14 May, 2014 – 09:15 to 14:15

The unfolding crisis over Ukraine has resuscitated debates on the character of the international system as well as on fundamental principles of sovereignty and international law. While multi-ethnic states in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continue to be challenged by a combination of re-awakened nationalisms, religious revivals and neo-imperial consolidation – Russia’s annexation of Crimea is just one example of how the post-Soviet boundaries in the CEE and the Sykes-Picot post-World War I boundaries in the ME could again become challenged. As has been the case throughout the 20th century – whether as the consequence of the world wars, crumbling colonialism or the fall of the Soviet Union – will multi-ethnic states crumble and maps continue to be redrawn in the new millennium with similar intensity? Is the disintegration of the Soviet Union into 15 quasi-nation states, the break-up of Yugoslavia or even Czechoslovakia a permanent outcome? Or, as ‘in war the result is never final’, have we overlooked the enormous potential for ethnic and nationalist unrest potentially leading to further fragmentation? Is Ukraine just an isolated and radical example, or do problems in the Baltic states, Moldova, the Caucasus, Syria, Yemen or Iraq pose a similar challenge? If so, how can one balance the principles of states’ territorial integrity with those of the right to self-determination?