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Turkey-EU relations: Is the plug being pulled? July 17, 2011

Posted by Yilan in England, EU, Turkey.
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Last week European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle visited Turkey. At a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Davutoğlu seemed to present the EU with some sort of ultimatum.

He indicated that EU-Turkey relations would “freeze” if the EU did not sort out the Greek Cypriots, enabling a solution to the decades-old Cyprus problem before Greek Cyprus takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July 2012. He said Cyprus’ EU presidency, without a settlement, would hamper relations between Turkey and the 27-nation bloc because it would be out of the question to have the Greek Cypriots as an interlocutor.

A short time afterwards, this remark was slightly softened by Turkish Minister for European Affairs Egemen Bağış, who said Turkey might freeze relations with the Greek Cypriot presidency but it would maintain relations with the European Commission.

Of course this would not be the first time a freeze took place in Turkey’s relations with EU. The last time it happened was in 1997 and that was related to Cyprus too. It was following the EU summit in Luxembourg when the then 15-member EU decided to grant candidate country status to 12 others, including the divided Cyprus, but excluded Turkey saying that Ankara was not yet ready to receive candidate status. Turkey decided to cut off political dialogue with the EU with Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz labeling the EU as unjust and erroneous. However, two years later at the October Helsinki summit a breakthrough took place when the European Commission recommended that Turkey be granted candidate country status. Following this Turkey went on to carry out a number of significant reforms in order to meet the Copenhagen Criteria, crucial for being able to open accession talks, as well as revolutionizing it’s policy on Cyprus, encouraging Turkish Cypriots to vote “yes” in a UN referendum for reunification in 2004. Despite the Turkish Cypriot approval and Greek Cypriot rejection of the EU-backed UN plan in 2004, Brussels accepted the Greek Cypriot government while Turkish Cypriots were excluded.

Since then, the Cyprus problem has been a constant irritant on the EU’s agenda, both in its accession talks with Turkey but more broadly including in relations with NATO. Therefore, there is probably nothing most EU member states would like better than to get rid of the Cyprus issue. Although, it is also true that for those that oppose Turkey’s eventual accession, its continuing presence is a handy excuse.

Davutoğlu’s threat has been interpreted by many people as Turkey and the EU entering an end game which will either result in a “reset” in relations or the end of the road for membership negotiations and a permanent damaging of relations more generally. In the first place, for me anyway, relations are already pretty much frozen. Given the fact that Turkey has not opened a negotiating chapter for more than one year, one can hardly say they are in full swing now. Furthermore, as Füle said, Turkey also has obligations to meet vis-à-vis Cyprus which should not be forgotten — opening Turkish ports and airspace to Greek Cypriot vessels.

Moreover, it seems to me as if Turkey is attempting to lay the responsibility for the lack of a solution totally at the door of the Greek Cypriots, making it seem as if everything is dependent on the Greek Cypriots and their readiness to make concessions and compromises in order the reach a deal. It takes two oars to row a boat and it would be unfair to say that the lack of progress in negotiations has been down to Dimitris Christofias alone: Derviş Eroğlu hardly has a history of supporting a bi-communal, bi-federal solution. It looks as if Turkey is trying to up the ante. Ankara gives the impression that if no solution is found this time, or if the talks collapse, then — because Turkey is such an important partner — it would be time for the rest of the world to accept two states on Cyprus because of Greek Cypriot intransigence.

This round of talks will have been going on for three years in September, and in total inter-communal talks have been taking place for over 35 years which means every topic that could be discussed has been — many, many times, leaving no stone unturned. Of course the optimal outlook is that the two sides — and Turkey — will dig deep and find enough political will for a settlement, then there will be a deal in the first quarter of 2012 and the Cyprus problem can become history with the creation of a new partnership state on the island.

Talk of failure by July 2012 representing the end of the road for Turkey-EU relations seems exaggerated. The EU and Turkey now cooperate in so many different areas, it would be impossible simply to pull the plug. Times have moved on since 1997 and somehow I doubt the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is ready to halt negotiations — frozen or not — with the EU for the sake of a six-month Greek  Cypriot presidency. Of course there will be some, hoping they do just that.

UK PM: Turkey’s Case For EU Membership Stronger Than Ever April 9, 2011

Posted by Yilan in England, EU, European Union, Turkey, UK.
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U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that the case for Turkey’s membership in the European Union was “clearer than ever.”

In a joint news conference at Downing Street with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Cameron said he will continue to champion Turkey’s membership.

Cameron said Turkey’s entry into the EU would offer “increased economic prosperity, a bigger market for goods and services, more energy security, and real benefits for the EU’s long term stability.”

Turkey’s membership talks began in 2005.

-By Ainsley Thomson and Nicholas Winning, Dow Jones Newswires; 44 20 7842 9318; ainsley.thomson@dowjones.com

Guardian urges Britons to spent their winter holiday in Macedonian ski resorts January 6, 2011

Posted by Yilan in England, Macedonia.
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Macedonia’s ski-resorts Popova Sapka and Mavrovo are being offered for the first time to British winter sports fans.

In a report of its correspondent the Guardian presents a large photo of Popova Sapka, accompanied by word that glorify the resort’s natural beauty.

‘With no marked piste and local skiers sticking to the few groomed runs, all that Popova powder is up for grabs. The handful of lifts are tired, but the freeriding terrain is extensive. Popova is also the base for Europe’s only cat-ski operation – Eskimo Freeride (eskimo-freeride.com).They’ll take you to some truly epic powder terrain, including open faces and perfect forest runs,’ The Guardian reads.

Popova is no party town, but most of the hotels have bars. Hotel Granit is the hang out for the hip crowd; the sun deck is ideal for an après beer and the local brew and rakija – home-distilled fruit brandy. The military base is also open to visitors and offers large portions of food for low prices. The staff speak excellent English and serve great stone-baked pizzas, the Guardian’s correspondent says.

He also recommends Mavrovo resort Zare-Lazarevski-(zarelaz.com/welcome.html). Sheltered by the high hills of mountain Korab, Zare offers skiing from November to April and is just one hour from Skopje.

The article resulted from last year’s tour of Bristish snowboarders of ski resorts in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia/Herzegovina.

Their impression is that the Balkan ski resorts not only offer great value for money, but also have beautiful gladed off-piste runs, masses of powder and Europe’s only cat-ski operation. Although these ski areas are small compared with familiar Alpine favourites, they should keep intermediate skiers/snowboarders content for two-three days in good snow, the article reads.


New British Ambassador to Macedonia Takes Office August 15, 2010

Posted by Yilan in England, Macedonia.
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Britain’s new ambassador to Macedonia, Christopher Yvone has taken office in Skopje, pledging support for the country’s reforms as it seeks to join the EU and NATO.

“UK will continue financing various projects in Macedonia, one of which is training Macedonian administration workers to achieve greater efficiency”, British Embassy in Skopje told Balkan Insight on Tuesday.

The post in Skopje is Yvon’s first assignment as ambassador.

Yvon started his diplomatic career in 1989, having worked as the deputy chief of the department of international organisations in the British Foreign Office.

He has also worked as vice consul in the British embassy in Riyadh, attaché in Prague and served in the Department of the Foreign Office in Hong Kong.

Yvon succeeds Andrew Key at the ambassadorial office.

Christopher Yvon
Christopher Yvon

After serving as ambassador in Skopje for the last three years, Key will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment, the British Foreign Office said.

Macedonia received the status of EU candidate country in 2005.

The European Council, after reviewing the country’s reforms, recommended last autumn the opening of EU accession talks with Macedonia.

However, this was thwarted amid the continuing dispute with Greece, one of the EU and NATO member states, which continues to block Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration saying that the country should change its name first in order to prove it has no territorial claims against Greece’s own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Britain has strongly voiced an urgent need to resolve the dispute.

Cameron raises false hopes for Turkey’s EU bid August 8, 2010

Posted by Yilan in England, EU, Turkey.
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On Wednesday, The Independent newspaper announced that “(David) Cameron uses Turkish visit to launch ferocious attack on Israel”. The Guardian reported that he “likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a ‘prison camp’.” Having just been to Washington, was the British Prime Minister doing a transmission job for US President Barack Obama?

Probably not. This missive about Israel is surely not the one that Obama really wants to transmit now. After all, he did learn something from Bibi Netanyahu’s journey to the White House; and what he learned was that the Palestinians aren’t exactly ready to negotiate with anyone . . . unless the outcome is settled in advance and gives them everything. I suspect that Cameron was freelancing on this one.

But I’m not sure that Cameron was working the Turkish street on his own in telling an Ankara audience that he was desperate for the European Union to take them in. For some inexplicable reason, Obama shares his enthusiasm and has since he spent three days in Turkey on his first presidential journey abroad.

Of course, this is not how the rest of Europe feels. In fact, much of Europe believes there is more than enough Islam in its body politic. Yes, some of this is racist politics. But the great groundswell is in the liberal and tolerant conservative traditions. The more Muslims in the society, the more reactionary the curbs on freedom will be: personal freedoms, community freedoms, intellectual freedoms. The more Muslims in the society, the more democratic values will be on the ropes.

The fact is that Turkish membership in the EU would be tantamount to European approval and support for the values of Turkish society. It once was that Turkey was in dissent from Islamic orthodoxies. This and its antagonism to the Soviet Union — or the antagonism of the Soviet Union to it — were credentials enough for membership in NATO, a membership it has held for half a century. But Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan today represents an altogether different constellation of philosophical values and strategic commitments.

He has made himself Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s emissary to the world. This is a shameful role for any political leader. As is his deputisation of himself to Hamas and the Syrian dictatorship.

At the core of Erdogan’s redeployment of his country on the map of contemporary politics lies his shift from being a pragmatic ally of Israel to being an eager comrade of virtually all the madmen of Islam.

This is of some significance to Israel. But it is more salient to the Western democracies, of which most important are the US and Britain, whose troops are fighting an almost unmapped battle in Afghanistan.

Roughly 1500 Turkish troops are also deployed against the Taliban and al-Qa’ida. This is emblematic of a two-faced policy, one descending, the other in the ascendancy. Turkey receives secret information from the Americans and the Brits. It also shares this with its Muslim allies, including elements among the Taliban and the intrinsically fissiparous officer corps in Pakistan.

Back to Turkey and the EU: Turkey will not be admitted to the union. Obama and Cameron are only magnifying the disappointment and the resentment of Erdogan. This disappointment and resentment will only feed the anger of the Islamist Turks and the country further into hands of the Muslim armed doctrine. Obama and Cameron are only raising false expectations. Why don’t they just shut up?