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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The European Union: Questions and Answers

Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among sovereign countries. The Union is the latest stage in a process of integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to foster interdependence and make another war in Europe unthinkable. Today, the EU is composed of 28 member states, including most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and has helped to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the European continent.

The EU has been built through a series of binding treaties, and over the years, EU member states have sought to harmonize laws and adopt common policies on an increasing number of economic, social, and political issues. EU member states share a customs union, a single market in which goods, people, and capital move freely, a common trade policy, and a common agricultural policy. Seventeen EU member states use a common currency (the euro). In addition, the EU has been developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which includes a Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), and pursuing cooperation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) to forge common internal security measures.

EU member states work together through common institutions to set policy and to promote their collective interests. Key EU institutions include the European Council, composed of EU Heads of State or Government, which acts as the strategic guide and driving force for EU policy; the European Commission, which upholds the common interest of the Union as a whole and functions as the EU’s executive; the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers), which represents the national governments; and the directly elected European Parliament, which represents the citizens of the EU.

EU decision-making processes and the role played by the EU institutions vary depending on the subject under consideration. For most economic and social issues, EU member states have largely pooled their national sovereignty, and EU decision-making has a supranational quality. Decisions in other areas, such as foreign policy, require the unanimous consensus of all 28 member states. The Lisbon Treaty, which took effect in December 2009, is the EU’s latest attempt to reform its governing institutions and decision-making processes in order to enable an enlarged EU to function more effectively. The Lisbon Treaty also seeks to give the EU a stronger voice in the foreign policy realm and to increase democratic transparency within the EU.

The United States has strongly supported the European integration project since its inception as a means to foster democratic states and robust trading partners. The United States and the EU have a dynamic political partnership and share a huge trade and investment relationship. To expand and strengthen the transatlantic economy even further, the United States and the EU are pursuing a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Nevertheless, some tensions exist in the broad relationship, ranging from long-standing U.S.-EU trade disputes to those arising from different U.S.-EU views on data privacy and climate change. And while some in the EU have been concerned that the U.S. “pivot” or rebalancing toward Asia could ultimately weaken U.S.-EU ties, U.S. officials have worried that the ongoing Eurozone crisis could adversely affect the U.S. economic recovery.

This report serves as a primer on the EU and provides a brief description of U.S.-EU relations that may be of interest in the 113
th Congress. For more information, also see CRS Report RS22163, The United States and Europe: Current Issues, by Derek E. Mix.

Date of Report: July 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RS21372
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Reunification negotiations that had been ongoing since 2008 with frequent and often intense U.N.-hosted talks between former Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Ali Talat and then Dervis Eroglu had essentially reached a stalemate on the difficult issues of governance, security, property rights, territory, and citizenship (mostly involving mainland Turks who had “settled” in the north) and were suspended in May 2012.

Through the first half of 2013, the negotiations remained suspended as the outgoing Christofias government and the incoming administration of Nicos Anastasiades (elected President of the Republic in February 2013) grappled with serious domestic banking and fiscal crises. Anastasiades, of the Democratic (DISY) party, was immediately confronted with a tough economic and fiscal austerity program proposed by the EU and European Central Bank, designed to help stabilize the Republic’s economy and prevent a collapse of its banking system, as the price for EU assistance. Implementation of the economic recovery program is in progress.

Not long after Anastasiades was inaugurated, the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish leadership began to publically pressure the Anastasiades government to restart the unification talks as soon as possible. In addition to almost daily public statements by Mr. Eroglu urging the talks to resume, Turkish Cypriot officials traveled to New York and Washington to plead their case. This prompted Anastasiades to respond that he would not be forced to the bargaining table during this period of economic turmoil and was committed to first addressing the government’s fiscal crisis.

It appears that the Turkish Cypriot side, in arguing for the restart of the talks after one year, are not proposing any significant compromises or new ideas that would move the talks forward, raising the question of why the rush. However, it has been noted that the Turkish Cypriots have more openly referred to “the realities on the island”, referring to two separate, co-equal states and the need for a timetable for concluding the talks. Ankara for its part had already suggested that while it was ready to say “yes” to a negotiated solution, a “two-state” option was viable if talks could not restart and produce a solution in a timely fashion.

In late May, Anastasiades, who himself had supported the Annan Plan for reunification in 2004, met with Eroglu over a social dinner hosted by the UN but apparently no discussions on when, how, and under what conditions the talks might resume were held. Anastasiades indicated that while he supported the resumption of the talks he restated that serious negotiations could not restart until perhaps October 2013, leaving the Turkish Cypriots in a state of uncertainty.

Two factors could serve to complicate matters further. The first could be the outcome of Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections in late July 2013 that could challenge Mr. Eroglu’s authority and negotiating strategy. The second is that 2014 will usher in the 40
th anniversary of the 1974 deployment of Turkish military forces to the island and the 10th anniversary of the demise of the Annan Plan. These events could present political challenges the Greek Cypriots.

The 113
th Congress has already expressed its interest in the Cyprus issue. Legislation (H.Res. 187) has been introduced and letters regarding the unification talks have been sent to the White House and others by Members of Congress sympathetic to both Greek and Turkish Cypriot views of the problem. This report provides a brief overview of the history of the negotiations, a more detailed review of the negotiations since 2008, a description of some of the issues involved in the talks, and where things stand today.

Date of Report: June 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Jim Zanotti
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. 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. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance—it straddles Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia and now has the world’s 17th-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, its 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.

Tens of thousands of mostly middle-class Turks joined protests in June 2013 to express dismay at what they assert to be an increasingly authoritarian leadership style from Erdogan. The protests and the government’s response have raised questions for U.S. policymakers about Turkey’s domestic political trajectory and economic stability. It has also raised questions about the extent and nature of Turkey’s regional influence. Future domestic political developments may determine the extent to which Turkey reconciles majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with protection of individual freedoms, minority rights (including those of Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish population), rule of law, and the principle of secular governance.

In addition to the attention it is paying to domestic discontent in Turkey, Congress has shown considerable interest in the following issues:

  • Working with Turkey in the Middle East to influence political outcomes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; counter Iranian influence; and preserve stability; 
  • Past deterioration and possible improvement in Turkey-Israel relations and how that might affect U.S.-Turkey relations; 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. Congress appropriates approximately $5 million annually in military and security assistance for Turkey. The EU currently provides over $1 billion to Turkey annually in pre-accession financial and technical assistance.

Since 2011, U.S.-Turkey cooperation on issues affecting the Middle East has become closer, as Turkey agreed to host a U.S. radar as part of a NATO missile defense system and the two countries have coordinated efforts in responding to the ongoing conflict in Syria. Nevertheless, developments during the Obama Administration on Syria, Israel, and other issues—including domestic concerns highlighted in June 2013—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.

Date of Report: June 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 56
Order Number: R41368
Price: $29.95

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