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Greece Increases Border Patrols over Fear of Illegal Immigrants from Egypt January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Egypt, Turkey, Yunanistan.
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Bulgaria: Greece Increases Border Patrols over Fear of Illegal Immigrants from Egypt
Greece is increasing its border patrols over fears that the crisis in Egypt would trigger a wave of illegal immigrants, entering from Turkey.

Greece has announced it is increasing its sea and land border patrols over fears that the crisis in Egypt might trigger a wave of illegal immigrants to Europe.

Christos Papoutsis, the Greek Minister for Citizen Protection, said Monday that authorities provided an increased number of patrols at the border with Turkey in the last 24 hours, Greek DPA news agency reported.

Papoutsis added that there has not been an increase in the number of illegal immigrants from North Africa yet, but noted that this could change suddenly.

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants see Greece as their destination. Only last year, their number was 128,000, the highest in all EU member states.

The country has accused Turkey of failing to stop the wave of illegal immigrantsentering Greece and ignoring an agreement to accept the return of detained immigrants.

In December 2010, the Greek government announced it was considering fencing off its territory along its Turkish border to beat back the influx of illegal immigrantsinto the EU.

However, at the beginning of 2011, Papoutsis indicated a project for building a 12.5-km-long and 3-m-high fence along the most problematic section of theGreeceTurkey border near the Maritsa river and the Greek town of Orestiada.

In the period of just six months up till the end of November, 33 000 illegal immigrants have been detected crossing the Greek-Turkish land border. Most are from Afghanistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq.

Officials have stated that, in 2010, an average of ‘200 refugees each day’ had crossed into Greece from Turkey.

Around 80 per day of the illegal immigrants in the EU arrive via Greece. Large numbers then seek to reach Italy via ferry. There are currently an estimated 300,000 people living illegally in Greece.

Greece‘s facilities for the detention of illegal migrants have been the matter of criticism by international human rights NGOs.

In November 2010, police from across the EU arrived in Greece to patrol its borderwith Turkey against illegal immigrants as part of the continued “Joint Operation Poseidon” of Frontex, EU’s border control agency.

Police officers and equipment from Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Denmark deployed along the border with Turkey in NortheasternGreece, which is a major point of entry into the EU for illegal immigrants.

The mission is expected to last till March 2011 and is focusing on policing a previously unguarded 12-km section of a river border between the towns of Nea Vyssa and Orestiada, on the Maritsa River.

This is the first time a rapid-intervention border team has been deployed to an EU member state since the Frontex teams were created in 2007.

Frontex, the EU agency based in Warsaw, coordinating the operational cooperation between member states in the field of border security under the European Patrol Network project, has agreed to place 175 police officers from across the EU after last month Greece requested from it help to cope with the growing number of refugees from African countries, Iraq and Afghanistan penetrating through its river and landborder with Turkey.

Bulgaria, which has a longer land border with Turkey than Greece, has not detected a substantial increase of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the EU even though the Bulgarian border police occasionally capture small groups of illegal migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

EU’s Joint Operation Poseidon started in 2006 as a purely sea-based operation patrolling the coastal waters between Greece and Turkey. Since the beginning of 2010, Poseidon has also had a land-based component covering the Greek and Bulgarian land borders with Turkey — now confirmed as the dominant country of transit for irregular migration into the EU.

At the beginning of January, Bulgaria joined Greece‘s intentions to build birder fences along the borders with Turkey. However, Bulgaria‘s decision was triggered by the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which came from a wild boar that was killed in southern Bulgaria, near the border with Turkey.

However, Turkey has met with suspicion the intentions of the two countries to build fences. According to the Chairman of Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, Sinan Ogan, the two countries have hidden agendas.


Turkey to EU: No visa-free, no clampdown on migrants January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Bagis: Turkey is a ‘hub of peace, a hub of energy, a hub of power’


Turkey is happy to sign a migrant readmission deal with the EU, but expects the Union to start talks on visa-free travel if it wants to see a clampdown on people sneaking into Greece, a senior diplomat has said.

Noting that the EU has lifted visa requirements for “remote countries,” such as Paraguay and Uruguay, and started visa-free talks with Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, but not Turkey, Ankara’s chief negotiator on EU accession, Egemen Bagis, said: “It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

Speaking at a gathering of EU officials and diplomats at the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels on Thursday morning (27 January), Mr Bagis lambasted the EU for calling on Ankara to stem irregular migration from Africa and Asia while giving it nothing on visas.

“We’re willing to help the EU, but it’s also a matter of taxation,” he said, referring Turkish tax income used to fund the anti-migrant operations. “When our citizens are insulted on a daily basis in the consulates of EU states [when they apply for visas], one may ask the question as to why we should help the EU with their problems, when we are treated this way. Turkey is not an emirate, public opinion does matter. We need to see some good will from the side of the EU.”

Mr Bagis questioned the value of a Greek plan to build a 12km-long anti-migrant wall on its massive sea and land border with Turkey. “Greece can do whatever it wants on its territory, but there’s also a whole Aegean Sea to take care of,” he said.

He added that the EU is focusing too much on border security instead of tackling the top cause of irregular migration in source countries: poverty. “When people are desperate and hopeless in their own country, they will do anything to get out. If we stop them, they will go to Ukraine and Belarus. In the end, they will find a way to get into the EU,” he said.

Mr Bagis noted that 70,000 people were detained in 2010 trying to get into the Union.

The EU and Turkey on Thursday agreed a common text on readmission of irregular migrants – a pre-condition for starting visa-free talks in future. “We’ll sign the readmission agreement without having free travel into the EU first, but at least the European Commission should be given a mandate to start visa-free regime talks with Turkey,” he noted.

The Turkish diplomat described his country as a “hub of peace, a hub of energy, a hub of power.”

“When France was busy deporting Roma, we were organising a big conference and our Prime Minister publicly apologised for having ignored their problems for so long. We now have housing and education programs being put in place for them,” he said.

He added that objections by some EU countries to Turkey’s influence-building in the Middle East and Russia are hypocritical: “We’re increasing trade relations with Iran, but France is increasing them even more. We do businesss with Russia, but so does Italy.”

He also repeated Turkey’s mantra that France, Germany, Greece and Cyprus are unfairly blocking EU accession talks.

With Turkish soldiers occupying the northern part of the divided island of Cyprus in a decades-long stand-off, Mr Bagis accused Cypriots of ill-will, citing the example of a Turkish basketball team which was bullied by Greek Cypriot supporters after a game in Cyprus. “This is not the mentality to reach a solution with,” he said.

What Brussels thinks

EU officials privately see the Bagis rhetoric as a negotiating tactic. “Whenever you negotiate with the Turks, you get the feeling that they are trying to get one over on you,” one commission contact said.

For her part, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom favours a swift visa-free deal.

Earlier this month, she wrote in her blog: “The road to visa liberalisation is tough and filled with clear requirements and criterias, but other countries have succeeded and I see no reason why Turkey shouldn’t be able to. It would also give us an important push forward in our co-operation.”

In her official reaction to Thursday’s readmission agreement, she said its upcoming signature, expected in February, will “open up new perspective” for visa-free talks.

In an insight into EU politicking on Turkey, a freshly leaked US cable shows the level of frustration with Cyprus among pro-Turkish EU countries. It is dated 2004, but remains relevant due to Cyprus’ ongoing blockade of the Turkish accession process.

The dispatch cites senior Dutch officials as saying that Cyprus uses Turkey as a “card” in internal EU politics and urges the US to put the squeeze on Nicosia.

“What does Cyprus have these days, besides the Turkey card?” the Dutch officials – Rob Swartbol, Pieter de Gooijer and Hannie Pollmann-Zaal – told the US ambassador in The Hague. “Pollman hoped that powers outside the EU will pressure [then then Greek president] Popadopolous to support Turkish accession, using whatever psychological, political, or other means that might



Hungarians fine with Turks in EU, as long as they come on Hungarian-made buses January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Hungary, Turkey.
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In the run-up to Hungary’s EU presidency earlier this month, I noticed a piece in the English-language version of leading Turkish dailyHürriyet that I thought was just a little odd. Entitled “Turkey’s hopes run high for Hungary’s EU term presidency”, it detailed how Ankara expects Budapest to push harder to move along Turkey’s EU accession application that Belgium, from which Hungary took over the rotating presidency. I was especially struck by this quote from Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bağış:

When asked about his expectations from the Hungarian term presidency, Bağış recalled a meeting he held last year with Hungarian President Pal Schmitt. “He told me: ‘Normally I do not meet with ministers. You are the first one in this category. There is a reason for this,” Bağış said. “‘Your ancestors who ruled our country in the past did not intervene in either our religion or our language. They approached us with tolerance.'”

So let me get this straight. France and other Western European countries that were never within a 50-day march of the Ottoman lines are openly blackballing Turkey’s EU entry, but a nation that was more or less wiped off the map as an independent force by the Turks now wants them back in Europe? And to think I got all weepy when I visited the Istanbul Military Museum and saw the battle drum captured from the Hungarians at the battle of Mohács.

Of course, unlike France and some of the others actively working to keep the Turks at bay, Hungary isn’t the destination for lots of Muslim immigrants. And I wouldn’t say that Hungary has anything to gain by pushing back against the Turks, or otherwise getting involved in the issue, which is unlikely to be resolved before Hungary rotates back into the EU presidency in a couple of decades. Still, it does seem a little strange that there is apparently no local opposition to reopening the gates to the country’s one-time Ottoman overlords.

Though I shouldn’t say there is no opposition. According to nol.hu, Hungarian bus manufacturers are “outraged” that a company which was contracted (without a proper tender, naturally) to transport diplomats and members of the international press from Ferihegy airport to downtown Budapest until the end of Hungary’s EU presidency is using Otokar Kent 290 LF buses, rather than supposedly superior Hungarian-made ones. Which sounds like a bad break, though as Hungarians like to say in such cases, a whole lot more was lost at Mohács.


Turkey’s Gul says European Union access not crucial January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Turkey's President Abdullah Gul arrives during a ceremony at the Constitutional Court in Ankara April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files

PARIS | Thu Jan 27, 2011 2:26pm IST

(Reuters) – Accession to the European Union is not crucial to Turkey as it continues to face obstacles joining the bloc, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in remarks published on Thursday.

He said in an interview with French daily Le Figaro Gul that French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s image of Turkey did not correspond with reality.

Turkey, which straddles Asia and Europe, entered formal membership talks with the EU in 2005, but a row with Cyprus and reluctance among some EU states to admit the large, relatively poor Muslim country has slowed progress to a near standstill.

“It’s clear that obstacles have been placed in front of us, but the world does not stop at the European Union,” Gul said.

The bloc is divided over whether to give full membership, with France taking the strongest stand against Turkish entry.

Turkey has rejected a proposal put forward by France as well as Germany, where Turkey would be part of a “privileged partnership” that would also include Russia.

“The strategic choice we have made in its favour (EU) does not stop us developing relations that we have established across the world,” Gul said.

Sarkozy travels to Turkey at the end of February to drum up support for his G20 agenda and Turkey’s EU membership is also likely to be discussed.

Sarkozy promised in his election campaign in 2007 to stand firm against Turkish accession, citing cultural differences and concern over the bloc’s political cohesion.

“I think that he (Sarkozy) has an image of Turkey that does not correspond with reality,” Gul said. “It’s good that he comes so he can understand the development that Turkey has undergone.”


The Lack of Policy Entrepreneurship in Turkey-EU Relations January 31, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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After experiencing a ‘golden age’ between 1999 and 2005, Turkey-EU relations plunged into deadlock in the post-2005 period. Many domestic and international factors contributed to the worsening of bilateral relations. On the European side, the failure of Constitutional reform, the problems emerged from the 2004 enlargement and the global financial crisis’ impact on Eurozone occupied the central agenda. On the Turkish side, the political turmoil in the pre and post 2007 general elections, the antagonizing Presidential elections and the ubiquitous Cyprus question automatically downgraded the importance of the EU in the eyes of Turkish policy-makers. Turkey’s changing foreign policy priorities, both as a reason and result of the tightening relations with the EU, also transformed the dynamics of Turkey-EU relations.

Having acknowledged the abovementioned structural factors, nevertheless, there are actor-level problems as well. Arguably, over the last five years, the structural factors have been heavily underlined. As a result, the importance and problem-solving potential of policy entrepreneurs are overlooked. In this context, the actor-level problems were set aside and constructive policies’ role in revitalizing the relationship was significantly underestimated.

Egemen Bagis: A man swimming against the tide?

One of the fundamental shortages in Turkey-EU relations is the lack of policy entrepreneurship on both sides. From Turkey’s point of view, a full-time negotiator at the ministerial level was appointed two years ago. Turkey’s first exclusive Chief Negotiator and Minister for EU Affairs, Egemen Bagis, has devoted much ado in order to overcome the long-lasting misperceptions and prejudices. In these two years, 25 laws and 108 secondary legislations had been prepared and entered into force within the framework of the EU harmonisation process. The institutional footing of the Secretariat General for the EU Affairs (EUSG), the governmental body responsible from the coordination of the EU process, was strengthened. Mr. Bagis paid 76 official visits abroad, including Brussels. The EUSG under the directorship of Egemen Bagis appointed Deputy Governors in Turkey’s 81 provinces with the aim of increasing public awareness with regard to the EU and Turkey-EU relations.

So far seems so good and nobody should underestimate the success of Mr. Bagis. In an environment that the most influential European leaders are openly against Turkey’s EU bid and overwhelming majority of the general public in European capitals are hostile towards new enlargement wave, it would be unrealistic to expect policy entrepreneurs to solve all kind of structural problems. Nevertheless, we need to accept that many opportunities were missed.

Missed opportunities

Chief Negotiator is assumed to be a policy entrepreneur that has the skills and experience in mediating the parties and improving bilateral relations. There are mainly two characteristics of policy entrepreneurs, which are ‘coordinative’ and ‘communicative’ roles. In terms of the first one, the policy entrepreneur is expected to coordinate the domestic interest groups around a common agenda so as to create nation-wide synergy. In our case, it refers to the unifying capacity of Chief Negotiator to converge different interest groups around the EU membership target. Arguably, EU membership is one of the most suitable common denominators for creating consensus between right-wing (dominated by the ruling party) and left-wing political strata (lead by main opposition party). The Chief Negotiator, however, did not adequately take advantage of this opportunity. Instead the EU process was used as a political instrument to tame the opposition groups. The overpolitization of the EU process in domestic politics partially exacerbated the political polarization in the country. Yet, with the help of an inclusive coordinative strategy, the EU target would have served as an instrument for dialogue and societal synergy. If the Chief Negotiator’s ‘above the politics’ position would have been used more effectively, the bilateral relations may be better managed.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

The other characteristic of policy entrepreneur is communicative role. By this, the communication abilities of the entrepreneur with the outsides are underlined. In this context, the Chief Negotiator’s ability to communicate with Turkey’s European counterparts is emphasised. It is a fact that Mr. Bagis travelled frequently to European capitals and established close contacts with local interest groups. Undoubtedly, they were influential in shaking out the dusts of historical misperceptions and prejudices. Nevertheless, it is hardly possible to evaluate them as part and parcel of a comprehensive communication strategy, calculated and implemented in terms of country-specific communication problems.

Over the last couple of years, the generalizations have turned out to be the currency in Turkey-EU relations. Most of the Europeans think that “Turks are Muslims, Muslims are fundamentalist and fundamentalism is bad. So they should be excluded from the European project” In a similar vein, most of the Turks assume the EU as a monolithic bloc that is against Turkey’s membership. Hence, most of the time, both parties have thrown the baby out with the bath water! The political elite, the Chief Negotiator inter alia, did not do too much to change this over caricaturization of anti-Turkish sentiments in Europe. No comprehensive communication strategy, project or plan was put into implementation, for example, to understand the specific root-causes of anti-Turkish motivations in Germany, France and Austria. As a result, the rhetoric dethroned reality and the white-black dichotomy triumphed in the reciprocal ‘blame game’.

In summary, the existing deadlock in Turkey-EU relations does not satisfy most of the integrationists in Turkey and in the EU. We can underline many structural obstacles for the existing stalemate. Especially, the political, ideational and economic turmoil in the EU occupies the central agenda. Nevertheless, there is still a large room for policy entrepreneurs to manoeuvre. Turkey’s Chief Negotiator is one of these policy entrepreneurs. Obviously, his team did many things in cleaning Turkey’s European path. Yet, they need to work harder in terms of ‘coordinative’ and ‘communicative’ strategies. Both Turkey and the EU must put emphasis on these issues in order not to throw the baby out with the bath water!