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Nato backs Turkey in standoff with Syria October 19, 2012

Posted by Yilan in Syria, Turkey.
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Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen: ‘We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey.’

Nato is ready to defend Turkey, the alliance’s top official said on Tuesday, in a direct warning to Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges dramatically escalated tensions between the two countries.

Ankara has sent additional fighter jets to reinforce an air base close to the frontier with Syria where shells killed five Turkish civilians last week, sparking fears of a wider regional crisis. Syria has defended its shelling of neighbouring Turkey as an accidental outcome of its civil war.

The comments by Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen were the strongest show of support to Turkey since the firing began on Wednesday – though the solidarity is largely symbolic.

Nato member Turkey has sought backing in case it is attacked, but despite publicly supporting Syria’s rebels Ankara isn’t seeking direct intervention. And the alliance is thought to be reluctant to get involved militarily at a time when its main priority is the war in Afghanistan.

“Obviously Turkey can rely on Nato solidarity,” Rasmussen said in advance of a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels. “We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary.”

When pressed on what kind of trouble on the border would trigger those plans, Nato’s chief said he could not discuss contingency plans..

Nato officials said the plans have been around for decades and were not drawn up in response to the Syria crisis.

In an address to lawmakers from the ruling party, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Ankara will continue retaliating to attacks from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“Every kind of threat to the Turkish territory and the Turkish people will find us standing against it,” Erdogan said. “Soldiers loyal to Assad fired shells at us, we immediately reacted and responded with double force. We shall never stop responding.”

At least 25 additional F-16 fighter jets were deployed at Turkey’s Diyarbakir air base in the south-east of the country late on Monday, Turkey’s Dogan news agency said, quoting unidentified military sources. The military’s chief of staff inspected troops along the border with Syria on Tuesday.

A Sunni extremist group called Jabhat al-Nusra claimed responsibility for an attack on a Syrian air force intelligence compound in the Damascus suburb of Harasta on Monday evening. A statement on a militant website by the group’s media arm, Al-Manara al-Bayda, said the bombing aimed “to avenge the killing of Muslims and those who suffered injustice”.

The Syrian state-run news agency did not report the explosion and there were conflicting reports on how badly the compound was damaged. There were no official reports on casualties, but the pro-government al-Ikhbariya channel said on Monday the blast was heard across Damascus.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Syrian Nation Council leader Abdulbaset Sieda visited rebel-controlled areas in Syria on Tuesday.

It said he entered Syria from the Bab al-Hawa border crossing and “made observations in rural areas” of Idlib province before travelling to Aleppo’s Etarib area, where he met with commanders of the Free Syrian Army. If confirmed, the trip would be Sieda’s first into Syria since he became the council’s leader in June.

Anadolu quoted Sieda as saying: “We are here to see what the opposition in Syria and the opposition outside of Syria can do together to serve the Syrian people.”


‘EU has lost its leverage on Turkey’, ambassador says June 20, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Flush with post-election self-confidence, the Turkish administration has said it will no longer take EU recommendations into account in its internal reforms.

Turkey’s ambassador to the EU, Selim Kuneralp, told EUobserver in an interview on Friday (17 June) that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan’s top post-election priority is to draft a “modern, liberal” constitution. But due to the breakdown in EU entry talks, Brussels will not play a big role in the project, he added.
“The European Commission’s recommendations will be taken on board to the extent that they reflect universal norms. Take the death penalty [which Turkey abolished in 2004]. Whether or not you want to join the EU, it’s a good thing to abolish the death penalty. But in the absence of any clear perspective of accession, there’s no reason why Turkey should align its legislation toward narrow EU standards. To put it simply, the EU has lost its leverage on Turkey.”

One EU concern is that Erdogan will increase presidential powers and run for president in 2014, taking Turkey in an authoritarian direction. But the EU would have little say if the scenario came to be.

“Even if we were to shift to a presidential-style system, there is at least one European country that already has such a constitution. And I am not aware of anyone in the EU telling France it doesn’t meet European standards,” Kuneralp explained.

Turkey accession talks effectively halted in late 2010 when the commission opted not to open the competition chapter amid opposition from several EU states.

The ambassador said the move left “a bitter taste in the mouth” and that Turkey has no confidence in EU intentions to revive the process: “People in Ankara are fed up. They made all sorts of attempts to satisfy the commission. But the more material we gave them, the more they demanded.”

Kuneralp said he is sure the EU will survive its debt crisis. But he described the union as being debilitated by its financial problems and as lacking strategic vision and coherence in its foreign policy.

With EU countries at the weekend scrambling to help Greece, an opponent of Turkish accession, to avoid bankruptcy, the ambassador noted: “The EU is not in a position to put additional pressure on Greece … to say to Greece that it spends 4.1 percent of its GNP on defence, but that if Turkey was a member of the EU, it could cease to treat Turkey as a potential threat.”

He predicted that internal divisions will hamper EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s recent bid to restart Middle East peace talks.

Looking back at Israel’s assault on the Gaza flotilla last year, he noted that out of seven EU countries in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, some voted against a flotilla resolution, some voted in favour and others abstained.

“I am sure that if there had been a fourth option, some of the member states would have taken it,” he said. “The European Union has to adopt a common position on the Middle East if it wants to project its influence as the EU instead of as individual member states.”

‘Source of inspiration’

In terms of Turkish foreign policy, Ankara is unmoved by Western concerns that it is too close to Iran. “It’s easy if someone is sitting in Washington to pontificate about Iran as a threat. But Iran is our neighbour … we have to talk to Iran and we have to trade with Iran,” Kuneralp said.

On Syria, he noted that Turkey shares the EU line that Damascus must make pro-democratic reforms. But he declined to back the EU’s draft UN Security Council [UNSC] resolution condemning killings and urging an arms embargo.

“The [Turkish] prime minister has said the international community would need to get involved if the massacres in Syria continue … [But] we have not been consulted on any possible UNSC resolution and I cannot comment on which course of action we would prefer.”

The ambassador said Turkey, an Islamic country, is a “source of inspiration” to Muslims in the region due to its robust democracy and economic growth.

He said the thousands of Syrian refugees massing in southeast Turkey are unlikely to become a base for the Syrian opposition, however: “They are not the kind of people you would expect to become actively involved in opposition. They are mostly just farmers fleeing government action.”

Amid reports that local Turks are bringing food and blankets to the refugee camps, in contrast to Italian hostility to north African migrants, Kuneralp added: “It is not surprising that Turkish people feel more concerned than Italians in Lampedusa. Syrians are our immediate neighbours. There are close links – in some cases family ties – between the peoples of southern Turkey and northern Syria. There is a natural empathy between them.”

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!

Bulgaria’s Ethnic Turkish Leader: GERB Rules by Repressions June 13, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Turkey, Turkish minority of Bularia.
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Bulgaria's Ethnic Turkish Leader: GERB Rules by Repressions:  Bulgaria's Ethnic Turkish Leader: GERB Rules by Repressions

Bulgaria’s Ethnic Turkish Leader: GERB Rules by Repressions: Bulgaria’s Ethnic Turkish Leader: GERB Rules by Repressions
The traditional meeting, dedicated to the anniversary of the so-called “May Events” when ethnic Turks rallied peacefully demanding the reinstatement of their native Muslim names, was held in “Demir Baba Tekke” in northeastern Bulgaria.

The leader of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), Ahmed Dogan, accused the center-right GERB cabinet of attempting to criminalize the movement.

“The Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) part is hunting all local DPS representatives and aims at starting court cases that would stir discontent, but these efforts that are useless and only work in favor of DPS,” Dogan told reporters Saturday, commenting on Prosecutor’s probes against DPS members.

The ethnic Turkish leader attended the traditional meeting, held at the site in northeastern Bulgaria, known as “Demir Baba Tekke.” The meeting is dedicated to the anniversary of the so-called “May Events” when ethnic Turks rallied peacefully demanding the reinstatement of their native Muslim names replaced during the assimilation campaign of the former Communist regime known as the Revival Process.

Dogan, however, declined to offer many comments, simply reiterating recent statements that Bulgaria cannot function without DPS, and pointing out the cabinet is in a bind over the global economic crisis combined with their delayed and inadequate actions.

The meeting was attended by other high-ranking party functionaries, who addressed the crowd mainly saying the new government is violating rights and freedoms in the country, threatening democracy and all stressing the need to counter these attempts.

Speakers at the meeting, held under the motto: “Democracy and Security Are Impossible without Rights and Freedoms,” included the Members of the Parliament, Remzi Osman and Hasan Ademov, the European MP, Metin Kazak, the Mayor of Kardzhali, Hasan Azis, who was recently charged by the Prosecutor’s office with committing fraud with municipal property, and the Mayor of Garmen, Ahmed Bashev, among others.

PACE president backs constitutional name of Macedonia May 25, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Yunanistan.
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The head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) prioritized on Friday advocation of human rights.

PACE President Mevlut Cavusoglu said defending human rights was the number one priority of the assembly.

“PACE Presidency attaches importance to strengthening intercultural and interreligious dialogue and protection of human rights,” Cavusoglu said during a PACE meeting in Skopje, Macedonia.

After the meeting, Cavusoglu paid a courtesy visit to Trajko Veljnovski, the president of the Macedonian Parliament.

Cavusoglu said he was using the constitutional name of Macedonia –the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia– as the PACE President, which he defined as a political decision.

“Macedonia’s chairmanship should be respected,” Cavusoglu said on the name crisis between Macedonia and Greece.

Macedonia will be the chair of the COE Committee of Ministers for the following six months.

Cavusoglu said Macedonia had taken successful steps in democratization and integration to the European Union (EU).

Also, Veljanovski said Turkey had supported Macedonia in every area from the outset, and the relations between the two countries could be an example to others.

Veljanovski thanked Cavusoglu for his support to the constitutional name of Macedonia.

Cavusoglu later had a meeting with Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov.