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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The United States and Europe: Current Issues


Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs

Due to extensive cooperation on a wide range of issues, the relationship between the United States and Europe is often called the transatlantic partnership. In many areas, the two sides share common values and overlapping interests, and have grown increasingly interdependent in terms of security and prosperity.

The majority of Europeans warmly welcomed President Barack Obama to office, and his popularity suggested opportunities for the United States and Europe to address the common set of global challenges they face. In dealing with this difficult agenda, however, observers note that the constructive tone of the relationship does not necessarily translate into tangible foreign policy results. Overall, transatlantic cooperation is strong on many key issues, but some concerns and points of tension also persist. As the United States and Europe deal with changing geopolitical realities, some new anxieties are surfacing about the future of the transatlantic partnership.

The list of issues representing significant areas of shared interest is long. This report selects five major issues to illustrate the nature of the transatlantic relationship and cooperation:

Despite the substantially increased commitment of troops and resources during 2009-2010, the likely outcome of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is a subject of debate. Afghanistan continues to pose a test of alliance cohesion, and Europe’s commitment to maintaining its participation will be an important tone setter in transatlantic relations.

Europe remains both a primary target of radical Islamist terrorists and a potential base for those seeking to carry out attacks against the United States. Transatlantic counterterrorism cooperation has been strong since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but challenging differences exist over issues such as data privacy that could hinder or complicate efforts to jointly combat terrorism.

The current global financial crisis has affected the transatlantic economic relationship and challenged the political relationship. Promoting financial stability and restoring economic growth are major priorities for leaders on both sides. The United States and Europe have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world. While some disputes persist, most of the relationship is mutually beneficial, and efforts are ongoing to reduce non-tariff barriers and increase regulatory convergence.

The United States and the European Union (EU) continue to seek a way to halt Iran’s nuclear program. After the approval of UNSC Resolution 1929 in June 2010, the EU applied strict new sanctions against Iran. While the new measures bring U.S. and EU sanctions into broad alignment, differences remain over issues such as the sale of refined petroleum products.

Lastly, relations between the West and Russia have grown increasingly tense in recent years. While the Obama Administration’s “reset” initiative appears to have contributed to an improved atmosphere, common approaches to Russia—among U.S. policymakers, within Europe, and across the Atlantic—have proven difficult to formulate.

This report examines the current state of the transatlantic relationship and discusses the key issues outlined above, which are likely to have implications for U.S. interests during the 112
th Congress.


Date of Report: December 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS22163
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Turkey: Selected Foreign Policy Issues and U.S. Views


Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

This report focuses on the foreign policy of Turkey, a long-time valued U.S. NATO ally, and examines the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) recalculation of the country’s approach to foreign affairs and its possible effects on relations with the United States. It begins with a discussion of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s theoretical framework for a multidirectional outreach less firmly anchored in the West than in the past and his efforts to seek “zero problems” with Turkey’s neighbors and new partners beyond. The AKP is able to follow these guidelines because it has consolidated its political power domestically, exerted unprecedented control over the formerly powerful military, and spurred robust economic growth. The desire for export markets is a major motivator for the directional diversification, and the growth in trade, in turn, contributes to the prosperity and growth of AKP’s middle class base which is strengthening the party. Increasingly, the party’s Islamist origins also appear to be determining policy. Moreover, the party’s foreign policy independence appeals to the traditionally strong nationalism of the Turks and, therefore, contributes to its popularity at home.

This report surveys Turkish foreign policy issues that are of critical interest to U.S. officials and Members of Congress. Three main categories of issues are: ones on which Turkish and U.S. policies continue to coalesce, ones on which policies diverge, and ones which may be less than completely harmonious but not adversarial. The United States and Turkey continue to find common interest in their desire for the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq and to prevent the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), based in northern Iraq, from perpetrating violence in Turkey; for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan; and for the diversification of European energy resources.

In other areas, there has been divergence. Most prominently, Turkish and U.S. officials disagree about whether Iran has a nuclear program solely intended for peaceful purposes or also to produce nuclear weapons and, thereby, pose a threat to allied security. They also differ about the deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations, provoked largely by the 2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the May 2010 crisis over Israel’s seizure of a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The AKP government’s reaction to these events and sympathies for Hamas complicate efforts to revive Turkish-Israeli ties. In addition, they affect U.S. efforts to find common ground with Turkey about the peace process. The United States also sometimes seems to support Turkey’s EU ambitions, normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, and a settlement on Cyprus more than the AKP.

Finally, the report discusses U.S. policymakers’ attempts to grapple with the complexity of Turkish policies, the bilateral relationship, and emerging differences. Obama Administration officials often appear publicly to gloss over disagreements as they reiterate longstanding U.S. appreciation for Turkey’s contributions in areas of agreement. Completing the report and of interest to Congress are discussions of U.S. use of the Turkish air base at Incirlik that is vital for cargo deliveries to forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Turkey’s role in NATO’s new missile defense architecture, and overviews of bilateral trade and U.S. aid to Turkey.

For domestic context, see CRS Report R41368, Turkey: Politics of Identity and Power. See also sections on Turkey in CRS Report R40849, Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy; CRS Report RL33793, Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy; and CRS Report R41275, Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident, and Its Aftermath.



Date of Report: November 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 57
Order Number: RL34642
Price: $29.95

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive


Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem and reunify the island have undergone various levels of negotiation for over 45 years. Nevertheless, on October 3, 2010, the Republic of Cyprus celebrated its 50th anniversary as a divided country and with a permanent solution far from being achieved.

On April 18, 2010, Turkish Cypriot voters selected a new leader, Dervis Eroglu of the National Unity Party (UBP), in part due to the fact that after almost two years of intense negotiations between former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, attempts to reach an acceptable solution for reunification had failed. Despite predictions by some of difficult times ahead for the negotiations as a result of the elections in the north and by a growing lack of unity among the Greek Cypriot political leadership whose opposition to Christofias’s negotiating strategy had been growing, new talks began on May 26, 2010.

Christofias and Eroglu have met 15 times, focusing entirely on the difficult issue of property rights, an area where both sides have long-held and very different positions. Although the negotiations continue, they appear to have produced little progress and have increasingly exposed differences between the two leaders. In September, Eroglu expressed his frustration with the process and accused the Greek Cypriots of treating Turkish Cypriot positions with contempt. In October it was reported that Eroglu had become so fed up that he may have suggested that Turkish Cypriots no longer believed in the possibility of a mutually agreeable settlement. For his part, Christofias told the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September that both sides were not coming closer to a settlement. On October 21 Ban apparently called both Christofias and Eroglu to express his concerns over the slow pace of the negotiations and lack of any progress. On November 18, 2010, Christofias and Eroglu traveled to New York to meet with Secretary-General Ban in what appeared to be another inconclusive attempt by the UN to boost momentum for the talks.

On November 24, 2010 UN Secretary-General Ban issued a status report on the progress of the negotiations. The report noted “sluggish activity” and, with important national elections in both Greek Cyprus and Turkey in 2011, expressed concern that the critical window of opportunity [for a settlement] was rapidly closing. Ban proposed another meeting of the three in January that could determine the future role of the U.N. in the negotiating process. Finally, the European Commission introduced a formal regulation proposing direct trade between the EU and Turkish Cyprus. The proposal was rejected by the European Parliament but has not been withdrawn by the Commission. This issue caused considerable problems for the Greek Cypriot side, and the outcome a good deal of disappointment for the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey.

The United States Congress continued to maintain its interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue; lack of a negotiated settlement continues to affect relations between Turkey and the EU, Turkey and Greece, and the EU and NATO. The situation also warrants attention because of the U.S. interest in a strong relationship with Turkey. Congressional interest will likely continue into the 112
th Congress as the talks continue.


Date of Report: November 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

October 2010 marked the fifth anniversary of the European Union’s decision to proceed with formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. It also marked the beginning of the annual period when all three European Union institutions, the Council, Commission, and Parliament provide their assessment of the progress Turkey had made or failed to accomplish in the accession process over the previous year and to issue recommendations on whether and how Turkey’s accession process should proceed. The EU Commission released its assessment report on November 9, 2010.

Many “Turkey-skeptics” in Europe saw the end of 2009 as a deadline for significant Turkish action that would have marked a critical juncture for the future of Europe’s relationship with Turkey. At issue was not only the domestic reforms many felt Turkey needed to achieve to meet the requirements of the EU’s acquis communautaire but whether the lack of progress by Turkey with respect to its relations with Cyprus would force EU member states into a difficult debate pitting loyalty to one of its own member states, being shunned by the candidate for Union membership, versus Europe’s long-term strategic interests in Turkey. In the end, however, no significant changes in the EU’s approach toward Turkey materialized.

Throughout 2010 Turkey was the topic of a great deal of attention. Significant political and economic developments took place in Turkey, including the passage of the September 12 referendum to amend the Turkish constitution that many argued would strengthen Turkey as a more liberal and democratic country. In addition, an emerging activism in Turkey’s foreign policy, driven by its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, to establish Turkey as a more independent regional influence has raised questions in Europe and the United States about changes in Turkey’s global orientation.

Despite changes taking place in Turkey, its EU accession process continued at a relatively slow pace. Only one additional chapter of the acquis was opened in 2010. The principal issues regarding Turkey’s accession continue to be what the EU believes has been too slow of a pace for implementing critical reforms within Turkey; Turkey’s failure to live up to its agreement to extend the benefits of its customs union with the EU to Cyprus, including the continued reluctance by Turkey to open its sea and air ports to Cypriot shipping and commerce until a political settlement has been achieved on Cyprus; a growing skepticism on the part of many Europeans whether Turkey should be embraced as a member of the European family fueled, in part, by the ongoing debate within parts of Europe over the implications of the growing Muslim population in Europe and the impact Turkey’s admission into the Union would have on Europe’s future, and a perceived ambivalence toward the EU by some in the current Turkish leadership and a large segment of its population. In fact, for the first time comments among Turks questioning Turkey’s need to join the EU have begun to be heard on a more public and regular basis.

This report provides a brief overview of the EU’s accession process; Turkey’s path to EU membership; the impact of the Cyprus problem; and a review of United States’ interest in Turkey’s future in the European Union. The U.S. Congress has had a long-standing interest in Turkey and the impact of the its EU accession process on political and economic reforms and Turkey’s role as a regional influence and foreign policy partner of the West.



Date of Report: November 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: RS22517
Price: $29.95

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