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European Weekend School 2011 – Updated!

On 4 May 2011 (Latvian Independence Day) I came to Istanbul with the aim to attend the Weekend School organized by the Boğaziçi University Center for European Studies Student Forum (CESSF) (the university has  Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence) on the general topic: “Accession to the EU: Expectations and Realities” taking place from 5 to 7 May 2011.  

5 May 2011 After the welcoming remarks by the President of the Center for European Studies Student Forum Nihan Toprakkiran (touching the questions of common values) Hakan Yilmaz, Director of the Center for European Studies of the Boğaziçi ([boazici] – “ğ” in this combination is not pronounced) University talked about the changed expectations since 2002 of Turkey. He also indicated that the Roman Empire was for 2 centuries followed by mushrooming of individual entities, after what Europe tries to unit again. This is a big project requiring big and unified thinking (the religions being the only universalism available and the only framework one can see now. The solutions lie in philosophical dimension. Also historical?). The Enlargement Director General of the European Commission M. Leigh talked about Turkish position in the EU saying that Turkey would most probably accede to the EU not before 2023, but it may take even longer, today the main aim is to avoid the breakdown in the negotiation process. He discussed Turkey’s position also in wider world politics (the NATO, the UN, the Cyprus problem). The result depends on political decision, at the same time the EU as a whole has remained remote to the process while opposing have been single EU Member States (France, Germany..). The EU is exporting values. With Turkey’s accession Europe will have more neighbour-States. Today the uprisings in the ME pose the major threat on Turkey, but also on the EU. Bearing in mind that the UN recently decided upon the changes concerning participation of the EU in the work of the United Nations (A/65/L.64/Rev.1), although the EU as a whole as being not a State cannot be Member to the UN: Link: and I asked about the possibilities of the EU of influencing the decisionmaking in the UN, and the World politics thereby. The student workshops followed and the WG IV I participated in first concentrated on the possible solutions of the World’s economic crisis. One of the solutions is to open the internal market to at least the neighbouring Islamic market that could mean the possibility for the EU to regenerate itself by opening up to the Islamic market – redistribution btw. States.  We inter alia discussed whether Turkey could be the door for flow of prosperity back to Europe, and whether the United States could be for or against the EU with Islamic States (there has existed the policy that the people who have visited the Arab States have later been refused visas to Israel), and could peace be created through economic integration. The evening panel Chaired by professor Refik Erzan (Boğaziçi University) indicated the problems related to Islamic structures, e.g. Islamic finance and discussed whether the Islamic financial system could strategically be willing to switch to another banking system, single currency, and the possible consequences thereof. What could be the reasons of enlargement fatique as enlargement brings in new possibilities? I was in kind of a good mood when the lecturer referred to the Germans as not understanding how can a State benefit from common market if its economy grows so little(!) – at the time when the other acceded States had suffered losses. For the evening the participants were called to the Student House of the Boğaziçi  (called: Binn’s House) where we were offered kebabs (bought, but also wrapped on-the-spot into Turkish bread lavash), yoghurt and other Turkish specialities and sweets, Turkish national music and dances combined with Arabic and Greek music and dances (could be symbol of returning to ethnic traditions and the best form of diversity, peace and prosperity. Still imagine the Turkish people dancing by Greek music on the historical Greek land.. In this sense acceptance of Turkey could mean a new recognition under international law of Turkish territory.. – Even if we  try to think in contemporary legal terms the questions posed by history, human character, and identity remain). Later most of the participants walked in Istanbul’s Old Town and sat in cafes. I sat in a cafe with the participants from Spain and Azerbaijan and I most remember that we talked about the questions of identity, and the Turkic languages. While drinking my caffè latte (I drink it because of milk but frequently the drink base contains coffee syrop instead of properly made espresso) I got to know that Turkic languages are spoken in the vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China by ca 35 peoples (as part of the Altaic language family). Wikipedia refers to high degree of mutual intelligibility between the various Oghuz languages including Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Oashqai, Gagauz, and Balkan Gagauz Turkish.  

6 May 2011 The day began with Student Workshops. The general topic was: “Recent members to the EU” under what were meant Bulgaria and Romania, but also the acceded in 2004 Member States. Our WS discussed direct and indirect participation of the new Member States in the EU agenda-setting, policy and law-making, and would accession of Turkey in these terms mean enlargement of the EU or enlargement of the Ottoman Empire. (The process was also characterized with a newly used term “perescopage” [pereskopa:z] meaning cars running in each other). We also discussed the role of mass media in political processes, but I made the argument that not only the single States’ mass media, but the whole World’s mass media is declined as owned by few big media companies that clearly support the United States’ foreign policy interests  (but this is “the other side of the story”). We also discussed the question who determines the EU’s budget? We inter alia concluded that the criteria of EU Membership are more political than technical – the EU (politicians) brings technique first and hinders politics behind that, meaning that if you are politically not interested in someone’s accession, you may always bring a technical problem out (Turkey has more and more problems with basic human rights standards). We talked about diversity vs. generalization of Member States through supranationality (even understandings of human rights). As willingness must come from inside, also Turkey’s accession slows down. Followed the Panel 2: “Recent Members of the European Union” chaired by professor at the Boğaziçi University Kemal Kirişci. Under this Panel the former minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Balazs talked about the Hungarian accession proccess and the accession stages. (Probably to be compared with Turkey’s accession stages.) He indicated that the 2004 EU enlargement was accompanied by the NATO enlargement in many States while Turkey belongs to the NATO since 1952. It was also mentioned that generally the EU enlargement has been considered a very rapid /outspunging process, and that the maximum size of the EU could be 44 States. (But what if the World’s political chart changes?) Turkey is also a Member to the OSCE where for example one entrance criteria was existence of internal State-building – setting the technical side of acceptance criteria to different international organizations aside – while Turkey is Member to different international organizations, also ratified and is Member to the ECHR since 1954 –  how can one say that it has not fulfilled certain EU accession criteria (say, democracy) before? Rather a comparision with small States could be brought – we easily let you pass the accessibility test as you cannot affect /influence us after accession. Former Commission for Multiculturalism in the European Commission Leonard Orban thereafter talked about Romania’s accession to the EU which accession had strong influence on the enlargement process (each enlargement sets some new aspects to enlargements as each enlargement to certain extent is different). How to avoid the position of second-class Member of the EU? Adam Balcer from DemosEUROPA Centre for European Strategy, Director of Program “EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood”, made me think during his presentation of on the one hand Koran, historical annexations, relations between Turkey and the rest of Europe vs. on the other hand source of financial support for the EU’s maintenance of economics. There raise more and more questions on where we are divided. Related to the Arab revolution – this is also a power supply issue. The EEAS that grew out of an attempt to create a sort of EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs is extremely constrained in its ability to be relevant on the World level beyond economy because of inability to reach common position and unanimity. Student Workshops followed on the topic: “Candidates for the EU”. Our WS discussed policy aspects such as influence of European political parties on the processes under discussion and participation of Turkey in political parties on European level, Turkey’s alternatives to the EU (as power-position arguments – imagine Turkey acceding to the BRICS-States), power-balancing in the World and the regional players incl. regional players in the ME, maybe there should be an external push facilitating EU’s accession to the EU? Under Panel 3 “Candidates for the European Union” Chaired by professor Hakan Yilmaz from the  Boğaziçi University, Vladimir Drobnjak, Chief Negotiator for Accession Negotiations to the EU of Croatia, talked about Macedonia’s accession to the EU, incl. legal relation between Macedonia and the EU, about regional development, institutional building, and administrative capacity. Of course the opposite reaction has been and is that we did have development, well-functioning institutions, and administrative capacity before you came, and consequently your critique is insulting to us – the insulted people do not understand the strategic of the need to first break in order to rebuild. Parallelly you should have functional marketing. Adam Balcer thereafter continued talking about European enlargement and neighbourhood indicating that a reason for lack of political will could be that more time is needed in order to reform the acceding States. As underlying reason for such reforms was named that the military mission to Kosovo is being passed over by the UN to the EU, also solution of other conflicts in Balkans. Kosovo that has been called European Colombia (unfortunately I do not quite understand yet why..) is the only State in the region not belonging to the EU and the only one that was not hit hard by the economic crisis (such statement makes me ask for the reasons – military expenses? Wrong investment decision?). Coming back to Turkey, its image is very positive among the Arab States (Islamic legacy) therefore cooperation with Turkey could be very beneficial for the EU. Cengiz Aktar from the Bahçeșehir University, where he is the Chairman of the Department of EU Relations, thereafter talked about the absorbtion capacity of Turkey with its total area of 783,562 km2, and population of 73,722,988 (data of 2010), I thought that at the same time other EU States accomodate Turks as minorities, for example Bulgaria accommodates ca 1 million Turks as minority who can influence political processes. Aktar characterized Turkey as the most challenging and disliked candidate by public opinion. He also gave an overview of the mix of existentialist and essentialist cliches full of misinformation that have influenced the negative public opinion toward Turks, the essentialist arguments being as: Islam, difference, Turkish “otherness”, incompatibility of Turkey with democratic requirements (ECHR!!) – and for common people Turkish negotiations have stopped being justified by the aforementioned arguments. Also migration has been indicated as an argument. Open-endness of Turkey’s process, principle of conditionality. Position of Turkey toward “axis of terror” as one argument for including Turkey. At the same time one can say that the EU enlargement toward Turkey failed because of opposition of certain Member States (it is correct to talk about States instead of persons as it has been predicted that neither Merkel nor Sarkozy win the next elections). At the same time there exist long-term strategies toward Turkey, still Turkey has not fulfilled Free Trade Agreements with the EU –  should it be penalized for that against the strategy background? The Q&A part followed raising questions about euphoria of enlargement vs. boots on the ground; the EU having been brought to the extreme realism; the risk situation (Turkey can dictate – how to put it in more equal position instead of demanding?); the economic reform of the EU; the NATO opening up to the ME(!); the EU opening up to Turkey who is interested in the EU as an economic disaster; State under the constitutional name vs. regional initiative; regional initiative btw. the already acceded States such as Croatia and Serbia; accession of Kosovo to the EU in the later stage; decisionmaking in the EU and the NATO; common EU interests in the light of other interests; some States being not in the common interest because of double standards; the energy Chapter having been blocked btw. Turkey and the EU; the EU as sophisticated version of Russia; Turkey’s possible cooperation with Russia; Turkey’s anchor in its foreign policy?; the 2012 Presidency of the Cyprus Republic of the EU and Turkey; Turkish claims toward the Kurdish issue, etc. The conclusion: for the EU – Turkey outside the EU could be bigger problem than Turkey inside the EU; for Turkey – Turkey has to take its problems in its own hands. Followed the cocktail prolongé at Baltalimani – buildings belonging to the oldest university in Turkey, University of Istanbul.  

7 May 2011 The day began with CESSF Student Presentations: “History and Politics of Modern Turkey”, “History of Turkey-EU relations”, “Current Situation in Turkey-EU Relations”. The participants were introduced the periodization in Turkey’s history beginning with 19th Century modernization, incl. the Ottoman Empire as part of Europe, relations btw. Britain and Turkey, Turkish economy in international economic order, young Ottomans vs. bureaucratic elite, the first constitution, cenzorship, espionage, Islamic legitimation, three ideologies – Ottomanism, Islamism, Turkeynism, Balkan wars, Treaty of Sèvres (after the I WW), War of Independence, Libya’s war as being considered part of Axis of Evil, Treaty of Lausanne, consolidation of power by the Republican People’s Party, modernization and 6 principles – Kemalism, republicanism, laicite (secularism), peopleism, Stateism, nationalism, reformism. Protectionist economic policy: étatisme. Peaceful foreign policy – neutrality during the WW II; Republic-multiparty regime (1950-1960) and developments of democratic party and membership in the NATO; The Republican Period (1960-190): coup d’etat and 1961 Constitution, import substituting industrialization, radical opposition movements, economic difficulties and political instability; Republic 1980-present: coup d’etat and 1982 Constitution, Turgut Özal, Motherland Party, export-led growth, economic liberalization. The problems indicated by the presenter: democracy, liberties, secularism, populism, Kurdish issue, Cyprus. The second presentation was about the Ankara Agreement btw. Turkey and the EEC=EAA Agreement with Turkey about how Turkey applied for EU Membership in 1987. The presenter also raised the question about the relation: Libya-Turkey-EU. The third presentation about the current situation in Turkey-EU relations derived from the presumption that the EU has confirmed Turkey’s eligibility, and continued with indicating which accession Chapters are closed /open (FMG, capital, etc.). Turkey has customs treaties with other States. The Q&A part raised the questions concerning reconsidering the full-Membership to the EU of Turkey, shift in Turkish foreign policy, the governmentalist approach of single EU Member States, the functionalist approach of supranational issues. Followed the presentations of representatives of the parallel Student Sessions / Workshops raising inter alia the following issues:  i n t e r n a l  m a r k e t – How did the economic crisis affect bailouts? – Economic development – Redistribution – Standards of competitiveness – Success stories vs. failures of EU Memberships – Are all Member States content with participation in the EU? (How did the economic crisis affect the Member States?) – Should the media’s role be more supportive? – Is the democratic Europe now shifting more conservative and what implication would that development have on Turkey? – Struggles of the Western Balkans – Do we have double-standards, meaning some Member States being better accepted and others less accepted –  Culture – History – Geography – Turkey should be accepted so that Small States would not be discriminated against – Is there a problem of Small and big States or problem btw. East and West? – Protectionism: national interests prevailing over international – Unsatisfying multi-speed Europe – Where is Turkey? – Where is the EU? – Military security – Policy issues – Problems that the vulnerabilities of the new Member States could bring – Turkey’s economic potential once integrated into the EU? – Advantages and disadvantages of the accession – Which would be the standards: full standards? double standards? – EU Member States and Eurozone Member States – Internal problems of the EU – Enlargement fatigue: with the aim to stop further enlargements? – Economic or political criteria, which are more important here? – Turkey as Member of the EEA and what would Turkish accession economically change? – A c c e s s i o n – Should twinning be extended? – C a n d i d a t e  S t a t e s – Change and transformation – Who has to take the risks: the EU or candidate States? – Reforms of personal-institutional settings – Reform of treaties – Possibility of States to block accession to the EU of other States (France and Spain blocking Turkey’s accession) – Kurds – religion – human rights – Islamic banking as not the biggest problem – Political-cultural-economic project affected by the World’s economic and other processes – Challenges of economic crisis and future EU enlargements – Other World problems – EU as intergovernmental or supranational entity – the governmentalist approach (single Member States) vs. functionalist approach (supranational issues) – If the EU grows more supranational it could hinder policy- and decisionmaking – Today’s decisionmakers are France and Germany, and the Great Britain in EU foreign policy – Could Turkey determine sth. in future? – How much does the EU need Turkey? – How much does Turkey need the EU? The EWS ended with Ferry Party on the Bosphorus. The participants took the exclusive cruise on the Bosphorus from where they could see Istanbul “inside out” – the buildings and architecture without the disturbing trees. (If you look Istanbul from the other side, the view is characterized as mixed up with trees that make it impossible to get the picture or take photos, maybe for security reasons as that way one cannot understand anything.)  

I am thanking the organizers of the EWS for having organized such an interesting, useful, and informative event for European students!

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