Tag Archives: EUROPEAN UNION

How EU lost Turkey?

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I was lucky to attend one of the most established schools in Istanbul, Nisantasi Isik Lisesi, from Kindergarten to High School.

The school was founded in 1885 in Thessaloniki by teacher Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; it then moved to Istanbul after some years, as the war made it impossible for the school to operate in Thessaloniki.

It is a secular and democratic school which has developed many successful businessmen, academicians, politicians and many other public figures in all walks of life.

As a consequence, I grew up in a secular and modern environment with European Turkish values. During my time at High School, this was not considered at all unusual. It was standard. We always felt that we were part of Europe.

When I graduated from High School in 2001, Istanbul had a population of less than ten million.

I would say Istanbul was just another European city in my childhood, with a mix of oriental and western history and some beautiful landmarks.

2005 was an important year for Turkish society, since Turkey’s accession talks were about to start. I remember attending many talks on this topic just before going to London for my postgraduate studies.

After completing my studies in London, I remember feeling that I was missing out on something important, as Turkey continued to grow at a tremendous rate and I was spending my time in London. Actually, many people shared my impulse and returned to Turkey between 2007 and 2011.

And then things started to change dramatically. The economy continued to perform relatively well, but the almost double digit growth was gone. In the meantime, the EU accession talks failed to get anywhere.

Out of 35 chapters, only one was closed. What did Turkey lack that Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries did not?

France, Germany, Holland and Austria always looked upon Turkish accession to the EU with suspicion. Whilst they have some relevant points and valid concerns, I believe there was a degree of unnecessary prejudice against Turkey and even today, in 2016, this is a valid observation.

And now we are at this unpleasant juncture.

Even though, geographically, part of Turkey is in the European continent, Turkey is no longer looking towards the west. This is not the choice of Turkish politicians and the Turkish population, but it is a result of the relentless and baseless efforts of many EU countries.

This will undoubtedly have significant consequences for Turkey and the EU in the near future. In addition to this stretched relationship, it does not really help to have the EU parliament deciding on sensitive issues in Turkish internal politics, either.

Elif Safak, a famous Turkish novelist and the author of Bastards of Istanbul, published a new article in the Financial Times to appease my fellow British citizens, declaring that Turkey no longer wants to be more European, but actually less.

Today, the estimated population of Istanbul is around 17 million, and I keep asking:

Wouldn’t the EU be stronger and safer with a strong Turkey?

Wouldn’t it be a very good example for the rest of the Muslim world?

Wouldn’t Turkish accession prove that the EU is a multicultural and diverse society rather than a so-called Christian club?

There is no doubt that a lot of people will be affected by these decisions. Unfortunately, the most affected is the secular and modern Turk who has so far advocated European values and democracy. Some of these Turks have already left, and many of them are considering leaving the country.

It is painful to feel that you are being abandoned by the people and the institution that you have most trusted and supported throughout your life.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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EU Migrant Agreement with Turkey

On 18 March,  European Union and Turkey decided to agree to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.

I personally believe this agreement is a hall of shame statement for not only for European Union, but also for Turkey.

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If  you are a regular reader of my blog, you would remember that I have written a short piece on insincere EU attitude towards Turkey for many years and this is now another seal on the subject.

The EU and Turkey agreed that:

1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;

2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;

3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;

5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements;

6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilise additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion to the end of 2018;

7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energised, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.

We are facing the largest involutarily human movement since the World War II and the “civilised countries” are failing to do whatever they need to.

Instead they are very busy with pushing the dirt under the rug.

EU should adopt a more viable and smarter approach towards Turkey rather than simply dangling carrots.

I am wondering what would be the Turkish stance when the visa liberalisation for Turks will be delayed for whatever reasons in the coming months.

I want to finish my article by a great quote by Larry Brilliant.

“Civilizations should be judged not by how they treat people closest to power, but rather how they treat those furthest from power – whether in race, religion, gender, wealth or class – as well as in time”

All the best.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Brexit: Will it really happen?

Britain is going for another referendum on June 23rd to decide whether to accept the EU reforms or leave the EU. On the street, people are referring to the referendum as the Brexit and the real question is: Will it really happen?

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I really don’t think so.

Since David Cameron declared that he would re-negotiate the relationship with the EU in 2013, I see the whole process as a well-rehearsed theatrical play. There are some good cops and bad cops in the play, but the agenda and the outcome are very well planned ahead.

The good cops are the ones who are very happy with the “special status” obtained from the EU after hard negotiations led by David Cameron.

This group is very happy, since concessions have been obtained and the UK is now a “privileged” member of the union. Of course, nothing should be shown as having been won easily at someone else’s expense, so there the bad cops kick in and the theatre starts.

The other group of people are still not really happy with the EU after the “special status” and they want the UK to leave the EU regardless.

Within this group, there are two distinct sub-groups: genuine politicians who really want the UK to leave the EU, since they are populist politicians, without calculating the damage to the UK; and the others, there to play the bad cop for the drama or for their own personal interest.

Currently half a dozen cabinet members are in favour of leaving the EU; however, most of the cabinet members want the UK to stay in Europe. Boris Johnson’s decision to campaign to leave the EU was an eye opener for the political arena as well as the financial markets.

Sterling dropped from 1.44 to 1.39 against the US dollar.

If the referendum result is to leave the EU in June, David Cameron will be a definite loser and, since Boris Johnson is the strongest candidate for the Tory leadership, the probability that he will win the most desired seat earlier becomes significantly higher.

It is good to remember that this is not the first time that the British public has voted to stay in or leave the EU, and the Conservatives have a good record of being split on important issues, going back to the late nineteenth century and, more recently, the 1990s, when its own MPs prepared the end of Thatcher’s eleven year premiership. In other words, they opened the door for 13 years of Labour leadership.

The UK is currently the world’s fifth biggest economy and it is the fifth largest spender on defence. The EU takes almost half of the UK’s exports and the UK takes less than ten per cent of the EU’s. A decision to leave the EU will definitely harm both sides and a Brexit will create a more dominant Germany in the EU, which I am not sure many of the member states will be happy to see.

Arguably, it may open the door for other members to re-negotiate their status with the alliance, and the models of Norway or Switzerland could be preferable for future members rather than joining the union.

One may discuss the capabilities of the UK in the current world, but nobody can ignore that Britain is still a top notch leader when it comes to politics.

Why would such a political genius open the door for another referendum for Scotland to leave the UK, financial companies to relocate their headquarters and a huge volume of transactions to move out of the UK, especially at a time when “special status” has already been granted from the EU, thanks to Prime Minister David Cameron?

It is simply another well acted piece of theatre.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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