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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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

Vincent L. Morelli
Section Research Manager

October 2013 will mark the eighth anniversary of the European Union’s decision to launch formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. Beginning in 2012 and continuing through most of 2013, formal accession talks between Turkey and the EU had reached a political and technical stalemate. It appears that little or no progress was made on any open chapters of the EU’s rules and regulations known as the acquis communautaire, and no additional chapters were opened.

In May 2012, noting the accession stalemate, the EU Commission launched what was termed the “positive agenda” with Turkey and described as intended to bring fresh dynamics into EU-Turkey relations. Others referred to it as an “institutional trick” intended to circumvent Ankara’s refusal to deal with certain aspects of the EU involving the Cypriot presidency which was set to begin on July 1, 2012. It is unclear what the “positive agenda” accomplished or what its current status is.

In October 2012, the European Commission issued its annual assessment of the progress of the candidate countries, including Turkey. This was followed in December 2012 by the European Council’s “conclusions” on enlargement, and in April 2013 with the European Parliament’s Progress Report on Turkey. All three reports, while restating Turkey’s importance to the EU and offering a few positive conclusions, expressed overall disappointment with Turkey’s progress on a number of issues including judicial reform, media freedom, freedom of expression, Turkey’s continued refusal to extend diplomatic recognition to EU member Cyprus, and Turkey’s position on the Cyprus EU presidency. All three institutions urged Turkey to achieve more reforms.

In February 2013, France signaled that it was prepared to support opening at least one new chapter of the acquis (Chapter 22, Regional Policy) as a way to rejuvenate the accession talks. This step was supported by many EU member states, although some retained their doubts. Eventually, agreement was reached to open the new chapter and negotiations were set to begin in June. In early June public protests in Turkey over the future of a park and the government’s tough reaction precipitated a harsh response from Brussels and a resolution from the European Parliament expressing its “deep concern at the disproportionate and excessive use of force by the Turkish police.” Turkish officials responded with tough rhetoric toward the EU. After two weeks of rather nasty verbal sparring, and Ankara’s continued crackdown on the protestors, several EU member states threatened to press for the postponement of the upcoming accession talks. Since neither side really wanted to end the accession process despite mutual ill-feelings, the EU agreed to open the new chapter but to postpone the resumption of the accession negotiations until October 2013.

For many Turks, EU membership seems to have lost its appeal as Turkey’s economy continues to thrive and as Ankara continues to try to reposition and strengthen itself in its own neighborhood between secular Europe and the Islamist emergence in the Middle East. Many Turks seem to feel “being European” or gaining membership in the Union is no longer needed in order to secure Turkey’s status or to have an otherwise normal partnership with Europe. European support for Turkey, never really that strong among the average citizenry, now seems even more ambivalent.

This report provides a brief overview of the EU’s accession process and Turkey’s path to EU membership. The U.S. Congress has had a long-standing interest in Turkey as a NATO ally and partner in regional foreign policy and energy security issues. Although some Members of Congress have expressed continued support for Turkey’s membership in the EU, congressional interest and enthusiasm seems to have diminished recently.

Date of Report: August 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RS22517
Price: $29.95

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Monday, August 5, 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 that could recognize World War I-era actions by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey’s predecessor state) against hundreds of thousands of Armenians as genocide.

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: July 17, 2013
Number of Pages: 58
Order Number: R41368
Price: $29.95

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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.

That the Turkish Cypriot side, in arguing for the restart of the talks after one year, did not propose any significant compromises or new ideas that would have moved the talks forward raised the question of why the rush. In turn, 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, which now seems to be Eroglu’s preferred solution, 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 U.N. and stated that while he supported the resumption of the negotiations, they could not restart until perhaps October 2013. Further frustrating the Turkish Cypriots was the July decision by the Greek Cypriot National Council to appoint Andreas Mavroyiannis of the Foreign Ministry as the new negotiator for the talks.

One factor that could serve to complicate the Turkish Cypriots’ intent to try to secure an agreement in 2014 is the fact 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. This could present political challenges to the Anastasiades government that could suggest that no agreement could be reached until at least 2015.

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: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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