Category Archives: Turkey-EU

ECHR Vs. Turkey: Cyprus Wins

Source: Channel4

According to a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey has to pay 90 million Euros in damages to Cyprus in compensation for its 1974 invasion of the island. Turkey was again called by the ECHR to pay a 13 million Euro compensation to Cyprus over property rights violations in the occupied territories, in 2009.

The Court’s decision is a victory, not only for Cyprus and its people, but also for Justice itself. An internationally renowned Court has yet again ruled the Turkish invasion and occupation of 37% of the island illegal, along with a big number of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Continue reading

Economic Crisis in Cyprus: Repercussions, Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots

As a result of the global and European (Eurozone) systemic economic crisis, as well as due to domestic structural problems, human errors, and the direct linkages of the banking sector to the Greek economic and financial crisis, Cyprus has found itself gradually sinking into its own economic depression. This led to months-long negotiations between Cyprus and the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) for the eventual signing of a memorandum of (austerity) measures that would entail a bail-out package. Although the Cypriot parliament has passed a number of bills based on the negotiated memorandum, a final agreement has not yet been reached and the final, completed, form of the memorandum has not yet been signed. To be sure, these rapid economic developments have broad political implications on issues such as the resolution of the Cyprus Problem, the role and views of Turkey, Turkey-European Union (EU) relations, and the views of the Turkish-Cypriot community.

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European Energy Security, Geo-economic Competition and Strategic Imperatives

It is widely argued that as a result of the 2008-2009 energy crisis between Russia and Ukraine, member-states of the European Union and European countries more generally, want to diversify their energy sources and ultimately reduce their dependency on Russia. In light of this, continental Europe emerges as an energy market in need, while potential alternative energy (natural gas or oil) producers and/or transporters acquire significant geopolitical, geo-economic, and strategic value. The existing energy pipeline projects that end up in Europe, coupled with other similar projects currently in progress and the newly-found natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean – in the Israeli and Cypriot maritime Exclusive Economic Zones – and in the Black Sea, lead to the emergence of a new geo-economic competition of strategic significance. This competition for fulfilling Europe’s energy needs has political extensions and implications for the actors involved. Τhe most important actors taking part in this competition, at this juncture, are arguably Turkey – along with energy producers such as Azerbaijan – and Israel in cooperation with Cyprus and even Greece.

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Understanding Turkey’s Cyprus Problem

On the 28th of December, the Cypriot President Demetris Christofias announced that the Aphrodite Block 12 field off the coast of Cyprus contains between 5 and 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which “opens up great potential for Cyprus and its people,” he said. Now the question is whether the gas find might also create a new dynamic which could lead to greater regional cooperation and a faster solution to the Cyprus problem.

Apart from President Christofias many other officials and academics supported the idea that the discovery of natural gas could make the conditions for a settlement more favourable. This notion implies, among other things, that Turkey will recognise the great interest it has from a future settlement in Cyprus; that it will appreciate how it could benefit from a future joint exploitation of the natural gas by the two communities under a federal state; as well as the possibilities of cooperation between Cyprus and itself, in consuming and transporting the gas. This is not implausible. And no one could question the benefits that Turkey would have from the implementation of such a scenario. However, this logic does not take into account the coercive attitude and unproductive diplomacy that Turkey has been pursuing of late. Moreover, this rosy picture also does not consider the other external relations of Turkey such as with the EU, nor the state’s domestic politics. Thus, while we cannot exclude the possibility that Turkey will change its stance, at the same time, the realities we have at hand do not leave us much space for optimism.

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Elections in Turkey

Abstract
The victory of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) was very much expected in the recent Turkish Parliamentary elections that took place on June 12. The AKP managed to get 49.9% of the votes which is not sufficient for an overall majority in the parliament and means that the winners will likely have to seek cooperation with their opponents in order to achieve certain goals. Below we examine the possible outcomes of the AKP’s attempts to create a new constitution as well as assessing the broader outlook for Turkey as it goes forward.
Even without the vast majority that many expected, the AKP’s victory is clear and will help it to start implementing its agenda, albeit with more difficulty than it would like. Of course, this agenda has been much discussed over the last weeks and many of its points are probably known by now. Among other things it includes Turkey’s relations with the EU, the Kurdish question, energy policy and the effort to create a new constitution. The latter point about the new constitution is the culmination of Erdogan’s policy since the AKP’s first election in 2002 which aims to weaken Turkey’s “Deep State” – or in other words the military’s influence in political life – and reduce its influence in the state’s governing apparatus. This will enhance and ease the AKP’s rule by promoting its political objectives, especially its challenging foreign policy agenda.
The efforts to create a new constitution seem like a relatively easy and mostly bureaucratic undertaking since, as has been argued by many, the AKP will likely be able to implement it eventually, either through cooperation in parliament or a referendum. That would, of course, be yet another victory for the AKP after the success of the referendum of September 12, 2010 and the past elections. But this is far from the reality. The political battle[1] that Erdogan and the AKP are about to fight, is perhaps the hardest since the “Ergenekon” case where Kemalists, linked to the army, planned to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
It is important to note that a large part of Turkish society, approximately 30% or more, still supports the Kemalist character of the state and is concerned about the future of the country under the Islamist government of Erdogan. Perhaps the gradual emergence and strengthening of Islam in the country’s political life was inevitable since Kemal’s attempt for modernisation overlooked the extent to which Islam was part of the culture of the people and elites. Nonetheless, Erdogan’s policy today is not all that different. Since 2002, using the guise of Turkey’s candidacy for EU accession and its quest for democratisation, the AKP has implemented various reform packages which aimed, among other things, to undermine the Kemalist influence. We have seen, however, that this process has not left the Kemalist generals unmoved for yet again in the history of the Turkish state, they have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to overthrow the government.
In this light, Erdogan’s attempt to implement a new constitution could be shown to be an even greater danger to the country’s stability. The Kemalists, though weakened, are likely to react unpredictably if a serious attempt to revise the constitution were to take place, since it is this very constitution that made them protectors of the Turkish state and the guardians of the Kemalist principles. In essence, Erdogan is methodically trying to uproot the ideology upon which the creation of the Turkish state rests.
The AKP’s challenges in establishing a new constitution are expected to be stiff. In terms of Turkey’s policy on issues such as the Kurdish Question, the Greek-Turkish Relations and the Cyprus problem, the country’s behaviour is not likely to change. This is mainly because of the geo-economic developments in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as because of Turkey’s questionable ambition to become part of the EU. At its core, the clash between Islam and Kemalism is a conflict over power. However, in national issues (e.g. Armenia, Cyprus, Greece), the interests at stake are the same for both sides.


[1] There has always been a political battle between Kemalism and Islamism (in this case the AKP). Kemalism (named after Kemal, the founder of Turkey) is the ideology upon which the creation of Turkey was based and is mainly driven by secularism and nationalism while opposing the engagement of religion (Islam) in politics. The armed forces are by law the protectors of the Kemalist principles. Islamism – and particularly Turkish political Islam – has its roots in the Ottoman tradition and culture. Since the mid-20th century up until today it has been getting stronger and more involved in the state’s political life, thus causing a clash between the secular Kemalists and neo-Ottoman Islamists.
Zenonas Tziarras
Posted on June 26, 2011, on www.global-politics.co.uk.

Turkey and the European Union*

Introduction
It has been over 50 years since Turkey expressed its interest in accession to the European Communities; thus far the EU’s longest application process. The cooperation with western organizations and institutions has always been an integral part of Turkey’s policy and Kemal’s idea of a secular and democratic Republic since the beginning of 20th century. However, Turkey began to adopt a less pro-Western political stance following the Cuba Missile Crisis (where Turkish territory was put under risk of Soviet bombing since it had American missiles on its soil), and the hostile American response to the Turkish intervention in Cyprus in 1964.
After the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union into numerous independent nation-states, the E.U modified its accession criteria in Copenhagen in 1993, further setting the bar higher for Turkey. Yet in 1995 the customs union between Turkey and E.U was completed and came into effect in 1996. In December of 2004 the E.U leaders decided that the 2 years (2001-2003) reform process which took place in Turkey was enough to open the negotiations process for accession on Oct. 3, 2005.
Skepticism and Debates
Although the Turkish public was very excited about the news, European public opinion was very skeptical. One could say there remains a longstanding debate among the E.U countries on whether they want a full Turkish membership or a ‘Special Relationship’ with the country of Kemal. Based on this debate, E.U countries were divided into two sides: one side supporting the full membership of Turkey, led by the U.K, including countries such as Poland and Sweden, as well as additional support from the US; on the other side is France and Germany and their allies, pushing for a ‘special relationship’ with Turkey.
The first side has much to gain from the full Turkish membership (e.g. Turkey is a big market open for new investments and trading and also has cheap labor; Turkey can be the mediator and the bridgehead between the east and the west regarding security and energy issues, etc.). The second side feels threatened by possible migration waves coming from Turkey; they also feel threatened by the great power that Turkey can gain in the European Parliament and as a result affect European decision-making according to its and NATO’s own interests.
The Last Five Years
Throughout the last five years U.S has been pressuring the E.U and its counties to carry forward Turkey’s accession process. Furthermore certain E.U presidentships – such as U.K’s and Sweden’s – clearly stood for the Turkey’s membership. Sweden even tried to skip major problems that Turkey is facing in its foreign policy (e.g. the Cyprus Problem) by trying to convince the General Affairs Council of the E.U that bilateral differences between candidate countries for membership with other countries, should not affect their accession process. However Cyprus and Greece did not let that happen. The problem with Sweden’s proposal is that Turkey is facing major legal problems in Cyprus regarding human rights and violations of the international law, and with Greece concerning the delimitation of its continental shelf as well as the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean Sea.
Also dogging Turkey are issues related to human rights, particularly the rights of its Kurdish minority, as well as problems related to its democratic political structure, though its recent constitutional reforms were widely praised in the EU. Even so, U.S and the other Turkey’s supporters in the E.U want Turkey to be a full E.U state-member in order to serve their interests both in Europe and the Middle-East. It is surprising how some counties are willing to overlook vital legal problems in order to serve their political and economic interests.
What’s next?
American influence has shrunk over the last few years because of its two wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) and the effects of the global financial crisis. Therefore they cannot influence European behavior the way they used to. In addition, the E.U is in a very bad financial situation and therefore cannot afford another enlargement at this time, especially with a country the size of Turkey. What is sure is that Turkey has a long way to go and that for now things are most probably going to remain mostly unchanged.
Zenonas Tziarras 
*This is a revised version of an article with the same title published on http://www.global-politics.co.uk/ on the 22th of Oct. 2010.