Capital Ankara
Time Zone EET (GMT+2)
Country Code 90
Mobile Codes 532,533,542,505
ccTLD .tr
Currency Turkish Lira (1EUR = 1.95TL)
Land Area 783,562 sq km
Population 72.6 million
Language Turkish
Major Religion Islam

The Coming Migrant Wave editor’s note: confusion and panic following the Brexit vote, and preparations for the imminent Warsaw NATO Summit have distracted the focus of European leaders northwards to Britain and eastwards towards Russia. Relatively little attention is being paid to a scenario this website has consistently warned of– a renewed migrant surge towards the now-closed Balkan Route. The author, a former US diplomat, discusses the issue in the context of Europe’s current moment of crisis.

By Gerard M. Gallucci*

Significant attention is now focused on what happens after the Brexit vote. It seems everyone in the remaining EU countries are fed up with perfidious Albion, and just want them to leave and get it over with. Everyone, that is, except Merkel; she seems willing to give the English time to reconsider. She understands the particular costs to Germany if it must finally step out of its history to lead the EU alone. (No one else can lead as they are either caught up in their own populist uprising or unable – France – to think with one head).

Yet Brexit and its repercussions – political, economic, financial, etc – may actually not be what breaks Europe. What breaks Europe and the EU may be the coming wave of refugees that will hit the Balkans first.

Brussels policy for dealing with the refugee flow that threatened to overtake its members’ willingness to tolerate open borders has been mostly about getting Turkey to stop them before reaching EU borders.

Currently, some 2.7 million Syrians, Iraqis and others are piled up in Turkey either in camps – a small minority – or at the bottommost rungs of Turkish society and economy. A second element of the EU’s approach has been to allow thousands to die while trying to cross the sea, or pile up in Greece (officially 57,000) and Italy (where 4500 were rescued from the waters in just one day in June) if they succeed. The third piece has been to bottle up in the Balkans the rest that manage to get through.

Focus on Turkey

The key piece is Turkey. The deal the EU struck with Erdoğan requires Turkey to stop those fleeing the Mideast chaos from crossing over into Europe. Turkey has done so, allowing only a comparative trickle to move beyond. But the deal seems to be seen differently on both sides. Erdoğan appears to believe that in turn for stopping the refugee flow, Turks will get visa-free travel and Turkey will be allowed to move forward into the EU.

The EU – meaning Brussels and Berlin – apparently believe that they are already paying for Turkey allowing the refugees to pile up in its territory – and for belated efforts to close its southern border – with the “aid” it is providing to handle those refugees. For the other EU advantages – including visa-free travel – Turkey must meet “benchmarks” (including “anti-terrorism” measures) that it has failed so far to do.

As far as the Germans are concerned, Turkey must meet EU conditions if it can get anywhere near EU membership. In effect, Turkey must “act European” – including on human rights and democracy – before qualifying to enter Europe. That is not part of Erdoğan’s plans for rebuilding his caliphate.

Turkey is just pocketing most of the EU’s “aid” while Erdoğan accuses the bloc of double standards and “Islamophobia.” Both the EU and Turkey agree that there is no final deal and neither side appears to be getting close to one. Erdoğan probably understands that EU membership is far off the table but has political reasons to insist on visa-free travel.

Given the populist/nationalist backlash across the EU – only most noticeable in Hungary, which is allowing a bare trickle through to travel onward to Austria and Germany – and now the Brexit vote, there is no reason to assume Turks will be allowed free travel into the EU any time soon. The current impasse – which so far has prevented a renewed refugee flow – is not stable.

At some point in the next few months, Erdoğan may simply decide to let those millions move on. He may do it all at once and out loud, or slowly and quietly to build pressure on Berlin to surrender to his terms. He has the leverage because the EU has no plan B to handle another crisis.

Implications of a Second Migrant Wave

If the flow across the Aegean begins anew, it will be Greece and the Balkans that get overwhelmed again. Greece is in the EU but has been left to slowly twist on its own petard since its financial crisis. It will have no choice but to allow them to move on, but the strain will still be immense.

Macedonia and Serbia will then face the same problems as last year but with the northern routes into the EU now closed. They, meanwhile, have been left outside the EU staring in.

Merkel is perhaps the most effective and farsighted leader in the entire West. But even she will be challenged to build any effective EU response while her remaining partners face even more backlash from their own various domestic Orbans. Whatever happens with Brexit – perhaps Merkel and certain British leaders will find a way to walk back from the edge – renewed crisis over refugees will break the EU, leave chaos across the Balkans and leave hundreds of thousands of desperate people with nowhere to call home.

The only long-term solution remains, as it has for some time, strenuous EU and US efforts to bring real stability to Syria and Iraq.  This cannot be done at arm’s length.


Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. He has a PhD in political science, taught at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Arkansas, George Washington University and Drake University and now works as an independent consultant.

Southeast European Security: Trends to Watch in 2016 editor’s note: the turbulent year of 2015, marked by financial near-meltdown in Greece, political subterfuge and infighting in Macedonia and Kosovo, the all-pervasive migrant crisis, disputed elections and terrorism issues in Turkey, and so on. In short, 2015 was one of the most memorable in the post-9/11 period. Could 2016 be even more dramatic? Here is our annual list of trends watch.

By Ioannis Michaletos

The emerging security trends for 2016 in the greater region indicate the continuation, and even worsening of some situations present in 2015 and previous years. There will also be new trends, and institutional tactical reactions, meant to counter the threats through experience gained in the past year.

Libya: Crisis Continuation covered the disintegrating security situation in Libya, and the threat of ISIS penetration there, in an extensive study back in March 2015. As we predicted then, the situation has since worsened.

Libya has become a sort of typical failed state. Dozens of factions are vying for power, while at the same time the Islamic State is making inroads in places like Sirte and Dernah. Oil production has effectively collapsed, while corrupt officials are removing capital from the country on a massive scale.

Illegal migration is a perennial issue and Libya has been used as a launching pad for an outflow towards Europe for years now- and especially since the death of Moammar Gaddafi created sudden lawlessness and a power vacuum that was readily exploited by human traffickers.

Expect this to grow even more, as local population will seek capital, while Boko Haram and the various Sahel and Maghreb Islamist guerilla groups continue to drive out thousands of civilians. Potential turbulence in Africa could also exacerbate migration, such as civil strife in Burundi, and the impact of low oil prices on Nigeria’s ability to fund social services.

Finally, the Islamic State (which has recently filmed its own ‘Islamic police’ riding around Libyan streets in the usual Toyota trucks) will make its move and establish a “second front” in the Mediterranean. As we have noted, this move has been in preparation for some time. If the terror group succeeds in establishing any kind of presence in Indonesia (as Australian security officials have recently warned), the North Caucasus or Central Asia, the proliferation of fronts will become a real headache for security services worldwide.

A Further Migration Wave- and Preparations for Long-Term Derivative Industries

The huge refugee and migrant flow that is essentially a re-allocation of Middle Easterners and other non-Europeans into the EU is gathering pace, even as countries are trying to put a brake on it.

With the European bloc slowly getting into motion, more EU police arriving in Greece, and a robust migration policy in Skopje, expect creative new by-routes to be developed.

Some new arrivals may attempt to travel overland from Greece through Bulgaria or Albania, and the short crossing from the latter to Italy (by speedboat, as in the 1990s) could even be revived. Refugees might even try to travel from Middle Eastern shores directly to the EU via cargo ships or private vessels.

Another creative maritime route could see migrants travel from Turkey to the Black Sea shores of Bulgaria (and even Romania and Ukraine), which would require new smuggling networks to form in those places. We have already seen isolated cases of migrants traveling to Norway via a Russian Arctic border crossing, so it seems clear that despite EU efforts, desperate people will continue to exploit weaknesses in ‘Fortress Europe.’

Migration policy will actually be the litmus test for EU unity and Brussels’ resolve. Libya does not have a unified government to talk to, thus solutions of a solid nature are not expected there. And, even if the Syrian war ends in the upcoming year, that country will take years to rebuild, making life abroad seem advantageous for most people.

Amidst the continuing crisis, expect NGOs to become bolder regarding their ‘right’ to a permanent presence. This is already the case in economically-deprived Greece, a country with unemployment, where hundreds of well-paid jobs offered by international NGOs are now being regularly advertised; and with contract durations of one, two and even three years, this phenomenon clearly shows that the immigrant flow will grow and is of a long-term nature.

Generally speaking, what we are witnessing is the ‘NGO-ization’ of the local economies of certain islands, such as Lesvos. Islands, which depend on tourism and some agriculture, have been hit hard by unpopular tax increases and face the challenge of isolation from the mainland. The big island currently boasts 150 NGOs with more than 1,500 permanent and ad hoc staff, compared to a total local population of merely 90,00 people.

Expect this to grow even more, especially as ‘bad press’ in the outside world keeps tourists from coming to the otherwise quite popular Eastern Aegean islands afflicted by the migration phenomenon. As in 2015, the foreigners you will see there this year will include far more NGO types, conflict journalists and EU specialists than ever before.

Thessaloniki is another major NGO hub, for migrant issues and many other ones too. Greece’s second-largest city has also witnessed a boom in “Syrian tourism,” since Syrian passport holders officially comprised the fifth-largest hotel occupancy by nationality in the city over the past year. However, the powerful NGO Solidarity Now, -financed by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, is reportedly aiming to provide funds for subsidizing housing rental for the Syrians. Local hotel owners surely will not like this, as they will lose profits.

A final aspect that certain EU politicians will relate to migration policy is the provisional plan to give Turkish citizens visa-free travel by October. The debate surrounding this issue will almost certainly include concerns about domestic Turkish issues, as well as security concerns and the relative likelihood that Erdogan would grant passports to potentially large numbers of non-Turks (i.e., Chinese Uyghurs and other ‘ethnic kin’) to build his own power projection goals in Europe.

More Terrorist Attacks and Plots Likely in 2016

Islamic State has obviously made significant inroads in the Western countries, as the attacks in France and the US have highlighted, along with numerous disrupted plots elsewhere. Expect more to come as hardened fighters find a way to return to Europe from the Middle Eastern battlefields, armed with experience, new modus operandi and fanaticism.

New attacks are only a matter of time and as recent history has shown, will primarily be against “soft targets.” We expect that Islamic State will respond to its gradual territorial losses in Syria and Iraq by infiltrating civilian populations, and calling on its supporters abroad to perform acts of ‘revenge’ against the Russian and Western coalitions fighting the group.

In the Balkans Bosnia (where several further arrests recently happened) is in particular danger, while a threat remains in currently fractious Kosovo. Certain areas of Istanbul have been known to shelter ISIS members and, with government forces expected to continue targeting the Kurds in Southeast Turkey, relatively less energy will be spent on confronting Islamic fighters- fighters which the government had anyway been supporting for years.

The Turkish Economy’s Potential Decline, and Implications for the Black Market

Speaking of Turkey and its government, few have mention the extent to which the continuance of a strong economy benefited the AKP, coming to power as it did following a period of hyperinflation and corruption. Election results since, that have been portrayed as an endorsement of Erdogan’s social and religious platform, may actually have more to do with satisfaction at the unprecedented continuous growth of a Western-styled consumption economy until relatively recently.

However, Turkey has managed over the past few years to blow up its relations with all of its neighbors and key trade partners, including Russia, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The “green funds” from Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been decreasing rapidly as the price of hydrocarbons worldwide stays low. The Saudis especially have their own major concerns to deal with (Yemen, dynastic domestic brinkmanship, social welfare costs, and El Sisi’s regime in Egypt, amongst other). Israel has recently made signs that it will resume relations with Turkey, but this cannot replace the losses suffered by the break with Russia. Renewed ties with Israel would also be controversial among Turkish Islamists still angered by memories of the 2010 Mavi Marmaris incident.

While it remains unclear how long the Turkey-Russia cold war will last, we can expect the impact on Turkish agriculture, tourism and other business to be extensive, due to losing the Russian market. Social tensions that have successfully been kept under control during a period of economic growth will come out in the year ahead. Perceptions of instability will also damage Turkey’s tourism industry, and the providers are adjusting (indeed, some Turkish resorts working with travel agencies in Skopje have recently communicated that they will not be offering the usual generous resort packages this summer).

Regarding other exports, Balkan economies are mostly stagnant and too small to strengthen Turkish exports, while the appreciation of the US dollar and the Fed’s interest rates hike makes the future more difficult for Turkey’s economy, as it exports mainly in euros and imports mainly in dollars.

It is uncertain to what extent the black market associated with Islamic State and refugee smuggling will be affected. Turkish farmers in the border areas that had turned to more lucrative, war-related contraband may not be happy to go back to their traditional livelihoods. Damage to informal economic relationships that also were feeding local political control and even intelligence activities, will fuel the need to find different budgetary sources to cover the gaps.

While the state will be happy to take the billions of euros of refugee-related aid from the EU, any true crackdown on migrant smuggling is bound to make the business more violent and lucrative, as those wishing to pass through Turkey will have to pay a much higher price per head. Confronting this threat could open a ‘fourth front’ for the Turkish security apparatus, in addition to fighting the Kurdish PKK, monitoring Russian activity and preventing Islamic State operatives from carrying out domestic attacks. The cumulative result is that Turkey will be more insular and inward-looking in 2016.

Change in Priorities for the Turkish Navy and the Anatolian Curse

The standoff between Ankara and Moscow will make the former review its order of battle in the Black Sea, which anyway is far less covered than it should be, especially when having to deal with a resurgent Russian Navy.

Expect changes that could include a new concentration of the Turkish Navy on Black Sea bases and in monitoring the Bosporus Straits. Of course, the more traffic in the latter increases the chances of accident in a bottleneck already congested with commercial shipping.

Russia’s main naval bases and ports in the Black Sea are at Sevastopol, Kacha, Utes, Novorossiysk, Feodosia, Otradnoe and Yalta. We should also not forget that since November 2014, Russia has enjoyed a bilateral military cooperation deal with Georgia’s breakaway republic, Abkhazia. The latter’s small naval forces are based at the western Black Sea ports of Sukhumi, Ochamchira and Pitsunda.

On the southern side of the sea, Turkey’s main naval bases are fewer and less dispersed, at Bartın, Samsun, Trabzon and Erdemir. Turkey is not used to looking to its northern seas as an area of threat but the current impasse with Russia will cause military planners to turn their attention there, at least for assessment purposes.

This could then lead to a changed balance of powers in the Aegean, with Greece perhaps even enjoying an advantage in that theater. This will in fact become a particularly ‘European’ theater, considering the new deployment of Frontex personnel in the Greek islands and waters.

This means that any provocations or confrontations with Turkey will be instantly known to Brussels and EU member states. Creating a situation with such conditions was the thinking behind Defense Minister Kammenos’ comments in May, that Greece should host a new NATO base in the eastern Aegean. The Frontex deployment will perhaps work even better, since Turkey is not an EU member and cannot claim any right to participate, though it might try in the case of a NATO base on its flank.

Indeed, the disastrous Turkish foreign policy of the last five years has come back to haunt it, in the same way that such cases have damaged the strength of previous powers controlling Anatolia. The strategic subcontinent has always been the subject of great interest from neighboring and outside powers.

In Anatolia, the capacity for use of force (rather than actual use of force) on any border is what sustains the perceived strength of any government controlling it. But any creation of enemies, or breakdown of order on multiple fronts simultaneously, has historically been a recipe for trouble. Turkey is now in one of those historical periods marked by simultaneous vulnerabilities on several Anatolian fronts, and this could increase the potential for its leaders to act erratically or out of paranoia.

The Chinese Are Coming

The introduction of the Chinese Yuan into the IMF’s reserves (at the substantial amount of 11%), along with the gradual increase of European and Chinese investments and trade, will bring about an expansion of the Chinese banking system in the EU.

Most likely the entry point will be the Balkans where already Chinese entities have been settled for years and forging ties in Serbia, Romania, Albania, Greece and Turkey. Business loans in Yuan will become a possibility in 2016.

It is true that the Chinese perceive the Balkans less as a series of states than as a unified energy and transport corridor. But they also have security concerns. As the US and Japan continue to pressure China militarily in its own backyard, look for China to develop more bilateral military deals in Southeast Europe in return.

The expansion of Islamic State eastward is also going to increase Chinese terrorism fears, with the Uyghur Turks particularly of interest. However great its technological capacities might be, Chinese HUMINT capacities in the region are at a very low level. Whether or not the Chinese decide to expend more resources in this direction will be determined by their business investment interests and security concerns.

Political Drama in Balkan Countries and Likely Results of International Involvement

Leaving aside the special case of Turkey, Greece and most Balkan states all have, for economic, political or social reasons, tendencies toward periodic political upheaval. Premature elections, changes in government and turbulent early elections can be safely predicted.

In 2016, expect an increasingly strong presence (politically, diplomatically, and through media and NGO proxies) of Western countries in influencing such regional dramas. The insistence on a criminal court in Kosovo was one foreign-sponsored endeavor of 2015 leading to persistent internal divisions, and the debate over NATO membership in Montenegro has already caused recent protests. These are far from the only countries where Western interests are involved.

However, these powers generally fail to understand local realities, regarding events through their own lenses. This can cause distortions and lead to wrong assessments. For example, Russia’s intervention in Syria and the migrant crisis are two potent, big-picture factors that will cause paranoid, disproportionate policy reactions and failed implementation in 2016: it will be remembered as the year in which the concept of ‘hard soft power’ was put to the ultimate test, and failed.

We expect that manifestations of this approach will fail to comprehensively ‘obtain the desired result’ in certain cases. This could lead to more extreme incidents, such as proxy attacks and even assassinations of political leaders, causing widespread public anger and destabilization.

The Return of HUMINT

The counter-terrorism challenges of today include the surveillance of previously unknown terrorism suspects, and the general need to constantly assess the upheaval all across the MENA region. These exigencies will undoubtedly provide the impetus for the re-introduction of long-range HUMINT operations by most intelligence service providers.

The geographic dispersal of the major issues, such as the migrant routes and war zones, means that coverage is needed at all points in a rapidly-changing environment. This trend is most likely in the Middle East and the Mediterranean- and especially North Africa, where HUMINT is completely lacking in terms of surveillance of jihadist groups.

Also, the fact that Europe has taken in over one million migrants, whose identities are hardly known, is both a gold mine for technology firms and a challenge for intelligence services lacking capacity and communications with partners that could make proper verifications, considering the current state of the Middle East and North Africa.

All information available to supports the conclusion that, since the migrant crisis began in spring 2015, countries all along the route have failed to either collect accurate and detailed data about migrants passing through, or to communicate it properly with other European countries (which can also be criticized for making little effort to obtain the relevant information).

The topical and geographic nature of this challenge also lends itself to a network based approach, which will be handled, increasingly discreetly, through ‘grassroots’ social media networks, ‘independent’ NGOs and other entities with dedicated, HUMINT coverage across the nodes.

The return of HUMINT will also be abetted by the current state of alarm over SIGINT vulnerabilities, including the emerging challenge of the need to differentiate identical SIGINT source data for hostile activities purposes. Above all, there are even cases of self-inflicted damage to internal processes at the highest levels of technology (for example, the recent debacle of an alleged NSA backdoor in Juniper Networks hardware, that puts the most sensitive US government agencies at risk).

Further, in the Balkan theater, historically marked by political upheaval and infighting, HUMINT will become a particularly important focus. It is a ‘rebuilding year’ for several of the big players, who have seen their existing networks compromised or uprooted completely in the past year due to failed actions. However, the general decline in professionalism witnessed over the past five to 10 years means that new, up-and-coming networks will exhibit more clownishness than covert mastery in today’s ‘golden age’ of renewed Cold War espionage.

Nevertheless, regardless of their capabilities and orientation, expect big players to make major efforts to outwit one another in the field, with considerable collateral damage likely and, quite possibly, spectacular public failures in 2016.

EU-Turkey Dialogue Reboots amid Migrant Crisis

By Maria-Antoaneta Neag

Since the Syrian conflict started in 2011, Turkey has been taking in refugees, with 2.2 million currently residing in camps and being taken care of at the government’s expense (an estimated cost of 6.7 billion EUR). Its humanitarian assistance has been impressive, as were its logistical efforts: tent camps and caravan cities along the Syrian border.

The refugee situation has greater ramifications for Turkey than for the EU, as the number of refugees hosted there is also higher. Many Syrians were already integrated, but the structure of the Turkish society and economy, as well as the linguistic and ethnic differences, represent challenges for Syrians.

Economic Factors

Further, unlike Germany, which can make use of the migrants on its labour market, Turkey is already over-saturated with unskilled workers and unemployment figures are already high (including youth unemployment). Turkey’s moves on the Syrian front also affected foreign direct investment (according to official figures, a drop from $22 billion in 2012 to $12.5 billion in 2014) as well as stability of the lira (dramatic devaluation).

Political and Foreign Policy Aspects

The political situation is by no means brighter, with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) losing absolute majority in the summer elections, and then failing to create a coalition. At the same time, the other political forces in Turkey have still failed to produce a strong leader capable of competing with President Erdoğan.

Nevertheless, critics argue that Turkey under Erdoğan passed from “zero problems with neighbours” (the former Davutoğlu doctrine) to a ‘neighbourless’ foreign policy, in which neighbours are either torn by civil wars or unfriendly towards Turkey. In the east, violence persists and the Kurds – including the Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), partner of the allegedly terrorist group Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – are becoming more vocal due to Russia’s intervention in Syria which some perceive as a slap in the face for Turkey and as proof of its failed diplomacy.

Brussels’ View on Syria as a Turkish Election Issue

Early elections are expected for 1 November. In Brussels, leaders fear Turkey’s interest in Syria is partly an electoral campaign move, being also linked to Erdoğan’s broader strategy in the region and his way of dealing with the PKK. In the summer elections, Turkey’s Kurds made historic parliamentary gains, alarming the AKP.

Manifestations of this polarization have occurred recently in the Turkish and Kurdish European diasporas. Indeed, the anti-terrorism political rallies that took place in Strasbourg (4 October) and Brussels (5 October) confirmed an0 inclination to make sure the Turkish position would be heard loud and clear by Western leaders. Following the recent rise of terrorist attacks by the PKK, and Turkish military action against the group, Erdoğan’s message focused on the Turkish soldiers killed in the recent clashes with Kurdish separatists and did not mention ISIS or other threats. On the Kurdish side, many NGOs also participated in a rally voicing criticism against the Turkish president.

How Did the EU End Up in this Crisis?

Before returning to the subject of the latest EU-Turkey developments that came with President Erdoğan’s recent visit to Brussels, we should note what other efforts the EU has pledged to take regarding the overall migrant crisis.

In August 2015 the number of asylum applicants peaked, reaching a record high of 720,000 applications being registered in the EU from the beginning of the year. Some 33% of applicants are of Syrian origin, 13% Afgani, 8% Iraqi, 4% Eritrean, and so on. Acc0rding to the European Asylum System Office (EASO) standards, the highest recognition rate (that is, the chance of receiving a positive response to the asylum claim) is mainly granted to 93% Syrians followed by 85% Iraqi claims, 84% Eritreas and 83% stateless persons. Although they are facing conflict and possible persecution, Ukrainians and Nigerians have very low recognition rates.

Setting aside the roots of the latest migration wave, such as the Arab Spring and Western military interventions in the Middle East, the EU’s main internal challenge came from the lack of coherent implementation of EU legislation in most of its Member States, especially the receiving ones (Greece and Italy).

Although EU funding was available to implement the Common European Asylum System, many Member States were caught unprepared by this influx of refugees/migrants. Some of the problems they face are a lack of proper welcome and reception conditions, overburdened capacities, the scarce availability of social workers and the lack of a proper identification mechanism.

Another challenge relates to the fact that migrants are choosing to keep on the move, refusing to stay in the first country in which they arrive. The Dublin rules in place stating asylum seeker should lodge their applications in the first country they arrive fail to apply.

Besides migrants’ economic interests, this is a consequence of the unequal treatment and outcome of the asylum claims between Member States, migrants heading to the Western and Northern countries that offer better conditions and are known to accept asylum claims.

Assisting EU Front-line Countries, International Organizations and Third Countries

With the EU’s newest measures and proposals, the front-line states (e.g. Italy and Greece) will be assisted in welcoming, identifying and digitally finger-printing the migrants in reception and registration centers at ‘hotspots’, from where they will be either returned or relocated to another Member State.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP) will also receive some EU funding (200 million EUR) to help cope with the humanitarian situation, which is worsening due to insufficient international funding. It is not yet sure where the money will be coming from, whether from the EU budget or from national contributions, but the signal is that external partners should be assisted with coping with the refugees’ crisis.

More Diplomacy and Coordination: Luxembourg and Valletta

More international diplomatic efforts, including from the countries in the region, are needed to fight against the root cause of this wave of migration and to bring peace to Syria and in the region. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mogherini underlined that the UN and EU, alongside the key regional and global partners, should lead the way to negotiations.

In this sense, some future meetings hold hope for finding solutions. There will be a high-level conference on the Western Balkans route in Luxembourg on 8 October and a Summit in Valletta on 11-12 November (called upon at the European Council in April 2015), focusing on assistance to partner countries, strengthening cooperation on returns, and better targeting of development cooperation and investments in Africa.

Syria’s neighbouring countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are already hosting millions of refugees. With the aim of better securing the EU’s external borders, substantial aid will be offered in exchange for strengthened cooperation with these third-countries.

A stable situation must be reached soon not to threaten the existence of the Schengen Zone, or the EU’s capabilities in the future. Many Member States recently reintroduced temporary border checks or closed their borders altogether, leading to a turbulent end to September in the Western Balkans and Central Eastern Europe. The Western Balkans and Africa will also be supported by the EU in dealing with the migratory waves.

The EU’s Regional Trust Fund to Increase

The EU will now increase its Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis (the ‘Madad Fund’). When it comes to the southern corridor sea route, Turkey is also a key partner in this light. The European Commission has cooperation with third countries in mind, ready to mobilize up to 1 billion EUR to Turkey over the next two years. Humanitarian aid for refugees will account for 1.7 billion EUR, and 17 million EUR are planned for Serbia and Macedonia.

Regarding the shipwrecks that frequently occur on migrant vessels headed to Italy, the EU plans to enhance its ties with Libya and call for an EU-UN surveillance-based naval operation. The European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED), as it is known, was already agreed upon on 22 June 2015, targeting Libyan human traffickers.

Stronger External Borders Measures Bely the EU’s ‘Humanitarian Face’

Having in mind the European Agenda on Migration, as part of the implementation package, on Wednesday 23 September, the European Commission came up with a new series of initiatives focusing on the EU’s external border management with a more generous envelope (1.3 million EUR) to be allocated to the EU agencies (FRONTEX, EUROPOL, EASO) and emergency funds for managing the influx of migrants and refugees.

It seems, therefore, that in spite of the humanitarian face it has been trying to show in the media, that the EU is doing all it can to keep out refugees. EU leaders’ conclusions following the extraordinary Council meeting, convened by Donald Tusk on 23 September, was meant to “tackle the dramatic situation at our external borders and strengthen controls at those borders” that are confronted with a high influx of refugees and illegal passing.

Croatian Comments on the Turkey-Greece Migrant Situation, and Restrictions on Frontex’s Role

According to European Commission data in 2014, with the help of smuggling and trafficking networks, more than 276,000 migrants (mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Mali and Kosovo) irregularly entered the EU.

Since 2014, the Eastern Mediterranean route has been the predominant one for migrants. Greece has been overwhelmed by an influx of migrants – by late August 2015, with more than 160,000 entered the country – from Syria and Afghanistan reaching its islands (e.g. Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kos) from Turkey.

At the 23 September European Council meeting, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic asked for effective measures to control the maritime routes between Turkey and Greece. In order to tackle this matter, Frontex and its joint operations (e.g. Triton) support Member States in case of increased migratory pressure.

However, Frontex has no executive power and only coordinates joint operations for the purpose of border checks and surveillance at the EU’s external borders. Furthermore, according to its mandate Frontex is limited to operations on EU shores, and thus in this context, Turkey must play an important role on the non-EU part of the sea.

EU Expectations from Turkey

This migrant crisis has also brought sporadic a trade war to the Western Balkans and revived old disputes on the control of external maritime borders. Greece and Turkey have a historic Aegean border dispute, while Turkey and Israel argue over which has the right for search and rescue in overlapping waters. The same problem applies to Morocco and Spain and, within the EU, between Italy and Malta. Diplomatically speaking, Russia’s emphatic new presence in Syria will only stir the waters even more.

In an attempt to ease the refugees’ situation, Turkey proposed the establishment of safe zones in the north of Syria to welcome the refugees, also creating a buffer zone on Syrian soil against any group antagonistic to Turkey. However, Russia’s moves in Syria might hamper Turkey’s Syrian policy, and its attempts to limit the territorial advances of the Kurdish YPG along the border. Indeed, preventing the Syrian Kurds from creating a territorial linkage with Iraqi and Turkish Kurds has been a strategic goal of Turkey’s since the beginning of the conflict.

EU leaders are of the view that the dialogue with Turkey will in future have to be strengthened at all levels. A first step in this sense, they say, was President Erdoğan’s 5 October visit to Brussels (his most recent previous one had been in 2014). On his latest visit, the president met top EU leaders like Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Martin Schulz. Separately, Erdoğan met the king of Belgium.

During the talks, the EU focused on setting up “hotspots” for refugee reception in Turkey, on strengthening the borders and increasing the fight against people smugglers. The Union is asking Turkey to cooperate with Greek coastguards, coordinated by Frontex, for preventing refuges from reaching EU shores.

Turkey’s Expectations from the EU, and Common Criticisms of It

Turkey has already expressed its criticism of what it sees as insufficient financial assistance offered by the EU for setting up the six new camps (partly financed by the EU). Turkey also contends that these are an insufficient number of camps, considering the large number of refugees.

Furthermore, though the EU will probably take up to half a million asylum seekers, Turkey will be assisted to socially integrate more Syrian refugees into its own society, and pushed to make more efforts, together with Greece, to prevent them from taking the clandestine journey to the EU in the first place. There seems to be some resistance from the Turkish side, sources note, indicating that the government is unhappy with these financing offers and general proposals from the EU.

President Erdoğan’s visit, which came on the occasion of the opening of the Europalia Arts Festival (in which Turkey is starring this year) was thus far from a ceremonial visit. His discussions with EU leaders also covered Russia’s alleged violation of Turkey’s airspace, which was called ‘unacceptable’ by the secretary-general of NATO. Officials in Brussels indicate that the approach might vary; the EU is worrying about Russia in general, whi1le Turkey’s focus is on the implications of Russia’s involvement in Syria with regard to the Kurdish rebels.

While Turkey still hopes to resume accession negotiation with the EU, it remains to be seen what role the refugee crisis will play in the Readmission Agreement negotiations and the visa liberalization dialogue, one of the only negotiating card of real value for Turkey.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that despite the heated domestic disagreements between the AKP of President Erdoğan and the CHP opposition party, led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, both parties fundamentally criticize the EU for the migrant crisis and denounce the PKK as terrorists.

In his own five-day European tour, Kılıçdaroğlu himself recently met with top EU leaders and reiterated these issues, warning that Turks are feeling like the EU wants their country “to be part of the Middle East” and not Europe, according to a press release. According to the opposition leader, it is the EU, not Turkey, which is “losing” from the current impasse.

In this light, it will be interesting to see how the expected fierce elections of November will re-orient Turkish policy to the EU – and vice versa – as the migration crisis continues into the winter.

Turkey-Africa Relations: A Partnership under Review Editor’s note: almost five years since this website first isolated Turkey’s developing relationship with Africa, we are providing new insights into the current state of affairs in the relationship, in the context of the Arab Spring, Syrian refugee crisis and other political and security events that have recalibrated the dynamic.

By Mohammed Sanusi Adams

The forays of developed Western countries into Africa, whether as slave merchants, colonizers or investors have constituted a ubiquitous trend for the past three centuries. Nonetheless, the dominant trend now, and particularly for the past decade or so, has been the phenomenon of large emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil staking their own claims to the continent. The motive of these countries has been a source of debate among experts working on Africa. However, a considerable number of scholars have assigned the current trend to largely economic motives.

The latest country to embark on African ventures is Turkey. Over the past decade, Turkey has steadily ramped up its diplomatic and foreign policy presence in Africa. This activism has led to the creation of diplomatic missions, expansion of economic activities and humanitarian diplomacy on the continent. This burgeoning relation between Africa and Turkey culminated in the declaration of 2005 as the “year of Africa.”

Recent Events Affecting Turkey’s Engagement

The sustainability of this partnership has been called into question in the wake of the Arab Spring, coupled with the Islamic State’s (ISIS) advances and terrorist attacks by the Kurdish PKK inside of Turkey in recent weeks. These attacks provoked the Turkish government to reverse course, and begin a series of air strikes inside Syria and against the PKK rebels in Iraq. The long negotiations with the US over American use of Turkish air bases, and the drama of the Iran nuclear program negotiations, have simultaneously distracted Turkish attention from events in Africa.

Indeed, the recent developments involving Turkey’s immediate periphery have brought about Turkey’s deepest form of engagement in the region in the last decade. For Africans and Turkish supporters of a strong Africa policy, it also has awakened fears about the long term prospect of the Turkey-Africa partnership and what these regional dynamics mean for its future.

The present evaluation thus considers the major aspects of the current Turkey-Africa partnership and the challenges facing it, and considers future prospects for the relationship within the contest of Turkey’s engagement within its neighborhood in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Reasons for a Concentration on Sub-Saharan Africa

Specifically, the present analysis focuses on sub-Saharan Africa, for two reasons. Firstly, Turkish society generally regards North Africa as part of its immediate surroundings, both in terms of geography and religion. Geographically, Turkey has always regarded North Africa as a part of its near-abroad, not a far-away region. The Ottoman legacy has played an instrumental role in this regard. For centuries, countries in North Africa were part of the empire especially for the most part of the 15th and 16th centuries. Secondly, about 98 percent of the population in North Africa is made up of Muslims, and this is not markedly different from the Muslim population in Turkey.

Hence, the political and economic relations that have been developed with North Africa have never been questioned and the region has always been seen as an important part of the general Turkish foreign policy drive. Sub-Sahara Africa, on the other hand, has always been regarded by Turkish society as distant, constantly wallowing in abject poverty and ravaged by war. The Ottoman Empire had a limited engagement with the eastern and western part of the continent in the 15th century; nonetheless, this involvement was not significant and never attracted real attention.

Roots of Modern Turkey’s Sub-Saharan Policy Development and Diplomatic Activities

Turkey’s enhanced presence in sub-Saharan Africa today, therefore, is something novel. It actually began in 1998, with the writing of the “Action Plan”- a document prepared by the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs, which constituted the framework of political and economic engagements between Turkey and the continent. Since foreign observers have tended to associate Turkey’s engagement with Africa as a unique initiative of the current AKP government, noting the engagement in the context of this diplomatic Action Plan indicates that Turkish policy-makers had already been eyeing Sub-Saharan Africa well before that government came to power in 2003.

To further enhance and broaden the scope of engagement envisioned by the 1998 plan, the “Improvement Strategy on Trade and Economic Relation with African States” paper was developed in 2003. The two documents laid the foundation for all of the progress that has been made in the partnership within the last decade.

At the same time, it is important to note that in the deeper history of the modern Turkish Republic, significant diplomatic engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa has been going on for decades. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of some Sub-Saharan African countries, when they were emerging from the shackles of British and French rule in the 1950s and 1960s. This led to the opening of embassies in these newly independent countries, notably Ghana and Nigeria.

Budgetary constrains due to economic crisis facing Turkey in the 1980s meant that some politically and economically unviable embassies (such as the one in Ghana) were closed down. The 1998 Action Plan, and the subsequent Turkey-Africa Summit in 2008 in Istanbul, however, ushered in a new era and gave impetus to the partnership. Since then, Turkey has more than doubled its diplomatic representation in Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the total number of its embassies in the region to 33.

At the same time, Turkey has also joined six other countries at the African Union as an observer country, become a non-regional member of the African Development Bank, increased its trade and Foreign Direct Investment to more than $6 bn and increased humanitarian development assistance through the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA).

Humanitarian Development Aid and an Information Campaign

The Turkish government’s humanitarian and development assistance is channeled to and disbursed by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). Founded in the early 1990s with a focus on Central Asia, TIKA gradually expanded its area of activities to the Middle East, Caucasus, Balkans and then to Africa in 2005, when the year was declared the “Year of Africa.”

Since then, the agency has undertaken many development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, making it one of the largest international development donors to the continent. Since 2005, the agency has financed projects in Sudan, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia and Somalia. While Official Development Aid (ODA) from most DAC countries fell in 2011, Turkey’s net ODA increased from 770 million to $1.3 billion, representing about 38%.

About 50% of this funding was spent on projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Somalia being the largest beneficiary. Having been bedeviled by drought and famine, Turkey became the largest donor country to Somalia, when it extended a much-needed humanitarian aid package that came largely in the form of construction of road network, hospitals, schools, renovation of the airport and water wells, as well as scholarships for students to study in Turkish universities. This made Somalia the top recipient of Turkish development aid in the world in 2011, with Liberia, Kenya and Ethiopia making it into the top 20.

The period also saw a massive campaign and a number of conferences organized in Istanbul to mobilize the international community to channel funds to Sub-Saharan Africa and solve the crises in Somalia and Darfur. Huge billboards were mounted in the major cities of Istanbul and Ankara and in public transport, all in an attempt to galvanize and support the Turkish activities in sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, discourse in the general Turkish society, both in the mosques and in donations to NGOs, was specifically requested to be sent to Sub-Sahara Africa.

A Wrench in the Works: the Fallout of the Arab Spring and the Re-Routing of Turkish Humanitarian Aid

In recent years, however, the picture has changed almost completely. All the pageantry that characterized the initial years of the partnership has dissipated. The Arab Spring and the war in Syria in particular have generated a refugee crisis for Turkey. The country currently accommodates about 2 million Syrian refugees. This makes Turkey the top host of refugees in the world. The Turkish government mobilized all the public agencies such as AFAD and the Turkish NGOs to channel their resources to alleviate the suffering people of Syria.

Thus, since 2012, over 55% of Turkish developmental aid has gone to the Middle East and Syria with the figures for Sub-Saharan Africa continuing to plummet. In 2012 alone, Turkey spent $1.02 billion out of the total ODA of $2.5 billion on Syrian refugees. This figure increased to $1.76 billion in 2013, out of an ODA of $3.3 billion that year. This figure is set to increase in 2014 and 2015 when the official report of TIKA is made available by the end of the year.

While donations to Syria alone accounted for over 50 percent of the ODA, the development aid figures for Sub-Sahara Africa are seeing a drastic decline and the number of beneficiary countries have also been reduced. The highest recipient of Turkish ODA in Sub-Sahara Africa during 2012 was Somalia, with $86.6 million. Sudan was the only other African country to make it into the list of top-20 recipients. But the year 2013 saw only Somalia make it into the top 20 recipients of Turkish ODA.

The Turkish government’s scholarships to Sub-Saharan countries have also declined since 2012. Preference and focus of attention is now on Syria and Palestine, with thousands of students coming every year to study in Turkey.

Developments in Turkey-Africa Economic and Political Relations

The private sector, however, has been less affected by geopolitical changes that have reoriented the path of state funding. The volume of trade and Turkish foreign direct investment (FDI) to Sub-Saharan African countries have been steadily increasing since 2000.

In 2014, the volume of trade between Sub-Saharan Africa countries increased to $8.4 billion compared to about $750 million in the year 2000. Total Turkish FDI is also estimated at around $6 billion, with the major destination of these investments being Ethiopia, South Africa, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. The Turkish schools and Turkish Airlines have been very instrumental in this regard. The Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), the business wing of the Gülen network of schools in Sub-Sahara Africa, organizes trade and investment delegations to and from potentially viable countries as part of their Trade Bridge Programs. TUSKON delegations to Africa have in past been led by the president of Turkey and the relevant Turkish cabinet members.

The delegations from Africa to Turkey have also been high-profile and led by the presidents’ of Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Turkey has also started to implement visa facilitation to African countries’ businesspersons and other eligible citizens who have fulfilled valid passport and visa requirements, while increasing the number of visa exemption agreements for diplomatic and official passport holders with African countries.

Turkish Airlines’ Strategy in Africa

The Turkish national carrier, in addition, has aided Africa’s easy accessibility to Turkey, through its frequent flights to the region. Turkish Airlines commenced flights to Mogadishu, Kigali, Abidjan, Kinshasa, Djibouti, Nouakchott, Mombasa, Niamey, Ouagadougou and Libreville in Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the total number of THY flights in the Continent to 34 destinations. In addition, THY is expected to reach 40 destinations in the next few years, with an aim to be the first airline out of the continent to have the highest number of flights in Africa.

Turkey’s Role in African Energy Projects and Potential Risks

With an impressive annual economic growth rate of five percent over the last decade, which is expected to continue in the coming years, Turkey looks set to continue its economic engagement with the region and the volume of trade is generally expected to increase. The energy sector has been the latest addition to the economic dimension.

In June 2014, the government of Ghana entered into a 10-year agreement with Karpowership, a subsidiary of Karadeniz Holding, to supply the country with 450 megawatts of electricity to supplement the national grid. This is expected to cost the government of Ghana about $1.2 billion. With a major power crisis facing the continent, the firm is already looking beyond Ghana. with sights set on the rest of the Sub-Sahara region.

Nonetheless, the current impasse between the AKP government and the Gülen movement poses a potential threat to the increasing volumes of trade and investments between Turkey and Africa. The December 17 corruption scandal, which brought the alliance of the AKP and the Gülen movement to an abrupt end, could potentially have a devastating effect on economic relations. The existence of the Turkish schools in Africa is under threat and TUSKON has a limited engagement and influence within the Turkish government and in Africa.

Conclusions: an Enhanced, though Somewhat Precarious Partnership

There are both challenges and opportunities for enhanced cooperation and partnership between the African continent and Turkey. As the foregoing has indicated, the relationship between the two is a historic one, and its revitalization in the last decade is also occurring at a historic time in modern history for the wider region, and indeed the world.

As has been seen, Turkey’s diplomatic involvement with Sub-Saharan Africa has waxed and waned, depending on domestic economic, security and other factors. At times of strength, Turkey has projected power more robustly, while it has retracted – though leaving the door open for future re-engagement – when domestic constraints have arisen.

Turkish diplomatic involvement, coupled with educational outreach, humanitarian activities and private-sector investments, have already given Turkey a deep footprint on the continent. Unlike other emerging economies like China and India, Turkey’s objectives in the country are not limited to business alone, which gives it a more sustainable future in the region, since it enables both a grassroots social presence and continuous political engagement.

However, as the recent internal turbulence in Turkey has shown, the close connection between the state, private sector and influential personalities can be as much a risk factor as a benefit. Time will tell how and to what extent Turkish actors will resolve their interests towards the greater good of deepening an African engagement. If they do not succeed in finding internal rapprochement, the country could risk losing the ground it has gained through so much time, effort and investment. Nevertheless, as the continual increase in FDI shows, the private sector is more impervious to political disruptions, and may in this respect keep relationships strong until that moment when Turkish leaders are on the same page.

At the same time, the eventual resolution of the crisis in Syria will free up more funds from the Turkish donors for Sub-Saharan Africa. It is thus more likely than not that the positive inroads Turkish leaders have made in recent years do in fact have long-term viability.

Turkish National Security Threats and the Upcoming Papal Visit Editor’s note: the following article discusses some local security concerns in Turkey, following an assault on US sailors by proclaimed nationalist youth and amidst the lingering concerns over cross-border terrorism from ISIS elements. It comes in advance of the visit of Pope Francis to Turkey later this month; readers may also be interested in’s previous coverage of the Papal visit to Albania this September.

Visit’s dedicated Vatican coverage page

Buy The Vatican’s Challenges in the Balkans: Bolstering the Catholic Church in 2015 and Beyond on Amazon Kindle

By Çağrı Yıldırım

On 12 November, members of the Turkish Youth Union (TGB) assaulted three US Navy sailors on a crowded street in Istanbul, throwing paint at them and trying to pull hoods over their heads. After the incident, 12 people were identified in connection with the attack and arrested by Turkish authorities.

The group, founded in 2006, claims to be a pro-Kemalist, nationalist, and anti-American group, in the tradition of nationalist movements of the past. One of the most famous nationalist-extremists was Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, a case that remains murky today.

Diplomatic Reactions

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu vowed that the attackers would “pay the price for their actions.” In response to Turkish authorities’ reaction to the assault, the US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the United States is “satisfied that the Turkish government is taking this incident seriously”; hence, the assault did not cause a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the US. However, it brings to one’s attention the question of whether Turkey has effective measures in place to prevent terrorist attacks.

Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit to Turkey, and the New Presidential Palace

The visit of Pope Francis, scheduled for November 28-30, 2014, is considered to be the first high-level visit between a Turkish and world leader since August’s presidential election of the then- prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While some in the Christian world sees the Pope’s visit as a chance to bridge ancient divide, Turkish media is focusing on whether the Pope will visit Erdoğan’s ‘White Palace’ (Ak Saray) in Ankara.

The new presidential building represents yet another factor which caused an intensification of the divide within Turkish society between the followers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition parties. This new palace cost more than $600 million to build- about twice the estimated cost presented initially. While President Erdoğan and his government see the presidential building as a symbol of the new ‘Turkey’ project, opposition parties, especially the Republican People’s Party (CHP), consider the new project as a symbol of an authoritarian regime. Therefore, the Pope’s visit will be extremely important to Turks, to the extent that the Pope sends signals about the Holy See’s view of the state of domestic politics in Turkey.

However, aside from the media interest, it should be noted also that the Vatican’s security planners, working together with their Turkish counterparts, are keenly aware of the fact that several Catholic priests and related figures have been murdered in Turkey in recent years, such as Fr. Andrea Santoro in Trabzon in 2006, and Bishop Luigi Padovese in Iskenderun in 2010. There is no doubt that security will be high, wherever the Pope goes.

The Refugee Influx and Terrorism Concerns

Yet on another front, the ongoing fighting at Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria continue to constitute threats to Turkey’s national security. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey has witnessed an immense influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq. The number of refugees in Turkey is now approaching 1.6 million, according to the Turkish government, as CNN has reported.

However, only 847,200 of these refugees are registered in local camps nearby the border, whereas the rest have presumably either moved to big Turkish cities or Europe. It is conceivable that the high number of unregistered refugees in big cities means that among them might be an unknown number of supporters or members of the ISIS or Al Nusra Front terrorists active in Syria and Iraq.

According to a recent security report which was issued by the T24 news portal, 22 bomb-loaded vehicles and 30 ISIS terrorists were reported in Turkey. The Intelligence Unit of the Security General Directorate (EGM) has issued a warning for all 81 provinces to be on guard against 22 bomb-loaded vehicles under IS control, Today’s Zaman reported on 19 September.

Although some international critics have alleged Turkey to have maintained close, cooperative ties with ISIS, the latter seems prepared for performing terrorist attacks in Turkey. For example, the Reyhanli bombings took place on 11 May 2013, when two car bombs exploded in the town of Reyhanli, in the southern Hatay Province of Turkey. In the explosion, at least 51 people were killed and 140 injured.

Although Turkish authorities argued that the attackers had links to Syria’s intelligence agency, the fact that the Syrian Mukhabarat eventually pointed a finger at the Islamic State as the organization responsible for the attack complicates the picture. Yet another, similar incident occurred when Turkey’s consul general in Mosul and 46 Turkish employees were kidnapped on 11 June by ISIS, after the militants seized control of the city. They spent 101 days in captivity, and were only freed after a secret operation led by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT).

The Pope’s Visit as a Security-Policy Indicator

Under such circumstances, one may argue that the visit of Pope Francis may send signals about the short- and medium-term political repositioning of Turkey in the Middle East; additionally, the Pope’s visit will be an indicator of Turke’s national security in view of the ongoing turmoil in neighboring countries.

While the nationalist-oriented TGB assault can be seen as an action by a potentially small group active on Turkish soil (which can be seen in any democratic country), the continuous strike of the Islamic State certainly constitutes a bigger threat to Turkish national security.

The “New Turkey’s” Foreign Policy Direction under President Erdoğan

By Çağrı Yıldırım

On 10 August 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the first directly elected president of the Turkish Republic, winning slightly more than 51% of all votes cast.

In his victory speech, the long-time prime minister, and now President Erdoğan metaphorically indicated that his arrival in office would signify the beginning of a new era, one which he described as the ‘new Turkey.’ Talip Kucukcan, a political analyst at the government-friendly SETA research institute (Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research), explains the concept of ‘new Turkey’ succinctly. “The ‘New Turkey’ means a more pluralist Turkey. It means a country where reforms are brought in step-by-step in line with the integration process to the EU,” read Euronews, quoting the analyst. “It’s also a Turkey where the impact of the military is minimal and political participation is rising.”

This ‘new era’ seems from the political rhetoric to be characterized by a very ambitious tone; one might then expect that the already demonstrably ambitious Erdoğan will become more active in foreign policy as well, compared to previous presidents.

In fact, during the presidential campaign, he explicitly complained about the parliamentary system on the grounds that it is allegedly inefficient in quickly responding to foreign crises.

Yet, how is President Erdoğan going to obtain the competencies necessary to realize his foreign policy goals in a country where the president is (still) the head of state, enjoying mostly ceremonial powers? Specifically, the competencies of the Turkish president include the power to approve parliamentary legislation, the appointment of judges to the constitutional court, and the selection of university presidents.

At the same time, the president legally serves as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and calls parliamentary meetings. To sum up, Turkey’s polity is a parliamentary regime with a ceremonial president and a prime minister who is the head of the executive. In short, the power of the Turkish president is limited against the executive, and vice versa.

Now that the former Prime Minister Erdoğan has become president, however, he is likely to push for a change in some of the key rules governing the Turkish political system. If Erdoğan insists on realizing his ambitious goals – and it seems reasonable to assume that he will – the question remains as to how such a transformation will take place. Serdar Karagöz, a contributor to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, argues that “the president to be elected by the people will transform Turkey’s system of government into a semi-presidential system like the one used in France. Even if called by a different name, the people electing the president will cause a transition to a de facto semi-presidential system.”

To be sure, while such projections can only be speculative at this point, it is yet not unreasonable to expect the expansion of the president’s competencies will occur to some extent in the coming period. If so, then the position of the Turkish president will be elevated from a mere symbolic standing to a political post –a sign that Erdoğan will continue to be active in Turkish politics.

The New Prime Minister and his Cabinet, after the Election

As one of the first actions in his new position, Erdoğan nominated Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to succeed him as Turkey’s new prime minister. The nomination of Davutoğlu was surprising for the more established party functionaries because former President Abdullah Gül, a very influential founding member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), was considered more likely to fill Erdoğan’s previous leadership position.

Davutoğlu is a strong Erdoğan loyalist, so his appointment to the premiership would further imply that the new president wants to keep a strong hold over both party and the cabinet.

After the nomination of Davutoğlu as prime minister and the leader of AKP, he announced his new cabinet. This new cabinet signals in essence the continuation of “Erdoğan’s government,” according to Sabah. Prime Minister Davutoğlu kept previous members of Turkey’s economic management team in place and named Ankara’s point man on Europe, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, as the new foreign minister in his cabinet. This nomination may be suggesting that Turkey’s stalled European Union membership negotiations could now take greater priority.

Turkey’s New Foreign Policy Direction and Upcoming Challenges

The nomination of the Prime Minister and the formation of a new cabinet clearly signal that Turkish foreign policy will continue to be in the hands of Erdoğan and Davutoğlu. To recall, Davutoğlu as a chief advisor to Erdoğan had introduced the so-called “zero problems with neighbors” policy when coming into office in 2003. His policy reached its zenith in 2009 when relationships with Armenia and northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional government (KRG) had been formalized to the extent that official visits were conducted.

However, foreign diplomatic conditions changed for the worse after Israel’s Gaza operation in 2008. First, the meditation talks between Israel and Syria under Turkey’s supervision failed. Then, the Mavi Marmara flotilla disaster in 2010 resulted in a further deterioration of Israel-Turkey relations.

Soon after, the Arab Spring upheaval brought Turkey increased alienation in the Middle East, and open partisanship that seemed to violate the stated foreign policy. Most seriously, Turkey’s active involvement in the Syrian civil war and its confrontations with the new secular Egyptian regime, which came about partly due to a Saudi-backed coup in Egypt that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government), summarized Hurriyet.

Today, Davutoğlu’s eviscerated “zero problems with neighbors” policy effectively manifests itself in terms of a “no friends” policy, according to the influential Foreign Policy journal. Indeed, Turkey has currently no ambassadors in Israel, Egypt, nor Syria. (Only in the Balkans does Turkey’s positive relations remain strong).

In addition, the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq was attacked by the self-proclaimed Islamic State on June 13, with 49 Turkish citizens (including the Turkish consul general) kidnapped and held in captivity ever since. This kidnapping is a sort of trump card held by the ISIS fighters, representing a deterrent against any Turkish military intervention in collaboration with the US. Whether the Turkish public could tolerate the potential murder of these hostages just to conduct a war on ISIS is surely a question that occupies Turkish leaders constantly nowadays.

Moreover, Turkey’s relations with Iraq’s central government also worsened in recent years. The government of the recently-deposed Maliki openly accused Turkey of fomenting sectarian strife, and of doing secret oil deals with the Kurdish Regional Government, indicating sensitive areas that marked the deterioration of Turkish-Iraqi relations.

Relations with the West have been getting worse as well. Especially, the Erdoğan administration’s perceived restrictions on personal freedoms in recent years (including the ongoing jailing of journalists and internet censorship) and violent crackdowns on peaceful protests have increasingly put in question Erdoğan’s democratic credentials. Closely related to these trends, the Erdoğan government never managed to speed up its accession negotiations with the EU.

Ironically, pro-government Turkish media interprets these developments in terms of a “worthwhile loneliness.” Yet this euphemism cannot change the fact of a looming “isolation of Turkey” if things should continue in the present manner.

Perhaps the greatest current challenge facing Erdoğan and the Turkish state is the terrorists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State which not only poses an imminent threat to Turkey territorial integrity but is also a test of the real intentions of the Turkish political cadre. Indeed, while Erdoğan campaigned partly on the idea of reining in the military’s potential for coups (as has happened in the past), he may yet need to demonstrate his mettle as a commander-in-chief in a cross-border conflict, and how the new president perceives his relationship with the generals and their common responsibilities will be a crucial question going forward.


The author would like to thank Alper Baysan, who studies Comparative and International Studies at ETH Zurich for his helpful comments and reviews of this article in pre-publication stages.

A Spring Surprise in Turkey? New Movement on the Kurdish Issue

By Valeria Giannotta

On 21 March 2013, the beginning of spring was celebrated in Turkey. During the Nevruz festival in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, Abdullah Öcalan – the jailed leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker Party) – sent out a clear message, after long negotiations with the AKP government. “The guns should fall silent and politics should come to the forefront,” was Ocalan’s message. “The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders. It is not the end; it is the start of a new era.”

With this statement from the longtime icon of the Kurdish movement, Turkey seems to have reached a crucial turning point. It signifies a concrete hope for the Kurdish people, who have long been fighting for equal rights and the full recognition of their identity, against the assimilation assumption in Turkish constitutional law.

The ‘Kurdish Issue’ has always been the most critical and hotly-debated one concerning the structure of Turkey as a modern state. In the process of nation-building from 1923, secularization and securitization have played a key role, aiming to establish a new identity acceptable to all the ethno-religious elements of Turkey. However, although it was proclaimed that sovereignty resided in the ‘Turkish nation,’ establishing a modern state was not an easy task; from the very beginning, governments had to face the problem of Anatolia’s non-Turkish Muslims. Indeed as it is constitutionally recognized that all people born in Turkey are Turks, it is this specific ethno-cultural dimension that emphasizes the uniqueness of being Turkish.

Ethnic Status and Defining National Unity

The critical issue of the Kurdish population emerged as a natural outcome of these dynamics. Belonging to a different ethnic group, and speaking a different language, the Kurds sought the right to freely express their identity- without this being perceived as an obstacle to inclusion in the Turkish nation. Since in legal terms the Kurdish population is not identified as an ethnic or religious minority, the issue is substantially related to some people with their own history, culture and language and a particular attachment to a specific territory, assimilated by Constitutional law to the Turkish State.

Today, the status of the Kurdish population is the most important ethnic problem for Turkey. As a result of the urbanization process, a large number of Kurds moving to major urban centers have developed a greater sense of ethnicity, one which has been reinforced by the violent acts of the PKK over the past three decades. The result is a quite clear separation between the Kurdish minority and the majority of the Turkish population.

In the last 30 years, the PKK – recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community – has waged a bloody campaign for autonomy and self-rule in predominantly Kurdish regions of Southeastern Anatolia. In that time, more than 40,000 people (including civilians and security forces) have been killed. However, more moderate Kurdish groups have been disassociating themselves from violence against civilians, and they have also been committed to finding a political solution within the existing unitary state and the democratic parliamentary system.

Facing this critical situation in the past decade Turkey has taken significant steps by expanding cultural and political rights for the Kurds. For the first time since the foundation of the modern Republic, Prime Minister Erdoğan and his AKP government have addressed the issue by stressing that in the past Turkey had made ​​mistakes. They say that the Kurdish issue should be resolved through the process of democratization, in full respect for the principles of ‘a single state, one nation and one flag’, where Islam is the cementing force for national unity.

AKP Electoral Success and the Kurdish Vote

Since its rise to power in 2002, the AKP attitude has been able to frame the Kurdish issue within the parameters of freedom and political rights, through the ongoing reforms process related to the goal of full EU accession. Although these claims have not always been followed by effective sweeping policy changes, but rather by small concessions like allowing television and radio broadcasts in Kurdish, the AKP approach to the problem indicates a significant distancing from those of other parties in Turkey. Moreover, such de facto recognitions helped the governing party gain substantial support from Southeastern Anatolian districts in the 2007 elections. Indeed, in that electoral race AKP secured 46.6% of the vote, and 341 out of the total of 550 seats in Parliament, marking the largest margin of victory for a single-party government since 1960.

Similarly, AKP’s success has been in part dependent on the votes from those provinces where Kurdish citizens constitute a dominant majority. A geographical analysis of the election results, in fact, shows that the Conservative Democrats have been able to divide the Kurdish electoral space in two- between pro-AKP and pro-Kurdish party blocs.

This significant support from the eastern provinces has contributed to a robust mandate for the current government, especially useful for its attempt of constitutional reform. However, despite the hopes and assumptions, no coherent policy has been developed, mainly because of the lack of consensus from the opposition. In fact, neither CHP nor MHP have welcomed the so-called ‘democratic opening’ because they claim it is liable to increase the risk of the disintegration of the country along ethnic lines.

According to this interpretation it is not surprising, therefore, that there was unanimous support in the Constitutional Court for closing down the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in 2009. The court accused it of “being the focal point of activities against the country and the indivisible unity of the state.”

Despite these disagreements, the impressive results of the 2010 referendum have instead played a significant role in Turkish politics. By winning the confidence of 58% of the voters, AKP has been legitimized and thus more determined to proceed with a number of reforms aimed at amending the still existing 1982 military constitution. Their stated goal was to transform the ‘bureaucratic republic’ to a ‘democratic’ one, by changing the constitution.

This pledge put Prime Minister Erdoğan in position to emerge victorious from 2011 election, with significant popular support (close to 50%). Such a result brought awareness among the AKP’s Kurdish counterpart that the ruling party intends to remain in power for a long time. However, the fact that another three million votes still went to the BDP – the Kurdish Democratic Party – has underlined the urgency of a compromise with the “Turkish Kurdistan” as essential to resolving the thorny issue.

The Return to Violence and Regional Concerns

Paradoxically, while the AKP strengthened its dominant position nationally with these elections, it also lost ground among Kurdish supporters. The common expectation was that a second democratic initiative would be launched, not something indicating simple political maneuvering. Indeed as a reaction to the situation, violence has been escalating in Southeastern Turkey, and ethnic divisions have been sharpened.

With the resumption of the guerrilla fighting came the terrorist attack in Hakkari province of October 2011- one of the bloodiest episodes to have occurred in Turkish territory. Turkey responded by launching a quick counter-offensive in northern Iraq, and a series of joint operations on the domestic level, leading to the arrests of numerous accused sympathizers of the PKK. These included several members of the BDP, as well as Busra Ersanli, a university professor and member of the parliamentary committee for constitutional amendments.

Further, with the escalation of violence it is worth mentioning the large-scale military operation carried out by the Turkish military in December 2011. This resulted in the killing of 35 young smugglers, mistaken for guerrillas, in the region of Uludere near the Iraqi border. Even if it was called “a tragic operating mistake” by the Turkish state, it contributed to sparking street protests in Turkish cities, heightening the animosity towards the government.

Thus the ‘Kurdish issue’ is for politicians not just a matter of internal politics, but also an issue with real regional repercussions. The Turkish military operations in Southeastern Anatolia and in northern Iraq have soured relations with Baghdad. On a second front, Ankara’s position towards Syria involves the desire to exert some influence on Kurdish issues in Syria before the eventual successor to Assad.  The strong links between Damascus and the Syrian branch of the PKK dates back at least to the early 1980s, and in the 1990’s Abdullah Öcalan himself had been sheltered in Syria. Furthermore the concern for the Kurdish separatist threat is shared with Iran too: the Tehran regime feels threatened by the action of the separatist PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan), as PKK and in its close coordination, aspiring to territorial autonomy for the Kurds there.

Taken in its regional context, the Kurdish issue is a litmus test for both Turkey’s full domestic maturity and its external projection as a regional leader, converging democratic opening policies and the evergreen strategy of “zero problems with neighbors.” Here arises the need for strong internal solidarity that has become crucial in a time of turmoil, and above all in a time of new electoral campaigning. Therefore, the call for a ceasefire last March would have to be included in this framework.

The withdrawal of armed members of the PKK from Turkey is a priority for resolution of the country’s ‘terrorism problem.’ It is expected to happen by the end of 2013. If it does happen, it will pave the way for further AKP success in 2014 local and presidential elections. As the main interlocutor in ongoing talks with Abdullah Öcalan, Prime Minister Erdoğan has been perceived as the leading figure in the peace process since last October. After he got the public support of the jailed PKK leader, he became more willing to develop a valuable road map for addressing Kurdish issue, appointing a commission of ‘wise men’ to develop it.

Such a success would definitely open the way for Erdoğan’s presidential candidacy. Indeed, although working on the issue outside of Parliament is not perceived as a valid solution by the opposition, it seems the safest option- both for personally carrying out the process and for avoiding sabotage. Already during the crucial time of the last negotiation, some of the minutes of a recent meeting between BDP delegation and Öcalan were leaked to the press, as an apparent move to disturb the positive atmosphere around a hypothetical solution of the longstanding conflict. Before this, another attempt to boycott the negotiation occurred in September 2011, when a tape recording revealed secret talks between Turkish government officials and members of the PKK in Oslo.

Turkey seems to have come to a historic turning point, and its leaders will seek to prevent any impulse aimed to fragment rather than consolidate the results obtained. In the country – and even among the overall Kurdish population – there is optimism, which leaders are keen to not see disappointed. The road towards democratic coexistence is open, but the way still remains uphill.  A mutual embrace from all parties involved would be the first step towards settling the issue. Without cohesion and awareness there is the risk of perpetuating and exacerbating a real clash of civilizations, both within and beyond Turkey’s borders. And that could trigger the beginning of a much hotter spring in Turkey.

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

In Istanbul, a New Brewpub Caters to International Tastes

By Chris Deliso

While Istanbul has always been one of the world’s unquestionably great cities, it has never made it onto the list of prime destinations for beer lovers.

Helping to change this sorry situation has been English couple Philip and Jill Hall, who together with Turkish partner Sedat Zincırkiran established the Bosphorus Brewing Company last November. Since then this spiffy new pub, which produces its own beers and serves home-cooked meals to a mixed Turkish and international clientele, has become a roaring success.

Despite being situated in a business district far from the touristy heart of the old city, the brewpub has developed a faithful following in only four months of operation, which seems to be increasing by the week.

Balkanalysis-Bosphorus Brewing Company Feature- Philip Hall

According to the BBC’s Philip Hall, “as the locals are starting to develop a taste for craft beers, we are seeing around eighty percent Turks, and twenty percent foreigners!” (Photo courtesy Bosphorus Brewing Company)

A Pub for ‘Community-building’

We caught up with the Halls on a recent standing-room-only Friday night at the pub, where they explained the concepts behind its creation, amidst the revelry of many happy drinkers. Philip had been working as general manager of a chemicals company in Istanbul for several years when he got the idea to try something new.

After renovations which involved “completely ripping out” the premise’s former inhabitant, a restaurant, the brewpub opened its doors on 14th of November 2012, says Jill. As she is proud to point out, “this was the same date that the BBC began broadcasting in 1922.”

Of course, a love of good beer and a desire to enjoy flavors beyond the limited offerings from ensconced giants Efes and Tuborg was a major factor. But there was another reason for making this considerable new investment.

“I wanted the brewpub to become a community-building initiative, a call for creativity,” says Philip, implying the effect that similar international-flavored ventures have had in other countries. Indeed, with its large expat community, Istanbul would seem a perfect place to open a brewpub.

“At first, we thought that we would be basically targeting foreigners living in Istanbul,” says Philip, “and in the beginning the ratio of foreigners to Turks was indeed about fifty-fifty. But now, as the locals are starting to develop a taste for craft beers, we are seeing around eighty percent Turks, and twenty percent foreigners!”

Catering to Complex Tastes: the BBC’s Offerings

This development of tastes is a notable challenge for anyone wishing to break into the beer market in sultry Mediterranean and Balkan countries, where the warmer climes dictate a preference for lighter beers (note Greece’s ‘holy trinity’ of Amstel, Heineken and Mythos).

This has meant that the BBC’s flagship brews tend to be on the light side; they include the Istanbul Pale Ale, a typical IPA, Haliç Gold, similar to a Belgian ale, and Içmedik, a fresh and crisp lagered ale. Yet there is also the full-bodied Karbon Stout, the B4 Bitter, and recent favorite Yabangee, a rich and hoppy brew with the characteristics of those traditionally produced in Burton Upon Trent in England. It is thus kind of cultural sophistication and diversity that the Halls wished to contribute to Turkey today.

“We want to be creative but it is a bit difficult, since Turkish tastes are relatively conservative,” notes Philip. Nevertheless, the resident brewmeister keeps perpetually active, tinkering with new formulas, ingredients and recipes to increase the BBC’s range. Incredibly, everything is produced on the premises, which are more on the side of adequate than enormous.

Balkanalysis-Bosphorus Brewing Company Feature- light beer

Istanbul’s new microbrew option specializes in light beers and friendly local service (Photo courtesy Bosphorus Brewing Company)

The BBC’s goal is to have a rotation of new beers, in addition to their regular brews, available for two-week periods.

“We take on board customer suggestions,” says Jill, “and thus we can see which are most popular.” This helps them to see which beers are likely to be worthy of permanent production.

In some cases, just a bit of technical tinkering seems to have been adequate for adjusting to local tastes. For example, says former chemical engineer Philip, “with the IPA, all it took was just to reduce the temperature and carbonation levels.”

He is quick to add that “we didn’t want to compete with Efes- we had a different concept.” Nevertheless, it seems that the BBC’s sudden success has not gone unnoticed by both Turkey’s powerful brewing interests, and its conservative opponents of alcohol in general, which opens a fascinating window into local culture today.

Challenges and Restrictions

Although it is impossible to say whether the success of Istanbul’s modest brewpub had anything to do with it, the government on January 14, 2013 changed a law affecting any bar that self-produces on the premises. The government thus stopped giving brewing licenses under the guise of “protecting the health” of citizens. This reasoning has been stated for many similar anti-alcohol government decisions since 2003, when the Islamist AK Party took over.

Many suspect, however, that there are other reasons for these restrictions. Turkish journalists, such as Kadri Gürsel recently have discussed restrictions on alcohol in public spaces that have been gradually implemented by the government since 2003. Many Turks believe that the laws are actually meant to stigmatize and gradually eliminate all consumption of alcohol in the country on religious grounds. It is unlikely that the millions of secular-minded Turks will ever let this happen- to do so would be catastrophic for Turkey’s appeal as an international destination to most tourists. (And for Christ’s sake, even the Arabs come to Turkey to drink in peace).

However, in an ironic twist that shows the convergence of high-level interests, anti-alcohol government regulators and the big alcohol producers also see common cause in keeping down local production. Along with the BBC, there are only a couple other local beer producers in the entire country, including the now franchised TAPS, open since 2002. Local production is a direct threat to the lucrative import tax that the government rakes in on imported alcohol, and for Turks to develop a taste for locally-produced beers in large numbers would damage this revenue stream.

Balkanalysis-Bosphorus Brewing Company Feature- Pub Life

Happy patrons on a typical night at the BBC. (Photo courtesy Bosphorus Brewing Company)

At the same time, big brewers like Efes and Tuborg naturally would like to limit their competition, especially when it is turning out a superior product. Thus anything that can restrict the production of alcohol is beneficial for the giants- even if it means siding with the anti-alcohol ideologues in power.

Ensuring Sustainability

For now, however, the Halls see everything as going well. “We are pouring 3,000 glasses of beer per week,” says Philip. “That’s twice the volume of some London pub owners I know!”

He is also confident that the BBC will retain its dedicated following in the summer, when the city typically empties out for the holiday season. “We are a unique place,” he says, “so people will still visit us in summer too.”

However, considering the vagaries of local politics, he also acknowledges that it may take more than the newfound tastes of sophisticated Istanbullu to keep operations sustainable. “We do need the support of the expat community, and the foreign embassies, at least to patronize the pub,” Philip says. Any community-building that may derive laterally from that could also provide a layer of protection too.

Balkanalysis-Bosphorus Brewing Company Feature- BBC Logo

The BBC Logo, as devised by the Istanbul-based creative agency THOSE Creatives (Simon Johnson, Martin Hinze and Innes Welbourne)

Despite the challenges of operating in Turkey as it is today, given the rising popularity of the BBC, its presence on social media and fun side events, it appears likely that it will remain a contender for years to come- much to the delight of resident and visiting lovers of fine beers.

Getting There: The Logistics

Contacts/Map: Bosphorus Brewing Company has contact info (and Google map) on this page.

Address: Esentepe Mah., Yıldız Posta Cd., Emekli Subay Evleri No: I/IA, Gayrettepe, İstanbul

Nearest Metro: Mecidiyeköy (10-15 min. walk)

Reservations: Strongly suggested on weekends. Dial (0212) 288 6499 locally


Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

Turkey’s Fifteenth EU Progress Report: On the Road to Guinness, rather than Europe?

By Erdinç Erdem and Çağrı Yıldırım* Editor’s note: As the year 2012 draws to a close, this new articles look on the major points of contention between the European Union and Turkey, as articulated in the bloc’s October progress report on the country. These issues, primarily related to the judiciary and security sector, look likely to continue to remain vital well after the conclusion of the Cypriot EU presidency.


On October 10, 2012 the European Commission issued its fifteenth Annual Progress Report on Turkey’s EU accession bid. According to the Progress Report, Turkey still seems to have a long way to go before it can reach the gates of the European Union.

On the other hand, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fule commented on Turkey’s membership negotiations in a humorous manner by pointing out that “no one had any intention to make Turkey’s negotiations a subject for the Guinness Book of Records. The negotiations will never be a subject for the Guinness Book of Records especially in the case of a key country like Turkey.”

Despite Stefan Fule’s humorous approach, this year’s Progress Report signifies quite clearly that Turkey’s harmonization process with the EU acquis is not moving in the right direction. Concerning democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities, it is expressed in the report that Turkey still has a lot of duties to fulfill.

However, what was more striking about this year’s report has been Turkey’s response to the report. This has manifested in a way that has caused increasing conflict in relations between Turkey and the European Union.

Blame Cyprus!

For Turkey’s Minister of EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Egemen Bağış, the main issue responsible for this so-called ‘unjust’ result is the term ‘presidency’ of Cyprus (regarding the Republic of Cyprus’ position in the EU’s rotating presidency).

Bağış stated that “the Greek Cypriot term presidency in the EU had a negative impact on the progress report. With such a pessimistic approach the EU faces the risk of putting in jeopardy the Positive Agenda which began in early 2012. Progress Reports have never been a great card for us and will never be.”

In addition to what Bağış said, the head of the parliamentary Constitutional Commission, Burhan Kuzu, expressed his protest by throwing the Progress Report on the ground while appearing on one of the Turkish news channels. He further claimed that this progress report is a ‘vicious’ one prepared during the presidency of the “so-called state of ‘Southern Cyprus,’” which is not recognized by Turkey. Although he does not reject all the criticisms raised in the report, for Kuzu, “it is unjust to give such a bad grade to this hardworking student.”

The initial reactions from the AKP government were thus very firm; mainly accusing the EU of having lost its objectiveness during Cyprus’ presidential term. Both statements put forth by Bağış and Kuzu underline that the EU has an unjust approach to the democratization and reform process of Turkey. Moreover, they claim that such a bad report full of harsh criticisms is largely because of Cyprus’s presidency, and thus, far from justice and objectivity.

Contrary to the Progress Report, the Turkish side believes that Turkey is day by day getting better in terms of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities since the coming of the AKP government. Since the accession negotiations began in 2005, the AKP government has made some alleged reforms concerning political criteria. In this respect, it has always emphasized that Turkey is already prepared for full membership. In other words, Turkey believes that it has long been ready to become a member, but suffers from the EU reluctance to accept it. Hence, Turkey tends to see the situation from the ‘Ankara perspective’ rather than that of Brussels.

Continuation of the ‘Ankara Criteria’

In perhaps one of his most cited remarks, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated in 2005 that “Turkey should be accepted into the European Union. If not we will change the name of the Copenhagen Criteria to the Ankara Criteria and continue the reforms.” Although the Prime Minister made this speech before the opening accession negotiations in 2005, the ‘Ankara Criteria’ concept has since then become one of the main arguments of the AKP government.

In this way, the government seems to be arguing that the reforms required for full membership are duties not only to become a part of the EU but for the consolidation of democracy and human rights inside the country. Hence, the ‘Ankara Criteria’ imply reforms that will be undertaken even if the EU does not accept Turkey as a full member. On the other hand, shortly after the accession negotiations started, the AKP government decelerated the quite conscientious reform process undergoing in Turkey since it gained its candidacy status at the Helsinki Summit in 1999.

Accession Reform Efforts since Helsinki: Some Progress

The Helsinki Summit marked the beginning of Turkey’s candidacy status granted by the European Council, with an official statement made that “Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the EU.” Turkey’s candidacy status was a great encouragement towards reinforcing its process of Europeanization in terms of its institutional infrastructure. From then on, Turkey has made some efforts to align its institutions, legislations, and policies with the EU acquis.

To expedite this transformation process, the Commission prepared an Accession Partnership Document for Turkey in 2000. In line with the Accession Partnership Document, Turkey prepared and submitted its National Programme for the Adoption of the EU acquis in 2001. In this direction, the coalition government composed of the Democratic Left Party (DSP), the Motherland Party (ANAP), and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) adopted a major Constitutional package that addressed the articles on freedom of expression and revised the death penalty with 34 amendments to the 1982 Constitution. Two more harmonization packages and one civil penal code package followed these reforms. The extensive third harmonization package included the abolition of the death penalty. It was the last constitutional package the coalition government promulgated in August 2001.

When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power the next year, the reform process gained more speed. Between 2002 and 2004, the AKP government adopted six harmonization packages and the new Turkish Penal Code. Therefore, at the Brussels Summit in 2004, the European Council concluded that Turkey had complied sufficiently with the Copenhagen political criteria so that the accession process could officially begin on 3 October 2005. Paradoxically, however, Turkey’s membership process has since been stalled by a number of domestic and external factors.

As external factors, the accession process of Turkey has been slowed down because of the changing view on Turkish membership. Former accession processes clearly show that the membership process strongly depends on the support of member states; especially the more populous and economically developed ones. For example, Germany played a critical role in opening negotiations with Turkey at the Helsinki Summit in 1999, but when the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) under Angela Markel came to power, the policy towards Turkey immediately changed after the opening of accession negotiations. Several economic crises in smaller countries further eroded support for Turkey in the EU. Therefore, the views within individual EU member states seem to be coming together and hardening into an essentially negative position towards Turkey.

Selective Implementation of Reforms under the AKP

On the domestic front, the AKP government has increasingly shown signs of ‘reform fatigue,’ hesitating to push hard for implementation and enforcement of the rights-based reforms that it had so assertively legislated previously. Therefore, the question of whether or not EU’s political conditionality has lost its credibility over Turkey has become one of the main topics in EU studies. In 2010, Ankara’s policy of creating more leeway for itself in its synchronization efforts with the EU was formalized with the publication of European Union Strategy for Turkey’s Accession Process by the Turkey’s Secretariat General of EU Affairs. The report explicitly states that:

“regardless of whether the chapters have been opened, suspended or blocked, the objective is to revive the commitments laid down in the programme for Alignment with the Acquis that was prepared earlier and based on Turkey’s own priorities and timetables, and to keep on the agenda the priorities of Turkey’s National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis, prepared in line with the Accession Partnership.”

This statement indicates that the Ankara government aims to implement the EU acquis, albeit selectively, whether relevant chapters are opened or not. Because Turkey still rejects opening its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus, eight chapters have been frozen by the European Council. Eleven others are blocked by France, Greece and Cyprus due to their problematic bilateral relations with Turkey. Paradoxically, these adverse circumstances have created a unique situation in which Turkey can choose which parts of the acquis to implement relatively, without the pressure of EU conditionality and negotiations.

In other words, while the AKP government is continuing the reform process with respect to the ones that serve their purposes, it is largely neglecting the ones that do not; and these ones are the epitome of political criteria that are criticized in the 2012 Progress Report. In the report, the main areas criticized include the trials of the Union of Communities of Kurdistan (KCK), Ergenekon and the alleged ‘Sledgehammer,’ coup, as well as the lingering Kurdish issue in general. Criticism was also reserved for the perceived absence of transparent public inquiry, and the lack of discussion of political responsibility in the event of Uludere (Roboski), where 34 civilians were killed by a military air strike in December 2011.

The report also shows concerns about the prevalence of lengthy pre-trial detentions, and long and catch-all indictments that overshadow the reliability and legitimacy of these judicial proceedings. It further states that the Turkish “judiciary even accepts evidence collected by police only or via secret witnesses.”

Human Rights Concerns: still an Issue

It is not known whether Cyprus in its role as rotating EU president played a deliberate role in specifying these criticisms expressed in the Progress Report. If this is the case, it can only be said that Cyprus has made fair criticisms. Indeed, this report does not say anything new about the political situation in Turkey. There are many NGOs expressing their concerns about human rights violations going on in Turkey. For example, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CFJ) has criticized Turkey in terms of the allegedly repressive penal code, its anti-terror law, and oppression of the media. It states that 76 journalists have been imprisoned since August 2012, at least 61 of whom were sentenced due to their published works or news-gathering activities.

Moreover, approximately seventy percent of these journalists are Kurdish, and they have been accused of engaging in terrorist activities. However, in response to the question of Stephen Sackur on BBC’s Hard Talk, Minister Bağış claims that “there is no journalist who has been detained because of his profession. There are some people who carry journalist identification cards, who have been caught while raping another person or have been caught robbing a bank.” However, it is very well known that these journalists in question are neither rapists nor robbers, but that they are on trial mostly due to the existing anti-terror law.

CFJ is not the only organization that criticizes Turkey other than the European Union. Amnesty International expresses its worries regarding the rights of prisoners on hunger strike since 12 September for which the Turkish media largely remains muted. Moreover, Human Rights Watch underlines that “the government has not prioritized human rights reforms since 2005, and freedom of expression and association have both been damaged by the ongoing prosecution and incarceration of journalists, writers, and hundreds of Kurdish political activists, particularly through the misuse of overly broad terrorism laws. Violence against women in Turkey remains endemic. Police continue to use excessive force, particularly against demonstrators, and are rarely held accountable for such violence.”

Waiting for the Constitution

In conclusion, it is not very surprising that the EU’s fifteenth Progress Report released in October emphasizes Turkey’s backsliding in meeting the political criteria. It seems from the EU report that the EU is waiting for the new constitution (which itself has generated internal political controversies) that will perhaps come into force in 2013.

Other than the seemingly joint preparation of this civil constitution, the report does not indicate any other positive signs regarding political reforms. Rather, in contrast it suggests that “the rest of political life was characterized by limited dialogue and frequent tensions.”

Therefore, as the former Green Left Member of the European Parliament Joost Lagendijk very precisely put it, Turkey should “not blame the doctor” for not being able to enter the European Union. Thus, the 2012 progress report should not be considered as a sort of European hatred for Turkey; rather, it should be viewed as a diagnosis of the illnesses of democracy in Turkey today.


Erdinç Erdem is currently a master’s student at LSE, enrolled in the MSc European Studies: Ideas and Identities Programme. He was previously a master’s student on political science at Sabanci University, and earned an undergraduate degree on international relations and the European Union at the Izmir University of Economics in Turkey. His research interests are mainly continental political philosophy, critical theory, Turkish politics, and EU-Turkey relations.

Çağrı Yıldırım is a visiting researcher at Kadir Has University. He completed his M.A. degree on European Studies at Sabancı University and holds a B.A. in International Relations and the EU from Izmir University of Economics. His research interests include Europeanization (External impacts of EU), EU–Turkey relations and energy politics.

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle



Anticipated Renewable Energy Targets for the Turkish Republic’s 100th Anniversary

By Evrim Özyorulmaz*

Turkey’s AKP government plans to base its election campaigning on the slogan “Turkey Is Ready: The Target is 2023.” The importance being given to the renewable energy sector by the government, which plans to accomplish impressive energy projects in time for the centennial anniversary of the Turkish Republic, is indicated clearly in the following quote (.PDF):

“The share of indigenous and renewable energy sources in the production system will be increased to the maximum extent. The production capacity based on the wind energy will be re-doubled 20 times and be increased from 1000 MW to 20,000 MW. We will rank among the top 10 countries for the production of electricity from solar energy. Geothermal and solar energy based power plants are going to be set up. In 2023, the share of renewable energy sources in electricity generation is aimed to be at the level of at least 30%.”

The ruling party also has put in an appearance on all relevant occasions. These include the participation of either the prime minister or the other key staff of the government at the openings of wind power plants, for example, in the last few years. Through these opportunities, the importance given to renewable energy sources has again been attested.

New Laws on Energy

The regulations that oversee the private sector have also been drafted during the AKP’s mandates; the “Renewable Energy Law” amounted to a revolution in the energy sector. Nuclear power plants are also seen as part of meeting the energy demand of Turkey. In fact, in their 2023 targets, being presented as a “giant step,” the government has said that in total, “eight nuclear reactors of 10,000 MW will be deployed in Mersin Akkuyu and Sinop. Besides, the construction of four additional reactors of 5000 MW will also be started.”

It is certainly impossible to know whether the AKP government will remain in power until 2023, but debate can at least be made regarding whether or not these goals can be achieved, and at what cost.

The recent history of Turkey’s energy policies involves the transfer of the energy sector to private ownership, in the context of influential trends favoring renewables like global warming and climate change phenomena, plus the target of EU integration.

Further, resulting from the multinational energy giants wanting to have control over this new market, the legal framework for private sector investment in the market has started to be created. First, in 2005, the “Renewable Energy Law” No. 5346 was passed, and promoted as an incentive law. Through various revisions the law was updated, most recently with the Law Nr. 6094 adopted in December 2010.

Related to the efficient use of renewable energy, some economic and financial difficulties are being experienced in Turkey as in many other parts of the world. Although various arrangements have been made on this subject, their practical competences should still be discussed. According to the WWF 2011 Report on the future of renewable energy and Turkey, the main critiques about the challenges in front of the renewable energy was headed as: 1. inadequate intake assurances, 2. the criteria on connections to the grid circuits, 3. the high cost of exploration activities of geothermal resources, 4. difficulties that consumers are facing while specifying the electricity source, 5. conflict between  the objectives of renewable energy and nature protection, 6. the location of transformers and transmission difficulties from the source to the transformer, and 7. the lack of R & D funds.

What Is Being Promoted with Renewable Energy Incentives?

With the announced solar energy purchase price of 13.3 USD cents/KWh in the above-mentioned “Renewable Energy Law” No. 6094, solar energy investment completely lost all of its excitement. It is believed that this law led investors to indirectly distance themselves from the idea of a solar energy investment. Within the conjuncture, it is obvious that the proposed prices could redeem the investment itself – barely – after a 20-year period. This proves that the government’s set objectives related to solar energy remain impossible to achieve.

Even for the investments to be made by 2015 a 10-year purchasing guarantee is given, there is still an uncertainty for the investments after this date. For those seeking to invest in the wind and geothermal energy sectors, such uncertainties may lead to questionable approaches for private capital investments too. Promoting nuclear energy with no boundaries, the government does not want to guarantee the future of renewable energy, since the renewable energy sector is subject to the operation of free market mechanism as conclusive (.PDF).

When compared again with nuclear energy, the figures reveal more clearly the government’s seriousness in promoting renewable energy. While the 15-year purchase guarantee of 12.35 Dollar cents/kWh (excluding VAT) for nuclear energy is already being given to the Russian company Rosatom’s Akkuyu NPP Electricity Generation JSC, the 10-year purchase guarantee from the unit price of 7.3 USD cents/kWh is set for wind energy investments. Further, there is nothing within the scope of the law regarding wind investments after the year 2015.

It is possible that the subjected law is only meant to spur investments in more cost-effective areas (hydroelectric power plants, among other renewable energy sources). However, whether or not to invest in hydro is still being discussed, because of its potential adverse effects on the environment. In the intervening period of time, especially after the June 2003 bylaw of the “Agreement of the Right to the Use of Water,” the size of investments in Turkish hydroelectric power plants attests to this situation, in comparison with the non-significant investment figures in other areas of renewable energy. Together with a particular clause in the law stated below, which is particularly applicable for the hydroelectric projects, the approval of any project that may damage the environment must be approved by the relevant ministry only in regards to:

“National parks, nature parks, natural monuments and nature conservation areas, conservation forests, wildlife development areas, specific areas of environmental protection with the approval of the responsible Ministry, for natural protected areas with the approval of the board of the relevant protection zone; it shall be given the allowance for the establishment of the power generation plants based on the renewable energy sources.”

Auditing: Putting the Cat among the Pigeons

In parallel to the related law, from publishing the bylaw in October 2011 it has emerged that auditing activities shall be handled by privately-owned auditing companies. This means that auditing activities as already made by the Republic of Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority will be assigned to the control of the private sector, essentially putting the cat among the pigeons. The ramifications of this situation today are a matter for debate.

So far, it has been explained that renewable energy investments will be excluded from other energy sources since the incentives that the AKP government is providing are inherently causing companies to move into the most profitable fields of energy, rather than renewables. At the same time, it has been seen that with the government’s current policies of renewable energy the targets are unrealistic and unattainable, since the given guarantee and the stimulus are not sufficient for promoting investments on renewable energy.

It is also inevitable that similar steps already taken during the hydroelectric power plant investments will lead to other types of problems and damages. For example, in hydro projects, auditing mechanisms for the construction and operation phases were not determined clearly and/or the policy makers failed to get the opinions of either non-profit organizations or the people living near the location of the project in question.

Thus, if the necessary lessons are not taken from Turkey’s recent experiences with Hydro, there will always be the potential for other similar problems for other types of renewable energy projects. In Turkey, electricity production by renewable energy sources at one-hundred-percent capacity is possible without environmental degradation is possible; however, a deviation from the current market functioning is required. This means that the law and regulations should be more transparent, the incentives should be higher for renewables, and that not only the government, private sector and a few individuals should have an active role.

If the challenges stated above can be overcome, electrical energy generated from renewable energy sources in Turkey could reach its full capacity efficiently in future, and perhaps in time for the republic’s historic anniversary.


Evrim Özyorulmaz is a Research Assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics at the Izmir University of Economics in Izmir, Turkey. Currently assistant to the Head of the Sustainable Energy Division, she received her M.A. in Financial Economics in 2011, after graduating in 2007 with a double major from the university’s International Trade and Finance and Business Administration Departments.

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle