Books on Turkey
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Update No: 102 - (27/10/05)
Turkey and the EU agree on talks
Turkey and the European Union agreed to open membership talks in early October,
after a tense diplomatic tussle that illustrated all the problems of their
partnership. These are still formidable, but a way forward has been found.
After two days of dramatic negotiations, European foreign ministers agreed on
terms for talks to start, overcoming Austria's insistence that the EU offer
Turkey the possibility of a status less than full membership. After hours of
discussion with Ankara, Turkey agreed to the framework proffered for what are
expected to be tough talks over the next decade.
Austrian objections overcome for now
"We are at a difficult stage in these negotiations," said Jack Straw,
the British foreign secretary, who was leading the talks, after his first
morning conversation with Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian foreign minister.
"I can't say what the outcome will be." His gloom was a result of the
demands by Austria's conservative government, reflecting widespread reservations
in Austria about bringing Turkey into the EU.
The mood surrounding the Turkey talks brightened considerably after the
pronouncement by Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the United Nations
international war crimes tribunal, said for the first time that Croatia was
"cooperating fully" in catching Ante Gotovina, a fugitive indicted as
a war criminal. Austria is a strong supporter of Croatia's own bid to join the
EU, and Del Ponte's report opens the prospect for Croatia's membership
negotiations to start soon.
"Agreement has now been reached that negotiations on Turkey's accession to
the European Union can and will begin in the very near future," Straw said.
"This is a truly historic day for Europe and for the whole of the
international community," he said. Straw said Turkey's entry into the EU
"will bring a strong secular state that happens to have a Muslim majority
into the EU, proof that we can live, work and prosper together."
Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, of Turkey headed to Luxembourg in advance of
Turkey's membership negotiations.
"We reached agreement; I am going to Luxembourg," Gul told reporters,
according to Reuters.
The agreement means Europe keeps its promise, made last December, to open talks
with Turkey. The talks, a momentous step in Turkey's four-decade quest for
membership, are expected to be long and unpredictable, buffeted by Europe's
lingering wariness about embracing Turkey, a vast Muslim nation of more than 70
million, and by Turkey's ability and willingness to adopt the EU's laws and
The US plays a role
The United States helped pave the way for agreement when Secretary of State,
Condoleezza Rice, telephoned Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of Turkey to
reassure him that the beginning of membership talks would not compromise
Turkey's role in NATO. The United States has long been a supporter of Turkey's
bid to join the EU.
A State Department official who insisted on anonymity said Rice had telephoned
Erdogan and Gul and had also spoken to the government of Cyprus. "We have
always encouraged accession," the official said. "We are not involved
in the process but we can express our interests."
The possibility of opening negotiations with Turkey had been thrown into doubt
earlier this summer by Turkey's refusal to recognize Cyprus, which joined the EU
in its last expansion, in May 2004. Countries like France objected that talks
with Turkey could not go ahead while it refused to recognize an EU member
Gul had been waiting in Turkey for a sign that European governments had come to
an agreement on Turkey's future with the EU. Then Austria dropped its insistence
that the EU offer Turkey an alternative status that stopped short of full
membership. For two days, Austria, which has a population of just over eight
million, had held up the progress of negotiations with the 24 other countries in
the Union, which has a combined population of 450 million.
Austria dropped its objection to a statement that the shared objective of the
negotiations was accession by Turkey into the EU. In return, Austria demanded
robust assurances that the EU could halt Turkey's membership process if the
Union was not ready to absorb another country, especially one the size of
The compromise appeared to be acceptable to Turkey, which had said it would not
begin talks unless the goal was full membership.
A second problem emerged when Turkey objected to conditions urging it to adopt
EU positions in international organizations like NATO. Turkey feared that this
meant it could not block any future application by Cyprus to join NATO. But
diplomats said Turkey had been reassured when the EU agreed to make a separate
declaration saying that Turkey's security concerns would be taken into account.
The rest of Europe takes a positive line
The rest of the EU warned that rejecting Turkey at this stage would damage
the Union's interests and hurt Turkey. EU ministers were under pressure to show
that the Union was capable of diplomatic success following the failure to get a
European constitution, capped by further bitter disagreement over the budget,
Dermot Ahern, Irish foreign minister, told reporters: "At this juncture, to
fail to conclude these negotiations does show a clear sign of paralysis."
He said the EU needed to show more leadership and not bend to the whim of public
Europeans already in the Union have shown a marked reluctance since the last
expansion, when 10 countries were admitted, to accept more nations as members.
Their reservations were met after the EU issued a joint declaration that Turkey
must recognize Cyprus before it can ever join the EU, but since no one had
suggested that NATO had a position on the accession talks it could hardly have
been such a bromide, but probably a message of Uncle Sam's support.
Turkey first applied for membership in 1959. In 1963, the Ankara Agreement
foresaw ever closer trade and economic ties between Europe and Turkey, but only
in 1999, at a meeting in Helsinki, was it officially recognized as a candidate
The push to have Turkey join reflects increasingly strong trading ties. Turkey
is the EU's seventh biggest trading partner and sends about 54 per cent of its
exports to the EU.
Russia and Turkey forge new ties on security, trade
Turkey is looking north-eastwards as well as north westwards and is finding
a positive response from Russia. Turkish Prime-Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's
recent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin suggest that the two Eurasian
countries have found common ground on a number of key regional security issues.
"It's our fourth meeting during the last seven months, and I guess, all of
you understand what it means," Erdogan said at a news conference following
the July 17-18 negotiations at Putin's summer residence in the Russian Black Sea
resort town of Sochi. "Our views totally coincide with regard to the
situation in the region as well as to the issues concerning the preservation of
stability in the world," Interfax News Agency quoted Erdogan as saying.
The current Russian-Turkish encounter came after the Kremlin leader's official
visit to Ankara in December 2004 and Erdogan's trip to Moscow in January 2005.
Last May the Turkish prime minister also attended festivities in the Russian
capital commemorating the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in
World War II.
Such a sharp increase in top-level contacts appears to be the result of both
countries' wariness toward political turbulence in their overlapping "near
abroads" - specifically, in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, the
regional analysts say. Both Moscow and Ankara are closely following the
geopolitical changes that are taking place in post-Soviet Eurasia - in
particular, those brought about by the so called "colour revolutions."
In the South Caucasus, the "frozen conflicts" between Tbilisi and the
breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the stalemate between
Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh drive these mutual concerns.
In public, both Russian and Turkish leaders have stressed their commitment to
the peaceful settlement of the inter-ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus. However,
a number of Turkish and Russian experts argue that Ankara and Moscow seem
reluctant to embrace political changes in the Commonwealth of Independent
States' southern tier and would rather support the preservation of the status
Even before the Putin-Erdogan meeting in Sochi, some regional analysts suggested
there might be joint Russian-Turkish attempts to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict. As Armenia's main geopolitical ally, Russia can be expected to mediate
between Turkey and Armenia on a number of issues, they say.
Russian media reports confirmed that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was discussed
during the Russian-Turkish talks. The Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya
Gazeta reported on July 19 that Moscow had expressed its readiness to pursue the
settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh "more actively," and that Ankara had
agreed to cooperate on this issue. Furthermore, according to some Russian and
Azerbaijani sources, Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul, who made an official
visit to Baku on July 18-21, hinted that Ankara is interested in normalization
of relations with Yerevan and discussed with Azerbaijani leadership the
prospects of Turkey's participation in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.
At the same time, Turkey appears keen to act as a mediator in the Georgian-Abkhazian
conflict. Turkey is home to a sizeable Abkhazian community, and Ankara has
established friendly ties both with Moscow and Tbilisi, some Turkish
"We don't want to live in a world where enmity dominates; we need a world
where friendship reigns supreme," Erdogan said in Sochi, referring to the
urgent need to settle the South Caucasus's conflicts.
Both leaders, however, appear to share a strong apprehension regarding potential
political upheavals on post-Soviet territory. While both Moscow and Ankara
understand fully that a huge potential exists for political change in the
Caucasus and Central Asia, the Putin administration and Erdogan government are
unlikely to welcome the revolutionary transformation of the authoritarian
regimes in the region, some Turkish analysts contend.
Azerbaijan's November 2005 parliamentary elections are a case in point, noted
Suat Kiniklioglu, head of the Turkish office of the German Marshall Fund of the
United States. For Russia, securing stability in this energy-rich Caspian state
is important within the framework of the Kremlin's strategy of preserving its
influence in the Caucasus, Kiniklioglu said. But Turkey, too, wants to see
Azerbaijan stable, and keep secure the delivery of crude oil via the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan export pipeline, he said in an interview with the Russian
Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.
Similarly, in Central Asia, Turkey and Russia seek to maintain the geopolitical
status quo. According to Kiniklioglu, both the Turks and the Russians would
prefer to deal with the likes of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and other
autocratic regional leaders than face the uncertainty of revolutionary turmoil.
A number of Turkish foreign policy experts suggest that Ankara's strategic
perspective on Central Asia is much closer to the Russian position than to that
of the United States. "Neither Moscow nor Ankara is happy to see US forces
in the region," wrote analyst Semih Idiz in the mass circulation Milliyet
The talk of shared security interests extends to economic issues, too. Bilateral
trade and energy issues figured prominently during the Sochi meeting. The two
leaders said they aim to raise the trade volume between the two countries to
US$25 billion from the current US$11 billion.
The Russian president signalled that Russia would like to increase energy
exports to Turkey. Putin set out plans for new gas pipelines through Turkey to
supply southern European markets and also raised the possibility of electric
power exports to Turkey and Iraq. Erdogan appeared to welcome Moscow's intention
to boost gas supplies to Turkey. "There is serious potential for increasing
supplies through the Blue Stream pipeline," the Turkish prime minister
said. According to Erdogan, the pipeline has a capacity of 16 billion cubic
meters per year, but current supplies amount to only 4.7 billion cubic meters.
The 1,213-kilometer Blue Stream gas pipeline under the Black Sea was completed
in 2002, but has since been a source of dispute between Russia and Turkey over
Most Russian and Turkish commentators give a very positive overall assessment of
the Putin-Erdogan meeting's outcome. The rapid rapprochement between the two
Eurasian powers could serve as useful leverage for boosting each country's
geopolitical stature, they argue.
The strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Turkey "adds
significantly to our country's international prestige," noted one Russian
commentary posted on the Politcom.ru website. Many Turkish experts seem to
agree. Argued Milliyet foreign policy columnist Idiz: "It may be an
exaggeration to call our bilateral relations 'strategic partnership,' but
Turkish-Russian relations have already grown in importance to the extent that
they affect the entire region."
Turkpetrol signs deal with Shell
Turcas Petrol, operating in the fuel oil distribution sector under the brand of
Turkpetrol, announced the establishment of a joint enterprise company with
British based global fuel oil giant Shell Turkey for Turkish activities,
According to the signed partnership contract, Turcas will have the right to
withdraw from the joint enterprise after the necessary evaluations are made. The
contract between the two companies outlined the steps that can be taken in case
of such a separation. Shell guarantees to buy out Turcas' 30 per cent
participation share in the joint enterprise, which is planned to be established
in exchange of 150 million Euro. Turcas will have a share of 30 per cent and
Shell 70 per cent in the new company. However, Turcas expressed some concerns on
the possibility that the expected income cannot be obtained. The new enterprise
will operate in retail, commercial sales, marketing and distribution of fuel oil
and mineral oil.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
India-Turkey trade to exceed US$1.5bn
Turkish Ambassador to India, Hasan Gogus, recently stated that the current
dialogues between India and Turkey for promoting bilateral trade might lead to
growth of trade volume. This was announced on the sidelines of a programme which
announced the entry of Turkish hazelnuts into the Indian almond market. Gogus
predicts that bilateral trade is expected to reach US$1.5 billion this year,
Anadolu News Agency reported.
Gogus added that the trade between the two countries, in favour of India has
increased substantially from US$250m two years back to US$1.2bn in 2004. Turkey
exports machinery, construction materials, textile and electrical items to
India, while India docks pharmaceutical products, chemicals, textile yarn,
automobile parts to Turkey. Taking into account the zero duty benefit in Turkey,
Gogus said Indian investors in steel, petroleum, textile, leather and jewellery
sectors could invest in Turkey.
Syria, Turkey target better ties
Turkish Deputy Foreign Trade Minister, Tonger Kayalar, and Syrian Minister of
Economy and Trade, Amer Hosni Lutfi, met in Ankara recently to discuss the
implementation of the free trade accord between Syria and Turkey. The pact would
contribute to encouraging investments between them, Anadolu News Agency
Both officials touched upon trade and economic ties between the two countries
and means of boosting them as well as building a free trade zone. According to
Lutfi, Syria would sign an agreement with Turkey next November to open trade
centres that increase trade exchanges between the two neighbouring countries. He
noted that bilateral ties are built on the basis of mutual respect and good
neighbourhood ties in addition to common concern.
Sistema to acquire Telsim
Russian AFK Sistema could purchase Turkish cellular operator Telsim, a
source in telecommunications circles said, Anatolia News Agency recently.
"We are not ruling out such a possibility," Irina Potekhina, head of
Sistema's PR department, said. Telsim has a licence to supply GSM 9001998
standard cellular services until 2023. The company controls 22 per cent of
Turkey's cellular market and has more than seven million subscribers. The Usan
family are the shareholders in Telsim and, according to Western media reports,
they are experiencing financial difficulties.
Sistema has set up a subsidiary company in Turkey - Sistema Telekomunikasyon
Anonim Sirketi in order to study the Turkish telecommunications market. AFK
Sistema is one of Russia's biggest multi-sector holdings. It has a diversified
portfolio of investments in companies in the telecommunications, electronics,
insurance, financial, real estate, construction, tourism and trade industries.