July 10, 2012: Over the last four or five years Turkey’s European Union (EU) doubters have become increasingly vocal. Though the government has continued to claim that it wants to join the EU, a substantial number of Turks have made it clear that they resent what they consider to be cultural and political snubs by EU members. The most vociferous EU-doubters contend that the western Europeans simply don’t want predominantly Muslim Turkey joining the EU. France and Greece are usually regarded as secretly (or not so secretly) opposing full Turkish membership.
The unresolved problem of the division of Cyprus plays a part in Turkey’s EU quandary. Cyprus is an EU member and the Turks argue that Greece and Cyprus use the EU membership process as a political cudgel to compel Turkey to withdraw its forces from the island. The EU has criticized Turkey for failing to insure civilian control of the military and that was regarded as an obstacle to Turkish membership. Members of Turkey’s current governing party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), argue that they have ended the threat of a new military dictatorship by reshaping the officer corps, so that objection should be withdrawn. EU economic troubles, especially the Euro-zone crisis, are another reason there are Turks who ask if the EU is really worth the effort. However, the Syrian crisis may be giving Turkey’s EU-doubters some second thoughts. NATO support for Turkey has been solid. France’s new president, Francois Hollande, appears to be considering re-energizing Turkey’s EU ascension process. That’s an improvement over France’s previous president, Nicholas Sarkozy, who opposed Turkish membership. Since the end of June, Greece has also made several conciliatory diplomatic statements. (Austin Bay)
July 9, 2012: Greece’s new coalition government won a confidence vote in parliament. All 179 members of the parliamentary coalition voted to support the government. The vote took place after three days of rancorous debate. The Greek parliament has 300 members. The new government has asked the EU for more time to make the budget cuts to meet the bailout conditions set by the IMF and EU.
July 8, 2012: The Turkish military said that it is closely monitoring Syrian military exercises. Syrian forces are conducting land, sea, and air exercises. The Syrian exercise scenario is described as “a response to a foreign military attack.”
July 7, 2012: The Romanian government is once again tottering. Austerity budgets shook up Romania in 2010, and again earlier this year. Now Romanian President Traian Basescu, the author of the austerity budgets, is trying to survive a political fight with his rival, Prime Minister Victor Ponta. The parliament, led by Ponta, has voted to impeach Basescu. Ponta has fired several parliamentary leaders and said he would fire several senior judges on Romania’s constitutional court if they try to intervene in Basescu’s impeachment process. The country must hold a referendum to decide if Basescu will be removed from office. Several EU countries have accused Ponta of trying to undermine Romania’s democracy.
Greece asked Turkey to not threaten war if Greece extends its claim to territorial waters in the Aegean Sea. Greece indicated that it wants to improve its political relations with Turkey.
July 4, 2012: Cyprus has asked the EU and IMF to help it determine how much money it needs to bailout its banking system. The Cypriot economy is closely tied to the economy of Greece.
July 3, 2012: Turkey said it is ready for close cooperation with Egypt’s new government. The new Egyptian president is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Kosovar Serbs in Gracanica (a Serb suburb of Pristina) demonstrated against the Kosovo government. Kosovar Serbs in northern Kosovo (along the Serbia-Kosovo border) also protested Kosovo’s new plans to integrate their neighborhoods into the country. The Kosovar Serbs want their border villages to become part of Serbia. There are between 50,000 to 60,000 Kosovar Serbs in the border region.
July 2, 2012: The International Steering Group for Kosovo announced that it will terminate its oversight role in Kosovo in September 2012. The group includes the U.S., France, and Great Britain. NATO peacekeepers, however, will remain in Kosovo, as will the EU justice and police security mission, EULEX.
Greece said that Turkey needs to realize that Cyprus’ membership in the EU and its development of offshore resources are an incentive for resolving the problem of the division of Cyprus. Turkey has threatened to help Turkish Cypriots permanently partition the island. Turkey also objects to the development of offshore natural gas reserves until a political settlement is reached.
The Name War continues. Greek border inspectors are now putting stickers on the license plates of Macedonian cars as they enter Greece. The stickers cover the MK symbol for Macedonia with a short message that says Macedonia should be called the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Macedonia called the stickers a political provocation.
Turkey reported that its military scrambled F-16 interceptors when a Syrian transport helicopter approached the Turkey-Syria border. The government announced that it is beefing up anti-aircraft capabilities along the Syrian border. The Turkish military announced that it is sending additional field artillery to the border region. Turkey has also changed its rules of engagement in the border area. Turkey now regards the movement of any Syrian military force toward the border as being a military threat.
Turkey’s parliament voted to abolish the special courts which are hearing the various coup conspiracy cases. However, several hundred current and former military officers still remain in jail, facing a range of charges. The parliamentary vote affects new cases. They will now be heard in criminal courts, not special courts.
July 1, 2012: Syria’s President Bashar Assad said that his country regretted shooting down a Turkish recon plane. He also said he wants to prevent an armed conflict with Turkey. Assad claimed that the Turkish jet was flying inside an air corridor that Israeli aircraft had used in 2007, when the Israelis bombed a construction site in northern Syria. Assad’s word choice is rather interesting. The Israelis contend it wasn’t an ordinary construction site but a nuclear weapons development complex.
June 30 2012: The EU ended its European Union Police Mission (EUPM) in Bosnia. The EUPM had been training Bosnia security personnel since 2003.
June 28, 2012: Ivica Dacic, a former deputy of Serb dictator Slobodan Milosevic, will likely be Serbia’s new prime minister. The nationalist politician now says he favors EU membership.
June 26, 2012: Serbia sentenced 14 former soldiers to prison terms for killing 70 Croat civilians in 1991. The sentences ranged form four to 20 years. The civilians lived in the town of Lovas. Some of the civilians were killed when they were forced to walk through a minefield.
Moldova signed an aviation integration agreement with the EU. The Moldovan government said that the agreement was another step towards expanding trade and economic contacts with the EU.
June 24, 2012: The Turkish government called for a NATO treaty Article 4 consultation. In an Article 4 consultation, the NATO member presents evidence that it faces threat to its territorial integrity, political independence, or security. The call for a consultation follows the downing of a Turkish Air Force jet by the Syrian military.
June 22, 2012: Syrian air defense shot down a Turkish Air Force RF-4E Phantom. There are two conflicting stories regarding the jet’s flight path. Turkey says Syria attacked the plane in international airspace. Syria says the jet was in Syrian airspace. Turkey reported that it has no radar track of a missile, but Turkey's Vice Prime Minister Bulent Arinc indicated that Turkey believes Syria used a missile.
June 20, 2012: New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was sworn in Wednesday as Greece's new prime minister, following months of political uncertainty for the debt-stricken country. The new Greek collation government consists of New Democracy, PASOK (Greek socialist party), and the Democratic Left party (DL, a small center-left party).
June 19, 2012: Bulgaria announced that it will reduce its armed forces by another 2400 military personnel. The cuts will begin to take effect in July 2012.