Transatlantic Academy opening conference tackles challenges facing Turkey
The Transatlantic Academy hosted its opening conference for the 2009-2010 Academy theme, “Turkey and its Neighbors,” on September 23. Over 50 participants attended panels and luncheon keynote speeches, consisting of several Washington experts on Turkey and representatives from European embassies. The event was kept small to encourage thoughtful discussion under Chatham House Rules. Transatlantic Academy Executive Director Stephen Szabo introduced the Academy's second class of fellows and highlighted the specific interest that the institution and its partners have in examining Turkey's role it its neighborhood. The first panel, “American Views and Expectations of Turkey,” was moderated by Ahmet Evin, founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Sabanci University and Transatlantic Academy fellow. Panelists included Ambassador Marc Grossman, vice chairman of The Cohen Group; Ian Lesser, senior transatlantic fellow, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Alan Makovsky, House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Nathalie Tocci, Istituto Affari Internazionali and Transatlantic Academy fellow. The panelists discussed U.S. views toward Turkish accession to the European Union and how Turkey's relationship as a strategic partner with its neighbors shapes the current U.S. response to Turkish issues. Panelists also broached that as far as U.S.-EU cooperation is concerned, the greatest possibility for good cooperation involving Turkey has to do with foreign and security policy. Indirect U.S. foreign policy efforts to influence Turkish-EU relations might be effective. For example, U.S. efforts to help Turkey improve its democracy and other civil or social aspects, which tend toward rule of law and predictable, stable political and judicial standards, would also push Turkey in the direction of satisfying conditions for EU accession, which the United States favors more readily than Europe does. The second panel, “Turkey, the Black Sea and the Caucasus Region,” was moderated by GMF Senior Diretor Peter Van Praagh. Panelists included Rich Kauzlarich of the National Intelligence Council, University of Pittsburgh Professor and Transatlantic Academy Fellow Ron Linden, and Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Stephen Flanagan. The panel focused on Turkey's interest in stability of the Black Sea and Caucasus region. Since Russia is a major trading partner of Turkey, the country must balance its interests against its relationship with the United States and the EU.
The rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia was discussed, including Azerbaijan's reactions and the prospects of a Nagorno-Karabakh dispute resolution. However, the danger of conflict remains high and could destabilize the region. Energy policies and Turkey's role as an energy hub were also explored, as was the Turkish-Russia relations. Implications of the recent conflict in Georgia were discussed along with the perspectives of key Black Sea actors. Dr. Michael Leigh, the director-general for EU enlargement, spoke on “Turkey and the EU: A perspective from Brussels.” He said that the EU Commission report on Turkey and its progress during the past year toward meeting conditions for EU membership will be released on October 14. The Ankara protocol was a positive step and Turkey has made some slow but steady progress towards fulfilling the protocol. Dr. Leigh reiterated that it is important to remember that Turkish accession to the EU is, and always has been, the goal of these proceedings. The negotiations will remain open until all issues have been closed. While there is no guarantee that Turkey will become a member of the EU, the purpose of the proceedings—full membership in the EU—should not come into question. Turkey is already a privileged partner of the EU, but that status is not the goal of the accession negotiations and should not be seen as an alternative result if the negotiations are ultimately successful. It is important for the EU and Turkey to recognize that the time-frame might be long, but it is also necessary for the EU to keep its commitment to ultimate Turkish membership, and for Turkey to have confidence in the credibility of the project. Dr. Michael Leigh discusses EU enlargement, the Libson Treaty, and Turkey's future development.