Volume 6, Issue 3—June-July 2014
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.
Transatlantic Economic Forum: Building Bridges across the Mediterranean
On June 3, the AHI attended part of a conference hosted by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on economic ties in the Mediterranean. The Center for Transatlantic Relations organized the two-day event. It brought together representatives from the North African and Balkan regions that came to discuss the business climates in their respective countries. Transatlantic trade agreements have been a reoccurring topic in the Washington think-tank community and much attention has been given to agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would make trade and business between the United States and Europe free as well as create a more globalized environment between these two economic powers. As a result, neighboring, non-EU countries are appealing for similar free trade agreements.
AHI attended the panel titled “Investment Opportunities in the Western Balkans.” Speakers included: Esad Pelidija, chief of staff to the CEO, Energoinvest; Mujo Selimovic, CEO, MIMS Group; Fathi Noah, business consultant, Libya; and H.E. Zoran Jolevski, ambassador of the Former Yugoslavia Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM) to the United States. Much of the discussion centered on energy potential in the region.
Ambassador Jolevski’s presentation focused on why FYROM is an ideal location for foreign business interests. Its main investors and trading partners are Germany and Greece, in addition to its other Balkan neighbors. FYROM’s major priorities include its intentions to join the EU and NATO. He mentioned that FYROM has met all of the requirements to join NATO but because of its relationship with Greece, it has not yet been invited.
The ambassador also discussed several new governmental programs designed to increase FYROM’s appeal to external partners such as a mandatory education, low cost of labor and low business taxes.
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Digital Forensics and Justice in Turkey: The Sledgehammer Case
AHI attended a briefing on Capitol Hill regarding the rule of law in the investigation of the Sledgehammer case on June 9, 2014. Panelists included: Pinar Dogan (lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and daughter of the prime suspect in the case, imprisoned retired general Cetin Dogan) and Mark Spencer, president, Arsenal Consulting.
“Operation Sledgehammer” refers to the alleged 2003 secularist military coup plan which was claimed to be in response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), gaining office. Reports of the alleged plot first surfaced in the liberal Taraf newspaper. Court documents claimed that the plan was intended to cause chaos thus justifying the overthrow of the government by a military coup. The Sledgehammer case gave rise to considerable controversy as a result of an unprecedented amount of evidence-tampering having been uncovered using digital forensics, among other techniques.
According to Pinar Dogan, this case should not be viewed as an independent incident in Turkish politics, but as a systematic effort on the part of the Turkish government to consolidate power by reducing the influence of the country’s secular military. Dogan provided examples of evidence-tampering on the part of the police and the prosecutors in three separate cases, Kafes-Poyrazkoy, Ergenekon, and the Istanbul spying case. Dogan alleges that in these cases, the police and the prosecutors appear either to have had inside information or to have assisted in planting incriminating evidence in order to discredit the government’s opponents. According to Dogan, the pattern in all these cases involves the production of evidence by anonymous informants who provide alleged “originals” of secret documents detailing criminal activities, followed by selective leaks of these “revelations” to the media. For example, in the Sledgehammer case, the prosecutors insisted on assigning a hand-picked expert to assess the authenticity of the evidence and they denied access to evidence and reports to the defense while leaking those reports to the media. They even went so far as to hide correspondence in which it appears the prosecutors had tried to verify the authenticity of disputed evidence (e.g. the existence in 2003 of a hospital that was referred to in one of the documents) and in which they had received letters that revealed forgery. Dogan stated this is a large-scale operation in which “a large group of people are fabricating evidence and making mistakes in the process, and the police and the prosecutors are cooperating with them.”
In a direct response to her father’s detention, Dogan sought the help of Arsenal consulting, a company that specializes in analyzing digital forensic evidence. Arsenal’s report affirmed Dogan’s claims that the evidence upon which the convictions were based was forged. According to Spencer, the Sledgehammer case represents a case-study in sophisticated digital forgery. Specifically, even though one of the CDs that allegedly contained evidence of conspiracy was supposed to have been created in a single session, and therefore should have been “sealed” in March 5 2003, Arsenal’s experts were able to trace indisputable anachronisms and logical inconsistencies (for example, the CD contains names of agencies and firms that were not created until 2009). Most importantly, the experts were able to analyze the forensic images of the CDs and the metadata on them, only to realize that the CD contained font types that had not been designed by Microsoft in 2003 (e.g. Cambria and Calibri). Moreover, they realized that the CDs contained compressed information which was revealed, upon decompression, to have been introduced in the document in 2006. Also, when they analyzed critical evidence from the hard drive in the CYDD case (Association for Contemporary Living, a NGO whose board members were accused of intending to recruit a new Ergenekon member) the experts discovered a suspicious restore point after the serial number that indicated that the Windows had shut down, as well as the existence of more than 74,000 transactions made after that point. Notably, every piece of evidence that was cited in the indictment was created after the restore point and was included in the subsequent transactions.
According to Pinar Dogan, the motive behind fabricating a fictional military coup is probably the AKP’s desire to restrict freedom, justice, and democracy by reducing the influence of secular minded people while having the party’s own people go up in the rank. In Dogan’s view, revenge against prominent figures of the military establishment could be an additional reason for devising this plot against the government. Dogan finally noted that “the judiciary was never independent in the first place.” However, what makes Operation Sledgehammer an extremely important case is the fact that in this instance a series of incredulous pieces of evidence reveals the degree to which the judiciary and the police are cooperating with a group of people that will go so far as to fabricate evidence to incriminate innocent people and to deprive them of their right to a fair trial. In Dogan’s own words, “this is not the way to democracy for Turkey.”
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100 Year Anniversary of WWI: A Balkan Perspective
AHI attended an event on World War I at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on June 12. The key speaker was Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, a British historian who specializes in Bosnia.
Dr. Hoare traced the events that led to June 28, 1914, the start of WWI and the eventual collapse of four European empires. WWI was first and foremost a Balkan conflict, he said. The great powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia all had conflicts with the Balkans by 1914. The Austria-Hungary conquest of Bosnia led to a territorial conflict. However, the collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian empire lead to the unification of the Slavs, Dr. Hoare noted. After the Balkan wars, Serbia doubled in size.
Hoare also discussed the Black Hand, the extremist nationalist group that authorized the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, by Gavrilo Princip. There were unrestrained power struggles between Serbs and Bosniaks at the time leading to the assassination of the archduke, Dr. Hoare noted. He made the argument that the assassination led to the Bosniak genocide and triggered World War I, as Austria-Hungary responded by invading Serbia. In fact, the extremist motto of the Black Hand was “unification or death.” Since 1918, Bosniaks are still unsatisfied with land reform and conflict in their region, said Dr. Hoare.
He also mentioned WWI was preceded by several liberal revolutions in Europe, in which countries gained their independence. He noted 19th century Greece as an example of a liberal revolution. Toward the end he made another comment in reference to modern-day Greece, saying, “When a country gets into the EU it behaves worse.” However, the main focus of Dr. Hoare’s remarks was that the assassination of June 28 led to political conflict and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, as well as a divisive nationalism in the Balkans for a century to come.
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Energy Security in the Black Sea Region
AHI attended a discussion on the relationship between the Black Sea region and energy security hosted by the Global Europe Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center on June 19. The key presenter was Marti Tsanov, an energy expert at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Bulgaria.
Energy security and governance are largely tied together. The smaller the resources, the more corruption, Tsanov said. Tsanov gave a presentation on the current outlook on energy security risks for countries in the Black Sea region. He used the International Index of Energy Security Risks developed at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to assess current energy security risks across various countries. The Ukraine is one of the least energy secure countries, he said. Tsanov said that managing security ricks in this region is complex because there are multiple national and regional issues that come into play.
Tsanov discussed reasons that Black Sea countries traditionally remain trapped in a cycle of energy dependence and energy poverty. He believes Russia and the EU play a huge role in this issue. Key examples of Russian leverage in the area include, but are not limited to, widespread corporate involvement, social programs, traditional lobbying with political and security links, and soft power (in other words, the impact of Russian culture, music and media influence). Tsanov discussed Bulgaria extensively as well in light of its numerous internal government deficiencies and continued external pressure by Russia. As an EU member state, Bulgaria can be helped by the EU. .
Tsanov further stated that the U.S can be instrumental in addressing some of the main energy security deficiencies countries in this region possess. Although the U.S. has worked specifically with governments in the Black Sea region, there is still little efficiency. However, Tsanov said technology allows for more U.S. involvement in the region and can be used efficiently. Assessing America’s own vulnerabilities in the global energy market is an important tool as well, he added.
Tsanov added that countries such as Turkey, that have indigenous fossil fuels, rank better in terms of energy expenditure and efficiency. He mentioned Turkey as having a very low energy security risk because they have a lower expenditure-to-GDP ratio and higher incomes.
Tsanov briefly mentioned the energy terminal in Greece and said it was weak because tankers are not allowed in the Bosporus. However, he said the Bulgaria-Greek interconnector is the most viable and sustainable option that could bring gas supplies to Bulgaria although this project has been under construction for six years already and progress has been limited. He cited a reverse flow problem as the reason. Typically, it takes a minimum of five to ten years for an energy pipeline to become operational.
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The Solution to the Cyprus Problem: Famagusta, Energy, and Public Relations
AHI attended an event titled, “The Solution to the Cyprus Problem” featuring Alexis Galanos, mayor of Famagusta, at the Hudson Institute, June 20 2014. Mayor Galanos shared his perspective on the updated diagnosis for the prospects of reunification of Cyprus.
After years of failed attempts to reach a settlement, the Joint Declaration agreement reached in February has spurred new reunification efforts. Mayor Galanos’ main argument was that the return of the city of Famagusta to the Republic of Cyprus can be the key to the island’s reunification. The withdrawal of the unnecessary Turkish troops in Cyprus is the first step for rebuilding Famagusta, he said.
Mayor Galanos reminded attendees that the Turkish-occupied city is a “ghost town” that is trying to keep the fabric of its society together. After the Anan Plan was rejected, the people of Famagusta obtained 35,000 signatures from those who sought a return to their homeland, which were then presented to the United States.
Galanos also said the natural gas in his region is “a blessing and a curse.” Although Turkey may be an important natural gas consumer, the “roots and pipes may be more important than the natural gas itself,” he said. Because it will take years to develop these resources, Galanos cautioned against depending on it heavily in Cyprus’s immediate future.
Currently, the U.S. recognizes the importance of the partnership between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and their cooperation on ongoing regular naval exercises. The U.S. has shown a very active interest in the region for the past two years perhaps due to the strengthened relations between Greece and Israel, said Galanos. The U.S. has more leverage than EU involvement. Regarding Famagusta, Galanos believes that U.S. experts must visit the city in order to provide sound advice on how it can be rebuilt successfully.
Galanos shared that the rebuilding of Famagusta can be beneficial for all negotiating parties. If Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan allowed its reunification, then it would enhance his position in the West and create stability in Turkey. While the question of settlements is a difficult one, even Turkish Cypriots want to belong to a legal entity, he said. Ultimately, Galanos does believe there are hopes for a peaceful alliance. “We don’t want confrontation,” he said.
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EU: A New Agenda after the European Elections?
AHI attended a discussion on the European Union’s future prospects following the recent EU elections at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on June 24. Panelists included Ambassador Francesco Olivieri, head of the Washington office for Enel and former Italian ambassador to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; Phillip Crowther, Washington D.C. correspondent for France 24; Daniele Moro, visiting scholar at SAIS, and Matthias Matthijs, assistant professor of International Political Economy.
Professor Matthijs began the discussion with a premise that democratic legitimacy is important for nation-states. The European Parliament is progressively becoming “more democratic but also more complicated,” he said. Each of the twenty-seven leaders has their own different priorities, which make it difficult to give supranational legitimacy to the European Parliament. There is no European “demos,” said Matthijs. He believes strengthening the European Parliament, however, will not solve the deficit problem because the euro is not something everyone can gain from. He reminded the audience that it took the U.S. one hundred years to form a common currency but that even the dollar became a part of an already established political union. Europe is doing the reverse by focusing on a monetary union without a political union. However, a monetary union is indeed a political matter with the issue of distribution, Matthijs said. He described the European Central Bank as “technocrats,” and concluded that European integration is no longer working. Contrary to elite thinking, this is not a crisis from which we can make a leap forward.
Journalist Philip Crowther mentioned that the U.S. does, in fact, want to be able to rely on one, unified European voice. However, the UK’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron fears a power grab by the European Parliament. There is a commission, a counsel, and a parliament, each without a clear leader. Europe is slowly moving further right and with “gigantic fragmentation,” Crowther said. The young people in Italy and other southern European nations believe in this new European reality and are typically more skeptical of the Euro as a result.
Ambassador Olivieri spoke about the “bell tower mentality” – in other words, a lack of interest in anything outside one’s own village, specifically in Italy. “Italians are loyal to institutions,” he said, specifically to family and municipality. Olivieri believes that the Brussels project deserves to be cultivated as part of Europe’s future. Even though the traditional support of family in Italy is declining, people still believe in democracy enough to vote, Olivieri noted. He also said, “If you cannot spell out why you are a nation in a couple pages, then you don’t deserve to try.” He believes that the Europeans will not be able to form a constitution. “Identity is not a matter of what you have in common, but what differentiates you with others,” which leaves room for a larger pool, he said.
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Europe's Wake-up Call: How to Reverse the Tide of Euroscepticism
AHI attended an event organized by the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University that focused on Euroscepticism on June 25. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the United Kingdom, Daniel Alexander, a Liberal Democrat, spoke on the rise of Euroscepticism and the future of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.
Alexander first commented on the results of the recent European elections. A notable change in those elections was the fact that a number of populist and even neo-Nazi parties were able to gain seats in the European parliament.
The most significant result of the European elections, Alexander contended, is that despite the electoral success of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), popular support in the UK for the country’s membership in the EU actually increased during that period. The latest poll suggested an eight-point lead for those who want the UK to stay in the EU, the largest lead recorded since 2010. Alexander contended that pro-Europeans should be confident that British people would not vote for leaving the EU not only because the public is fully aware of the negative consequences of an exit, but also because British voters wish their country would assume and retain a leadership position both regionally and globally. The EU is a global economic superpower, he noted, and it would be foolish on Britain to turn its back to it. The UK needs to stay in the EU in order to be effective in fighting today’s most prominent challenges: terrorism, climate change, and the barriers to global free trade. Alexander stated the EU has flaws and it must reform, for example, by completing its economic integration and realizing the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. But Britain can assist Europe make those reforms by assuming a leadership position in the EU and not by threatening to leave it.
Alexander also maintained the future of the UK with respect to its relationship with the EU is a matter of great importance to the United States. He reminded the audience the UK is the most serious defense, security and intelligence partner to the U.S.; one of the strongest promoters of transatlantic trade and investment partnership in the EU, and a zealous proponent of liberal economic reforms in the EU including a greener economy. He suggested the United State benefits the most when both Britain and the EU are strong, and that the UK-US relationship is stronger when the UK leads in Europe.
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NATO in an Era of Global Competition
The Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies hosted a conference on NATO at the Atlantic Council on June 25 that AHI attended. With the upcoming NATO Summit in September, this event focused on what NATO means to the world as the security landscape in Europe and other parts of the world continue fundamentally shifting with more long-lasting changes. The core aspect of collective security continues to be caring for other country’s interests halfway across the globe. Nothing was said about the desires of FYROM to join the organization or other potential candidate states and much of the discussion focused on threats to security in the Middle East and in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
Former National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, delivered opening remarks about NATO in a more strategic context. He said that NATO needs to improve more judicially and it can “make Ukraine an example of a country that is neither fish nor fowl, and which we will deal with sympathetically.” He said the U.S. is “episodic in our attention to Ukraine.” He said the Middle East risks being a non-state entity. The dissolution of the nation-state is probable but NATO is totally unprepared on how to deal with it. Nevertheless, NATO’s thoughtful alliance is unique to history. When asked as to why the U.S. is involved internally in a country that is not part of the NATO alliance, Scowcroft replied, “The U.S., rightfully so, has seen itself as someone who can deal with harder things in a constructive, helpful way—that’s what we’re about.” The U.S. is characteristic of lending a hand at issues that are beyond the local power of the constituents. NATO and the U.S. believe strongly in democracy and are called to judiciousness, said Scowcroft.
After Scowcroft’s remarks, Norway’s Minister of Defense, Ine Soreide, delivered keynote remarks. Norway is known for bringing pragmatism to NATO. Ukraine is a stark reminder that peace and stability in Europe cannot be taken for granted, she said. Europe’s security landscape is continually shifting, but it is also important to consider that NATO also borders the Middle East and Africa. NATO also requires attention to these areas, said Soreide. She emphasized that NATO needs situational awareness. There should be a better sharing of intelligence to allies, along with distinct responsibilities and a more robust command. Additionally, there should be closer links between national countries and NATO, said Soreide. She also said there is a need to update contingency plans to actually conduct collective defense and there should be more exercises for various scenarios. Soreide’s main point was that NATO needs to become more robust, capable, and credible with the ability on short notice to perform their full capabilities. The U.S. plans for reassurance in Europe are highly welcomed by the Europeans.
In the event’s second session about the alliance and the global power shift, the Head of Policy Planning at NATO Headquarters, Fabrice Pothier, delivered his thoughts on how to improve NATO. NATO is the single preventer of countries like Turkey and Germany from having nuclear weapons. He said NATO is trapped in a mindset that it does not need to be engaged in knowledge and intelligence because it worries it is a slippery slope. Pothier believes NATO should be allowed to engage in diplomacy and politics. There is a North and South economic and strategic divide. Putin knows just how far he can go before NATO gives an Article 5 response requiring member states to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack. NATO needs to write a new white paper about national defense to become more efficient in making a collective effort, said Pothier. “We don’t always see the world the same way, but will have some common points of agreement,” he said. Apparently, China is increasingly becoming a naval power in the Mediterranean. As such, Pothier believes NATO should focus more on maritime issues in addition to land and air. He mainly believes the NATO alliance needs to engage in dialogue about what tools should be utilized in Article 5 attack as well as up its game in cyber space.
“Thank you Vladimir Putin, that actually, it’s great [to remember] that we have NATO,” said Wolfgang Ishchinger, chairman at the Munich Security Conference.
With regard to the U.S.’ future role in European security, U.S. Department of Defense official Derek Chollet said it is important to note that the U.S. has sent defense advisors to Ukraine. Although military exercises in Ukraine have been delayed, the U.S. remains very committed to it, he said. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, southern allies want to talk about countries like Libya and the issue of migration. However, the potential of alliance with Russia is “sober,” said Chollet.
Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, said that while Russia does not pose a physical threat to NATO, the Russian population in NATO might pose. Inclusive governance is the solution for those living in diverse countries (for example, Russians in Estonia). She believes President Obama’s $1 billion announcement was an overreaction, however. The U.S. gave, expecting Europe to match in return, but this is an improbably outcome, she said. The biggest challenges for deterring Putin is to figure out what we’ll fight for and convey that clearly through our words and actions. “Putin isn’t that bright. The Russians aren’t that strong,” she said. Even if we are not prepared to defend Ukraine, we will have tools to handle Russia, she said.
Director at the Security Studies Center, Etienne de Durand, said NATO must be prudent about sanctions. The real issue is money and cost, he said. Reassurance exercises should be transparent
Retired Real Admiral Jo Gade believes that although NATO may not need detailed planning as it did in the Cold War, it does need credibility. NATO depends on strong U.S. leadership and Europe needs to be more supportive to the U.S. He believes NATO should create better situational awareness. Putin has forced people to think about defense, as seen in the example of the vulnerable Estonia.
“The main threat of this hybrid warfare is the Russian army on the other side of the border,” said Juri Luik, ambassador of Estonia. Meanwhile, NATO seems to be getting more serious about the potential of its members to invoke Article 5.
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President Erdogan? Turkey’s Democratic Crisis in an Unstable Middle East
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended an event on Turkey’s democratic crisis and the implications an Erdogan presidency would have on the region. The Bipartisan Policy Center hosted the event, which was held at the Rayburn House Office Building on July 10. Panelists included: Susan Corke, representing Freedom House; Alan Makovsky, former senior staff, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Michael Werz, senior fellow at American Progress; and Blaise Misztal, foreign policy director, Bipartisan Policy Center.
The panel began by providing background information on Turkey. Misztal stated Turkey is a longtime U.S. partner, the only stable country in the Middle East, and is seeking to become a regional leader. He reminded attendees that August 10 will be the first ever direct presidential election in Turkey. He continued to say that Turkey has been noticeably silent the past few months regarding the regional chaos and that Turkey is no longer considered as strong of an ally as it had been in the past.
The discussion then shifted in focus to the corruption and scandals in Erdogan’s past as well as what his future holds. Werz noted the recent protests were not ideological, reaching across the political spectrum and then met with strong resistance on the part of the police and security forces. This signified an end to an otherwise progressive era. According to Corke, however, Erdogan has largely survived the corruption scandals and emerged unscathed. In what has become a rather consistent theme, she said, Turkey is attempting to portray itself as a liberal state while in actuality having many authoritarian trends and violations of human rights. The most notable example of such behavior is the MEAT laws, which not only give the government the right to monitor all Turkish information but supersede Turkish law and are immune to prosecutorial inquiries.
Makovsky stated that while AKP is clearly the dominant party, they fell by seven points in recent elections. Regarding the upcoming elections, all four panelists expect Erdogan to become president, a role that is typically subservient to the Prime Minister. Despite this, Corke “expects Erdogan’s presidency to be no different” from his stint as prime minister. Corke expects him to be a dominating “Putin-esque” figure in Turkish politics.
The panelists foresee 2015 as a major year in Turkish politics. They expect Erdogan to use the 2015 elections to gain a majority in the parliament, thereby allowing him to amend the constitution into a quasi-French presidential system. Overall, panelists described Erdogan as a politically brilliant “street fighter” who will demand (and more than likely attain) total victory. In the process, he is unfortunately polarizing the nation into two factions - anti-secular and extremely conservative - which worries analysts, especially as they look towards the future of U.S.-Turkey relations.
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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Confirmation Hearing
AHI attended a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of John Bass to the position of ambassador to Turkey on July 15, along with other nominees.
In opening remarks, Senator Chris Murphy, who presided over the hearing, named Turkey an important and complex ally. He stated that while the Middle East is at the top of Turkey’s foreign policy agenda, peace with Cyprus and Israel should also remain vital objectives.
Bass began by echoing the senator’s sentiments, saying that Turkey is indeed an important security partner in a tumultuous Middle East. “Turkey is shouldering a refugee burden, but I will promote security and human rights as well as the need to build relations with Israel.” Regarding Cyprus, Bass insisted that Turkey support peace settlements in order for there to be a chance for success and that he will continue to be an advocate for the rule of law.
During questioning, Bass first spoke about Turkish public perception of the U.S. and steadily increasing levels of anti-Americanism in addition to the rampant conspiracy theories leveled at the last U.S. ambassador. Bass stated his believes the U.S. needs to begin an active public relations campaign, especially in the face of Prime Minister Erdogan re-inciting historical levels of paranoia towards the west. He went on to recognize Turkey’s positive relations with the Kurds and the U.S. interest in a stable Iraq and stable oil exports. Bass noted Turkey should be careful with recent, increased ISIS activity.
When asked about his actions regarding Cyprus, Bass said he would support the current settlement discussion, especially the recent promising signs from both Athens and Ankara. He also mentioned the positivity felt by Secretary of State John Kerry as well as the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden. Senator John McCain then pressed Bass on whether he believed Turkey is moving towards authoritarianism. Bass tried to avoid the question, saying Erdogan was democratically elected, but after approximately three and a half minutes of questioning on the part of Senator McCain, the committee succeeded in eliciting a “yes or no answer” from Bass who conceded that “yes, Turkey is trending towards authoritarianism.” Bass said that the U.S. will press Turkey to commit to principles of free speech and will seek to educate Turkey on the benefits of staying democratic.
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The Future of Turkish Democracy
AHI attended a hearing on the future of Turkish democracy at the Rayburn House office building on July 15. The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, held the hearing to assess Turkey’s trajectory and current antidemocratic trends.
Led by Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the Committee first outlined a background on Turkish affairs. Royce shared that the U.S. had hoped Turkey would use the recent turmoil to move towards a more democratic path but instead, it appears to have continued down a more authoritarian one. Turkey is poised to become a key energy transit point for the EU and has done much to help refuges while dealing with the recent seizure of Turkish hostages. Royce ended his overview with three key points: political freedom cannot be measured in economic growth, the U.S. is not willing to accept stability at the price of democracy, and that Turkey is currently the biggest media “prison” in that it currently has more reporters in jail than any other country in the world.
The first expert witness was Nate Schenkkan, a Eurasia Programs program officer for Freedom House, who reported on Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian system. He continued detailing how the government harasses the media with firings, jail time, intimidation and legislation (Law 5651, for example, allows the government to essentially ban any website they choose). He concluded by warning the U.S. against Prime Minister Erdogan and his current platform and rhetoric against the West.
The expert second witness was Elizabeth H. Prodromou, visiting associate professor of conflict resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, spoke to Turkey’s lack of religious freedom. Turkey is trying to potentially change Hagia Sophia from a museum back to a mosque, despite its status as UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, its prohibition of the training of future members of the Greek Orthodox clergy furthers this negative attitude. What is most worrying, however, is the racial coding system Turkey uses to keep Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and other minorities from participating in the government. Prodromou saw this as a redefinition of what it means to be “Turkish.”
The third and fourth witnesses, Soner Cagaptay, Ph.D., Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Hakan Tasci, executive director, Tuskon-U.S.; respectively, agreed that while the AKP has grown popular due to a robust Turkish economy, it is clearly corrupt and continues to blatantly obstruct justice. Furthermore, they both saw the AKP as slowly transitioning Turkey from a European county to a Middle Eastern one. Cagaptay said that now was the time for Washington to help Turkey pivot back.
The final witness, Kilic Kanat, Ph.D., non-resident scholar at the Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research (SETA), defended the current regime’s actions, saying that Turkey’s robust middle class demanded, and would continue to demand, democracy. He claimed Prime Minister Erdogan was progressive, as evidenced by his condolences to the Armenians, and that obviously Turkey recognizes that the politically intelligent option is to be democratic.
During Q&A, the witnesses said the government used its economic power to force out businessmen with whom it disagreed in addition to purging the judiciary system and filling it with political allies. Three out of the five members of the panel brought up Cyprus as well and asked how Turkey was dealing with the situation and why its occupation continues. The witnesses all agreed there are structural problems in Turkey’s government, not just “a politician with an ego,” meaning Prime Minister Erdogan. They also said Turkey’s disregard for the rule of law was harmful to businesses. Most notably, Rep. Alan Lowenthal stated, “Turkey is turning away from the future and away from the European Union…(how many other European countries do we have to have hearings for?)” The panel concluded that while Turkey is not completely authoritarian compared to its past actions and administrations, current trends are worrying and not in the US’s best interests.
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Cyprus: Prospects for Unification
The American Hellenic Institute attended an event titled “Cyprus: Prospects for Reunification” at the Rayburn House Office Building on July 15. The American Jewish Committee and the Hellenic American Leadership Council co-hosted the event, in cooperating with the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance. The government spokesman of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, provided attendees with a briefing on Cypriot unification.
Christodoulides began by naming Cyprus one of three true democracies in the southeast Mediterranean (the others being Greece and Israel). Notably, Turkey was left out as Prime Minister Erdogan has created more power for himself. Christodoulides talked of newfound optimism and windows of opportunity and the need for a reunited Cyprus.
In light of the approaching 40th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion, Christodoulides noted the lack of confidence-building measures from Turkey, stating that Turkey is not playing a constructive role in the negotiations and is consistently flaunting the rule of law.
Christodoulides recognized that Cyprus is entering a new era in its relations with other countries. Given that Cyprus’s current president, Anastasiades, is very pro-Western and that the administration’s interests are more in line with those of the United States, he looks forward to collaborating in areas of counter-terrorism, immigration and drug trafficking. Vice President Biden’s visit, the first such high-level visit since 1962, was proof of the new path upon which the US and Cyrus are embarking. Furthermore, Cyprus is looking forward to becoming a key player in the region especially considering recent hydrocarbon discoveries in its EEZ (exclusive economic zone).
Christodoulides then provided an update and background on the ongoing negotiations. He reminded attendees that the framework for the negotiations was set on February 11. The second phase began on May 6 with the submission of proposals and position statements; however, he said Turkey’s positions were “deeply worrying.” Regardless, he finds that Turkey’s position is weaker considering changes in American attitudes towards Prime Minister Erdogan’s actions, the failure of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy, and all that has to be gained by recent energy discoveries in the region.
During Q&A, Christodoulides reiterated that the relationship between the United States and Cyprus involves more than just the “Cyprus Question” but rather cooperative economic and geostrategic efforts as well. He also asked for the U.S. to send a public message to Turkey to actively participate since the division of the island cannot be resolved without Turkey. When asked what was different about this “window of opportunity” compared to others in years past, Christodoulides said that it was multi-faceted; with Turkey’s foreign policy failures, Prime Minister Erdogan needs a success. Given Turkey’s shift towards authoritarianism, the U.S. was more willing to pressure them. Furthermore, Israel is also interested in the settlement process for the first time, both as an economic and security apparatus and due to Cyprus’s role as an informal EU ambassador for Israel. If domestic difficulties in Turkey and additional, renewed U.S. pressure could push Turkey to play a more constructive role, Christodoulides said there was hope for this round of negotiations.
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Contemporary Turkish Media Usage
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) attended an event on the media in modern Turkey at the Gallup Organization on July 29. The Broadcasting Board of Governors of the Gallup Organization hosted the event, which detailed the recent survey they had conducted on how Turks and Kurds obtained their news and how they feel about potential freedoms within the media.
The event began with Dr. Kenneth Weinstein of the Hudson Institute providing a very brief overview. Turkey is a democracy and a valued NATO ally; however, Freedom House recently classified the press in Turkey as “Not Free”, placing it at 154th in the world next to Iraq in terms of freedom. There has also been an online campaign by Turkish journalists who continue to face fines and harassment to unite in their protest of government censorship. Many journalists have fled including some from Zaman, a Gülen-affiliated paper.
The next speaker, Dr. Rajesh Srinivasan of the Gallup Organization, reported on a survey conducted in June 2014. After demonstrating its validity and its ability to represent the Turkish population, he went into the survey data. When evaluating their personal lives, Turks (and Kurds) averaged a score of 5.2/10: the same as a decade ago. The data showed 58% of respondents had confidence in the government. In addition, of the most educated respondents (tertiary education), only 34% approved of Prime Minister Erdogan. When asked about standard of living, the data showed that 57% of those surveyed approve of their standard of living. This trend held consistent for people of all income levels. Last year, all three figures were lower due to the Gezi square protests. Lastly, only 25% of respondents held a positive view of the U.S. Surprisingly, Erdogan supporters were more likely to approve of the US. Overall, more Turks in the eastern part of the country believed the press to be freer.
The main BBG speaker, Dr. Bell, provided some data as well as a brief summary of the media environment. Turks hold Russia in the most negative light. The only demographic that did not have a negative impression of the US were the younger Turks. The majority of Turks use the TV for news and then the Internet. They mainly use Turkish websites, though those who reported the news as biased tended to use English sources more often. There was no demographic that was most dissatisfied with the news. Bell concluded by saying Turkish media was sophisticated but pressured by the state, leading young Turks to turn to the Internet in their search for more unbiased sources.
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AHI meetings with State Department Officials, Congressional Offices
AHI hosted a Breakfast and Book Presentation, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus on Wednesday, July 9. Gene Rossides, AHI founder, presented his book, Kissinger & Cyprus: A Study in Lawlessness and the event was attended by congressional staffers and members of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus.
AHI also attended the 30th Annual Cyprus and Hellenic Leadership Conference on July 15-17 in Washington, DC where they were briefed by Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States George Chacalli; Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos; Cyprus Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Eric Rubin; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Amos Hochstein; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ); House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA); and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).
In June and July, AHI met with the offices of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE).
AHI also hosted the incoming DCM to the American Embassy in Nicosia Pam Tremont and Cyprus Desk Officer Amy Dove at the Hellenic House for a briefing prior to Tremont’s departure.
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For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at https://www.ahiworld.org or follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC
The American Hellenic Institute is a nonprofit public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and also within the American Hellenic community.
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AHI Capital Report, Vol. 6 Issue 3