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The Turkish Middle Class and Turkish Foreign Policy Examined
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
March 4, 2010—No. 02 (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.

The Turkish Middle Class and Turkish Foreign Policy Examined

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Southeast Europe Project hosted a policy forum titled, “Clashing Between Religion and Raki? The Struggle of the Turkish Elites,” featuring Michael Thumann, Bosh Public Policy Fellow, Transatlantic Academy and Middle East Bureau Chief, Die Zeit (Istanbul), on February 3, 2010.

Thumann’s presentation examined three themes: the Turkish middle class, secular vs. religious Turkey, and Prime Minister Erdogan’s power.

Thumann explained that in the 1980s, the strength of the Turkish middle class grew as new competitive industries emerged with increased U.S. investment in Turkey.  This led to changes in Turkish society and internal strife, according to Thumann.  Clashes between liberals and conservatives occurred at Turkish universities. The increase in economic growth also led to a mass migration into large cities, which meant increased visibility of more covered women out in public. Hence, cities like Istanbul became divided.

In examining the structure of Turkish politics, Thumann offered that the Anatolian middle class is the backbone for the ruling AKP party. He made the following observations about the party and Turkey’s existing political and governing system:

  • AKP claims not to be an Islamic party, but a melting pot of different reforms and ideologies.
  • AKP does not like criticism or the Greek minority.
  • Turkey does not have a self-sufficient local government.
  • A new constitution is needed in Turkey.
Also, Thumann provided an overview of Turkish foreign policy issues. He noted Turkey was at the brink of war with Greece and Syria at one time in recent history. Today, Cyprus is still a problem for Turkey, and Turkey has made an attempt for a friendlier environment with Armenia. He added that Turkish-Russian relations are very close based upon a strong interest in energy. Russian tourism to Turkey has steadily increased, and Turkey also exports many goods to Russia. Thumann also observed that despite working together in the past, Turkey and Israel are experiencing deteriorating relations.

 

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Serbian Prince: Serbian Relations with Greece Strong

Also in February, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Southeast Europe Project hosted HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia for a presentation titled, “Achieving the Grand Vision: Southeast Europe in the EU.” The forum was held February 2, 2010.

The Prince began his presentation with a summary of the history of Yugoslavia, the effects of communism, and his family history in exile. Also, he spoke about the contributions of the Marshall Plan.

The benefits of Serbia joining the European Union, southeast Europe’s economic conditions and its effects on the EU, Kosovo, which the Prince called “the Jerusalem of Serbia,” were all topics highlighted by Prince Alexander. He also touched on energy development in the Balkans, Serbia’s vital relations with Russia, and the fact that Serbia has only been a democracy for nine years.

Prince: Serbia’s Readiness to Join NATO Uncertain

A Q&A session followed Prince Alexander’s presentation.  In one response, the Prince stated that Serbia has enjoyed support from Greece and Bulgaria, and Serbia’s relations with Greece are strong.  Also, the Prince said he is not sure if Serbia is ready to join NATO, but thinks a public referendum would be a good way to find out.

HRH Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia is the last crown prince of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

 

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Forum Examines Treatment of Muslim Minorities in Greece, Bulgaria

The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Southeast Europe Project hosted the forum “Islam at the EU Border: Muslim Minorities in Greece and Bulgaria” presented by Harris Mylonas, assistant professor of Political Science, The Elliot School, George Washington University on February 23, 2010.  Mylonas is also a Harvard Academy Scholar.

Mylonas focused on the comparison of Bulgarian and Greek policies toward their Muslim minorities over the last 30 to 40 years.  In his presentation, he questioned commonly held beliefs that minority treatment is determined by regime type, political ideology of government, personality traits of leaders, or ethnic or religious hatreds.  Instead, one of Mylonas’ main conclusions was that a country will treat a certain minority population based on that country’s relationship with the motherland of the minority population in question.

In addition, Mylonas drew a comparative analysis between the Greek and Bulgarian policies toward treating their Muslim minorities by setting a historical framework of before and after the Cold War era.

 

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AHI Continues Proactive Outreach to Capitol Hill

In February the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) met with the offices of U.S. Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), John Sarbanes, (D-MD), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Zack Space (D-OH) and Dina Titus (D-NV) to present AHI’s latest policy materials and updates to the legislators and their staffs.

“It is crucial to keep our members of Congress, especially our champions, apprised of the latest developments abroad and their impact on our policy issues,” said Executive Director Nick Larigakis. “We have a strong Greek American congressional delegation and it wants to be constantly kept abreast of our issues.”

Also in February, AHI met with the offices of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who is the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and U.S. Reps.Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX)

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.

 

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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.