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AHI Capital Report, Vol. 5 Issue 2

Volume 5, Issue 2—March/April/May 2013

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
June 12, 2013—No. 02 (202) 785-8430

 

AHI President’s Note: The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. 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.

The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

 

Turkey’s Challenges and Opportunities in the Caucasus Examined

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended an event titled, “Turkey’s Challenges and Opportunities in the Caucasus,” which took place at the RUMI Forum, February 28, 2013. It featured Dr. Svante E. Cornell, Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Cornell focused on the different Turkish viewpoints vis-à-vis the Caucasus and, subsequently, Central Asia. According to him, there are four different political and societal segments in Turkish society: a) the Urban Secular Elite; (b) the Nationalists; (c) the Islamists; and, finally, (e) the Center-Right. In continuing, Dr. Cornell analyzed the strategic priority of Turkey in light of its most amicable ally in the region, Azerbaijan. For Turkey, according to the speaker, Azerbaijan has strategic value, for: a) it borders both with Russia and Iran; b) it is the “bottle-neck” country that can connect Turkey to the Central Asia; c) it has a booming oil and gas industry, which can make enhance Turkey’s energy-related diversification endeavors and, subsequently, to elevate Turkey to an energy-hub in the future. Furthermore, Dr. Cornell continued his speech by analyzing the challenges that the Turkish Foreign Policy faces in the region which include Turkish-Armenia relations, the new government in Georgia, and the energy-security in the region.

Regarding energy-security, Dr. Cornell offered that Turkey wants a good relationship with Armenia in order to create a solid basis for the South Corridor. Turkey wants to elevate its geo-political and geo-strategic position to that of an energy-hub as well as to a link between the Caucasus and Central Asia and the energy-hungry markets of the West.

 

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The European Union Political Crisis: What can the EU Learn from the U.S.?

AHI attended an event titled “The European Union Political Crisis: What can the EU Learn from the U.S.?” at the Brookings Institute, March 4, 2013. The guest speaker, the former Prime Minister of Belgium Mr. Guy Verhofstadt, focused on the Eurozone crisis and ways in which the European Union can move forward in order to tackle its debt and political crisis.

To begin, Prime Minister Verhofstadt expressed his political view that what is needed in the European Union in order to tackle its financial and political issues is deeper and further European integration. He rejected the notion, which euro-skeptics bring forward, that the solution to EU’s issues is less integration and retraction to a pre-European Union status (nation-states with national borders and no integration at all) and he envisioned a European federal system, what he dubbed as “the United States of Europe.” The rationale, behind his proposal is that no single European member-state can, in a globalized era, tackle a plethora of issues alone (e.g. climate change, trade agreement etc).

According to Mr. Verhofstadt, the major problem within the Eurozone was the creation of a monetary union without the complementary political union. Verhofstadt claimed the EU made a huge mistake when policy-makers did not create a political authority that would monitor and impose pre-conditions to joining the Union, and subsequently to prevent future economic crises. In addition, the governmental bodies of the EU are inefficient and ineffective. For instance, the European Commission is an amalgamation of the interests of the 27 Head of States and Governments, thus unable to formulate and implement policy on its own merit. As a result, there were and are still no tools to sanction these member-states that do not abide by the pre-conditions of the Eurozone. Therefore, the solution to the current debt crisis is to bring forward structural solutions that will tackle, once and for all, the debt-related crisis.

For Prime Minister Verhofstadt, the price of inaction as well as the cost of ineffective institutions will exacerbate the current political crisis, which we are already seeing in Italy (where Berlusconi got 30% of the electorate) and in Greece (where far-right neo-Nazi parties are increasing their popular appeal). Hence, for Mr. Verhofstadt the way forward for the European Union is “more and deeper European integration,” which can be accomplished through institutional mechanisms that will guarantee greater: (1) transparency, (2) effectiveness, (3) accountability, and ultimately, (4) democracy.

During the question and answer portion, in reference to a question on the unemployment rate in the South periphery of the EU and the responsibility of the EU’s policies for that, Verhofstadt said that 75% of the people in Spain and in Greece are in favor of the Eurozone and that the major issue is the lack of structural reforms in the public and financial sectors and in the labor markets.

 

 

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Turkey’s Kurdish Question: A New Hope?

AHI attended a panel discussion titled “Turkey’s Kurdish Question: A New Hope?” at the Brookings Institution, March 20, 2013. The three panelists were: Ms. Aliza Marcus, journalist and author of the book “Blood and Belief: the PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence,” Mr. Gonul Tol, director of the Center for Turkish Studies of the Middle East Institute, and Mr. Omer Taspinar, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The thesis of the event centered on the policy of the Turkish Government vis-à-vis the Kurdish Minority within the country.

Marcus stressed the importance of the initiation of a new round of negotiations and talks between the Turkish Government and the Kurds. However, she expressed serious doubts over Erdogan’s tactic to regard Abdullah Ocalan as the main and leading voice of the Kurds and thus the sole interlocutor from the Kurdish end. She sees the main goal of the current Turkish administration as undermining and weakening the PKK within the country. Nonetheless, she recognized Ergodan’s personal and political risk that he has taken by trying a third time to re-invigorate and solve the Kurdish Question.

Tol expressed a different analysis over Erdogan’s tactics. He stressed that Erdogan’s main goal was stopping the bloodshed in the short- to medium-term, and then, addressing the root causes of the Kurdish Question. Hence, Tol dubbed Erdogan as a tactical genius. There is a “lurking authoritarianism” in Turkey due to the extensive empowerment of Erdogan and the absence of a strong opposition. The main issue that Erdogan will be facing is the fact that he managed to arise great expectations among the Kurds, who are longing to see major structural reforms in the political and constitutional system of the country.

Taspinar focused on how the sub-regional interstate system of the Middle East factors in the Kurdish Question within Turkey. She argued that the 2009 talks were a PR failure because, despite the fact the region was more stable and, subsequently, regional players were willing to help in the reconciliation process, domestically political actors (e.g. other political parties) did not have the willingness nor the interest to address the issue. Nowadays, the situation, according to Taspinar, is exactly the opposite in the sense that the Arab Spring changed everything. For him, the PKK is extremely strong on the ground, for it provides social services (e.g. healthcare), financial support (e.g. municipal work) and security to Kurdish people. In addition, the Kurdish political party in Syria is getting stronger and incrementally entering in the mainstream of the Syrian political scene, especially nowadays amid the civil strife. He concluded that, even if the PKK withdraws from Turkey based on a deal, there will still be strong presence on the southern and southeast part of Turkey’s borders (e.g. Iraq, Iran and Syria), hence affecting Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy vis-à-vis the Kurds and the regional states respectively.

 

 

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Turkey, Russia and Iran Nexus Examined

AHI attended a forum titled “The Turkey, Russia and Iran Nexus: Driving Forces and Strategies” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 20, 2013. Four speakers comprised the panel: Dr. Bulent Aliriza, senior advisor and director of the Turkey Project, Dr. Jon Alterman, Zbigniew Brzezinski chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, Dr. Andrew Kuchins, director and senior fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program, and Dr. Stephen Flanagan, Henry Kissinger chair in Diplomacy and National Security, who chaired the event. The forum examined the key findings of an 18-month-project CSIS implemented in order to examine the forces and the interests driving the relations among Turkey, Russia and Iran within Eurasia.

Dr. Bulent Aliriza focused on the Turkish-Iranian relations, stating the current Turkish-Iranian relations are not part of a new and fundamentally different foreign policy of the two countries, but a durable and consistent bilateral relationship based almost exclusively on commercial/economic interests. Turkey has an over-expanding foreign policy that wants to reach out to every corner of the globe, including countries like Iran. However, Turkey’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran should not be seen as an alternative to the country’s western orientation. In fact, Turkey would be losing a lot if Iran manages to acquire nuclear capability because of a nuclear arms race in the region.

Dr. Andrew Kuchins examined Turkish-Russian relations, arguing that they are mainly driven by economic interests, especially hydrocarbon trade (such as oil and natural gas). With regard to the security dimension, Dr. Kuchins argued the Caucasus has been the main area of contention according to which Russia yearns to secure its vital interests in its immediate geographical neighborhood and while Turkey, on the other hand, does not want to alienate its economic interests with Russia (despite the fact Turkey is a strong U.S. security partner, says Dr. Kuchins). Therefore, Turkey has implemented a “zero-problem” policy where it does not choose sides. Consequently, Dr. Kuchins argued that there is a lurking two-axis system that is forming in the region with the North-South, including Russia, Armenia and Iran, and the West-East comprising of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Dr. Alterman discussed the general overarching security implications between the three countries and argued the national security-related mood is different in each country: a) in Turkey is great; b) in Russia is relevantly measured; and c) in Iran is pessimist (at the peak of vulnerability). Iran has been using its immediate neighbors as a buffer-zone in order to protect its national sovereignty (Turkey as an economic buffer and Russia as a political buffer). In addition, Iran is trying to use China as a buffer by trying to make lucrative deals on the energy-front. Turkey wants to sustain good economic relations with Iran without alienating its security partners such as the United States. The major issue for Turkey is the Syrian crisis and how the Iranians have been involved in that civil strife.

Dr. Flanagan concluded by posing major questions that are to be addressed in the future. How is the trilateral nexus going to evolve? Will there be a triangle relationship?

 

 

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A Focus on Turkish-American Relations with Congressman Whitfield

The American Hellenic Institute attended an event titled, “A Focus on Turkish-American Relations with Congressman Ed Whitfield,” held at Georgetown University and sponsored by the Turkish-American Student Organization of Georgetown University, March 21. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who is one of the four co-chairs of the Congressional Turkish Caucus, was the main speakers. The role of the caucus and Turkish-American relations were discussed.

Congressman Whitfield provided brief history of the Turkish Caucus, which was established in 2001 in an effort to bring the United States and Turkey closer together. It has four co-chairs and it is comprised of 156 U.S. representatives. He added that the first congressional district of Kentucky is home to Fort Campbell, which is an extremely important military base for his constituents. As a result, he took up the task of being one of the four caucus co-chairs.

Furthermore, Congressman Whitfield cited that Prime Minister Erdogan’s statements about Israel were worrisome, and he expressed hope that there will be rapprochement between the two countries. In addition, he mentioned that one of the major advantages of Turkey is that it is the one Muslim NATO-member and that can exert great influence on other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

During the Q&A session, the congressman was asked to comment on the Cyprus issue. Congressman Whitfield mentioned the caucus would be meeting with Secretary Kerry in the coming weeks or months in order to inform him about the caucus and, most importantly, about the Turkish-American relations. In addition, despite the fact Cyprus is facing financial issues, he believes the time is right to move forward and find a permanent solution. Their goal for the foreseeable future is to make policymakers prioritize the Cyprus issue.

 

 

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International Scholar Explores NATO’s European Allies

AHI attended an event titled, “NATO’s European Allies: Military Capability and Political Will,” held at Johns Hopkins University, April 3, 2013. Ms. Janne Haaland Matlary, professor of Political Science, University of Oslo, Norway; and co-editor of the book “NATO’s European Allies: Military Capability and Political Will” was the featured speaker.

At first, Ms. Matlary posed the following questions: will the United States step down from its leading role within NATO? Will we be seeing greater role from the major European member-states, like the U.K. and France, as the case of the Libyan crisis manifested? Who will lead NATO into the 21st century, the Europeans or the U.S.? What will be the role of NATO in future military contingencies? By bringing these questions to light, Matlary intended to set the stage for her synopsis of the major chapters of her book.

Due to financial circumstances in Europe, the speaker emphasized that NATO has been facing an ever increased cost of military capabilities with ever diminishing budgets. Thus, she argued that member-states need to start integrating their capabilities in order to minimize cost without undermining their military power. Furthermore, she mentioned that, as the U.S. is gradually diverting its attention to Asia and the Pacific, Europe must assume greater role with regard to smaller wars in and around Europe. She continued with a focus on the role of Britain and France, which both countries have the political will to play a greater role within the Alliance but lack the military capability. Hence, she recommended that the two countries need to further integrate their capabilities in order to emerge as the leading member-states in NATO’s future contingency operations. Finally, she touched upon the role of Germany, which she dubbed as the “reluctant ally,” who is willing to play greater role on the international stage without, though, wanting to lead NATO.

In conclusion, she argued that the major force that motivates the Transatlantic Alliance is a plethora of events that impose pressure on the alliance to react, and then, to adopt its future posture accordingly. She argued Europe must be able to deter in its region, which included the Middle East, the Caucasus and Maghreb. In fact, Europe must have deterrence through the will to coerce when needed and act when coercion on its own merit does not work. However, according to the speaker, this requires leadership from the British and the French.

 

 

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Domestic Drivers of Turkey’s Democratic Transformation

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended a book presentation titled, “Domestic Drivers of Turkey’s Democratic Transformation,” at the SETA Foundation, April 16, 2013, featuring Mr. Sener Akturk, assistant professor, Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey. Akturk’s latest publication, “Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia and Turkey” explains the domestic drivers toward Turkey’s democratic transformation, such as enhanced minority rights and ethnic expression.

The main theme of the book and presentation was that there are domestic factors that have driven Turkey’s democratic metamorphosis. Akturk argued that Turkey’s current democratic transformation should not be solely based on external or regional/international factors, such as the EU accession process or the wins of the Turkish security apparatus over the Kurdish terrorist organization, PKK, but also on domestic factors. Specifically, Akturk stated there are three transformational ethnic-related citizenship policies that states can adopt: a) mono-ethnic; b) multi-ethnic; and c) anti-ethnic. The three independent variables, according to the speaker, that influence and shape states’ citizenship and ethnic policies are: 1) a significant counter-elite party in government which is supported by and represents the minorities; 2) a new discourse on how identity is defined; and 3) the government must have large enough popular support to enact reforms without resistance in parliament.

Moreover, Akturk applied the theoretical model to Turkey’s case and he reached the conclusion that Turkey, under the administration of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been shifting from an anti-ethnic citizenship policy into an multi-ethnic policy. The AKP’s domestic policies (such as the opening of Greek-Orthodox and Armenian-Orthodox churches, the enhancement of minority rights, etc) have been fueling Turkey’s domestic democratic transformation.

 

 

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Turkish Bank Analyst Predicts Balanced Growth, Financial Stability for Turkey

AHI attended an event titled, “Balanced Growth and Financial Stability in Turkey,” hosted by Johns Hopkins University, April 18, 2013, featuring Erdem Basci, governor of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.

The topic of Basci’s presentation was the Turkish economic and current financial situation. Basci offered that the overall economic and financial situation in Turkey nowadays is good. According to him, banks are extremely well-capitalized, managed and regulated. Turkish banks are also ready to provide money to healthy businesses, which need to expand their business activity within the market. Furthermore, Basci stated the abundance of specific supply-factors, such as young population and availability of labor, has accelerated Turkey’s economic growth. Another supply-factor, physical capital, is of low cost and high quality, which has managed to enhance productivity within the Turkish economy. For Basci, all the elements of a sustainable and balanced growth in Turkey have been in place.

In addition, Turkey created the Financial Stability Committee in 2011. Its main tasks are to coordinate the country’s national macro-economic policy and presided by a politician who will secure the stability of the country. Amid the international financial meltdown, and subsequently, the current debt-related European crisis, Basci argued that Turkey has managed to get stronger by diversifying its trade relations and opening new economic relations with African and Asian markets.

Overall, the Turkish economy is in good shape based on domestic demand (along with the increasing international demand), in Basci’s opinion. According to him, 2013 is going to be a balanced growth year for Turkey.

 

 

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Turkish Scholar Explores Turkey’s Foreign Policy, Making of a New Middle East Order

AHI attended an event titled “On the Ashes of Sykes-Picot: Turkish Foreign Policy and the Making of a New Middle East Order,” held at the Johns Hopkins University, April 19, 2013, featuring Soli Ozel, professor of International Relations, Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey.

Mr. Ozel provided a brief synopsis of Turkey’s history and current relations with the Kurds. He went on to discuss Syria as the centerpiece of a geopolitical crisis because of its geographical centrality as well as its position as one of the major Shia states in the region. The Syrian crisis has managed to bring the United States and Turkey closer as they continue to collaborate in many different areas. The rapprochement of Turkey with Israel further demonstrated the strength of this relationship.

Regarding to the accession of Turkey to the European Union, Ozel argued that if Turkey does not get into the EU, then Erdogan will try to knock the door of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. According to Ozel, the relationship between Turkey and the EU has been slightly deteriorating, for a) the public support for Turkey’s accession has been dwindling; b) trade with the European Union has decreased from 56 percent to 38 percent; and c) trade has increased with regional states, such as Iraq.

In conclusion, Turkey now finds itself at a crossroads of different political and economic systems, namely the European System, the Middle Eastern System and the Caucasian-Russian-Asian System which it continues to navigate, despite the many obstacles it faces.

 

 

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Panel Examines the Turkish Economy: Opportunities and Challenges

A panel examined the Turkish economy at a forum held at the Johns Hopkins University, April 22, 2013 and attended by AHI. The panelists for “The Turkish Economy: Opportunities and Challenges” included: Martin Raiser, country director for Turkey at the World Bank Group; Prakash Loungani, advisor at the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Laurence Ball, professor of Economics at the Johns Hopkins University. Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary of State for Economics and Business Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, served as Keynote Speaker.

Assistant Secretary Fernandez stated the overall assessment of the U.S.-Turkish bilateral relations from an economic and business point-of-view is good. According to him, U.S.-Turkey trade relations are described by: a) an on-going growth; b) deeper relationship in the private sector; and, c) improvement in obstacles. Mr. Fernandez concluded that Turkey, as the world’s 17th biggest economy, has been playing a pivotal role within the international and regional economic system. In fact, for Mr. Fernnadez, Turkey can be the bridge between the West and the East, both politically and economically.

Raiser’s presentation focused on Turkey’s current economic situation. The key findings of his presentation were: a) Turkey has done well in recent decades; b) due to demographics, Turkey is likely to do well in the immediate future; c) it needs to tackle its structural reforms. Specifically, Raiser argued that Turkey has managed to become part of the European Converge Machine by: 1) becoming a member of the Custom Union (thus, enhancing inter-regional trade) and 2) implanting structural reforms in its economy. In addition, Raiser placed emphasis on Turkey’s need to do much more in order to become a high-income country (such as, deepen integration, boost productivity, boost savings, increase female employment and make political institutions fit for high income countries).

Loungani remarked on the labor market in Turkey. He believes Turkey, due to its low rate of savings, has the propensity for high rates of growth in short periods of time followed by sudden economic meltdowns. His conclusion, which coincides with the IMF’s advice on the labor market, was: a) the Turkish government needs to address the large informal sector of the labor market, and b) the labor market needs to become more competitive by higher flexibility and mobility.

Finally, Ball focused on Turkey’s Central Bank’s policy. His thesis was that the Turkish Central Bank’s policy has been against the traditional banking dogma because it has been implementing a “new framework” where it yearns to reach a narrower corridor of exchange rates in shorter period of times. As such, Ball proposed that Turkey might be facing a mini-crisis in the future, and therefore, he argued that Turkey must return to more traditional exchange rate targeting policies.

 

 

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Turkish Scholar Explores Short-term Future Turkish-Iranian Relations

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) hosted a forum titled, “How Turkey’s Islamists Fell out of Love with Iran: The Near Future of Turkish-Iranian Relations,” April 23, 2013 at which representatives from AHI attended. The speaker of the event was Hamid Akin Unver, faculty fellow of Foreign Affairs, Department of International Relations, Kadir Has University; Istanbul, Turkey. Short-term relations between Turkey and Iran was the center of discussion.

Unver argued that today the Turkish-Iranian relations are quite different because they are driven not solely by political but also by financial and business interests. Specifically, Unver stated the Islamist/Muslim bourgeois in Turkey has opened new routes of communication with the Iranian regime through business and trade. Islamists want to make the region richer by enhancing trade between the Anatolian side of Turkey and the Iranian side of the Turkish-Iranian border. These same Islamic capitalists are the financial basis of the AKP party, according to Unver.

However, Unver contends the Turkish-Iranian relationship will not flourish as the Islamists want it to flourish due to ther being no secular government in Iran that will move it forward (in addition to international community pressure and sanctions upon the Iranian regime due to its nuclear aspirations). In his opinion, Unver believes the bilateral relationship will become worse in the near future based: a) on the fact that Iran is using the PKK as a proxy within Turkey; b) on the operation of the Turkish Hezbollah as a proxy of both the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran, c) on the political opposition of the Turkish and Kurdish youth against the Turkish status quo (which Iran might try to capitalize on) and, finally, d) on the secular system of Turkey versus the fundamentalist Islamist system of Iran.

Ultimately, for Unver, the short-term future relationship between Turkey and Iran will be described mostly by friction instead of amicable partnerships.

 

 

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Turkey’s Chief EU Negotiator Presents on Turkey and the Future of the Transatlantic Alliance

Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator for its European Accession Egemen Bagis took center stage at the German Marshall Fund of the United States to offer a speech on “Turkey and the Future of the Transatlantic Alliance,” April 24, 2013. AHI attended the event.

Former U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, board member, German Marshall Fund of the United States and president of the Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, provided introductory remarks. Wexler framed U.S.-Turkish relations as a strategic partnership on a plethora of issues and characterized relations between the two countries as an unprecedented strategic collaboration.

In remarks, Minister Bagis addressed a myriad of Turkish foreign-policy-related issues. Before the main part of his presentation, he re-iterated Turkey’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games in Istanbul, which, according to him, “will bring back the true spirit of the Olympic Games.” With regard to the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, he argued that Turkey and Armenia are partners, and they should not let ex-pats, who he dubbed as “hate-merchants,” in the United States hijack the on-going reinvigoration of the bilateral relationship. He re-iterated Turkey’s main policy, namely that it is ready to face its past and provide an objective look into what really happened in 1915, which, according to Minister Bagis, was that there was a civil war inside a World War. It is unjust, according to the speaker, to push Turkey on the side without having a proper approach to the issue.

Bagis continued with a focus on the Solution Process with regard to the PKK. He welcomed the PKK’s leadership’s statement, which proposed the de-militarization of PKK. From October 3, 2002, Minster Bagis argued Turkey has become a more politically-liberated and socially-inclusive country (e.g. the establishment of a 24-hour Kurdish TV station, the opening of Greek-Orthodox and Armenian-Orthodox churches etc), all of which have enhanced Turkey’s democratic aspirations. He also touched upon the issues of the war in Syria, the Syrian refugees and transnational terrorism, which he pointed out, would be wrong to affiliate with a fight against Islam.

Finally, he spoke about Turkey’s current EU accession. He stated the Turkish Government will continue toward European accession despite the fact the Turkish public has become less patient with the process. Minister Bagis believes Europe needs Turkey as the geostrategic and geopolitical country that will bridge Europe with the Middle East. In addition, if Turkey becomes member of the European Union, then the EU project will become from European to a Global Peace Project that will have a positive impact on the global political and financial system, he added.

 

 

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The Muslim Tale of Two Cities: “We Met the Trains”

AHI attended an event titled, “The Muslim Tale of Two Cities: “We Met The Trains,”” held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS), April 10, 2013. The main speaker was Mrs. Frances Trix, a resident scholar of the WWICS, was the main speaker. She discussed her upcoming publication that examines the forced migration of Muslim Ottoman Turks from the Balkan Peninsula to modern Turkey.

Trix provided a brief historical background for the audience, which included discussion of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. The war generated political and humanitarian calamity for the Ottoman Empire because it lost influence over a plethora of territories (such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia and Romania). In addition, 515,000 Muslims were forced to migrate from their homes and 262,000 died. According to Trix, there are stories of trains entering Istanbul with thousands of Muslims who were deported from their birthplaces to modern Turkey.

Trix’s presentation moved to the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. As a result of the war, 27 percent of the Muslim population in the Balkan Peninsula died. According to her, this was the highest civilian mortality of any modern European war to that time. Finally, after the first two decades of the 20th century, the final blow to the Muslim population of the European Ottoman Empire was the emergence of the World War II and the rise of communism in the Balkan Peninsula. As a result, Muslims had to live under a police-state, hence living under constant fear, and anxiety; and there was lack of employment for Muslims. Muslims were prosecuted for following Islam, she said.

 

 

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Beyond Nabucco: An Update on the Southern Gas Corridor and European Energy Security.

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended an event titled “Beyond Nabucco: An Update on the Southern Gas Corridor and European Energy Security,” held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS), April 30, 2013. Farhad Mammadov, director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku, Azerbaijan; Gulmira Rzayeva, research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies in Baku, Azerbaijan; and Asim Mollazade, Azerbaijani Member of Parliament and chairman of the Democratic Reforms Party; were panelists. The panel examined the Southern Gas Corridor and European Energy Security.

Mammadov provided an overview of the current oil and natural gas industry in Azerbaijan. According to Mammadov, Azerbaijan has 2.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and the country strives to become integral part of the Southern Energy Corridor.

Rzayeva presented technical and financial background on the gas industry in the region with specific focus on the Southern Energy Corridor. Regarding the South Caucasian Pipeline (SCP), Rzayeva argued that Azerbaijan wants to expand the SCP with a new pipeline, SCPX, in order to connect SCP with the Trans-Anatolia Pipeline (TANAP). In her opinion, the new pipeline will provide greater control for Azerbaijan in the Southern Energy Corridor. Regarding SCP, Rzayeva believes Azerbaijan will try to increase SOCAR’s (the Azerbaijani state-owned petroleum company) role within the Southern Energy Corridor and have greater control over the pipelines. With regard to the antagonism between the Nabucco Pipeline and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Rzayeva said a decision is expected by June 30, which will initialize the gas sales agreements and gas transportation agreements.

Rzayeva also presented concerns with regard to two competing pipelines. The major problem with the Nabucco pipeline is that many countries and companies have created operational, logistical and financial impediments, she said. Furthermore, in her opinion, the major disadvantage with TAP is that the Italian market is oversupplied and there is no room for another gas pipeline. Overall, however, she concluded that whichever pipeline Azerbaijan choses, it will have a positive effect on the European markets, enabling the markets to diversify their supplying-side.

Mollazade provided an overview of the geopolitical chess game with regard to the Southern Energy Corridor. He argued that Azerbaijan has the support of the United States, because Azerbaijan is basically breaking the monopoly of the energy-market in Eurasia. However, the problem in the European Union is that there is not one common European energy strategy, which breaks up the unified power of the EU against third parties. Finally, Azerbaijan is ready to become a major transit country or energy hub in the Eurasian scene and needs the backing of the United States, in his opinion. He added Azerbaijan is the biggest provider of logistics for the U.S. military in the region.

 

 

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Former U.S. Diplomats Examine U.S. –Turkish Cooperation toward a Post-Assad Syria

The Bipartisan Policy Center hosted “The Road to Damascus: U.S. –Turkish Cooperation Towards a Post-Assad Syria,” a forum held May 2, 2013 and attended by AHI.

Ambassador Mort Abramowitz, co-chair of BPC Turkey Task Force and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey; Ambassador Eric S. Edelman, co-chair of BPC Turkey Task Force, former under secretary of Defense for Policy, and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey; and Alan Makovsky, senior professional staff member, House Foreign Affairs Committee were the panelists. Paula Dobriansky, former under secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, moderated the panel discussion. She offered a series of questions on U.S.-Turkey relations to the panelists.

Questions posed to the panelists included a comparison of U.S. and Turkish interests in Syria and if a convergence or divergence of interests exists between the two countries over the current crisis in Syria. Ambassador Edelman argued that the overall objective of the United Sates and Turkey is for Assad to abandon his power. However, there is less convergence on the medium to long-term objective of the two countries, he said. For instance, Ambassador Edelman believes Turkey appears to be less wanting on other issues (such as, the role of minorities, the freedom of religious groups and the issue of potential fractionalization within the country). He added the two countries need to start dialogue as soon as possible. Ambassador Abramowitz echoed Ambassador Edelman’s point. Furthermore, Ambassador Abramowitz argued that Edrogan’s focus is to get rid of Assad and to get more humanitarian relief for the refugees.

Makovsky presented his thoughts on Turkey’s interests in Syria, which are four: a) enhance political stability; b) foster greater economic relationship; c) enhance Turkey’s regional prestige; and d) tackle the Kurdish issue. Furthermore, Makovsky believes Erdogan has two overall objectives: to become president of Turkey in 2014 (next election) and to change the constitution by providing greatly enhanced presidential powers. Moreover, Makovsky added that Turkey has been collaborating with the opposition, specifically with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Makovsky, Turkey has been managing to shape the Turkish opposition, which the country yearns for a strong Muslim Brotherhood.

Panelists were also asked to describe how the United States and Turkey would like to be. Ambassador Abramowitz believes the United States wants a Syria that is going to be a politically and socially-inclusive society with a non-sectarian basis. He added the U.S. does not want the Muslim Brotherhood to have a stake in a post-Assad Syria. However, Ambassador Abramowitz said he has low expectations for the United States’ idealistic scenario. One of the major questions for the U.S. is whether the country wants a majoritarian or pluralistic democratic Syria. Ambassador Edelman believes Turkey desires a Syria that will allow the country to enhance its regional empowerment within the Middle East. According to him, the president of Turkey and the prime minister have the same aspirations for Turkey’s role within the sub-regional interstate system. Turkey has faced a series of setbacks, and Turkey has realized the U.S. is a major player in the region (hence Erdogan’s May visit to Washington). However, Makovsky contends Turkey wants other Muslim-Brotherhood-like entities to look-up to Turkey for its models—that is an Islamic governance within a democratic framework. Turkey, on the other hand, yearns to become the number one power within a Sunni block within the Middle East. With regard to the United States, the U.S. wants an inclusive democratic Syria that will be functional within the region.

Panelists were further asked to comment on why President Obama gives so much attention to Turkey. Ambassador Abramowitz believes President Obama has managed to compartmentalize United States foreign policy vis-à-vis Turkey and Israel. It has done excellent job to separate the two countries from the U.S. strategy. Makovsky believes Turkey’s importance to the U.S. is that Erdogan has the finger on the Sunni Muslims in the Middle East. Finally, Ambassador Edelman euphemistically said the President is the “Turkish Desk Office of the U.S. government.”

 

 

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Turkey’s Peace Process w/ the PKK Examined

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended “Turkey’s Peace Process,” at the SETA Foundation, May 2, 2013. Dr. Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen professor of International Relations, Lehigh University; and Erol Cebeci, executive director, SETA Foundation. Kilic Kanat, non-resident scholar at the SETA Foundation, moderated the panel discussion, which focused on the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK.

Dr. Barkley said that the Kurdish issue has been one of the most difficult issues within Turkey for decades, citing economic and humanitarian repercussions, the displacement of thousands of refugees and the death of thousands of innocent people. Dr. Barkley stated that since 1993 there have been a plethora of attempts to overcome the Kurdish issue, but the current one has a really good chance to succeed, in his opinion. What is needed is an overarching constitutional change (new constitution) in exchange for PKK’s compromising actions. However, the PKK has not acted reciprocally (with the only exception being the gradual release of Kurdish activists from Turkish prisons).

According to Dr. Barkley, the picture is not as completely positive as the Turkish government has claimed for a number of reasons: a) the Turkish government has not acted consistently; b) the military has lost some of its appeal in the public after the exposure of military officials lying over the army’s operations on the ground and the inflation of the number of deaths and the actual unfold of events; c) despite the great influence that the PKK and Ocalan have over the Kurdish population, there is a growing Kurdish youth that has become extremely influential and important to the past Kurdish leadership; and, finally, d) the Kurdish population, which can be politically divided into the conservative and the pragmatic, have incrementally become more skeptical of the AKP’s policies vis-à-vis the peace process. For Dr. Barkley, Erdogan wants to become elected president of Turkey in the 2014 presidential elections overwhelmingly with 65- to 75 percent approval. This this end, Erdogan needs to not lose his conservative base, and at the same time, tackle the Kurdish issue so that he can have their support in the parliament.

Mr. Cebeci argued that the Kurdish issue has been influencing every single aspect of the Turkish life. It is “all of the above” (economic, security and ethnical) and that is why, according to this speaker, the current peace process is nothing more but a continuation of the previous peace process. For him, the process should continue for a multitude of reasons: a) it is the right thing to do; b) it may become worse in the future (so, it should be resolved as soon as possible); and, finally, c) from an AKP-perspective, the AKP needs to meet its Kurdish constituents’ and voters’ needs. Finally, Mr. Cebeci cited some of the independent variables that helped make this peace process become more plausible and feasible: a) the Turkish military establishment no longer has overwhelmingly political influence; b) the AKP party is the single political decision-maker; c) the Arab Spring has increased the regional security issues for Turkey; d) PKK has argued that it wants to change its struggle from military to a political; and e) the Turkish public opinion has been supportive.

 

 

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The Social Impact of the Eurozone Crisis in the Southern Europe: The EU Response and the Challenges Ahead

The Brookings Institution hosted “The Social Impact of the Eurozone Crisis in the Southern Europe: The EU Response and the Challenges Ahead,” May 3, 2013. Representatives from AHI attended the event, which featured Gianni Pittella, first vice-president of the European Parliament. Clara Marina O’Donnell, non-resident fellow, Brookings Institution, moderated. The event focused on the current economic and fiscal crisis in the European Union.

Pittella described a dire economic and social picture in the European Union, especially in the South, where member-states have been facing increased recession, higher unemployment rate and slim economic recovery. In fact, according to the speaker, this recession in the EU is going to be the worst recession in the contemporary history of the continent where the lost potential growth has been undermining the future of a whole generation. Pittella argued the crisis is not merely an economic crisis and/or social crisis but a democratic crisis, which has generated two major repercussions: a) it challenges the current representation-system where the Europeans demand greater direct participation and b) the recession has enhanced the popular appeal of a plethora of extreme parties, such as the neo-Nazi party in Greece, Golden Dawn.

Pittella believes what is needed is for the European Union to issue European market bonds urgently, which can ease the austerity process in the countries and finance future medium to long-term financial projects. The formula for him is that the austerity programs need to be prolonged for 20 years with simultaneous easiness of the needed austerity provisions and implementation of a European-wide growth program. He added, as the first vice-president of the European Parliament, the EU Parliament will be using all its veto-powers on the implementation of the EU budget. This will result in the creation of an effective federal budget and include provisions for re-growth initiatives, he believes.

Furthermore, Pittella contends the current EU’s economic mixture is a catastrophe because the austerity measures are feeding lower growth, which in return brings about higher recession and lower incomes for Europeans. What is needed is a U.S.-style economic intervention where a plan for economic development is in place and then fiscal consolidation is brought about (and not the opposite as the EU has been doing). His vision would ultimately be to create a political union in Europe that will be able to govern the Economic Union, creating more of a United States of Europe.

 

 

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Brookings Institution Hosts Cypriot Foreign Minister

AHI attended a presentation by the Cypriot minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides, May 3, 2013, at the Brookings Institution. Foreign Minister Kasoulides discussed Cyprus and its place within the greater eastern Mediterranean and the role it plays in the stability and security of a volatile region. Its location is a challenge, but it can also present a great opportunity if Cyprus can be creative with its foreign policy.

Cyprus wants to be an important partner of the U.S. and the EU with respect to combating terrorism, nuclear proliferation, human trafficking, and organized crime. It has joined the Proliferation Security Initiative. Cyprus shares with other EU members and the U.S. a belief in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Cyprus aspires to be partners with the EU and U.S. in shipping, trade, and investment, he said.

Recently, hydrocarbon discoveries have become important for EU energy security and the diversification policy of the EU. A South Korean energy company has been bidding on deposits off of Cyprus, hoping to utilize its proximity to the Suez Canal. The demand for energy remains high despite advances in technology and new sources of energy (such as shale gas). All of Cyprus’s actions with respect to its natural resources are in accordance with the UN convention of the Law of the Sea and international law. Noble Energy and others, including an Israeli company, have acquired one block and the first drilling has been successful.

As a result, energy is now a tangible area where Cyprus and Israel can further work together, according to the foreign minister. Cyprus has proven itself a reliable ally to Israel. Its predictability is undeniable except in the case of a bad settlement of the Cyprus issue. If Turkey can negatively influence Cyprus, its predictability will not exist. He added Cyprus shares common values with Israel and Greece. Cyprus is working with Israel on an agreement for joint exploration of natural gas and the two countries are also participating in a dialogue on energy security, terrorism, nonproliferation, and other issues. Cyprus would like to integrate Lebanon and Egypt into these discussions and arrangements, the foreign minister stated. Furthermore, Cyprus is ready to evacuate U.S., EU, and Canadian citizens from Lebanon if the situation in Syria gets worse.

Foreign Minister Kasoulides commented on Turkey, stating Turkey is a very important ally of the U.S. and a successful country with an emerging economy that is now trying to convince the world of its intentions to turn to the EU and acknowledge that the problem with Cyprus is an impediment to this. Turkey realizes the absurdity that exists within its occupation of 37 percent of an EU country. He added Turkey has continued to block Cyprus with regards to NATO. Cyprus is now ready to apply for the partnership for peace and is prepared, in exchange, to not veto Turkey’s participation in the European Defense Agency, the foreign minister stated.

The economic crisis in Cyprus has also factored into public opinion and is further preventing a solution, Foreign Minister Kasoulides reported. Cyprus is open to lifting its veto on some EU accession chapters, to permit direct trade from the occupied area through Famagusta under EU supervision, if Turkey relinquishes Famagusta. The lack of trust needs to be diminished, he said. An interlocutor is needed to permit communication between Cyprus and Turkey because Turkey continues to not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, but Cyprus is prepared and waiting to begin negotiations in the fall.

 

 

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AHI Takes to Capitol Hill as 113th Congress Gets Underway

AHI met with the staff of several key members of Congress, including those that serve on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as a means of reaching out throughout the duration of the 113th Congress.

AHI met with the offices of: U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Danny Davis (D-IL), John Lewis (D-GA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Steve Southerland (R-FL), Kenny Marchant (R-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Niki Tsongas (D-MA); and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.

Staff members were provided copies of the one-hour PBS documentary, “Cyprus Still Divided: A U.S. Foreign Policy Failure” and overviews of the policy statements advocated by AHI. Members were also encouraged to support H.Res.187, condemning any attempt to use the current economic crisis as a means of imposing a settlement on the people of Cyprus.

 

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For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos 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.

The American Hellenic Institute is a nonprofit public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and also within the American Hellenic community.


 

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