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Monday, May 30, 2011

Can Turkey Unify the Arabs? |

If I had time, I'd write a longer comment on this evocative NYT piece. Unfortunately, all I have time for is to post a link and excerpt:
“The bread of Azaz comes from Kilis, and the bread of Kilis comes from Azaz,” said Mr. Said, whose shop sits just off a road that once carried the business of the far-flung Ottoman Empire and now marks Turkey’s limits. “We’re the same. We’re brothers. What really divides us?”

As the Arab world beyond the border struggles with the inspirations and traumas of its revolution — a new notion of citizenship colliding with the smaller claims of piety, sect and clan — something else is percolating along the old routes of that empire, which spanned three continents and lasted six centuries before Ataturk brought it to an end in 1923 with self-conscious revolutionary zeal.
The basic thrust of the piece is that old Ottoman cultural, familial, and economic ties remain in the Middle East, bolstering Turkey's project of projecting a more ambitious regional profile. Definitely worth reading.

Can Turkey Unify the Arabs? -

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Armenia to participate in Turkey-hosted seminar | PanARMENIAN.Net

On May 30-June 1, Bursa (Turkey) will host a seminar, titled “Cities Dialogue for European Enlargement and EU Neighborhood Policy” within “EUROCITIES ENP and Enlargement Working Group.” Armenia will participate in the event along with the EU member states, candidate countries and Balkan States.
Armenia to participate in Bursa-hosted seminar - PanARMENIAN.Net

(Here is the original source; a Turkish-language Armenian newspaper.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bomb Wounds 8 in Heart of Istanbul |

I missed this item in yesterday's New York Times:
A bicycle bomb exploded in a popular shopping district in central Istanbul on Thursday, causing panic and wounding eight people, Turkish officials said.
Bomb Wounds 8 in Heart of Istanbul -

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Turkey Presses Harder for Return of Antiquities -

From the New York Times's Susanne Güsten:
After years of pleading in vain for the return of Anatolia’s cultural treasures from Western museums, Turkey has started playing hardball. And it is starting to see some results.
Turkey Presses Harder for Return of Antiquities -

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Füle on Turkey-EU relations, visa waivers etc [video]

From's youtube channel:
European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle on Wednesday [May 18] told European business leaders that Turkey is a key contributor to the Euroepan Union's global economic power.
You'll find the video below. It contains nothing revolutionary except that Füle remains surprisingly upbeat about EU-Turkey relations in spite of the current impasse. He keeps the pressure up, asking for a "long awaited revitalization" of Turkey's political reform process. And he also attempts to allay Turkish irritation on the failure to extend visa-free travel to Turks throughout the EU. He reaffirms that the Justice and Home Affairs Council in February of this year "has opened a clear perspective" on the visa issue. Here, I assume that he is referring to the conclusions from February 24-25, according to which said council
invites the Commission, the Member States and Turkey to intensify their cooperation on visa issues, ensuring harmonised implementation of practical improvements for Turkish visa applicants within the framework of the EU Visa Code and asks the Commission to regularly report to the Council in this respect
But this is hardly revolutionary. It basically amounts to a "let's work harder." And the Cypriot delegation's addendum to this conclusion doesn't make things better:
The joint declaration on the cooperation in the area of visa policy, appears to establish a direct link between the readmission agreement and a visa dialogue. Our understanding is that the implementation in good faith of the readmission agreement is a sine qua non condition for the pursuit of such dialogue. Furthermore it has to be clear that the readmission agreement and the joint declaration do not commit the EU in a dialogue aiming towards a visa facilitation or liberalization.
Here, the Cypriot delegation denies the existence of any link between the readmission agreement (according to which Turkey would accept back into Turkey all migrants who enter the EU "illegally" through Turkey and then ensure their "repatriation" to their country of origin), which the EU wants Turkey to implement, and the visa-waiver that Turkey wants the EU to implement. [Correction: To be accurate, the statement doesn't deny the link, it just makes implementation of the readmission agreement a precondition for "dialogue" on the visa waiver matter.] In contrast to the Cypriot delegation, Turkish politicians have been making the link between these two items explicitly, in effect calling for a quid-pro-quo mutual implementation of both. In the words of one Turkish official:
Nothing is happening on the visa question and they want us to sign the re-admission agreement. Well sorry that is not going to happen.
A final reflection on Füle's remarks is that his wording appears deliberate. It seems to me at least that his choice of words are meant to appease those actors in the EU who are aiming for a "privileged partnership" of one form or another. "Looking to the future," he argues, "our common challenge is to deepen European Union-Turkey integration even further. The accession negotiations are the best tool to do this." Perhaps I am reading into this, but such a statement - stopping short of reaffirming accession as the goal - appear to be so designed as to not provoke the "partnership" crowd. Anyway, you can judge for yourself:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Turkish German's truth: 'It's not us and them' | The Globe and Mail

Interesting interview with the co-leader of the German Green Party, Cem Özdemir, about multiculturalism, citizenship, and integration of Turkish immigrants (and their children) in Germany.
He has two urgent messages. To ethnic Germans, he says: Forget the debate about culture; it’s over. Let’s talk about how to turn everyone living in Germany into a full citizen. To Turks, he says: Forget about Turkey. You’re German now, not part of a long-forgotten homeland’s diaspora. Start acting like it, learn the language and become citizens.

Austria to hold referendum on Turkish EU accession

"What's with Austria?!?" This was how a colleague of mine responded to yesterday's post about the cross-national variation in levels of support for Turkish EU-accession. (Austria is, by far, least supportive of EU member states.) It is a valid question.

And the extremely low level of support for Turkish EU membership in the country has political consequences. Understandably, Austrian politicians are reluctant to take a stand and try to push through such an unpopular issue. The natural - albeit cowardly - response is to "let the people decide." Austrian Chancellor has used the occasion to reaffirm its decision to put Turkey's EU bid before the Austrian people EurActiv Turkey reports:

"Even in the case of a positive decision after the negotiations between the EU and Turkey, we will organise a referendum in Austria on this topic," Faymann was quoted as saying by Turkish daily Hürriyet.
In all honesty, it is overly generous to present this as a response by the Austrian leadership to existing popular sentiments. There is probably an element of this - collective memories of 1683 perhaps - but the two largest parties as well as much of the media establishment is resolutely against letting Turkey in. On this issue, they are as much the leaders of opinion as they follow it.

Of course, Austria is not alone. France has taken a similar position on the issue of referendam, and for Turkey this clearly spells trouble. The accession of a new member state requires the consent of all existing members. Thus, EurActiv phrasing of the Turkish reaction to the Austrian Chancellor's statement - made on the occasion of Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to the country no less - is probably somewhat of an understatement):
 The statement apparently left Ankara unimpressed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cross-national differences in support for Turkish EU membership

My forthcoming book includes some graphs showing support in EU member states for Turkish EU accession compared to other applicant states. But I do not break these figures down by member state. Since I have this platform, I thought I would give my readers a taste of this data here instead.

The following graph is from one of the 2008 Eurobarometers (a set of surveys regularly conducted by the EU Commission on a range of topics). It does not include answers from Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I have excluded 'Don't know' answers and calculated percentages on the proportion of respondents favoring vs opposing Turkish EU membership.
It is clear that Turkey receives its most enthusiastic support from the new member states from Eastern and Central Europe. After them, Sweden and the UK provides the most support.

As for the resistance to Turkish EU membership, it is by far strongest in Austria, followed by the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, western Germany, Luxembourg, France, Eastern Germany, and Greece. A majority of all respondents (60% on this crunching of the data) oppose Turkey's accession.

For a qualitative perspective, you can also get a sense of this cross-national variety of views on this issue from the anthology edited by Nathalie Tocci as part of the Italian institute of international affairs (IAI)'s Quaderni English series. (It is available online here). 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Islamophobia in the Wake of Bin Laden's Death - National - The Atlantic Wire

The reports that an Atlantic Southeast Airlines pilot diverted his flight to Memphis International Airport and ordered two Imams in traditional attire off the plane. The two had already been through the normal as well as additional airport security screenings:
One of the men, Masudur Rahman, an adjunct instructor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, said they were told the pilot refused to accept them because some other passengers could be uncomfortable. As both men were clerics, they were dressed in the traditional garb, including skullcaps.
Islamophobia in the Wake of Bin Laden's Death - National - The Atlantic Wire

Friday, May 6, 2011

The breadth of Turkish security policy

Last week, I attended a talk at the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs by Dr. Ebru S. Canan-Sokullu, Ass. Professor at Baçheşehir University, Istanbul. The title of her talk was "Turkey's Security Policy in the 21st Century: Change or Continuity?" and it was a very useful and broad overview of Turkish foreign and security policy. I have been meaning to blog about it but haven't had the time, but here are my thoughts.

To me, the very breadth of Dr. Canan-Sokullu's talk was one of the main take-home points. She covered Turkish policy in the Balkans, toward the EU, Russia, NATO, Israel, and the Middle East, as well as more general points about the various dimensions of the foreign policy shift that can be observed with the AKP leadership at the helm, and about such notions as Davutoğlu's "strategic depth." (What she consciously skipped - to my great sorrow - was a slide on Turkey-EU relations, about which she has at least written a book chapter.)

One of the questions she raised was whether there has been a distinct shift toward the East, which I have discussed elsewhere on this blog. As far as I gathered (and recall - I took too few notes, I am afraid), she never came down clearly on one or the other side of the issue but on my interpretation, her entire presentation illustrated the broader nature of the Turkish foreign policy reorientation.

There is no doubt that Turkey has increased trade with and its policy presence in the Middle East (the New York Times has a good piece about the triumphs and pitfalls of this policy in light of the Arab uprisings). It is also clear that the AKP leadership is more cautious in its embrace of NATO policies, as Prof. Canan-Sokullu herself argues (link in Turkish), and it is decidedly unhappy with Israel after its 2008-09 Gaza offensive, which Erdoğan likely took as a personal insult.

But perhaps a better metaphor than the "going East" narrative provides, is of an increasingly well-rounded Turkish foreign policy. Turkey has enhanced its cooperation with Iran and pre-revolt Syria, but those aren't the only neighbors whom Turkey has courted: The EU still accounts for the majority of Turkish trade and its significance to Turkey is perhaps best evidenced by the extensive and often painful reform process that the Turkish leadership has been pursuing over the past decade, despite the often less than lukewarm response from the EU.

Moreover, I recently spoke to someone who has been stationed at the Swedish Embassy in Sarajevo, who emphasized the constructive role that Turkey was playing in Bosnia and the greater region. And thanks to "earthquake" and "soccer diplomacy," Turkey-Greek relations are better now than they have been for many decades, perhaps since before the coup and invasion of Cyprus. Similarly, Turkey has clearly also attempted a rapprochement with Armenia, albeit with moderate success.

Former US ambassador to Turkey, Michael Lake, uses yet another metaphor to describe Turkish foreign policy: On his take, Turkey views its foreign policy as standing on three legs. The first two are the U.S. and Europe, and the third is now the Middle East. This is helpful, but it still somewhat obscures the conscious attempt by Turkey with Davutoğlu at the helm and as its intellectual architect, to develop a well-rounded foreign policy with all its neighbors.

To me, as I said, this breadth was the main take-home point from the very broad overview of Turkish foreign and security policy given by Prof. Canan-Sokullu in Stockholm last week.

UPDATE April 10, 2011

Prof. Canan-Sokullu shared a link to an English version of her research note on support for NATO policies: Here. And I might as well clarify her findings while I am on the topic. From the research note:
The results show that MHP supporters are the fiercest anti-NATO group, AKP supporters are rather moderately against NATO. Those who support CHP have adopted consistently negative attitudes to NATO over time. 

Kurdish Rebels Claim Attack |

Sebnem Arsu of the New York Times reports that the PKK has claimed responsibility for the recent attack on a convoy in which Prime Minister Erdoğan had traveled moments earlier:
Kurdish separatists claimed responsibility on Thursday for the attack on the prime minister’s campaign convoy the day before, the semi-official Anatolian News Agency reported. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not travelling with the convoy when it was attacked by a group of five or six gunmen, reported to be members of the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, near Kastamonu, a Black Sea port. One policeman was killed. The governor of Kastamonu, Erdogan Bektas, said the attack was not an attempt on the prime minister’s life but simply aimed at stirring chaos.
Turkey - Kurdish Rebels Claim Attack -

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Erdoğan escapes assassination attempt?

This just in from the NYT:
Unidentified attackers in northern Turkey opened fire Wednesday on a campaign convoy belonging to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party, killing one police officer and wounding another, local officials said.

The attack came after Mr. Erdogan had left the convoy. It was unclear whether he had been the intended target.

Ruling Party Convoy Attacked in Turkey, Leaving One Dead -

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

State of play, Turkey-EU relations, part 1

Finally back after a too long hiatus from posting. Have lots of things happened while The TurkEU Blog has been inactive? Not really. At least not on the Turkey-EU front.

There remain, as I see it, a few major stumbling blocs on Turkey's path toward accession. Here they are, not in order of importance:

1. The pace of the Turkish reform process. 
Turkish reforms have undoubtedly been impressive over the course of the past ten or so years, but the pace has been uneven. And we are now arguably in a bit of a lull with respect to the reforms.

Moreover, recent developments on the media front in connection with the Ergonekon and Sledgehammer investigations (I have blogged about this herehere, and here) in Turkey have given ammunition to Turkey-skeptics in the EU about the sincerity of the AKP towards democratic reforms. It is up to the AKP to allay such suspicions, which, by the way, are shared by many secular Turks as well.

2. Cyprus. 
This of course remains a major impediment. See here for a more thorough discussion of the issue. From the EU's point of view, Turkey must sign the according to the Additional Protocol of the Ankara Agreement and give the (Greek Cypriot) Republic of Cyprus access to Turkish ports etc, but euinside (a Bulgarian online media source) reports the Turkish foreign minister as saying that Turkey has given openings on this issue that have not been taken up by the other side. And from the Turkish point of view, Brussels still has not lived up to the promises it gave in 2004.

3. Visa requirements. 
This is a burning issue right now, with Turks upset about visa requirements for Turkish citizens wanting to travel to the EU. Abdullah Gül and several other Turkish politicians have been pushing this issue publicly recently. The Voice of America quotes a Turkish diplomatic correspondent on the sensitivity of this matter:
"Turks are confronted with visas from Europe even though they are many businessmen who do business with Europe. There are thousands of students who go to Europe and Turkey is being treated as a third world country which has nothing but potential illegal immigrants," Idiz said. "For the government , the state and the population this is a demeaning situation."
It is, however, also a demanding situation for the EU side, as this issue gets to the murkier fears that underly much public resistance in the EU to the prospect of Turkish EU accession. VoA again:
joint head of the European Green Party, Daniel Cohn Bendit, says Ankara has to realize what its asking for.

"Opening a free travel is an immense opening. Turkey is a big country," he said. "This is a debate I have had for 10 years with the Turks."
The EU set up a number of criteria (three, as far as I have been able to tell) for the opening of a dialogue on the visa issue, and Turkey now claims that it has reached or made extensive progress on those criteria. The one criteria where Turkey is openly holding out is the signature of what is known as the re-admission agreement, according to which Turkey would accept all undocumented immigrants that enter the EU through Turkey. Turkey is holding off its signing this agreement as leverage in the dispute over visas. Said Selim Yenel, deputy undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs and Public Diplomacy of the Turkish foreign ministry (also in VoA):
Nothing is happening on the visa question and they want us to sign the re-admission agreement. Well sorry that is not going to happen.
There are a few more points to be made, but I will leave this for a second post on the state of play in the negotiations.
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