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10-02-09 The Brookings Institute Hosts Discussion on Turkey’s Relationship with Europe

Capital Report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
October 2, 2009—No. 01 (202) 785-8430

The Brookings Institute Hosts Discussion on Turkey’s Relationship with Europe

 

Executive Director’s Note:  A good portion of policy formulation in Washington DC is influenced by analysts and academics of think-tank institutions.  As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.

Accordingly, AHI introduces AHI’s Capital Report which will be a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to keep you abreast of the latest developments. The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

 

WASHINGTON (September 23, 2009)—The Brookings Institute – Center for United States and Europe hosted former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, who chairs the Independent Commission on Turkey, for a discussion on the Commission’s recent report “Turkey in Europe: Breaking the Vicious Cycle.” The event occurred September 23, 2009.

Brookings President: Voices for Turkish EU Accession Needed

The Brookings Institute President Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state, and Ömer Ta?pinar, director, The Brookings Institute Turkey Project; spoke briefly prior to Mr. Ahtisaari’s presentation.

“We need to find voices for Turkish accession in the media,” said Talbott. “In Greece, there are strong voices looking for Turkish accession.”

Talbott also referenced current conditions in Cyprus, with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (specifically the issue of property rights), and airspace violations in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey.

The Brookings president announced that His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will speak at Brookings when His All Holiness visits Washington in early November. Moreover, Talbott said he will travel to Greece in two weeks with a colleague, William J. Antholis, who is a managing director at Brookings.

Ahtisaari a Finnish Refugee, Former EU President

In 1937, Martti Ahtisaari was born in a part of Finland that was annexed by Russia in 1939.  He was one of 400,000 Finnish refugees who fled the invading Soviet army.

In 1999, Ahtisaari was the president of the European Union.   Under his watch, Turkey obtained EU candidate status.  Today, he is concerned about the climate in Europe that aims to block Turkey’s accession into the EU.   As an example, Ahtisaari mentioned in his presentation how certain countries would favor an alternative status for Turkey.

Who Comprises The Independent Commission on Turkey?

Martti Ahtisaari formed the Commission last year with eight members:  Kurt Biedenkopf, former prime minister of Saxony, Germany; Emma Bonino, former vice president of Italian Senate and European Commissioner; Hans van den Broek, former foreign minister of Netherlands; Bronislaw Geremek, former foreign minister of Poland;  Anthony Giddens, former director, London School of Economics and Political Science; Mareclino Oreja Aguirre, former foreign minister of Spain; Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France; and Albert Rohan, former secretary general of foreign affairs of Austria.  The Open Society Foundation, which is a George Soros-led organization, and the British Council also provided financial support to the Commission.

In September 2009, the Commission published a report, “Turkey in Europe: Breaking the Vicious Cycle” which was made possible by funding from George Soros.  In addition, Hugh Pope contributed to the report on Turkey issued by the Commission.

Ahtisaari: EU Must Be More Active in Ongoing Cyprus Talks

Cyprus is a factor in Turkey’s European orientation, according to Ahtisaari.  He has called for the EU to be more active in the ongoing unification negotiations, and furthermore, expressed concern about elections in the Turkish-occupied north which might unseat Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

>>> There is a chapter on Cyprus in the Commission’s report.

 

“I hope Talat and Christofias look for a solution,” he said.  “Turkey must open ports to Cypriot vessels. The EU must end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, to open the Ercan airport and direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots.”

He noted that Turkey’s blocked EU chapters pertain to Cyprus because Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.

The former Finnish president also acknowledged that freedom of religion issues in Turkey requires attention, citing the closure of Halki Theological School and the ownership status of church property.

Finally, he mentioned Turkey’s relevance to Central Asia, especially as an energy hub.  In addition, Ahtisaari congratulated Turkey on its approach with Armenia.

Q&A: Ahtisaari Affirms His Support of Turkey

The Q&A did not reveal much except Ahtisaari’s support for Turkey.

A question to learn if Ahtisaari spoke to Kurds or Armenians when compiling the Commission’s report went mostly unanswered.  In his presentation, Ahtisaari stated that positive developments such as Turkish openness toward Kurds, and their culture, have occurred.

A reporter from an Armenian media outlet asked how European parliaments, because many of them have recognized the Armenian Genocide, have forced Turkey to talk about the issue. Ahtisaari did not think that Armenian Genocide recognition should predict Turkish accession to the EU.   Instead, Ahtisaari expressed more concern about French President Sarkozy offering privileged partnership to Turkey instead of full EU membership.

Ahtisaari positioned Turkey as an asset to Europe because it can provide it with new labor.

AHI: Why Does Commission Report Omit 40,000 Turkish Troops in Cyprus?

After the event, AHI Government Affairs Director Alex Aliferis had the opportunity to ask Martti Ahtisaari why the Commission’s report left out the fact that 40,000 illegal Turkish occupation troops are in Cyprus and the relevant UN resolutions that reflect this truth. Furthermore, Aliferis added that Ahtisaari should feel sympathy toward Cypriot refugees since he is a refugee who fled Soviet invasion and occupation of his western Finnish hometown in 1939.

Ahtisaari retorted that the issue of Turkish troops should have been the reason why Cyprus should not have been admitted into the EU as a divided island.

“How can EU allow Turkey into the EU if it is illegally occupying a fellow EU country,” asked Aliferis.  Ahtisaari had no reply.

>>> For an uncorrected transcript, or an audio download of the event, please visit http://www.brookings.edu/events/2009/0923_turkey_europe.aspx

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.