Tag Archives: Turkey

Is the EU finally under compulsion to reform?

Tensions in the EU have been simmering for some time. There were ongoing quarrels and contradictions during the Euro crisis, and then, as a consequence of unregulated immigration flows. In addition, the Italian government is planning to seriously run up their debts, violating all relevant stability rules. The EU reactions to Russian assertiveness in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, Syria, the poisoning scandal in the UK (with fallout now in Switzerland) and, notorious violations of anti-doping rules also raised different levels of concern. The governments in Hungary, Italy and Cyprus have expressed understanding towards Russian leaders. More relevant, there are serious quarrels over perceived violations of the independence of the media, legal institutions and educational organizations in Poland and Hungary.

Until recently, the EU’s reactions have involved a mixture of talking and admonishing, but not much action. But now, both Poland and Hungary are exposed to different stages or Article 7 procedures which have been initiated by EU bodies. Even the conservative party grouping in the EU parliament is becoming agitated.

What is your expert view on these issues? Should the EU respond to rule violations by members in the same manner that they would when non-, or not-yet member states commit violations? What is the prospect of achieving success through further talks? What is the leverage of the EU? How do we factor-in the broader context of rising populism? Can the EU still defend its credibility against spoilers?

-Klaus Segbers

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Syria – Still a pawn in the hands of the powerful

Syria is back in the the headlines (not that it was absent in recent years) and the conflict has returned to the agendas of regional and global stakeholders. With the help of Putin and his regular and private military operations, Assad has regained chunks of the territories ceded in the prior six years.
An attack on the Idlib area seems imminent, which may produce new waves of migrants and possible new gas attacks. At this point in the conflict Russia remains supportive of the regime, Turkey is concerned because of the Kurdish role, and Europe is anxiously wringing its proverbial hands.

This week’s questions are: Do we have to accommodate to a lasting role for the Assad regime, forgetting about his war crimes or not, and accept that he will have a role in Syria’s reconstruction. Or should we deny this, keeping supporting the troubled and fragmented militias, trying to limit Russia’s and/ or Turkey’s influence? We can assume that U.S. and EU interference will be quite limited.

-Klaus Segbers

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In a World of Disasters: Where are we heading until Year’s End?

Almost two thirds of this year are gone. Where is the balance, so far, in global politics? It is summer time, so it is time for reflection.

As last December—when we asked you for the last time for a prognosis, the liberal world order, established after 1945—is in disarray. An alternative is not in sight. The American president is a loose cannon, erratic and unstable. Midterm elections may cost him the majority in at least one chamber of the House. China’s economy looks slightly more stable, but it is entangled in a trade war with the U.S. A medicine scandal is tainting the highly centralized Chinese system, so the buck has to stop at the top.

In the EU, another country is moving away from the basic consensus of the Paris Charter in 1990 – Italy. Half of voters in recent elections voted populist. An impending trade war with the U.S. is on hold, and may (or may not) commence later this year. In Russia, the soccer championship was enjoyable for many, but a much criticized pension reform is shifting the allegiances of the electorate away from the current powers. Ukraine is still not considered to have moved beyond Russia’s sovereignty. Internally, political issues in Ukraine are significant. India and Brazil  are facing their own domestic issues.

Climate change is on the march. We are experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Plastic is covering ever bigger parts of the oceans (and the earth). The big IT companies are still unsure how to address data protection demands. And how to balance the freedom of expression, and the protection against ‘hate speech’. Protectionism and mercantilism are en vogue, as are nonsense concepts such as ‘alternative reality’. The independence of media has to be defended every month.

What is your forecast for the rest of the year? What can be expected?

-Klaus Segbers

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Diplomatic crisis – How to deal with Turkey?

 

Turkey seems to be on a rampage.

An aggressive rhetoric, diplomatic brinkmanship, and threats not only against Europe have made it ever more clear that this country under this leadership cannot become an EU member, and it is putting itself in an outsider role in Nato as well.

There is a problematic referendum calling for constitutional changes. While in normal times, this would not necessarily lead to an international crisis, Turkey presently plays an important role in the regional context, especially in the Syrian crisis, and in moderating flows of refugees.

So what can and should be done? Should Turkey’s neighbors and partners just leave it alone? Or rather, should they attempt to counter its policies?

– Klaus Segbers

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How to deal with autocracies?

Authoritarian regimes with populist inclinations are becoming more viable. The dominant debate about a spreading democratization, so popular after the ‘Charter of Paris for a New Europe’ was adopted in 1990, is at least partly being replaced by the discussion of re-autocratization. Everyone following the news knows something about the current usual suspects: Russia, China, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and, maybe, even the U.S. after the November elections.

Previously, there was a clear policy in many Western countries to go into ‘difficult’ societies and find partners in fields like education, law, finances, institution building, and civil society in general. Once the economies would take off, middle classes would emerge, and, so went the assumption, participation would spread, and democracy surely would blossom.

Now, we have more doubts than certainties regarding this classical ‘modernization’ thesis. Does it really make sense to keep trying and engage those countries in joint activities, projects and programs, summer schools, FDI with dubious property rights, support for Rule of Law training programs that officially are not welcome or even weakened, etc., including putting partners potentially at risk? Or should we be more realistic (if that’s what it is), pack up and leave for good?

– Prof. Klaus Segbers

 

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Can Coups Ever Be Acceptable?

World history couldn’t be written, or understood, without the history of coups (real and attempted ones). So last weekend’s events in Turkey fit into a pattern. 25 years before, in the hot summer of 1991, another attempted coup in Moscow was the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire.

It always is difficult to properly assess these extra-constitutional, mostly (but not necessarily) violent moves. The clove revolution in 1974 in Portugal certainly brought a harsh and unpleasant dictatorial regime to an end. It may have been illegal, but was it illegitimate? The attempted coup against Hitler by a group of Wehrmacht officers belongs into the same category. And what about the events on the Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989? In Turkey, the officers trying this not quite professional attempt claimed to serve democracy and human rights, but they opened the doors for a much more autocratic regime than before (which may have materialized anyways).

So this reminds us that history is often written by the victors. But, in addition, many events, like coups, are quite ambivalent. Do we have any clear criteria for sorting out coups, into acceptable ones and clearly bad ones?

– Prof. Klaus Segbers

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Syria: A transnational free-for-all

One of the messiest spots in global politics is Syria. No one seems to know what to do, or what not to do, to stop the civil war with all its international and transnational spillover.

There are different fault-lines converging, and addressing just one of them doesn’t do the job. First, relatively peaceful and secular Syria has been turned into a sectarian fighting place. Increasingly, people identify themselves culturally. Second, and related, this is a space where Shia (the Alawites) and Sunni (IS and other militias) groups clash violently.

Third, this trend is exacerbated by the meddling of two competing regional regimes – Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Fourth, all but one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council are militarily involved. Fifth, some neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey) may soon not be able to absorb the pressure of the fighting next door as well as the millions of refugees that have already arrived, or are on their way to Europe.

One of the core problems is that almost all of the external actors involved (except the Islamic State) are not so sure how decisively they want to be engaged. There is neither decisive intervention, nor clear non-intervention, but, mostly, meddling.

Do you see any option for progress, however small?

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Is it time to forget about a Turkish perspective for merging Islam and democratisation? Is the EU itself partly to blame by dragging on ascension negotiations?

Over decades, a membership of Turkey in the EU has been debated and negotiated. Once again, the progress of negotiation seems to have stalled. There always were good reasons for finally integrating Turkey: a Muslim country as an EU-member state could demonstrate that the EU is not a “Club of Christians”. Also, Turkey’s influence in regional conflicts is substantial.

But the recent moves by the Erdogan government apparently put all hope for an EU-Turkish rapprochement to rest: the violent measures against the demonstrators around Gezi Park in 2013, voluntary shifting of hundreds of procurators and police officers, rude language from Prime Minister Erdogan himself, indicators of notorious corruption even in higher echelons of the state apparatus, increasing measures against social networks in Turkey, and the negligent reactions to the victims of the mining tragedy in Soma all show that Turkey may be sliding backwards.

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No Europe A La Carte: The EU needs Turkey far less than Turkey needs the EU

BY THEODOROS TSAKIRIS

The Turkish experiment in democratization has always been a complicated process. Erdogan, like Menderes in the 1950s, consolidated his power basis in contradiction to the secular kemalist guardians who always elevated the country’s Armed Forces as the true regulators of the Republic.

The big difference between Erdogan and Menderes is that Erdogan used the EU bid as a means of neutralizing the Military’s interventionism. The Generals knew and know that a potential coup d’etat would effectively terminate their country’s bid for EU accession.

As Erdogan consolidated his power and presided over an era of unprecedented economic growth he started to behave with the same level of arrogance that Menderes behaved towards the end of his ten-year term.

Erdogan will only become more aggressive and intractable in the domestic arena where his efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue ended in disarray, but in the absence of a credible alternative he is more likely to continue to consolidate his position and conquer the country’s Presidency.

In the foreign policy area, and Ankara’s relations with Athens and Nicosia, Turkish policies have remained as revisionist and uncompromising as ever. With regards to the Middle East where Ankara is perceived to play a major and positive role by some Europeans, Turkish Foreign Policy has lost almost all influence with the existing governments. Mr. Davutoglou’s “Zero” Problems Policy has managed to isolate Turkey from its former allies.

Turkey is no longer considered as a valuable ally or an honest broker by any of its Middle Eastern neighbors with the exception of the Islamic Brotherhood parties that are on the run everywhere in the region except the Hammas and Islamic Jihad Stronghold of Gaza.

Turkey’s Cold War with Israel continues and its relations with Iran have lost their special character ever since Turkey was forced to -by and large- implement the US/EU oil boycott against Tehran that is crippling the Iranian economy.

Europe has no responsibility for Mr. Erdogan’s excesses. The Acquis Communautaires are not negotiable because they constitute the least common denominator of the European consensus and the Spirit of the Acquis is the very epitome of Europe’s Political Civilization which Erdogan continuously violates.

Turkey always attempted to utilize its geostrategic location and the false pretense of hegemonic influence in the Middle East and the Caucasus to persuade Europeans that it should be exempted from the rules everyone else followed.

There is no Europe a la carte. You need to eat all the menu even if it included spinach whether you like it or not.

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