Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Dr Andrew Mango


  Andrew Mango was born in Istanbul in 1926. For fourteen years he was in charge of BBC broadcasts in Turkish. After retiring from the BBC in 1986 as Head of South European and French Language Services, he became a full-time writer and consultant on Turkish affairs. He has written four books on Turkey, the two most recent being Turkey: The Challenge of a New Role (Praeger 1994) and Atatürk, a biography of the founder of the Turkish Republic (John Murray 1999). He visits Turkey frequently.

  1.  Relations between the UK and Turkey are extensive. The two countries are allies in NATO and fellow-members of the Council of Europe and OECD. Commercial and personal relations are robust. In the first nine months of 2001, Anglo-Turkish trade totalled nearly US $3 billion, the UK being Turkey's 3rd best customer (receiving $1.6 billion of Turkish exports) and the 7th largest supplier of imports to Turkey ($1.3 billion of British exports). In the first eleven months of 2001, over 834,000 British residents visited Turkey. There is a considerable Turkish presence in the City of London, which serves as a base for many international investment funds operating in Turkey. British financial services are active in Turkey, where HSBC has recently acquired a Turkish bank. Although they are irked by visa restrictions, thousands of Turks come to the UK to visit, shop, study or receive health care. This extensive relationship has grown organically and owes little to government initiatives.

  2.  Turkey is the largest and most populous candidate for full membership of the EU. Its population was 68 million at the end of the year 2000, increasing (between 1990 and 2000) at 1.8 per cent a year, and with a median age of only 26 years (in 1990). Its GNP amounted to $200 billion in 2000, when it was the 17th largest economy in the world. A steep devaluation has since reduced nominal GNP to $140 billion, but in terms of purchasing power of the local currency, the real reduction last year amounted to some 8 per cent. The World Bank expects growth this year to exceed 4 per cent, as the country emerges from its debt crisis.

  3.  There is a strong potential for growth in the export of British goods and services to Turkey and in British investment in Turkish infrastructure. In this context it is unfortunate that HMG allowed British participation in the Ilisu dam project in eastern Turkey to be stopped by a disparate coalition of pressure groups (environmentalists, Kurdish and Arab nationalists, etc.) The coming years will see increasing foreign participation in major public works in Turkey. British firms could and should strive for a proper share of the work.

  4.  The alliance with the US is the anchor of Turkish foreign policy. In return, the US Treasury encouraged the IMF and the WB to extend to Turkey credits of some $19 billion under the revised IMF stabilisation programme, which is expected to provide another $10 billion this year. The US Administration helped persuade the EU to recognise Turkey as a candidate for full membership at the Helsinki Council in December 1999. It has also backed pipeline projects to ship oil and gas from the Caspian basin to Turkey (and through Turkey to the West). BP is the leading partner in one such important project.

  5.  The British government has been supportive of Turkey's European ambitions, which, public opinion surveys show, are shared by some 70 per cent of the Turkish electorate. But recently the British role has been less important than that of Germany (Turkey's main trading partner and host to some two million Turkish immigrants). France (a major investor) and Italy (an Italian firm is building the Blue Stream pipeline under the Black Sea to bring Russian gas to Turkey) are also displaying considerable interest in Turkey. Although the Turkish Prime Minister, Blent Ecevit, and the economic supremo, Kemal Dervis, have both studied in Britain, the UK is as infrequent a destination for Turkish ministers as Turkey is for their British counterparts.

  6.  As far as Turkey's application for full membership of the EU is concerned, the UK need not question the requirement that Turkey, like all other candidates, should meet the "Copenhagen criteria" (relating to democratic institutions, human rights, a properly functioning free market, etc.) It should be appreciated, however, that Turkey's delay in meeting the criteria is not due solely to a lack of political will. Turkey's rulers have to be cautious in order to safeguard stability and law and order, and also in order to keep the support of a freely elected parliament. It is not easy to accommodate political Islam and Kurdish nationalism within the structure of a democratic and secular Turkish republic. While this delicate process goes on, the armed forces are seen by the majority of Turks as guarantors of law and order within a secular and unitary state. It is up to the Turkish parliament and the government it supports to determine the pace and scope of reforms needed to meet the "Copenhagen criteria". What is important is not the date of Turkey's EU membership but the continuation of the process of convergence between the two. British-based NGOs have a perfect right to criticise what they see as Turkey's democratic shortcomings. But HMG should show that it understands Turkey's concerns, even where it does not share them. It should, in any case, desist from unsolicited advice.

  7.  The problem, now resolved as far as Turkey is concerned, of gaining Turkey's approval for a structured access to NATO facilities by ESDP is a case in point. Here Britain and the USA have played a helpful role in working out a compromise which satisfied Turkey's security concerns. But these concerns could have been understood more quickly.

  8.  Such an understanding is lacking in the Cyprus problem, where HMG is pushing for a settlement which, in all likelihood, will make matters worse on the island and in relations between Greece and Turkey. At a time when the West is as yet unable to reunify the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and bearing in mind that more than fifty years after the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland and the Czech republic, the possibility of their return is still worrying these two EU candidate countries, haste in reunifying Cyprus is foolhardy. True, most Turkish Cypriots want to become EU citizens and many are in favour of reunification for fear of being excluded from the EU. But their attitude will change the moment Greek Cypriots use EU membership in order to return to the north of the island and begin to press suits for the return of their property. Yet this is precisely why the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus is seeking EU membership. Whatever transitional arrangements are agreed (and these will, in any case, be open to challenge in European courts), there will be trouble between the two communities if, at the very least, there is no preliminary agreement on property claims, rights of residence and the movement of persons. Trouble on the island will in turn poison relations between Greece and Turkey and Turkey and the EU generally.

  9.  I am myself convinced by the arguments put forward by Professor M.H.Mendelson Q.C. to show that the application for EU membership by the Republic of Cyprus is illegal under the 1960 Constitution and Treaty of Guarantee. It is a crucial principle of the 1960 settlement that Greece and Turkey should have an equal status in Cyprus. This parity of status will become impossible if the Republic of Cyprus precedes Turkey in EU membership. Transitional arrangements to ensure parity would be difficult to devise and, once again, open to challenge in EU law. By entertaining the application of the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, the EU has made it more difficult to reach a settlement in Cyprus.

  10.  The US is supporting efforts to achieve a Cyprus settlement and is in favour of Cypriot membership of the EU. Yet the similarity between British and American approaches is likely to be eroded the moment the admission of Cyprus is seen to endanger the prospect of Turkish membership of the EU, a major US policy aim. The insistence of the Turkish military on retaining a strong presence in northern Cyprus is also likely to be met with understanding in Washington

  11.  Turkish membership of the EU in the fullness of time should also be a major objective of British policy to which the search for a Cyprus settlement should be subordinated. British political, strategic and commercial interests would be well served by a strong and prosperous Turkey within the EU. If the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus became a member before Turkey, it would be able to obstruct Turkey's admission and any move favouring Turkish interests. On the other hand, Turkey's membership would facilitate a settlement in Cyprus. The present British policy on Cyprus is putting the cart before the horse. The agreement to hold direct negotiations between Messrs Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash, the leaders of Greek and Turkish Cypriots respectively, should not inspire unrealistic hopes of winning over either Denktash or Turkey to a settlement that would place Turkey at a disadvantage in Cyprus

  12.  Stricter measures against organisations and individuals deemed to be terrorist, introduced after September 11, have given the impression that British authorities had earlier been hypocritical when they failed to take the action asked of them by Turkish authorities against the presence in Britain of the militant Kurdish nationalist PKK, the Marxist-Leninist DHKP/C, etc. The argument is often heard in Turkey that Britain and other Western countries allowed these organisations to operate on their soil because they did not want Turkey to be strong, and that they turned against them only when their own security was threatened. The frequency with which these arguments are heard does not indicate that political Islam is gaining ground in Turkey. The danger lies elsewhere: in the growth of a truculent nationalism threatening the partnership between Turkey and the West. The US administration is taking great care to counteract this dangerous trend by emphasising that it regards Turkey as a strategic and economic partner. HMG should do likewise.

Andrew Mango

January 2002

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