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AHI Capital Report, Vol. 8 Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1—January-July 2016


July 25, 2016—No. 01 (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.


Wilson Center Event Takes a Look at Turkey

The American Hellenic Institute attended a Woodrow Wilson Center event titled, “Turkey in 2016: Domestic Politics, EU Relations and Beyond,” on January 21, 2016.  It featured Bulent Aras, Senior Fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, Sabanci University and Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center; Michelle Egan, Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Professor and Jean Monnet Chair ad personam at American University’s School of International Service; Fuat Keyman, Director of the Istanbul Policy Center and Professor of International Relations at Sabanci University; and Amberin Zaman, Columnist, Al Monitor and Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Henri J. Barkey, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, moderated.

Aras emphasized the long historical connection between Turkey and the West. He noted the primary point of interest between the EU and Turkey focuses on the refugee crisis. The focal point between the U.S. and Turkey remains the Syrian conflict. Domestically, particularly on the issue of democratization, Turkey has kept the West at arms’ length. However, in terms of security, Turkey has the ability to leverage the extent of its involvement with Daesh and the refugee crisis. Therefore, Turkey remains motivated to recalibrate and wield itself into a regional power.  

Egan focused her remarks on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. She believes the EU may be hesitant at the moment to proceed with the processes of enlargement given fears of further destabilization in the aftermath of the acceptance of Bulgaria and Romania. She also mentioned the need for a Cyprus solution prior to there being a serious possibility for Turkey’s membership.  Her presentation outlined three possible future scenarios. First, is the potential for a continuation of a stalled accession process. The second is the effect of disintegration trends within the EU and the potential consequences of Britain exiting the union. This is particularly significant because of Britain’s longstanding support for Turkish acceptance, Egan added. The third scenario would be the necessity of a membership guarantee in order for Turkey seriously to implement reforms. She concluded her argument by mentioning that the strategic value of Turkey as member of the EU is often recognized for the wrong reasons.

Keyman ventured to make an argument that Turkey can be regarded as a buffer state for crises in the region. He referred to the tendency to equate the AK party with Turkey as a whole when criticizing its foreign policy.  He called the current situation a puzzle between the tendencies to drift from the West and the rapprochement (at the time) with Europe.  This revitalization of relations he argues is based solely on security concerns and issues of democracy and rule of law are left to the side. He warned against the dangers of focusing on security and neglecting other areas. He argued Turkey has the capacity to work as a buffer when it comes to the refugee crisis and the Syrian conflict. The revitalization encourages the West to redefine the role of Turkey as either a neighborhood partner or a future member. He remained confident that the appropriate way to engage Turkey would be as a partner; however, this role is heavily reliant on a currently uncertain state of domestic stability.

To conclude opening remarks, Zamanv provided a different angle to the discussion. Her observations began with her perspective of the inseparable nature of domestic and foreign policy issues. Her comments focused on the domestic issues that in her opinion must be equally analyzed. She focused on media freedom and the treatment of Kurds along with the conflict in the southeastern part of the country. She also cautioned against the distinctions made by analysts between the YPG and the PKK. In her opinion the two are the same, understanding Kurds as segregated into different groups misses the basic understanding of the Kurdish people.

During Q&A, the moderator asked the panel to address Turkey’s true motives as a regional actor. The general agreement among the panel stood in regard to Turkey’s domestic discord. Aras mentioned the significant leverage Turkey maintains to promote its interests in the MENA region. Keyman argued that Turkey may be better regarded as a soft power actor to resolve security concerns. Zaman emphasized Turkey’s domestic turmoil and therefore should not be considered as a reliable global actor until its domestic affairs are in order. Egan pointed out that Turkey is not a unified singular actor and that interests are divided because the country itself is divided. An audience member asked the panel if Turkey had missed its opportunity for accession into the EU.  Egan replied that many members in the EU have different perspectives on accepting Turkey into the union. Furthermore, it is not an insignificant detail that the question of Cyprus has yet to be resolved. On the question of allowing self-governance for the Kurdish people, Zaman mentioned that Turkey needs to come to terms with this request. The breakdown of institutions in Turkey was a topic of dispute amongst the panelists. In Turkey, the delineation between law and politics is blurred while some argued that is an unalterable reality; others argued that it must be changed.



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FYROM Defense Minister Talks Security and the Refugee Crisis at GMF

The German Marshall Fund (GMF) held a talk on “Security and the Refugee Crisis in the Western Balkans,” featuring FYROM Defense Minister Ambassador Zoran Jolevski, February 2. Ivan Vejvoda, senior vice president for Programs, GMF, moderated.  AHI attended.

In opening remarks, Vejvoda stated he did not think a “stronger” border between Greece and FYROM would be a great idea.

Ambassador Jolevski opened with an overview of the state of the refugee influx and offered that the EU needed a comprehensive strategy and work to improve things in Syria. He mentioned FYROM had been working with Greece on the refugee crisis. He also cited as an issue the ability to identify refugees accurately.  Major information discrepancies are present.  He added, the fence FYROM built along its border with Greece is important to streamline inflow of migrants.  He shared his concern about the potential “domino effect” if northern European countries begin closing their borders and reiterated the importance of the European Commission inviting the Balkan countries to Brussels for further discussion.

During Q&A, AHI raised the issue of the consequences upon Greece of closing the FYROM/Greece border, which resulted in a swelling of numbers of refugees trapped in economically-strapped Greece and could therefore destabilize it. Ambassador Jolevski replied the Ministries of Interior between the two countries have improved their communication and cooperation dramatically and made the decision in August 2015, in Brussels, to allow only individuals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to pass through.

Vejvoda raised the FYROM-name recognition issue following Q&A, asserting the stability of the region and the stability of Euro-Atlantic integration is at risk as a result of the issue.  Vejvoda asked if the ambassador saw hope for FYROM to join NATO without a resolution to this issue. In response, the ambassador stated FYROM was and continues to be engaged in good faith to find a mutually-acceptable solution.  He said an invitation for FYROM to join NATO would benefit the whole region, including Greece.  The ambassador added the 1995 UN-brokered Interim Accord stated that FYROM should be allowed to join international organizations under “the reference,” and with the situation in Europe, it is important that NATO’s presence in the region is stronger. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t committed to working with Greece” because we still will be reminding summit attendees that as of the 2008 NATO summit, FYROM has fulfilled all necessary criteria only to have the process still blocked.



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NPC Discussion: Energy Dependency and Future of Energy Politics around Turkey

AHI attended a discussion on the future of Turkey’s energy security at the National Press Club, February 3.  The speakers at the event titled, “Energy Dependency and Future of Energy Politics around Turkey,” were Douglas Hengel, senior resident fellow, German Marshall Fund; David Livingston, an associate in the Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and David Romano, associate professor of Politics and Government in the Middle East at Missouri State University.

Hengel opened with how energy security is defined differently throughout the world. In the United States, energy security is based on the price of gasoline. In Europe, energy security is defined by the supply of gas. Hengel stated that Turkey is a rapidly growing economy and the demand for natural gas will drastically increase. He discussed a bill in the Turkish Assembly that would open up the gas supply market because the storage of natural gas is quite low in the country.

On Turkey, Livingston added the country could be a gas hub by 2030. The challenge for Turkey will be moving from the formative stage of being a gas hub to transitioning into a more mature, liquid market in competition with other gas hubs in Europe. It will be extremely difficult to compete with Russia and Iran since both countries have significant gas reserves.

Romano transitioned the discussion to the politics in Turkey. The AKP government came into power in 2002 with the promise to increase energy and job creation. The economy and the need for more gas in Turkey has steadily grown since 2002. Because of this, Turkey is currently searching for multiple sources of gas, including Iraqi Kurdistan and potentially Israel.  

Hengel remarked there have been two potential sources of gas to Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. One, the Aphrodite Field in the Republic of Cyprus, is not enough to supply Turkey with natural gas.  Therefore, Turkey must discuss buying natural gas from Israel. Hengel stated he does not see Israeli natural gas exported to Turkey until 2020.  As such, natural gas from Azerbaijan, Qatar, and the United States are all possibilities.  

During Q&A, it was asked if the discovery of natural gas in Cyprus would assist in the unification of the island. The panelists did not give a concrete answer on whether the discovery of natural gas on the island would help or hinder reunification. Hengel did say that Cyprus has not been this close to unification since 2004.


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Brookings Examines Populism in Turkey

AHI attended a presentation at the Brookings Institution by Nora Fisher Onar on her paper about Turkey titled, “The Populism/Realism Gap: Managing Uncertainty in Turkey’s Politics and Foreign Policy,” February 4.  The paper explores the tensions between populism and realism as a driver of uncertainty in Turkey’s domestic and foreign affairs.  Following the presentation, Sonar Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Alan Makovsky, Center for American Progress; and Kadir Ustun, SETA Foundation; offered commentary. Kemal Kirisci, TUSIAD Senior Fellow and Director of the Turkey Project at Brookings, moderated.

Nora Fisher Onar opened with an overview of what populism is and its prevalence in countries around the world, including the United States. Populists claim to champion the masses, however, they seek to ultimately strengthen their power through established political elites, she said. The common practices of populists programs include the use of dramatic imagery and simple language. Articulating the grievances of those who feel disenfranchised often resorts to sexist and xenophobic rhetoric. Onar transitioned this to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s role as a populist leader and his impact on foreign policy-making. She argued that in Turkey such populist agendas impede level-headed assessments of national and geostrategic interests. The paper divides the recent history of AKP rule into three periods of domestic populism and the impacts on geopolitical realism. The first period is defined as the ‘EU Era’ between 2002-2008 and is characterized by a pro-Western orientation. From 2009 to 2012, deemed the ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ phase, is significantly more Euro-skeptic and anti-western in nature. This strategically arose from the global economic crisis, which Turkey weathered better than the West. Most recently, from 2013 to 2015, Turkey has become increasingly polarized following an election cycle. Following the Arab Spring in 2011, Turkey pursued a policy of regional leadership. However populist patterns of governance, the personalization of policy-making and a projection of partisanship onto the geopolitical arena marked foreign policy moves. The paper goes into more detail on regional policies involving the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian conflict, and the Kurdish question.

Sonar Cagaptay and Alan Makovsky praised her thesis and agreed with the link between domestic and foreign policy of Turkey. Cagaptay noted that Russia would be the most significant challenge to Turkey in future foreign policy decision-making. Makovsky noted that domestically, Erdogan is striving to develop a ‘pious’ generation through education heavily influenced by religion.  As such Makovsky argues that upholding human rights both domestically and in Turkey’s foreign policy will be tested. Finally, Ustun disagreed with the premise of Onar’s paper and argued instead that the populist Erdogan does not dictate the strategic and security driven maneuvers of Turkish foreign policy.

During Q&A, the panelists were asked about what Erdogan will do moving forward in the negotiations on Cyprus. Kadir Ustun argued that Erdogan would not obstruct a potential deal. According to him, the policy toward Cyprus will be considered through the lens of achieving better ties with the European Union. He went on to mention that the same would be true for Israel and expressed the need for positive relations between the two nations because of energy complications. Makovsky argued that Erdogan would not be the obstacle to a solution in Cyprus; he would not reject a deal as long as he does not seemingly ‘sell out’ the Turkish Cypriots. Kirisci and Cagaptay agreed with this point. Cagaptay continued the discussion on Cyprus by mentioning that Turkey recognizes the need to normalize relations with Cyprus and Greece. However, he maintains that Russia is the greatest challenge and barrier to reaching a solution in Cyprus.


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Georgetown Hosts 2016 Transatlantic Policy Symposium: Divided Europe? Straining the Limits of Unity

AHI attended three panels of an all-day symposium concerning issues of importance facing Europe, February 19, at Georgetown University.

Panel One: Challenges from Within: Navigating Internal Divisions

The speakers addressing the first panel were: Luke Devenish, graduate student at the College of Europe; Fatlum Gashi, graduate student at Central European University; Amaleia Kolovos, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Denver; and Silvia Merler, Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University.

Merler began by noting the economic and financial issues between northern and southern Europe that have caused political fracturing within the EU. The unemployment rate within the southern countries of the EU has dramatically increased while unemployment in the northern countries is relatively stable. In some southern countries, youth unemployment is up to 25%, causing southern countries to be increasingly dissatisfied with the EU. Nearly every country within the EU is increasingly skeptical of its institutions and there is a rising perception of a democratic deficit within the population of the EU. A discussion (at the time) to send troops to the FYROM-Greece border to stem the flow of refugees in Europe has not helped the problem of trust between the people and EU institutions.

Kolovos followed with the potential implications of a Greek exit to the EMU. If Greece were to exit the EMU, it is very possible that other countries would exit as well, including Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy. This would further decrease monetary instability within the EMU. The idea of a Grexit occurred due to catastrophic trade imbalances. Austerity measures in Greece have been very disruptive toward growth.  Kolovos proposed several recommendations including: enhanced fiscal integration and discipline within the EMU, a supranational taxing system, and fiscal harmonization. A lack of political will with EMU countries poses a challenge to implementing any recommendations. The Greek debt crisis would have been less severe if there was a stronger fiscal union in Europe, she said. Poor governance in Greece would have been acted upon more quickly and the country would not have ended up in an extreme fiscal crisis if there was a stronger fiscal union, she maintained.

Gashi presented on the migrant crisis in Europe. The crisis has caused an increase in catastrophes like the attacks in Paris and an increase in human trafficking, Gashi opined.  Due to a lack of established rules to deal with the refugee crisis, European leaders are having trouble finding consensus to resolve the issue. Gashi stated the EU should create a Migration and Refugee subcommittee within the European Economic and Social Committee. The subcommittee will protect human rights, provide access to healthcare and education, and coordinate with NGOs that work with refugees.

Devenish spoke about the rise of Euro-skeptic parties in the EU and how to increase European identity. Since 2009, there has been a significant rise in the proportion of Euro-skeptic parties within the EU. In order to increase a European identity to decrease the rise of Euro-skepticism, the EU must be granted exclusive competence within the field of education. Curriculums must also be harmonized through a European perspective. There should be an increased focus on mandatory foreign language classes in primary education, increasing the possibility of relating to other European countries.  

Panel Two: European Insecurity: Addressing External Threats and Pressures

Motria Chaban, assistant program officer, International Republican Institute; Thomas Cunningham, energy diplomacy officer, U.S. Department of State; Dr. Peter Engelke, resident senior fellow, Atlantic Council; and Brent Goff, chief news anchor and talk show host at Deutsche Welle; addressed European Insecurity.

Chaban discussed how corruption within EU countries has become a significant problem. Corruption makes these countries extremely vulnerable to external intervention. There must be enhanced linkages between civil society and governmental officials to decrease the amount of corruption within the EU.

Engelke spoke about the need for Europe to accept as many refugees as possible. Europe has a dramatically low birthrate and a very aging society compared to the Middle East and North Africa, where the majority of refugees are coming from. The refugee crisis has exposed vulnerability in the EU. The refugee crisis has questioned European identity and it will be questioned for the foreseeable future while more refugees from the Middle East and North Africa continue to arrive in Europe for safe haven.

Goff believes there is a democracy deficit in Europe. It is very unlikely the public will ever know the major decisions made in the EU because decisions are made behind closed doors, Goff said. This process makes it hard for EU citizens to identify with the EU. Therefore, there is a significant lack of knowledge and disconnect between the general population and EU institutions.

Cunningham discussed rising countries such as China and Brazil. Leaders from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) must work together in order to be competitive against the rising economies. There must be increased transatlantic partnerships because of the new economic actors. Europe is currently interested in a common energy union, which is extremely important for energy integration in order to be competitive with external forces.

Panel Three: United in Diversity or Fortress Europe? Tackling the Evolving Migration Crisis.

Dr. Philipp Ackerman, Embassy of Germany; Klaus Botzet, from the EU Delegation to the U.S.; David DiGiovanna, U.S. Department of State Department; Dr. Elzbieta Gozdziak, professor, Georgetown University and Dr. Demetrios Papademetriou, Migration Policy Institute, discussed Europe’s migration crisis.

Papademetriou stated the EU is not built to deal with geopolitical issues. The lack of leadership and the flaws in the relocation formula has not adequately addressed the migration crisis, he said. The fundamental problem comes down to the unwilling member states being intimidated by the council to accept conditions. However, upon taking those conditions to their respective countries, the unwilling member states fail to follow through with their promises.

Gozdziak focused on the human factor of the migration crisis. She referred to the true crisis as one of reception. Hostile public opinion in certain member states has led many refugees to refuse their relocation assignment. Gozdziak emphasized that a shift in mentality must be made to encourage reception. In her opinion, this change can only come from the bottom up.

Botzet followed by pointing out the phenomenon of global migration outside of just the Syrian refugee crisis. He mentioned it is a global responsibility and the EU may just be the first to deal with it, but the EU cannot be the only one. He mentioned the EU objectives to save lives and ensure protection of refugees through the organization of hotspots, increasing Frontex capacity, establishing joint action plans with Turkey, and focusing on the common security and defense policy. He mentioned the importance of NATO as a mediator between the Turkish and Greek governments to encourage full communication on the topic of boarder security.

Ackerman spoke to the importance of civil society and a working bureaucracy. He believes this will not be the last of migration crises. At this moment, the refugees may be fleeing conflict but in the future more migration crises could emerge from displaced people due to natural disasters. Ackerman pointed out all EU countries need to understand that their low birth rates makes it logical to accept refugees.

DiGiovanna addressed the transatlantic angle of managing the migration crisis. He focused on the commitments the U.S. has to addressing the Syrian conflict, increasing resettlement and humanitarian aid, and increasing cooperation between the US-EU. On the last point, he emphasized the importance of sharing best practices. His conclusion is that the U.S. has many things it can do, and is trying to do, in the face of this crisis.

Following the conclusion of their remarks, panelists were asked if migration is the new normal, what are the solutions for the medium term? Papademetriou said a solution would include focusing on the importance of rethinking different structures in our societies, adding that that people will manage rather than normalize the phenomenon.  Other panelists emphasized the importance of integration along with education and job creation.


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CSIS Examines the Global Refugee and Humanitarian Crisis Implications for International Development

AHI attended an event on the refugee crisis hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, February 23, titled, “The Global Refugee and Humanitarian Crisis: Implications for International Development” Andrew Natsios, currently director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and professor at Texas A&M University, keynoted the event.  The remarks were followed by a panel discussion on the same topic.  Panelists included: John Brause, director, World Food Programme in Washington; Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner, UNHCR; William Garvelink, senior adviser, CSIS; and Catherine Wiesner United States Department of State.

Natsios, who is a former USAID administrator, addressed the “how and why” of the refugee crisis. Primarily he focused on the Syrian conflict and framed it as a great power rivalry. In his opinion, there are three revitalized empires vying for control. Putin’s ‘czarist’ empire, Erdogan’s ‘caliphate’ and Iran’s ‘Persian Empire.’ He claims that this proxy war is evidence of a new global power structure with no clear identity. On the topic of United States response to the issue, Natsios argued that the little the U.S. is doing is not enough. His recommendations for the U.S. aid system involves an almost complete overhaul driven by the Departments of Defense and State.  He also emphasized the importance of training programs within the structure of a U.S. aid agency rather than relying on graduate school programs.

The panel opened with a discussion about the challenges facing international development organizations during this refugee crisis. Brause mentioned there are not enough resources, particularly in terms of funding. He stated the only way to mobilize resources is to make the case of self-interest. He also recognized the importance of investing before a crisis happens rather than reacting to it.

Garvelink addressed the reasons why refugees are suddenly fleeing to Europe. He cited the increase cost of living in Syria’s neighboring countries, the lack of job availability, and access to education as issues that are pushing refugees away. For refugees who have been saving to flee to Europe, it has also recently become significantly cheaper to do so.

According to Wiesner, it is the United States’ role, as the global leader in humanitarian response, to share responsibility and improve its aid and political leverage to encourage others to do the same. Potential partners include: Canada, Japan, Korea, and the Gulf states.  

In terms of the importance of inclusion and self-reliance of refugees, Clements mentioned that these are long-term goals that can only be achieved through a collaborative effort among humanitarian aid organizations. Brause mentioned the knowledge and skills of the refugees could be used to improve conditions in refugee camps. As an example, Brause cited the use of agricultural expertise to establish farms would encourage self-reliance and address the food shortage issue. Garvelink emphasized the importance of mobilizing the leaders at the local level willing to utilize refugee skills and provide job opportunities. Wiesner highlighted the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit as a forum for the U.S. government to promote its initiatives for the protection of women and girls with regard to gender-based violence.

During Q&A, the panelists were asked to explain how the international development community could influence governments moving forward. Clements pointed out that governments must understand that their participation can aid economic growth and be politically viable. Only once that is established would governments be willing to actively participate in addressing the refugee crisis. On the topic of the link between economic migrants to refugees, Wiesner mentioned there is a wide spectrum of migrants many of whose situation involves a humanitarian dimension.

Natsios offered an opinion about UN conferences needing to be abolished, which generated some controversy. His argument was that most of the conferences are more rhetoric and less than 5% action. He also wanted to reemphasize that in his opinion, USAID has to be decentralized in order to be effective in the field.


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NPC Panel Discussion: Turkey's Crackdown on Journalists - Spotlight on Can Dündar's Detention

AHI attended a panel discussion on Turkey’s crackdown on journalists hosted by Reporters Without Borders at the National Press Club, February 24.  The event focused on the recent imprisonment of renowned journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. The panelists were: Can’s wife, Dilek Dündar; Dana Priest, an investigative journalist for the Washington Post; Tolga Tanis, Hürriyet’s Washington DC correspondent; James Risen, investigative journalist for the New York Times, and a special video message by award-winning investigative journalist Carl Bernstein.

Bernstein, who received a Pulitzer Prize with Bob Woodward for their coverage of Watergate, stated in his video message that Turkey has “instituted a methodical crackdown on the media, using the smokescreen of terrorism to justify the arrest and detention of numerous distinguished journalists whose only crimes have been the pursuit of the truth.”

Tanis echoed Bernstein’s statement.  She said when journalists do their job in Turkey, they end up in jail.  Also, if they question the policies of the government in Turkey, they end up in jail. The judicial system is used for the politicians for their own benefit, she added.

Priest, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, stated Turkey is being compared increasingly to countries with very little press freedom such as Egypt and Russia. She pointed out that U.S. journalists rely on foreign journalists to tell the truth, and the U.S. should advocate for the truth in journalism.

Risen emphasized the importance of the U.S. to be more vocal about Turkey’s crackdown on independent reporting. He added that the protection of journalists should be a top priority in American - Turkish relations. The U.S. should also concentrate on the story of Turkey supplying arms to terrorist groups in the Middle East.

Post-script: On February 25, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that Erdem Gül and Can Dündar’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press were violated and they should be immediately released.


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The Migrant Crisis:  Can It Be Managed? A Conversation with the OSCE 

AHI attended a discussion on the migration crisis with Secretary General of the OSCE, Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, May 19.  Wilson Center Director, President/CEO Jane Harman introduced Ambassador Zannier.   James Hollifield, director, Tower Center for Political Studies and Public Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center, moderated the event, which was titled, “The Migrant Crisis: Can it be Managed? A Conversation with OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier.”

In her introduction, Harman reminded attendees that the EU’s biggest challenge is the control of its external borders, the commitment of all EU nations on the issue of security, and the realization that there is no solution within the confines of EU.

Amb. Zannier opened with how there was resistance from various nations at the start of the crisis. He stated it took some time for the EU to react, and among certain countries, there was no discussion about it.  Serious conversations about the crisis began only last year, he added. The ambassador continued by discussing how the crisis has created many additional issues such as organized crime, human rights violations, and problems related to tolerance and discrimination. Countries now realize that the challenge is political in nature, he said.

Amb. Zannier also shared details of the OSCE’s organized “Security Day” in Rome in March.  The event focused on changing migration realities, the emergence of new security needs, and the call for regional and international attention. He stated countries now realize that they cannot ignore the issue.  He added, 50% of the refugees are from the Syrian crisis and the rest are from other countries, he said.  

The ambassador delved into security problems presented by the crisis, stating that security needs to be addressed on every level.  Organized crime is a big issue and especially its connection to the movement of migrants, he said. Furthermore, there is a high level of concern regarding the increased potential for terrorism. Most countries presently do not have the proper screening tools, he cautioned.

Amb. Zannier concluded with his observation that the EU needs to address its lack of solidarity.  The refugee crisis constitutes a real display of the unwillingness of EU members to work with all EU institutions and mandates, he said.

During Q&A, the panel was asked if any other strategies might be used in dealing with Turkey besides “paying them.” Amb. Zannier stated the strategy among all international institutions is to push governments to act and the OSCE’s goal is to align all countries and try to build a consensus.  Europe cannot be isolated.


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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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