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Journalist: Turkey Not as Committed to Joining EU
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
February 4, 2010—No. 01 (202) 785-8430

 

Executive Director’s Note:  The American Hellenic Institute presents AHI’s Capital Report which is a timely synopsis of recent policy discussions in Washington to help keep you abreast of the latest developments. As a service to our membership and constituency, and to gain an understanding of the position of other entities on our issues, the American Hellenic Institute attends and participates at policy forums or roundtable discussions to ensure the policy positions of the Greek-American community are represented.


The content provided in AHI’s Capital Report is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of AHI.

Journalist: Turkey Not as Committed to Joining EU

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Southeast Europe Project hosted a policy forum titled, “Political Islam in Turkey: Running West, Heading East?” featuring Gareth Jenkins, journalist and senior associate fellow, Silk Roads Studies Program and Turkey Initiative, on January 12, 2010.

Jenkins’ presentation focused on Turkey’s foreign policy with its neighbors to the east. Jenkins said he no longer believes that Turkey is committed to joining the EU as it once was and cited the following reasons:

  • Turkey’s authoritarian tendencies and foreign policy contradictions;
  • The Turkish government’s enactment of a “zero problem policy” where Muslim states such as Syria, Iran and Lebanon can travel visa free into Turkey, of which Jenkins was critical;
  • Turkey accusing Israel of murder and human rights violations in Gaza when at the same time Turkey’s relations with Sudan are very close;
  • The evolving Turkish-Russian strategic partnership especially in the energy sector where a pipeline deal is being discussed; and
  • Turkey’s denial of U.S. ships through the Bosporus during the Russian-Georgian war.

Jenkins’ presentation also provided an overview of the history of the Turkish people from their tribal migration from Asia to their conversion to Islam to the present day. Jenkins has been based in Istanbul, Turkey since 1989.

Q&A: Jenkins Disagrees with Notion of Improved Turkish Relations with Greece

During the Q&A session, a representative of the Embassy of Turkey stated Turkey’s relations with Greece and Cyprus have improved. He also contended that Turkey’s zero problem policy will help Turkey join the EU. Jenkins disagreed with all of the points raised by the Turkish embassy representative. He stated there has been “no real improvement” in relations between Greece and Turkey since the “earthquake diplomacy” that took place in 1999. Jenkins cited Turkey’s continued violations of Greek air space and aggression in the Aegean as examples of how relations have worsened. He added relations with the EU also have not improved given Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus and refusal to recognize it.

“If Turkey wants to ever be an EU member it has to fix its problems with Greece; not Syria,” said Jenkins.

Approached by AHI after the event, Jenkins discussed the issue of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He agreed that religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, for instance, reopening the Halki Theological School, would be beneficial for Turkey’s EU prospects.  Jenkins expressed concern about the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the current conditions with which it operates.

 

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AHI Continues Proactive Outreach to Capitol Hill

In January, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) met with the Offices of U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), and U.S. Reps. Zack Space (D-OH) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) to present AHI’s latest policy materials and updates to the legislators and their staffs.

“With constant developments happening abroad, it is crucial to keep our members of Congress, especially our champions, apprised of the latest news and its impact on policy,” said Executive Director Nick Larigakis, who met with Rep. Kosmas on January 21, 2010.

AHI disseminates policy information to members of Congress and congressional staffers that relates to United States relations between Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey as it pertains to the best interest of the United States.

The meetings were organized by AHI’s Director of Government Affairs & Media Relations, Constandinos Franciscos Economides.

In addition, Economides attended a “Meet & Greet” event with U.S. Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL) on January 20, 2010, at the offices of K&L Gates. There, Economides was able to raise the issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the congressman, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Despite a welcomed reply about the issue, Rep. Klein is not a co-sponsor of H.Res.236, which is a resolution urging Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. A follow-up meeting is planned.

 

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.