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CSIS Panel Analyzes Central European Issues, Economy

Volume 3, Issue 6

October/November 2011—No. 06 (202) 785-8430

AHI President’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.

CSIS Panel Analyzes Central European Issues, Economy

AHI attended a conference titled “Trans-Atlanticism in Transition: A Focus on Central Europe” hosted by Center of the Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), on October 14, 2011. Opening Remarks were offered by Janusz Bugajski, chair, Lavrentis Lavrentiadis Chair in Southeast European Studies, and director, New European Democracies Project, CSIS.  Bugajski is also a senior fellow of CSIS’s Europe Program.

The first panel titled, “Central Europe in the International Community” addressed issues relevant to Central Europe, Greece’s economy, and its role in the region.  Sharon Fisher of Global Insight presented on “The Impact of the Economic Crisisand expressed the view that the problem in the European Union lies in what she described as “a blur leadership.”  The second panelist, Simon Serfaty, CSIS, addressedEU Futures.” Serfaty argued that now more than ever, the EU is mired in a totality crisis where membership in the union is vital to its function. Stephen Flanagan, also of CSIS, presented on the topic “NATO Commitments.” Flanagan emphasized that NATO is in need of a crisis management system and there is an emerging issue of membership contribution to the alliance. In his opinion, there is more focus placed in the Middle East and North Africa where one sees the advancement of partnerships in context of the Libyan operation. He said there is an opportunity to work with Turkey to advance issues of common interests and highlighted that the U.S. Congress has a funding process for the maintenance of European security.  The final speaker of on the first panel was Stephen Larrabee, RAND Corporation, who spoke on Transatlantic Partnership.” In his remarks, Larrabee addressed Greece’s economy and predicted its default.  However, he stated that within the EU Greece is not the main problem and efforts should be placed on structuring the overall default of the EU.  In his opinion, there is a serious problem of lack of competitiveness in the markets and the EU is preoccupied within itself on how to better achieve the desired political union. Lastly, in terms of the U.S., he offered that the Obama administration, while it observes the EU crisis with great concern, places its priorities upon China’s rise and in the unfolding of the Arab spring.

Brookings Examines Turkish Foreign Policy amid Domestic Change

On October 25, 2011 AHI attended an event at the Brookings Institution titled “In the Eye of the Storm: Turkish Foreign Policy in an Age of Domestic Realignment.” Introductory remarks were offered by Strobe Talbott, president, Brookings Institution. Panelists were: Ümit Boyner, chair, Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) and Soli Özel, professor, Kadis Has University, Istanbul. Fiona Hill, director, Center of the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution, moderated the discussion.

The discussion mainly aimed to explore Turkish foreign policy and assessed the impact of domestic developments and the shifting of the civilian-military power balance on Turkey’s international relations.

With regard to Turkish accession to the EU, Boyner stated that Turkey has been faced with the discussion of whether Cyprus’s blocking of eight chapters of the ECUI was legal or illegal. However, despite this discussion, he does not think it is ethical to minimize the whole EU accession process of Turkey into the Cyprus issue, especially when the Turkish Cypriots were willing to be part of a solution in 2004 and the European Union showed an indifference to this matter. He recommended Europeans need to start rethinking how the future of Europe can be affected by reducing the Turkish problem or the Turkish accession problem to the Cyprus issue and come to terms with it. At the same time, if progress is made with issues like visa and free trade agreements before Cyprus take the temporary rotating EU presidency, it might motivate Turkey not to protest such a presidency.

Moreover, Ozel agreed that there is plenty of gas and oil in the area of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Cyprus, which can be a starting point for wars between all those parties or an opportunity to share the benefits from those resources. He also observed that before problems in the region developed, even before the sanctions against Israel in June, the Turkish government basically sent a message to the Europeans that Turkey will cut off political relations with Europe once the Greek Cypriots take the presidency.  Ozel stated that by letting this problem go unsolved that it generates even more problems. Furthermore, in his view, the issue of the Israeli – Greek Cypriot agreement becomes complicated because the exploration of the gas and oil is being given to an American company and the fragile Greek Cypriot economy is being saved by Russians. So Ozel suggested that Europeans, Americans and everyone should not think that this can go on forever as it would be truly irresponsible on their part.

Turkey’s New Geopolitics Discussion Focuses on Middle East

AHI attended an event of the Center of the Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) - Schieffer Series Dialogue titled “Turkey’s New Geopolitics” on November 14, 2011.   Panelists were: Tom Friedman, best-selling author and New York Times columnist; Mort Abramowitz, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; and Bulent Aliriza, CSIS Turkey project director.  Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent, CBS News, and anchor, CBS News' "Face of the Nation” moderated the panel. 

Discussion focused on matters of international defense and security as well as international trade and economics.

CBS News’ Bob Schieffer explored Turkey’s role in the Middle East with his three panelists. Turkey’s relevance in the region is as a bridge between Israel and Iran, Tom Friedman argued. If recent transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain were implosions, Friedman expects a similar change in Syria to be an explosion, pulling in every key power in the region. The United States and Turkey are doomed to be friends for the near future, he said, given the instability in the region.

The United States hopes Turkey can ensure the Kurdish regional government survives and limits Iranian influence in Iraq, Abramowitz said, but Syrian unrest has weakened the Iran-Turkey connection at a time when Turkey is under increasing pressure to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Turkey used to do what the United States could not or would not do—talk to Tehran and Damascus—but Turkey’s role as a bridge is under pressure from both sides, Aliriza argued. Turkey’s economic ties to Russia and Iran make it unlikely Turkey will support new sanctions on Iran.

Sarbanes Sponsors Religious Freedom Reception on St. Andrew’s Feast Day

On November 30, 2011, AHI attended a Human Rights and Religious Freedom Reception and Viewing of the documentary film “Apostle of Love, Hope and Reconciliation” on the occasion of the tribute to Saint Andrew the Patron Saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) was the main sponsor of this event, which served as the inaugural St. Andrew’s Human Rights and Religious Freedom Reception. Senator Ben Cardin and Representative Chris Smith of The Helsinki Commission, Representatives Frank Wolf and James P. McGovern of The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Representatives Trent Franks and Heath Shuler of The International Religious Freedom Caucus and Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Carolyn Maloney and John Sarbanes of the Hellenic Caucus were all sponsors of the event.

Opening remarks on the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were offered by Peter Marudas, former chief of staff to former Senator Paul Sarbanes. He addressed the pogrom of the Christian minority in Istanbul in the context of secularist Turkish state. The State Department’s Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, Suzanne Johnson Cook, also spoke to the Obama Administration’s support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. These remarks were followed by a presentation of “The Apostle of Love, Hope and Reconciliation,” a short documentary film about the mission of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The documentary addressed the influential leadership of the Patriarch, highlighting his committed efforts towards environmental matters. His title “Green Patriarch” was particularly addresses in the context of his efforts to make a connection between two of God’s greatest creations: the natural world and human nature. Also, his leadership profile and loyalty to his Holy cause was highlighted as it has been widely recognized by not only the Muslim and Catholic communities but also by U.S. government high ranking officials, like former Vice President Al Gore, former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama. He has been identified as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time and stands as a Christian leader of global significance committed to interfaith conciliation.

The event was widely attended by the Pan-Orthodox community and others who support the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its struggle for human rights and religious freedom. The many members of Congress who came to offer their well wishes were given a brochure detailing the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and a replica coin of the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by the U.S. Congress. St. Andrew is the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and on November 30 he is venerated in both the Western and Eastern Church. Keeping with tradition all guests were treated to pastries and refreshments in honor of the Feast Day.