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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Congress has an active role to play in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey, and several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time as global challenges to U.S. interests have changed. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance—it straddles Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia and now has the world’s 16th-largest economy—have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, growing economic diversification and military self-reliance allows Turkey to exercise greater leverage with the West. These trends have helped fuel continuing Turkish political transformation led in the past decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamist roots. Future domestic political developments may determine how Turkey reconciles respect for democratic views that favor Turkish nationalism and traditional Sunni Muslim values with protection of individual freedoms, minority rights, rule of law, and the principle of secular governance. Debate on issues such as the status of Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish population, the civilmilitary balance, the role of religion in public life, and heightened concern over press freedom could coalesce in 2012 around a proposal for a new constitution.

Congressional interest in Turkey is high with respect to the following issues:

• Addressing ongoing change in the Middle East by coordinating policies and using Turkey’s regional example to influence political outcomes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; counter Iranian influence; and preserve stability;

• The decline in Israel-Turkey relations and how that might affect U.S.-Turkey defense cooperation, including arms sales to counter the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization; and

• A potential congressional resolution or presidential statement on the possible genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey’s predecessor state) during World War I.

Many U.S. policymakers also are interested in the rights of minority Christian communities within Turkey; the currently stalemated prospects of Turkish accession to the European Union (EU); promoting increased trade with Turkey; and Turkey’s role in the Cyprus dispute, especially given tensions in late 2011 over offshore gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Congress annually appropriates less than $10 million in military and security assistance for Turkey. The EU currently provides over $1 billion to Turkey annually in pre-accession financial and technical assistance.

In 2011, U.S.-Turkey cooperation on issues affecting the Middle East became closer, partly because Turkey agreed to host a U.S. radar as part of a NATO missile defense system. Nevertheless, developments during the Obama Administration—including Erdogan’s downgrading of relations with Israel—have led to questions about the extent to which U.S. and Turkish strategic priorities and values converge on both a short- and long-term basis. Issues on which congressional action could affect future cooperation one way or another include the possible sale of drone aircraft to Turkey to counter the PKK and a potential Armenian genocide resolution.

Date of Report: February 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 46
Order Number: R41368
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

European Union Enlargement

Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

The European Union (EU) has long viewed the enlargement process as an extraordinary opportunity to promote political stability and economic prosperity in Europe. Since 2004, EU membership has grown from 15 to 27 countries, bringing in most states of central and eastern Europe and fulfilling an historic pledge to further the integration of the continent by peaceful means. Analysts contend that the carefully managed process of enlargement is one of the EU’s most powerful policy tools, and that, over the years, it has helped transform many European states into functioning democracies and more affluent countries.

The EU maintains that the enlargement door remains open to any European country that fulfills the EU’s political and economic criteria for membership. At the same time, EU enlargement is also very much a political process; most all significant steps on the path to accession require the unanimous agreement of the existing 27 member states. As such, a prospective EU candidate’s relationship or conflicts with individual member states may also influence a country’s EU accession prospects and timeline.

Five countries are currently recognized by the EU as official candidates for membership: Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. All are at different stages of the accession process. For example, while Croatia completed its accession negotiations with the EU in December 2011 and is expected to become the EU’s 28th member in July 2013, Turkey’s accession talks have largely stalled, in part because of Turkish-EU disputes over the divided island of Cyprus. Similarly, Macedonia’s membership bid has been complicated by a long-standing disagreement with Greece over the country’s official name. The remaining western Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia are considered to be potential EU candidates in the longer term, but most experts assess that it will likely be many years before any of these countries are ready to join the EU.

Despite the EU’s professed commitment to enlargement, some EU policymakers and many EU citizens are cautious about additional EU expansion, especially to Turkey or countries to the east, such as Georgia or Ukraine in the longer term. Worries about continued EU enlargement range from fears of unwanted migrant labor to the implications of an ever-expanding Union on the EU’s institutions, finances, and overall identity. Some commentators also suggest that the EU’s current sovereign debt crisis, which has hit the countries that use the EU’s common currency (the euro) particularly hard, could potentially slow future rounds of EU enlargement as EU leaders focus on remedying Europe’s financial troubles.

Successive U.S. Administrations and many Members of Congress have long backed EU enlargement, believing that it serves U.S. interests by advancing democracy and economic prosperity throughout the European continent. Over the years, the only significant U.S. criticism of the EU’s enlargement process has been that the Union was moving too slowly, especially with respect to Turkey, which Washington believes should be anchored firmly to Europe. Some U.S. officials are concerned that “enlargement fatigue” as well as the EU’s ongoing financial crisis could hinder EU expansion. The status of EU enlargement and its implications for both the EU itself and U.S.-EU relations may be of interest to the second session of the 112th Congress. For additional information, see also CRS Report RS21372, The European Union: Questions and Answers, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix, and CRS Report RS22517, European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations, by Vincent Morelli.

Date of Report: January 26, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RS21344
Price: $29.95

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