March 2, 2012: The Name War continues between Greece and Macedonia. The Greek government still insists on calling Macedonia the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The Name War is one reason Greece keeps Macedonia from joining NATO. Greece contends that the only real Macedonia is the Greek province of Macedonia (where Thessalonica is located). Greek politicians have used the dispute to rile up Greek nationalist sentiment. The dispute, however, never stopped Greek businesses from investing in Macedonia and Macedonia has welcomed it. The economic relationship has actually kept the political squabble from escalating. Now the miserable Greek economic situation has led a number of Greek businesses to do more than just invest. The uncertain Greek tax system is one reason, political instability is another. The Greeks invested euros in Macedonia, if Greece returns to the drachma and devalues those euro investments will remain. Macedonia reported that Greek businesses are seeking Macedonian partners with similar businesses in Macedonia in order to continue their own operations. A couple of Macedonian towns near the Greece-Macedonia border are making it easy for Greek businesses to re-locate. Money talks. Greeks have bigger things to worry about than The Name War. (Austin Bay)
March 1, 2012: The European Union said that it welcomed the new diplomatic dialog between Serbia and Kosovo. (See report of February 24.) As a result, the EU has given Serbia a reward. Serbia now has candidate status, meaning that it now is in line for admission to the EU.
A bomb attack on a police bus in Turkey (Istanbul) wounded ten people, five of them policemen. The attack took place near the local offices of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling party. Preliminary investigation indicated the bomb was detonated by remote control as the bus was passing a parked motorcycle. No terror group claimed responsibility for the attack. This attack was similar to urban vehicle bombings carried out by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The bombs are not very large; the idea is to kill, or wound, only a handful of people, ideally policemen or soldiers but definitely disrupt daily life and get big headlines. Al Qaeda, in comparison, would set off a huge bomb and try to kill as many people as possible. Other radical political groups, however, have launched these kinds of firecracker bomb attacks in Turkey. Istanbul is a favorite target because it is Turkey’s biggest city and media hub. So are Turkey’s tourist towns on the Mediterranean coast.
February 28, 2012: France’s Constitutional Council (high court) has ruled that France’s genocide law is unconstitutional because it restricts free expression. The Turkish government claimed the law focused on the 1915 Armenian massacre (one way to frame it, another is the Armenian genocide). The Turkish government argued that the law was a propaganda attack on Turkey. The French parliament passed the law in January.
February 27, 2012: A leading global financial agency gave Greece a credit rating of selective default. The Greek government is in the process of forcing all holders of Greek bonds to accept losses on those bonds.
February 24, 2012: Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to a diplomatic formula that allows Kosovo’s participation in international conferences. Kosovo can send its own delegation to a conference but the delegation has to use a nameplate with an asterisk. Kosovo appears on the nameplate. The asterisk will indicate a footnote. The footnote is complicated but then so is the Serbia-Kosovo struggle. The footnote will explain that the UN Security Council resolution which governs Kosovo’s status does not mention independence. The footnote will also refer to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was legal. The European Union supports the agreement.
February 23, 2012: Russia complains that human rights in Kosovo are not sufficiently protected. Russia is primarily concerned about the protection of Kosovar Serbs but has complained about the abuses of Roma (Gypsy) rights as well.
February 22, 2012: Bosnia’s newly-formed central government said that it intended to meet all European Union accession requirements and will apply for EU membership in June 2012.
February 21, 2012: The EU’s European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France ruled that the Turkish government had violated a journalist’s right to freedom of speech. In 2008 Erbil Tusalp was accused of insulting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Turkish court ordered him to pay a fine of around $6,000. Tusalp appealed to ECHR and won. The ECHR has ruled that Turkey must pay Tusalp 5,000 euros (a little over $7,000).
February 20, 2012: The leader of Orthodox Christianity, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, testified before Turkey’s parliamentary subcommittee which is tasked with writing a new constitution. The patriarch said that the new constitution must guarantee the rights of ethnic minorities and protect religious minorities.
Turkey’s Office of Special Prosecutions dropped an order to detain four senior officers in the National Intelligence Agency (MIT, also called the National Intelligence Organization). The order was issued February 10. Prosecutors claimed they were looking into allegations that senior intelligence officers had conducted illegal negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish parliament passed a law on February 17 that forces prosecutors to obtain permission from the Turkish prime minister's office before it can investigate MIT. The Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party, said that it will challenge this new law.
February 19, 2012: Turkey denied reports that Turkish intelligence officers had been arrested in Syria. One report said that over 40 Turkish intelligence agents had been captured by the Syrian Army. An Iranian sourced report gave the number as 49 and it claimed that some of the captured agents had confessed to being trained by Israel’s Mossad. Believe what you will. Syria did claim that it had arrested Turkish agents. Turkey is going to investigate one of its intelligence agents on charges that he was involved in handing over two Syrian Army defectors to the Syrian government. The Turkish agent was allegedly bribed by the Syrian government.
February 17, 2012: Israel and Cyprus announced that they intend to cooperate in developing natural gas fields off the Cypriot coast. The gas fields lie in areas claimed by Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel. Turkey has said that it wants the question of divided Cyprus solved before gas production begins.