, the preferred option, now means that Scotland and Wales have their own regional councils or parliament; internally in England, regionalisation and devolutionist policies are in train. EU policies in this regard are also a major motivator of change. In sum, the older structures coped quite well with the management of an English dominated British super-state but cannot manage the emergence of regionalist or nationalist economies under the umbrella of the European Union. This in turn has significant implications for the position of Northern Ireland within the union. For one thing, an important point to make here is that the control exercised by NI politicians at local level rapidly dissipates at national level. Power is centralised at Westminster. Northern Irish politicians have a usually limited input here. However, as we have seen above, there are occasions, when minority governments are attempting to remain in power, when Northern Irish Unionist politicians can hold the balance of power allowing them an influence which far outweighs their numbers. This is a state of affairs which the metropolitan government cannot allow to persist, all the more so as the importance of the regions increases. One cannot foresee how the tiny 'Province' of NI, in which, to quote a former Secretary of State, Britain has no 'selfish political, strategic or economic interest,' will be given any opportunity to create problems for an emergent Britannia Nova.

The regime of Greece is Parliamentary-Democratic and in line with the other members of the European Union. The electoral system does not allow parties of less than 3% of the vote to elect representatives in the national parliament. Thus, the Muslim vote is diffused in political (conservative, social-democratic, socialist) rather than religious lines; the three Muslim MPs belong to three main-stream political parties a fact that curtails any potential united, Muslim, or Turkish, front. Until recently the political structures were overwhelmingly centralised yet, during the last four years the PASOK government has taken significant steps in decentralising administrative regions and municipalities. Decentralisation will allow the Muslim minority to develop political structures semi-autonomous from Athens. Three members of the minority have become majors of significant parts of Western Thrace. The new positions of power gained during the recent elections (25 October 1998) will allow the minority a more organised and united front vis-á-vis state policies though the level of radicalism remains very mild.

Economic Power Network

2.B. The British economy is advanced capitalist with ample financial resources. It can absorb the cost of terrorist attacks both in Northern Ireland and England. However, IRA bombing campaigns in the City threatened to drastically undermine invisible earnings and therefore adversely impact on the UK balance of payments. This may, in part, have played some role in the development of the peace process. Bluntly, the cost of Northern Ireland threatened to become unbearable. Since the end of the Cold War, however, Britain no longer has a strategic interest in Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland, although officially neutral, is a member of the WEU, and has already taken steps to modernise its armed forces.

Greece is a full member of the European Union, and GATT. Increasing modernization of the economy aims at the full incorporation to the EU economic system by the year 2001. Furthermore, Greece is characterised by high social mobility which positively affects the Muslim minority as well. EU funding is the fuel for the strategic development of Western Thrace. Unemployment in the area is high (20%) affecting equally the Christian majority and the Muslim minority. Yet, emigration from the region under the prospect of finding jobs elsewhere has been followed only by members of the Christian majority. The Muslim minority, supported by funds provided by the Turkish embassy in Komotini remains firmly embedded in the region.

Ideological Power Network

2.C. The dominant ideology of the British ruling class nationalist within the parameters of the context of four different cultural polities: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Amongst the working class and tabloid media a more strident, often xenophobic, jingoism is sometimes expressed. Overall, however, the ideological emphasis is liberalism and the protection of civil liberties MORE.

Greek state ideology is mildly nationalist with pacifist overtones. Yet, ethnic nationalism, fueled by the Greek Orthodox Church still predominates. There are sincere efforts to replace it by civil nationalism, promoted by left-to-center political and ideological elites, albeit with limited success for the moment. The Orthodox Church in the region, supported by rightist politicians, has adopted a nationalist ideology directed indiscriminately against Muslim and Turkish interests. Yet, unilateral party support for European integration has given impetus to the development of individual rights and full incorporation to the Western moral system. Thus, we can detect two trends regarding the ideology the Greek elite embraces: A dominant one oriented towards W. European standards supported by the vast majority of the political elite and press, and a peripheral one, supported by the Church and a few rightist politicians, oriented towards traditional nationalist values. It is the latter trend which still creates alienation among the Muslim minority.

Military/Diplomatic Power Network

2.D. The British State retains advanced defense and security capabilities. Yet, by attempting to defeat the IRA using counter-insurgency methods it succeeded in alienating large sections of the Catholic minority who were often the victims of violence on the part of the security forces. Bloody Sunday is but one example. The RUC are perceived by Nationalists as a partisan and sectarian force. Britain has until recently managed to capitalise on the pro-British inclination of the US State Department to shape American intervention to British principles. The so-called 'Special Relationship' between Britain and the US, developed since WWII, has recently come under pressure but remains a plank of US foreign policy. Britain, a member of NATO and a supporter of US geo-political policies remains a close ally of the US. Though a liberal European state, Britain can maintain repressive measures for use in N. Ireland due to its ability to absorb the cost of Irish nationalism and terrorism, economically, ideologically, and politically. Its major weapon is the ability of its cohesive elite to strategically control the otherwise diffused British power networks.

Greece is fully integrated to the Western defense system being a member of NATO, the Western European Union, and the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Greek army is relatively strong since it has been involved into an arms race with Turkey for the last fifty years. Its dogma recognises Turkey as its sole adversary, and five years ago signed a defense pact with Cyprus to counter the presence of the Turkish army on the island. Greek diplomacy is overwhelmingly oriented towards combating Turkey's interests in all possible fora. Greece has repeatedly used its privilege as a member of the European Union to block Turkish efforts to develop close links with E.U. (European Structural Funds for Turkey are blocked for the last seven years), and the Greek lobby in the U.S. has been repeatedly used to neutralise pro-Turkish American policies (e.g., U.S. armament embargo against Turkey 1975-78; blocking American Perry frigates for Turkey 1996-7). Yet, Greece's diplomatic struggle against Turkey is of limited value, since both the U.S. and the EU. countries recognise Turkey as a major market and military ally in the area. Thus, it is only 'natural' as Brzezinski has argued recently, that Greece rather than Turkey becomes the receiver of western pressure to make concessions towards the adversary power (Brzezinski, 1997).

Preliminary Conclusions

It is interesting to notice that comprehensive policies in a contested region do not necessarily lead to satisfactory results. The British State has been much more stable in all aspects of social life than Greece. This has resulted in a more coherent and comprehensive policy towards Northern Ireland than the policies Greece has followed in Western Thrace. We would expect that such a policy would be much more successful than the re-active, spasmodic, and patchy, policies Greece used to combat Turkish infiltration or intervention in Western Thrace. On the other hand, even a comprehensive strategy developed by a united on the subject British political elite did not allow Britain to combat sectarianism in Northern Ireland. The reason why comprehensive British policies were equally unsuccessful to patchy Greek policies lies in the relationship the two countries have with their neighboring countries: The Republic of Ireland and Turkey.

Bi-national level: Political Power Network

3.A. The Republic of Ireland and the UK were until their common entry to EEC (1973) highly incompatible regimes. While The republic, under the de Valera regime became an inward looking, ultra-conservative, Catholic country, with a constitutional claim to Northern Ireland, the British state remained liberal, cosmopolitan, and religiously tolerant. This incompatibility started to wither away with the opening up of the Republic to European mainstream political culture. This osmosis was reinforced by common political and economic interests. Today, both states have similar political structures, due to prevailing liberal regimes and European Union representation.

Politically the Republic of Ireland has followed the post-war European norm of parties converging from left and right to form a social democratic core ideology. Both the main parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are products of the Civil War period but today they are virtually indistinguishable in social and economic policies. Far left, far Right or militant Catholic organisations or programs receive little support in the Irish Republic. The parties of the left and right, the Progressive Democrats or Labour and are also social democratic. The legacy of the Civil War fought after the War of Independence has imbued the state, and its citizenry, with an abhorrence of extremes. Yet, the two states were divided over the fait of Northern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution were explicitly claiming the territory on behalf of the Republic, while Britain was committed to preserve the Union for as long as the local majority wished to remain part of the U. K. It has been stated that Northern Ireland was a problem for both governments due to be solved for the benefit of both parties. Budgetary commitments in security terms are high for both governments. Politically, the Northern Ireland situation is of a destabilising influence in the Republic not merely because of the geographic proximity but due to historical factors. For Britain, Northern Ireland was always a source of embarrassment and some times of friction with the US, its main diplomatic ally. Yet, we have to ask why was Northern Ireland a 'common problem', asking for a 'common solution'? The answer lies precisely in the compatibility of political regimes, common political culture, and participation in common international fora (e.g. EU). It was compatibility of their political networks which allowed the two governments to agree on a common strategy to solve a "common problem" (see Anglo-Irish Agreement). Otherwise, the two states would continue to see each other in adversarial terms since they would be unable to find a common ground for a minimum agreement.

In contrast to the British-Irish similarities, the political regimes of Greece and Turkey are woefully incompatible. Turkey constitutes a secular, though, authoritarian and militarist regime shaped upon Kemalist statist lines, where political freedom is limited. As the Susurluk scandal reveals, the political elite is involved in terrorist operations, drug trafficking, and other criminal activities. The Army is the ultimate source of power in matters of government, and foreign policy. The cultural heterogeneity of Turkey, divided by a variety of religious and ethnic groups,[4] demands a strong a centralised state to combat centripetal forces.[5] This has resulted in a deep political crisis which invites military intervention at all levels of political life and a strict curtailing of political expression thus making Turkey a country with one of the worst records of human rights violations in the world (see Amnesty International Report, 1997).

Economic Power Network

3.B. As we have noted above the economy of the Irish Republic is still highly dependent on trade with their immediate neighbor. The Irish economy heavily depends on exports to and imports from Britain. Similarly, British companies retain a high level of investment in the Irish economy. Both economies have mutual interests as regards EU policies. The Common Agricultural Policy affects both for instance and MEPs from both states campaign for issues of joint interest. In sum, there has been historically, and still are, high levels of economic cooperation and economic interdependence. EU initiatives in the cross border region are premised on and demand practical implementation of inter-governmental cooperation.

As in the case of political networks, the economic policies of the two states are incompatible as well with a minimum of economic exchange taking place between the two countries. Turkey follows a massive development policy (10% p.a.) which has led to the uncontrollable rise of inflation of 80% p.a. It has created a massive income gap between the labour, civil servants, and lower middle class on the one hand, and the upper administrative, managerial, and army officers classes on the other. Furthermore, one of the major economic actors in Turkey is the Army itself able to secure economic resources for itself without having to cope with the resources' redistribution that usually take place in civil societies. The result is the widening of the gap between poor and rich, and the atrophy of the middle classes that could lead Turkey to western models of social development. For the moment, the middle classes appear too small, and organisationally outflanked, to effectively challenge the privileges of the Army. The "special relations" regime with the EU will further increase the prosperity gap between rich and poor. Recently, the Turkish government passed a law that prohibits Turkish firms to close deals with Greece unless the High Council approves their plan.

Ideological Power Network

3.C. Ireland and Britain have a long and stormy history of colonization and strife. Yet, at the level of the elites the Irish and British official histories do not view each other with hostility. The dominant historiographical theme of 'official' Irish history since the 1940's at least has been to down play the differences between the two nations. This theme has been reinforced by the experience of the 'Troubles' over the last thirty years. There is a clear demarcation of what happened in the past and the current conditions. We could claim, though without hard evidence, that the Irish establishment has been culturally absorbed by British customs and behaviour thus making contact easier rather than not. Common language, a parallel history of civil service, arts, and a constant flow of Irish immigrants to Britain has contributed enormously to similar dominant ideologies.

Following the incompatibility of structures and alien political and economic networks, Greek and Turkish national ideologies are mutually hostile. First, there is a strong animosity between the Greek and Turkish identities, which are basically, build on victories against each other. There is a covert popular wish on both sides for recapturing "enslaved" lands though in Greece the major political parties condemn such aspirations. It is supported by a few Church, immigrants, and popular press networks. Second, and more important, the official ideologies of the states are incompatible, While the Greek intelligentsia is firmly westernised and thus liberal, the Turkish intelligentsia, at least the one that is allowed to speak freely, is staunchly nationalist and promotes irredentism, Pan-Turkism, and territorial expansion in the Aegean sea and Iraq.[6]

Military/Diplomatic Power Network

3.D. The Irish Army is made of a light Brigade trained for international Peace Services under the UN authority. Though Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution claims jurisdiction over Northern Ireland Britain does not feel threatened in any way by the Irish Army. British overwhelming military superiority, as well as the Irish rejection of violence for the re-unification of the island has facilitated an overwhelmingly diplomatic route for the solution of the bi-national problem void of militarist-macho overtones.

The amicable British-Irish relations are reversed in the case of Greece and Turkey. Here, the abysmal differences in the previous power networks continue with Greek and Turkish geopolitical and geo-economic interests clashing in the Aegean, Cyprus, and Caucasus regions. The major issue between the two states is Cyprus, which remains divided since 1974 after an ill fated pro-junta Greek-Cypriot coup-de-etat which was followed by a Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island. Yet, Cyprus constitutes the consequence rather than the cause of troubles between the two countries. Turkey is a 'traditionally modern', centralised and nationalist, state, and a major geopolitical 'axis' and 'player' in the region with hegemonic pretensions tolerated by the US.[7] On the other hand Greece constitutes a 'late-modern' state oriented towards economic development, full integration to W. European political, economic, and moral institutions, looking at the Balkans and the Caucasus region as its main objectives of economic expansion. Such incompatibility is bound to create conflicting interests and 'hot spots' between the two countries. Thus, Turkey feels 'suffocated' by the Greek presence in the Aegean and Cyprus, and has recently challenged the Greek sovereignty of hundreds of Aegean rocks and islets (some of them inhabited) creating a 'second front' against Greece. The third front is W. Thrace, certain to erupt sooner or later.[8]

Preliminary Conclusions

The structural compatibility, and thus ability for diffusion, between the social networks of the two sets of countries appear to be crucial in managing local ethnic conflicts; overt such as in N. Ireland, or latent, such as in W. Thrace. There are two reasons which facilitate such reapportionment. First, the warring local ethnic elites derive much of their credibility from their loyalty to their perceived home state. Second, states can mobilise resources immensely more powerful than the resources local ethnic elites can mobilise from their region. Both reasons work for the outflanking of local elites who could potentially like to develop a course independent of state policies and agreements. Yet, for two states to come together and agree on a common policy, and moreover, to carry this policy successfully, a positively inclined international environment is necessary. The key player in international relations today is the US.

International Level: Political Power Network

4.A. The international political regime is dominated by the US-led United Nations, and less so by the European Union. This is an international environment that resists any outbreak of violence that could potentially destabilize the core of Pax Americana. Instead, encouragement is given to compromise and democratic politics with a series of interventions, which guarantee American interests. The US has been instrumental in pushing forward the Anglo-Irish agreement and in negotiating the Peace Agreement since it is equally attracted to the Irish-catholic side via the Irish-American lobby, and the British-Protestant side as a long and loyal friend of Britain in international politics. The Clinton administration was successful in mainly three fronts: First, it de-legitimised any local party's intention to abstain from direct talks. Second, it de-radicalised Sinn Fein politics by accepting Jerry Adams and the upper echelon of his party as full participants in the peace process before the end of hostilities. Third, through ex-Congresman Mitchell, the US guaranteed the active neutrality and credibility of the central negotiator.

Additionally, the European Union has shown interest in the N. Irish conflict for similar reasons. It is clear the Brussels did not discount the destabilising potential of the Irish conflict in the EU. The Basques are but one example of a minority one section of which, ETA, sought to emulate the guerrilla tactics of the IRA to gain independence from Spain. Since the IRA cease-fire and the Good Friday Agreement, however, Gerry Adams has visited his erstwhile brothers in arms and ETA has embarked on a policy of political negotiation with the Spanish authorities. European influence on British policy towards Ireland should not be discounted as a major element in the decision to resolve the conflict.

On the other hand, the US and EU administrations are continually unsuccessful in bringing to an end the Greek-Turkish hostility. Since Greece and Turkey are not committed to solving their 'common problems' in ways similar to the Irish and British governments, the US is unwilling to alienate either Greece or Turkey who both constitute loyal American allies in South Eastern Europe. This inability is exacerbated by the recent alliance of the Turkish and the Jewish American lobbies that from now on will counter the strong Greek-American lobby in Washington. In other words, the conflicting Greek (anti-Turkish, pro-Arab) vs. Turkish (anti-Greek, anti-Syrian) and Israeli (anti-Arab) interests will be reflected in diplomatic circles in Washington DC.

Furthermore, while Greece is a full EU member and Turkey is not, the major European powers are unwilling to alienate an important regional player such as Turkey. Nevertheless, it is true that Greece has succeeded in keeping Turkey at bay in many respects (e.g., blocking Turkey's status as a 'candidate country' and the Third Protocol for Economic Cooperation) because of its full membership.

Economic Power Network

4.B. After the collapse of the USSR capitalism reigns undisputed. Free trade zones and the globalisation of economy have become synonymous to the New Order regime. The enemies of free markets are open hostilities and no-go areas. The economic interests of states and enterprises demand security and peace at any cost to access the area of future investment. Northern Ireland's troubles constitute a thorn to the side of globalisation since the region, literally in the heart of the Western world, remains under-developed. Absence of conflict regarding economic interests in N. Ireland facilitated both the Irish and British rapprochement as well as the smooth introduction of US as the grant broker. On the contrary, Greek and Turkish economic interests clash over the Aegean sea and its oil reservoirs, the Balkan hinterland, and the Caucasus and Middle Asia oil deposits.[9] It is not an accident that Mesut Yilmaz, the Turkish PM has recently announced that no Turkish firm is allowed to co-operate with Greek enterprises unless it has an explicit permission to do so.[10]

Ideological Power Network

4.C. In the past, a major factor in turning Ireland into an area of perpetual conflict was the Reformation (16th century). Protestant England could not afford an independent Catholic Ireland in alliance with the catholic Spain or France. Today, religion is not a matter of dispute among Western European states. Instead, the dominant ideology of the times is liberalism, which guarantees promotion of compromise, inclusion, and accommodation in matters of ethnic dispute. Politics of compromise is further supported by the current Western emphasis on civil rather than ethnic nationalism. Northern Ireland political parties are, in principle, anti-sectarian, and endorse secularism and civil society. In principle then, they are obliged to endorse democratic principles and 'forced' to accept the primacy of equality over ideological, political or religious, distinctions.

W. Thrace is situated in a region where civic nationalism is weak. Even though Greece is formally committed in promoting civic over ethnic nationalism, the prospect of civic nationalism in Greece is week as long as conflicts and claims in the region are fueled by ethnic nationalism, 'enslaved brothers' and 'enslaved lands' (see Kosovo, Bosnia, Moldavia, Cyprus). Thus, the international moral order, essentially late-modern, which promotes individual rights, freedom of speech, multi-culturalism, and the disintegration of national borders, could hardly find fertile ground in W. Thrace. The prospect becomes bleaker if we consider the anachronistic educational foundations of the Muslim minority (controlled by a religious institution) which pushes further apart the cognitive frameworks of the Christian majority.

Military/Diplomatic Power Network

4.D. In the international arena the dominant military organisation is NATO. It guarantees the stability in the region while promoting the interests of the US. The fact that Northern Ireland is situated in the hart of NATO territory guarantees the undisputed geopolitical character of the region. There are no rival states or blocks of states who would exploit regional differences to promote their own interests. A united front of the NATO member states facilitates the full control of the local actors by the U.S. as well as the E.U.

On the Greek-Turkish front, NATO's role is paramount in limiting aggression between Greece and Turkey, and checking the possibility of a "hot incident" or all-our war between the two neighbors. Yet, it recognises the crucial role of Turkey as the watchman of the troubled Caucasus and Middle East regions.[11] The acknowledgment of the important role Turkey has in promoting western interests is accompanied by the acceptance of Turkey as a regional power with its own national interests, even if these interests aim against another western state such as Greece. Thus, W. Thrace is bound to remain a locality depended on the more important regional conflict between Greece and Turkey which no international political organisation is able to solve for the moment.

Preliminary Conclusions

The hegemony of the US in all aspects of international life suggests that any problem which fails to find solutions on local, national, or bi-national levels, will eventually be arbitrated by the US apparatus which by definition will try to offer a solution on lines that favor US interests. The US strategic interest in N. Ireland is primarily diplomatic prestige and secondarily the infiltration of the region by American enterprises. It was able to significantly and positively affect the negotiations from the moment the Republic of Ireland and Britain managed to develop a common strategy which outmaneuvered the deep divisions of the province.

The US has not been able to bring together Greece and Turkey since the two countries are deeply divided by political, economic, ideological, and diplomatic differences which will not be bridged in the foreseeable future. Since US interests are served by both countries America will continue to be the fireman of the Aegean, merely preventing open hostilities between its two allies.


We have examined two regions of Europe contested by ethnic groups, Northern Ireland and Western Thrace, by using network analysis. This analysis suggests that the most difficult problem to solve, yet, the most easy to overcome is the ethnic conflict itself. The reason is that the social action of a strategic minority is usually informed by social factors external to the region itself. This does not mean that the elites of the ethnic minorities are passive actors, mere pawns of states and international affairs. On the contrary, they have their own goals and strategies. Yet, they are local actors with resources inadequate to crucially affect the overall fate of the ethnic group they represent. Thus, they have to operate in frameworks imposed by 'higher order' social actors, that is, state actors. We should focus on their actions and state interests if we wish to comprehend the fate of ethnic relations.

It is clear that the major differences between the Northern Ireland and Western Thrace minority issues are the intensity of ethnic discrimination, by far more intense in Northern Ireland, and, even more important, the relationship between the two sets of contesting countries. While in past times the Northern Irish problem was informed by geo-political worries and national economic interests on the one hand, and local animosity on the other, now it is above all a problem internal to the region. The problem can be identified as the mutually exclusive sets of local power networks. The pressures that have been imposed on the local actors by the British, Irish, and American states, as well as the strong pacifist tones of the Press, have succeeded in outmaneuvering the resources of the two fighting factions. Thus, the Peace Agreement is underpinned by EU, British and American funds to reconstruct the political, educational, and economic infrastructures of Northern Ireland.

In spite the Good Friday Agreement, and ample funding, the three states involved in the agreement have not succeeded in penetrating or breaking factional borders - they have not been able to make them compatible and diffuse them. ADD They remain intact since they are overwhelmingly local and locally informed, such as local athletic organisations, press, local councils, the Protestant composition of the security forces, and the Protestant persona of the public space. Yet, the fact that the Good Friday Agreement is a reality, and that the paramilitary organisations have declared a permanent cease-fire are evidence of the significance of factors above the civil society, above the immediate actors, in affecting ethnic groups' status and action. Thus, much of the violent conflict was resolved soon after the Republic of Ireland and Britain agreed on the future of the province and the US brought in its diplomatic experience and prestige. Today, the N. Irish problem has been concentrated on the decommissioning of weapons by the IRA, and the re-formation of the RUC, which are bound to happen sooner rather than latter.

In the case of W. Thrace the problematic status of the Muslim minority as well as its uneasy relations with the Christian majority and the Greek authorities mainly reflects the problematic relation, and the clash of interests and incompatible power networks of Greece and Turkey. Western Thrace exhibits the same quality of mutually exclusive local networks of power as Northern Ireland. Yet, these sectarian networks are far from being developed locally by local elites, such as in the case of Northern Ireland. Due to the centralised political structures in Greece, discrimination, suspicion, and animosity were the product of past reactionary measures of the national and local Greek authorities, and the Turkish embassy in Komotini City. Thus, while the Muslim networks of power have more resources than their Catholic counter-part with direct funding and support from Turkey, they are less flexible since they are not controlled by a multiplicity of political, economic, and ideological elites such as in the Northern Ireland case but instead they are overwhelmingly controlled by a state whose interests are primarily the redrawing of the Greek-Turkish borders at the expense of Greece.

In all, the Western Thracian ethnic divisions though they are not created, they are reinforced by national and bi-national social networks of power which inhibit reconciliation in Western Thrace. The ethnic divisions in the region are locally created and re-produced primarily by the educational structures. Thus, the minority's educational structures of the Muslim minority are woefully antedated and incompatible with the national Greek educational system, and the only real alternative to Muslim children is the Turkish-nationalist educational system which is equally incompatible to the Greek one. Muslim religion, customs, and festivals, as well as the Turkish language create a sense of otherness immediately colored by unpleasant past experiences, inter-state rivalry, etc. These local differences are organisationally institutionalised by some Greek elites operating locally and the Turkish embassy directly connecting them to the Greek-Turkish rivalry, which are again reproduced to institutions of international character (e.g., EU and US policies in Caucasus, NATO's policies in Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, etc.).

The conclusions we derive from a tentative examination of the two cases are bound to be pessimistic. Firstly, there are too many loose ends in the game for the control of strategic minorities in general, and the control of N. Ireland and W. Thrace in particular, to effectively eradicate sectarianism. Secondly, even if bi-national or international actors wish to solve the ethnic problem, we still face the local network of power, which is bound to remain divided due to almost immutable ideological differences, ethnic, or religious these might be. In Northern Ireland the paramount question, if the region belongs to the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom, is still unanswered. Even if Greece and Turkey solve their bi-national problems W. Thrace will still be inhabited by Muslims and Christians informed by quite different cultures and historic memories. In terms of network analysis it means that the degree of diffusion is limited by the quality of the items which networks are made of. Thus, 'national identity' is bound to be connected with a 'national state', as 'religion' is bound to be connected with a 'moral system'. This means that in the age of national states the most we can wish for is to refer ethnic relations away from military arenas to political for a as in the case of Quebec nationalism. This is not the only possible solution. More radical approaches would seek to transcend the 'ideological', or 'political item' itself by creating new ideals, thus, altering the dynamics of the ideological and political networks altogether. Thus, the creation of a new Imperium Romanum, a European state, could disarm ethnic imagery stripping it from the desire of national states. Could the European Union become such a body politic? Could we accept such an alternative?


1Mann, 1986.

2Paresoglou, 1995.

3Burgas is a Bulgarian coastal city; Alexandroupolis is a W. Thrace coastal city. The plan calls for the transportation of Russian oil to Burgas by sea, and then its transportation to Alexandroupolis by pipe-line, to relax the Bosporous straits from ecologically dangerous oil tanker shipments.

4Andrews, 1989.

5The President of the Turkish Republic Suleiman Demirel has stated that: '...if we apply democracy in the fashion demanded by the Europeans, then we will be desolved, and this will never happen' (Cumhuriyet, 3 June 1995).

6Blank, 1993.

7Brzezinski, 1997.

8Constas, 1991.

9Brzezinski, ibid.

10Eleutherotypia, 12 October 1998.

11Borovali, 1990; Fuller, 1993.


ANDREWS, P. A. (ed.) (1989) Ethnic Groups in the Republic of Turkey. Wiesbaden: Dr Ludwig Reihertverlag.

BLANK, S. (1993) Turkey's strategic position at the crossroads of world affairs, (SSI studies on post-Cold War Nato issues). Carlisle, Pa. US: Army War College.

BOROVALI, A. O. (1990) 'Turkey and the Persian Golf: A regional Power in Srategic Perspectives', The Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Spring 1990, pp. 40-58.

BRZEZINSKI, Z. (1998) The Grand Chessboard - American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. Harper Collins.

CONSTAS, D. (ed.). (1991) The Greek-Turkish Conflict in the 1990s. London: Mcmillan Press.

FULLER, G. (1993) Turkey's new Geopolitics, from the Balkans to Western China. San Francisco - Oxford: Rand Corporation.

MANN, M. (1986) Sources of Social Power (v.1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

PARESOGLOU, A. 1995. "Muslims of Greek Thrace", in Th. Veremis (ed.), Balkans - From Biopolarity to the New Era. Athens: Gnosis Publishers.

Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2000