May 8, 2011: Complaints about pollution and too many ships trying to get through the Bosporus have led the Turkish government to consider building a canal to supplement the historic strait. The canal would be dug west of Istanbul, beginning in the Sea of Marmara, running through Thrace, and to the Black Sea. The Turks are worried about oil and chemical spills and other accidents in the narrow Bosporus channel. There are several international treaties, however, that must also be navigated, among them the 1936 Montreux Convention which regulates commercial shipping and naval (military) passage through the Straits zone.
May 6, 2011: The government of Montenegro is considering rehabilitating the long-deposed royal family. The Petrovic-Njegos controlled Montenegro until they were replaced in 1918 by Serbia’s Karageorgevich family. There is a lot of debate in Montenegro because rehabilitating the royal family could involve restoring some land formerly owned by the dynasty.
May 5, 2011: Turkey recently estimated that its informal economy constitutes at least 40 percent of the entire national economy. The informal economy (sometimes called the hidden economy or black market economy) goes untaxed, The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has made cutting taxes and formalizing the informal economy a major political goal. The AKP believes this will increase tax revenues in the long run.
May 4, 2011: A convoy carrying Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was attacked while passing through a forest in Kastamonu province (northern Turkey). One policeman was killed and one wounded in an assault by a half-dozen armed men. Erdogan was unharmed. The government accused the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) of being responsible. So far 12 people have been arrested in connection with the attack. Initial indications were that the attack was not intended as an assault on the prime minister. That attackers thought they were shooting at a police convoy. The attackers opened fire on the first vehicle in the convoy – a police vehicle. Turkish security authorities have beefed up the prime minister’s personal protection detachment and added more bodyguards to the detail protecting the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
May 3, 2011: The Romanian government announced that U.S. anti-missile missiles will be deployed in southern Romania. The main site will be an air base near the village of Deveselu. 24 SM-3 ABMs will be operational in 2015.
The government of Turkey called for Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi to quit power and leave Libya. Turkey is beginning to align its policy toward Libya with the rest of NATO. The government also said it would explore ways to help arm and finance the Libyan opposition along with other NATO and coalition partners.
May 2, 2011: German government economists are saying that Greece will once again have to restructure its debt. This goes against the official German and European Union position, but that appears to be changing. The German government did indicate that the European Union will not let Greece default; that would harm the entire euro-zone. But Greece simply owes too much money to pay back the EU loans.
May 1, 2011: The Turkish government said that it is very concerned about escalating protests in Syria. The government called on Syria to begin a reform process. The government also said that it backed reforms. Senior members of Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) are very concerned about waves of refugees fleeing Syria and entering Turkey.
April 30, 2011: The latest big game in Turkey is handicapping the Turkish parliamentary election scheduled for June 12. At the moment the polls indicate the AKP will win a third consecutive term with around 45 percent of the vote. The CHP will take around 30 percent. The CHP is the Kemalist party – heir to Kemal Ataturk’s secular reforms. The Kemalists fear that a large win by the AKP will lead to creeping Islamization in Turkey. The AKP portrays itself as a moderate Islamist party.
April 29, 2011: Though the Croatian government says it will finish its European Union accession talks by the end of this year, the EU is becoming less and less popular in the country. Only about 50 percent of the public supports joining the EU. Many Croats are angry with the EU for prosecuting and convicting several senior Croat military officers on war crimes charges. Two former generals were convicted in mid-April of crimes committed in 1995 when Croat forces attacked Serb forces.
April 26, 2011: The Greek government acknowledged that its debt burden is far higher than anticipated. Greece estimates that it owes over 340 billion euros. Greece’s debt is somewhere between 130 percent and 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Meanwhile, labor union members and public sector workers continue to protest any budget cutbacks.
April 23, 2011: The Serbian government said that it remains interested in discussing the division of Kosovo. This is not an entirely new position, but the public statement is new. Diplomats have presumed for a couple of years that Serbia would accept Kosovo as a separate country if ethnic Serb majority areas (ie, northern Kosovo) were made part of Serbia. Kosovo says it will reject any attempt to divide Kosovo.
April 22, 2011: Serbian ultranationalists have been demonstrating their support for Libyan leader Muammar Khadafi. The Serbs say they are sympathetic to his plight because NATO waged an air war on Serbia in 1999 (Kosovo War). They claim they are both victims of Western aggression.
April 21, 2011: Turkey announced that it will buy 109 new utility helicopters from the Sikorsky company. The company will produce an export version of its Blackhawk helicopter. The company intends to designate the Turkish model the T-70. Turkey may ultimately buy 600 helicopters.