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

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