UK-Turkey relations and Turkey's regional role - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents


2 Strengthening the bilateral relationship

UK-Turkey "Strategic Partnership"

9.  The Prime Minister, Rt Hon David Cameron MP, signalled his intention to strengthen the UK's relationship with Turkey by visiting the country—accompanied by the Foreign Secretary—within three months of taking office, on his fourth official overseas bilateral visit. This sequencing placed Turkey after only France, Germany, Afghanistan and the US among the Prime Minister's initial destinations for such visits.[12] In Ankara, in July 2010, Mr Cameron made a major and notably positive speech about Turkey and his ambitions for the UK-Turkey relationship, which he described as a "vital strategic" tie.[13] Mr Cameron also signed with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoðan a "Strategic Partnership" document which set out joint commitments on bilateral relations, regional stability, defence, international security issues (including counter-terrorism), illegal migration, energy security and low carbon development, intercultural dialogue, and education and culture.[14] The FCO told us that the document set the agenda for measuring the Government's success in its relationship with Turkey.[15]

10.  Since Mr Cameron's July 2010 visit, the Government has continued its effort to build relations with Turkey. Three elements have been especially prominent:

  • High-level visits. Among Government ministers, Mr Cameron has been followed to Ankara by Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe (October 2010); Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (March 2011); Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment (April 2011); Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Business Secretary (September 2011); and Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary (October 2011). Prime Minister Erdoðan returned Mr Cameron's visit in March 2011, accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu, who has made three other official visits to London since the current UK Government took office. Most notably, President Gül made a State Visit to the UK in November 2011, the first by a Turkish Head of State since 1988. An article by the Foreign Secretary published to coincide with the Visit referred to the UK-Turkey tie as a "new special relationship".[16]
  • New UK-Turkey Forum. During Mr Erdoðan's visit to London in March 2011, he and Mr Cameron established a UK-Turkey Forum to be known as "Tatli Dil" ("Sweet Talk"). The Forum is made up of figures from politics, business, academia, the media and the arts. It is to meet annually, alternating between the UK and Turkey, and to have one UK and one Turkish co-chair. The first "Tatli Dil" meeting was held at Ditchley Park in October 2011. EU High Representative Baroness Ashton and Minister for Europe Rt Hon David Lidington MP were the scheduled speakers. Among our witnesses, Dr Aybet of the University of Kent, Katinka Barysch of the Centre for European Reform, former Ambassador to Ankara Sir David Logan, John Peet of The Economist and Dr Robins of St Antony's College, University of Oxford, were participants. Sir David thought that "Tatli Dil" would add value by encompassing a broader range of people and issues than existing forums for UK-Turkey exchange. Dr Aybet thought that the forum would be useful in enabling an exchange of views outside the framework of Turkey's stalled EU accession process (see Chapters 7 and 8).[17] We heard of "Tatli Dil" being compared to the long-established UK-German K½nigswinter Conference.
  • Military co-operation. In November 2011, the Defence Secretary, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, signed a Military Co-operation Treaty with the Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff, who was accompanying President Gül on his State Visit to London. The Treaty is aimed at facilitating greater bilateral co-operation across a range of military activities. Mr Hammond said that the Treaty would take such co-operation "to a new level".[18] David Lidington told us that the Treaty would enable UK forces to train in Turkey, on a mixture of terrains useful in preparing for service in Afghanistan, for example.[19]

11.  The Government's drive to upgrade the UK's ties with Turkey forms part of its strategy of strengthening the UK's bilateral relations with a number of emerging powers, primarily in Latin America, Asia and the Gulf. This strategy reflects the Government's view that global political and economic power is shifting away from the UK's traditional US and EU allies, and that bilateral relations are crucially important in this changing international environment. The Government sees the development of stronger bilateral relations with key emerging states as a means of both securing sustainable economic recovery and preserving international political influence, including in multilateral forums.[20] Under the National Security Council, the Government has established an Emerging Powers Sub-Committee, chaired by the Foreign Secretary, to agree cross-Government strategies for the UK's relations with a number of emerging states.[21] The Sub-Committee reviewed delivery against the UK-Turkey "Strategic Partnership" in July 2011.[22]

12.  In identifying Turkey as a "strategic partner" and maintaining strong relations with the country, the Government is continuing a policy pursued by its predecessor—although the intensity of the current Government's effort appears particularly marked. The former Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, and Mr Erdoðan first announced a UK-Turkey "Strategic Partnership" when the latter visited London in October 2007. The document signed by Mr Cameron in 2010 to a large extent re-stated and renewed commitments made three years earlier. Mr Erdoðan made a further visit to London before the General Election, in March 2010; and President Gül's State Visit to the UK in 2011 returned a State Visit which Her Majesty The Queen made to Turkey in 2008, the first for 37 years. When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, he visited Turkey in 2004 and 2006. The continuing cross-party nature of successive UK Governments' positive approach to Turkey was highlighted by the appointment of the former Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, as the UK co-chair of the "Tatli Dil" forum.

13.  We consider in the rest of Part One of our Report the Government's rationale for seeking to develop relations with Turkey in particular fields, and the results of its efforts so far. Overall, our witnesses agreed with the Government's assessment of Turkey as a rising economic and foreign policy power, with characteristics, assets and potential which could benefit the UK. For example, Sir David Logan described Turkey as "an increasingly important prize as a partner for the United Kingdom".[23] Our witnesses therefore felt that the Government was correct to be pursuing an enhanced UK relationship with the country. The Turkish Area Study Group told us that the UK was "ideally placed to seek new avenues of co-operation with Turkey".[24]

14.  Our impression is that the Government's effort to cultivate Turkey has been noticed and welcomed there, certainly in elite circles. When Mr Cameron was in Ankara in July 2010 Mr Erdoðan suggested that UK-Turkey relations were in a "golden age".[25] Dr Robins told us that "viewed from the Turkish end, the coalition Government seem to have got things right"; he felt that its period in office had been "good for bilateral relations". He suggested that Turkey would find especially gratifying the fact that the Government was pursuing enhanced relations with it as part of a wider strategy to strengthen relations with emerging global powers of the likes of India and China.[26]

15.  We conclude that the Government is correct to have identified Turkey as a "strategic partner" for the UK and to be pursuing enhanced relations accordingly. We commend the Government for the concerted effort it has been making to this end, and we urge it to ensure that the effort is sustained and sustainable.

FCO resources

16.  The FCO has seven posts in Turkey. As of the start of autumn 2011, their staffing levels were approximately as follows, subject to minor fluctuations:

Table 1: Staffing levels in the FCO Turkey network, early autumn 2011
Ankara 128 (including 4 SOCA, 2 UKBA, 7 UKTI,
2 Metropolitan Police, 5 MOD Defence Attachs)
Istanbul146 (including 6 SOCA, 43 UKBA, 12 UKTI)
Izmir 7
Antalya 4

SOCA-Serious Organised Crime Agency; UKBA-UK Border Agency; UKTI-UK Trade and Investment
Staff of departments/organisations other than the FCO are counted among post staff whether the relevant department/organisation has office space in an FCO building, sole occupancy of an FCO property, or its own building within the FCO compound.
Sources: Ev 56-57 [FCO]; Public Accounts Committee, Forty-Eighth Report of Session 2010-12, Spending reduction in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HC 1284, Ev 17ff. [FCO]

In March 2012, the FCO told us that it had 22 UK-based staff in Ankara, and 24 in Istanbul.[27]

17.  In line with the Government's effort to strengthen UK-Turkey ties, the FCO is expanding its diplomatic presence in Turkey. The country is one of 24 to be gaining diplomatic staff as part of the FCO "network shift" announced by the Foreign Secretary in May 2011. Under the plans, the FCO is expanding its presence in states to which the Government is giving increased priority (primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America), by reducing staff in some subordinate posts in Europe. An additional 72 UK-based diplomats and 107 locally-engaged staff are expected to be deployed to the favoured countries by 2015.[28] Of the 24 countries, China and India are gaining the most personnel (30-50), while Turkey is in a second group with Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia receiving a "substantial" expansion in the UK diplomatic presence.[29] Turkey is to gain 14 members of staff—three UK-based and 11 locally-engaged.[30] Of the three new UK-based officers, one is to work on counter-proliferation issues, and two in the commercial and economic field.[31] In March 2012, one of the new officers was already in post, in Istanbul; the remaining two (one for Ankara and one for Istanbul) had been appointed but had not yet taken up their positions.[32]

18.  In our Report on The Role of the FCO in UK Government in 2011, we stressed the continuing importance of language skills among FCO diplomats.[33] The Foreign Secretary has committed himself to giving greater weight to language expertise in the FCO, as part of his "Diplomatic Excellence" programme of reform and intended improvement.[34] In our Report, we also welcomed indications from the FCO that it might "take a more strategic approach to managing the careers of its staff, in the interests of developing and maintaining specific bodies of corporate expertise".[35] In his evidence to that inquiry, Sir David Logan already expressed disquiet about a lack of Turkish language skills among FCO staff in Turkey.[36]

19.  In its evidence to our current inquiry, the FCO told us that around 100 of its UK-based staff had Turkish language skills in some form.[37] Of these officers, around 20 had passed the FCO operational exam in Turkish, and around 25 the extensive exam.[38] However, in early December 2011, only one of the roughly 20 FCO staff who had passed the operational exam, and only one of the roughly 25 who had passed the extensive exam, were deployed in Turkey.[39] All the other 40+ FCO staff with an FCO operational or extensive Turkish language qualification were deployed in London or in overseas posts other than in Turkey. Meanwhile, only around half the designated Turkish-speaking positions in the FCO's Turkey network were filled by staff with Turkish language skills of some sort.[40] This situation reflected the FCO's current recruitment system, under which staff apply for particular positions according to preference, subject only to grade. This is despite the fact that the FCO-supported training from beginner to extensive level in Turkish is for a recommended 960 hours of one-to-one tuition; and that holders of FCO language qualifications receive additional remuneration for a number of years which we were told in March 2012 could total up to £5,165 a year for holders of the extensive qualification in Turkish.[41]

20.  David Lidington told us that all the new UK-based staff positions in the Turkey network had a Turkish language requirement; and that as those positions were filled, the number of UK-based staff in Turkey with Turkish language skills would rise. The FCO was encouraging UK-based staff in Turkey in non-speaker positions to learn the language in any case.[42] As regards the presence of Turkish-speaking UK diplomats in London rather than Turkey, Pat Phillips, Head of the Enlargement and South East Europe Department at the FCO, said that several of them were dealing with Turkish issues.[43] Mr Lidington said that it would be the FCO's "expectation" that a diplomat who learned Turkish in London would shortly seek a posting in Turkey. However, he also said that he would take to the Foreign Secretary and Permanent Under-Secretary the suggestion that the FCO might require Turkish speakers among its diplomats to serve in the country.[44]

21.  We welcome the fact that the FCO is expanding its diplomatic presence in Turkey. We believe that this will signal to Turkey and others the seriousness of the Government's intent to develop the UK's relationship with Turkey, as well as help to deliver enhanced co-operation in key policy areas.

22.  The effectiveness of UK diplomatic staff posted overseas is reduced if they cannot speak the language of their host country. We welcome the FCO's decision to require Turkish language skills of those taking up the new UK-based staff positions in its Turkey network. Although we want to see country experts shaping FCO policy-making in London, we are perturbed that so many of the department's Turkish speakers are deployed outside Turkey, and we regard this as symptomatic of the drawbacks of the FCO's current system for filling staff positions. We recommend that the FCO reform its recruitment system so that it can actively manage the language expertise it has at its disposal, to ensure that such expertise is deployed effectively and on an ongoing basis in the service of UK diplomatic objectives.

UK visa regime

23.  Sir David Logan told us that "British visa policy is the issue which impacts most negatively on the UK's bilateral relations with Turkey".[45] Until late 2011, all Turkish passport holders were required to obtain a visa to visit the UK. Visa applicants must apply online, submit original documents, and submit biometric data at a pre-booked time at one of five centres, in Ankara, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul or Izmir. Visa fees must be paid online; from the end of January 2012, they must be paid in US dollars. Long-term and multiple-entry visas are available. In February 2012, UK visa fees ranged from $125 (for a visa for up to six months, or a year for academic visitors) to $437 (two years), $802 (five years) and $1,158 (ten years). Applicants or their authorised representatives must collect their returned documents only from Ankara or Istanbul, or pay an additional fee for courier delivery.[46] In February 2012, applications made in Turkey for all types of non-settlement visa were being processed within 60 working days (of receipt of biometric data), and almost all well within 40.[47] The refusal rate for visa applications in 2010 was 8%.[48]

24.  In both formal evidence and our discussions in Turkey, we heard complaints from Turkish interlocutors not so much about the fact of having to acquire a visa to visit the UK, as about the time, inconvenience and sometimes humiliation involved in having to submit so much personal and financial information and go through the relevant UKBA procedures and checks. We heard of complaints about the UK entry process both before acquiring a visa and, sometimes, during the journey to the UK. Sir David Logan told us that "many Turks, for example business people and academics who would otherwise come to the UK, decide not to submit themselves to [the] process".[49] Dr Toksoz of Standard Bank International, for one, said that her father refused to visit her in the UK because of the visa issue.[50] Sir David thought that UK-Turkey trade and academic exchanges were probably both suffering from the visa problem;[51] Dr Toksoz, the CBI and the financial services lobby organisation TheCityUK confirmed that the issue was affecting business relationships.[52] John Peet of The Economist reported that the UK's visa regime was the top issue raised by most Turkish participants at the UK-Turkey "Tatli Dil" meeting in October 2011.[53] Both Sir David and Dr Aybet of the University of Kent said separately that the visa regime was an "irritant" in the bilateral relationship and "inconsistent" with the UK's interests and policy towards Turkey.[54] The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), a Brussels-based NGO, said that the visa regime for travel into the EU, including the UK, was one of the reasons why Turkish citizens were turning away from the Union (see paragraphs 186 and 191).[55]

25.  Turkish passport holders require a visa for entry to the EU's Schengen zone, as well as for the UK (which does not participate in the Schengen arrangements). As of late 2011, the Schengen states were expected soon to start to require biometric data from Turkish applicants. Turkey—and several of our witnesses—would like the Schengen countries to ease their visa regime, as they have for a range of Western Balkan and East European EU candidate and non-candidate countries;[56] but the relevant Member States have been unable for over a year to agree to launch formal negotiations with Ankara aimed at making it easier for Turkish nationals to obtain Schengen visas.[57]

26.   Turkey imposes a visa requirement on UK nationals, as it does on the nationals of some—but not all—Schengen and other EU states.[58] We discovered ourselves that the visa application form is quite lengthy and detailed, but biometric data is not required, and visas obtained in advance are free. We were told during our inquiry that Turkey introduced its current visa application form for UK nationals after the UK began using its similar lengthy document for Turkish applicants.

27.  In its evidence to the Home Affairs Committee's 2011 inquiry into Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union, the Home Office said that it needed to "ensure that HMG's visa policy strikes the right balance between security and prosperity".[59] David Lidington told us that there was an "inherent tension" between the two considerations.[60] Sir David Logan said that abolishing altogether the UK's visa requirement for Turkish nationals might be "unrealistic", but that "it should be possible to find ways to operate [the current visa regime] more efficiently and in a manner which does not appear to visa applicants to be unnecessarily arbitrary, intrusive and obstructive".[61] He also suggested that trade and academic bodies could be invited to participate in a body or process aimed at proposing improvements to the current system. Sir David said that the UK "urgently need[ed] a fair, transparent and simplified process which would enable bona fide intending visitors to come to the UK and develop links with the UK, rather than turn them elsewhere".[62] The European Citizen Action Service implied that the UK could and should take the lead among EU countries in liberalising entry conditions for Turkish nationals.[63]

28.  David Lidington told us that the Government had recently agreed to waive the UK visa requirement for holders of Turkish diplomatic passports. He also reported that discussions were underway at official level on a possible fast-track visa system for business visitors.[64]

29.  Despite the dissatisfaction which we encountered among our interlocutors with the UK's visa regime, applications for UK visas from Turkish nationals are on an upward trend:

Table 2: UK entry clearance visas in all categories applied for and issued,
Turkish nationals, 2005-2011
2011 Jan-Sep
Entry clearance visa applications
Not yet available
Entry clearance visas issued

Source: Before Entry data tables, in Immigration Statistics July-September 2011, via the Home Office website at Of applications, in addition to those refused some may be withdrawn or not resolved during the relevant time period.

30.  We conclude that the operation of the UK's visa regime for Turkish nationals is undermining the credibility of the Government's wish for a "strategic partnership" with Turkey, as well as being a significant practical and psychological obstacle to intensified relations. We welcome the fact that the FCO appears to recognise this and is taking steps to try to ease the UK regime. We recommend that the FCO start discussions with the UK Border Agency and the main academic, cultural and trade bodies engaged in the effort to build UK-Turkey relations on possibilities for: reducing visa fees; reducing the quantity of information required with visa applications, certainly for frequent visitors; introducing a 'fast-track' service for certain categories of applicants; and opening more centres in Turkey for the submission of biometric data and the collection of returned documents.

People-to-people contacts and public opinion

31.  In 2010, there were estimated to be 72,000 Turkish-born people and 40,000 Turkish nationals resident in the UK.[65] UK nationals come into contact with Turkey primarily as tourists and, increasingly, as longer-term residents and property-owners there. We heard when we were in Turkey that there were over 10,000 British residents and over 30,000 property-owners there. During the Home Secretary's visit to Turkey in October 2011, she signed an agreement with her Turkish partners allowing the residence permit fee for UK residents in Turkey to remain permanently at a reduced rate.[66] As regards UK-Turkey visits, UK residents made 1.8 million visits to Turkey in 2010, a figure that rose by 6.5% annually on average between 2006 and 2010. Turkey was the eighth most popular destination for overseas visits by UK residents in 2010, up from tenth in 2009.[67] The UK ranks third as a source of tourists to Turkey, behind only Russia and Germany.[68] However, Turkey was not among the top 10 sources of overseas visitors to the UK in 2010: Turkish residents made 129,000 visits to the UK that year, a figure which fell by an average of 3.8% each year between 2006 and 2010.[69]

32.  The BBC World Service continues to provide a Turkish-language service, but it discontinued radio broadcasts in Turkish in March 2011. Turkish was one of seven language services which halted radio broadcasts as a result of the cut made to the World Service's FCO grant under the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.[70] In our Report in April 2011 on The Implications of Cuts to the BBC World Service, we called for the Spending Review cut in funding for the World Service to be reversed.[71] Closure of the Turkish service's radio broadcasts meant the loss of an audience of 450,000, and five jobs. The closure was expected to save £222,000 a year in content and production costs, with further savings arising in distribution, overhead and support costs.[72] The World Service accounted for its decision to halt Turkish-language radio by saying that Turkey had low levels of radio listenership (below 30% in major population centres), with television being far more important, and internet availability standing at 45% of the population and rising.[73] The World Service said that it would increasingly focus on television and online content in Turkish: it introduced a TV service with a local partner in 2008 which it said had 1.7 million weekly viewers; and in October 2011 its Turkish-language online service was reaching 500,000 weekly unique users (462,000 in Turkey).[74] The World Service put its total post-cuts audience in Turkey at 1.65 million.[75]

33.  We are concerned that the cut to the FCO grant to the BBC World Service which was made under the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review has caused the World Service to discontinue radio broadcasts in Turkish, losing the Service a radio audience of 450,000 (a fifth of its total audience in Turkey). In line with our overall view on the cuts to the World Service, we question whether the savings made are proportionate to the resulting loss of UK influence.

34.  The Turkish Area Study Group drew our attention to UK-Turkish exchanges in higher education.[76] For example, in 2005 Prime Minister Erdoðan announced the creation of a Chair in Contemporary Turkish Studies in the European Institute at the London School of Economics, endowed by the Turkish government and four other Turkish public- and private-sector donors.[77] The British Council told us that there were 70 partnerships between the UK and Turkey in higher education, with 55 UK universities active in Turkey (up from 35 in 2008).[78] The FCO has provided 102 Chevening Scholarships to Turkish nationals in the last five years to study in the UK.[79] We heard in Turkey that the number of Turkish students coming to the UK to study was rising strongly, mainly in economics, business and management, but that English-language and visa requirements could present difficulties. We also heard during our inquiry about the work of the British Institute at Ankara, an overseas institute of the British Academy, which funds and facilitates academic research in Turkey, and UK study and visits for Turkish scholars, in various fields of the humanities.[80] However, the Turkish Area Study Group said that there had been a "serious contraction" in Turkish studies in UK universities in recent years, with only the University of Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies left offering degree programmes in the subject.[81]

35.  Among the UK population, our impression is that Turkey does not have an especially high standing. For example, in the Chatham House-YouGov Survey 2011, when UK respondents were asked to identify European countries about which they felt especially favourable from a list of 14, Turkey came twelfth, above only Poland and Russia. Turkey came third in the ranking of selected European countries about which UK respondents felt especially unfavourable, below only Greece and Russia. In the equivalent 2010 survey, Turkey came fifteenth of 16 in the 'positive' ratings and second in the 'negative' list. Asked in 2011 about UK diplomatic ties with Turkey, more UK respondents (20%) thought that they should become weaker than stronger (11%), with 49% preferring no change. In his summary of the 2010 survey, Peter Kellner of YouGov identified Turkey as one of the emerging powers which the Government was targeting for an enhanced partnership but which had a "negative image among the general public".[82]

36.  Our impression is that Turkey's relatively low standing with the UK public results partly from low visibility, away from fields other than tourism, and perhaps football. David Lidington suggested that Turkey lost out partly because its history was little taught in UK schools.[83] The Turkish Area Study Group urged the Government to promote Turkish studies in the UK education sector.[84] Sir David Logan suggested that "negative opinion [about Turkey] is soft and could be turned round in the right circumstances",[85] although David Lidington acknowledged that public opinion could be changed only slowly.[86] We have been struck by the way in which British people—including the Minister,[87] and ourselves—often seem to form a more positive impression of Turkey in some respects after having visited the country. The Turkish Area Studies Group recommended that the Government consider promoting "twinning" relationships between UK and Turkish towns, or perhaps London boroughs and Istanbul municipalities, in order to promote greater mutual awareness.[88]

37.  In recent years, Turkey has begun to open a network of "Yunus Emre" centres overseas, along the lines of the British Council, Goethe-Institut or Institut Français. This is an element in Turkey's newly-ambitious foreign policy (which we discuss in Chapter 4), especially its 'soft power' component. Turkey opened the first Yunus Emre centre in Western Europe in London, in late 2010.[89]

38.  We conclude that the Government's ambitions for a new "special relationship" between the UK and Turkey appear to find little popular resonance, but that this may be due to what appears to be Turkey's relatively low visibility in the UK, and that the situation may therefore be capable of being improved.


39.  The British Council has been working in Turkey since 1940. It has offices in Ankara and Istanbul, with staffs of 22 and 31 people, respectively, in March 2012.[90] It told us that it would have face-to-face contact with over 400,000 people in Turkey in 2011, and engagement of some form with 20 million, including through its digital presence. The British Council's budget for its Turkey operation is £3.1 million in 2011-12, with a further £1.8 million expected to be earned through exam services.[91] The British Council's work in Turkey is facing some reduction in grant funding from the FCO as a result of the department's settlement in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review,[92] but we heard on our visit that it is being protected compared to the scale of some of the cuts being made to British Council work elsewhere, owing to the priority status which Turkey enjoys.

40.  The British Council is focusing much of its work in Turkey on the education sector, particularly English language learning, for which we heard there is huge demand from Turkey's large young population. The British Council was obliged to cease face-to-face English teaching in Turkey in 2004, following the terrorist attacks on the British Consulate-General in Istanbul and other UK targets in Turkey the previous year; but it hopes to re-enter the market soon, subject to the resolution of some tax and status issues. In the British Council's portfolio of English language-learning work in Turkey, direct teaching would stand alongside teacher training work, the provision of exam services and English language teaching content, and the holding of various public language-learning activities and events. The British Council is also engaging with the Turkish authorities on education reform and innovation more widely.[93]

41.  The British Council in Turkey is also engaged in a range of programmes in the arts, culture and society.[94] We heard on our visit that the British Council regards raising Turkey's profile in the UK as an important part of its work. In that context, we were pleased to hear that Turkey will be the featured country at the 2013 London Book Fair; the British Council said that the event would provide "an unparalleled opportunity [...] to build a cultural partnership programme that promotes greater understanding of the UK in Turkey and of Turkey in the UK".[95]

42.  We recommend that the British Council in Turkey should guard against any risk of becoming 'just' an English language-learning organisation. We recommend that the British Council should use the vital contact which it is building up with Turkish young people through its English language work to further their awareness of the UK; and that it should ensure that the wider promotion of awareness of the UK in Turkey and Turkey in the UK is a central part of its role. The FCO and the British Council should take advantage of Turkey's embrace of 'soft power' and cultural diplomacy to welcome and assist efforts by their Turkish partners, such as the new Yunus Emre Turkish Culture Centre in London, to improve understanding of contemporary Turkey in the UK.

43.  Like the British Council in other overseas locations (and the FCO), the British Council in Turkey is making increased use of locally-engaged staff, as opposed to personnel deployed from the UK. In March 2012, the British Council told us that only two of its 22 staff in Ankara, and six of its 31 staff in Istanbul, were UK-appointed.[96] While the British Council's locally-engaged staff in Ankara were clearly enthusiastic and in possession of valuable local knowledge, we were struck when we visited the office that very few appeared ever to have visited the UK.

44.  There must be a doubt over the extent to which locally-engaged staff, however enthusiastic, can represent the UK to the British Council's host countries if they have had little exposure to the UK themselves. The concomitant of the cost savings achieved by making increased use of locally-engaged staff must be that the British Council commits to bringing such staff on visits to the UK on a regular basis. We recommend that in response to this Report the British Council should set out its practice and plans with respect to ensuring that its locally-engaged staff are regularly exposed to the UK.

45.  The British Council will be delivering in Turkey the 2012 London Olympics international legacy programme, "International Inspirations", which is aimed mainly at children.[97] In our 2011 Report on the public diplomacy aspects of the London Olympics, we concluded that the FCO was "right to use the [2012] Games to promote British culture and values at home and abroad".[98] When we visited the British Council in Ankara, we were struck by the extent to which its branding and promotional material was dominated by the 2012 Olympics, to the exclusion of other markers of British identity and culture.

46.  Turkey (Istanbul) has announced that it is bidding to host the 2020 Summer Games (against Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo). The host city will be announced in 2013.

47.  We recommend that the British Council and FCO should exploit the fact that Turkey is bidding for the 2020 Summer Olympics to use the public diplomacy programmes associated with the 2012 London Games to promote the UK in Turkey in a particularly intensive way. However, we further recommend that the British Council should not allow the Olympics 'brand' to take over the broader promotion of UK identity and culture in Turkey. We recommend that the FCO and British Council should report to us after the 2012 London Games on the Olympics-related work which they have conducted in Turkey and its impact on Turkish attitudes towards the UK.

48.  The activities of the British Council in Turkey, as well as of the British Institute at Ankara, are governed by a bilateral cultural agreement which dates from 1956. We heard in Turkey that the Government would like to pursue an updated version of the agreement.

49.  We recommend that in its response to this Report the FCO should set out its rationale for pursuing, its key objectives for, and its plans for securing, a new UK-Turkey cultural agreement to update that concluded in 1956.

12   May-July 2010 transparency data release for the Prime Minister, via Number 10 website ( Mr Cameron also held bilateral talks in the United Arab Emirates during a stopover as part of his Afghanistan visit. Back

13   David Cameron, speech in Ankara, 27 July 2010, via Number 10 website ( Back

14   "Turkey/United Kingdom Strategic Partnership", Ankara, 27 July 2010, via FCO website ( Back

15   Ev 52 Back

16   William Hague, "Britain and Turkey: a new special relationship", Telegraph website (, 22 November 2011 Back

17   Qq 61-63 [Sir David Logan], Ev 65 [Dr Aybet] Back

18   "MOD signs a co-operation treaty with Turkey", Ministry of Defence press release 171/2011, 23 November 2011 Back

19   Q 176 Back

20   For example, William Hague, "Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World", speech at the FCO, London, 1 July 2010, via FCO website (; HM Government, A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy, Cm 7953, paras 1.10-1.18; HM Government, Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review, Cm 7948, paras 5.3-5.8; FCO Business Plan 2011-15, November 2010 and May 2011 update, via Number 10 website (; Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, HC 665, Ev 77 ff. [FCO] Back

21   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, HC 665, para 122 Back

22   Ev 71 [FCO] Back

23   Q 59; see also Dr Aybet at Q 106. Back

24   Ev 121 Back

25   Transcript of press conference with Turkish Prime Minister, 27 July 2010, via Number 10 website ( Back

26   Q 156 Back

27   Ev 79 Back

28   Oral evidence from Simon Fraser, Permanent Under-Secretary, FCO, taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 8 November 2011, HC 1618-i, Q 26. UK-based staff are recruited in the UK for potential deployment either in the UK or in overseas posts. Locally-engaged staff are recruited in-country, exclusively to fill positions at FCO posts there. Back

29   HC Deb, 11 May 2011, cols 1166-69 Back

30   Ev 56 [FCO] Back

31   Q 244 [David Lidington] Back

32   Ev 79 [FCO] Back

33   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, HC 665, paras 23, 157-164 Back

34   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, HC 665, paras 155, 157-164; Letter to the Chair from Simon Fraser, Permanent Under-Secretary, FCO, 13 October 2011, published on the Committee's website as evidence to its inquiry into FCO Performance and Finances; William Hague, "The best diplomatic service in the world: strengthening the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an institution", speech at the FCO, London, 8 September 2011, via FCO website ( Back

35   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, HC 665, paras 165-167 Back

36   Ibid., para 158 Back

37   Ev 57 Back

38   Ev 71 [FCO]. FCO language exams are aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The FCO operational exam is equivalent to CEFR level C1 and the extensive exam to CEFR level C2.  Back

39   Ev 71 [FCO] Back

40   Ev 71 [FCO] Back

41   Ev 79 [FCO] Back

42   Q 179 Back

43   Q 240 Back

44   Q 242 Back

45   Ev 60 Back

46   UKBA website, March 2012 ( Back

47   UKBA website, March 2012 ( Back

48   Before Entry data tables, in Immigration Statistics July-September 2011, via the Home Office website at Back

49   Ev 60 Back

50   Q 170  Back

51   Qq 70-72 Back

52   Q 170 [Dr Toksoz], Ev 139 [CBI], 137 [TheCityUK] Back

53   Q 37 Back

54   Ev 50 [Sir David Logan], Q 109 [Dr Aybet] Back

55   Ev 126 Back

56   Q 95 [Ms Barysch], Ev 86 [Dr Bechev], 96 [Turkish Embassy], 101-102 [Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman], 126-128 [European Citizen Action Service], 130-132 [Economic Development Foundation] Back

57   Home Affairs Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2010-12, Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union, HC 789, paras 66-70; "The time is now: changing EU visa policy on Turkey", European Stability Initiative (ESI) Newsletter 2/2012, 13 March 2012 Back

58   Among nationals of EU Member States, ordinary passport-holders from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia do not require an entry visa for Turkey.  Back

59   Home Affairs Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2010-12, Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union, HC 789, Ev 34 Back

60   Q 206 Back

61   Q 70 Back

62   Ev 60 Back

63   Ev 128 Back

64   Q 206 Back

65   Population by country of birth and nationality, Office for National Statistics Back

66   "Ambassador David Reddaway's message to British Citizens", 31 October 2011, via the website of the British Embassy in Turkey ( Back

67   Travel Trends 2010, Office for National Statistics: Table 4 (p 15), Figure 14 (p 27), Table 3.10 (p 70) Back

68   Ev 120 [Turkish Area Study Group] Back

69   Travel Trends 2010, Office for National Statistics: Table 3 (p 15), Table 2.10 (p 48) Back

70   Foreign Affairs Committee, The Implications of Cuts to the BBC World Service, Sixth Report of Session 2010-11, HC 849, para 18 Back

71   Ibid., para 16 Back

72   Ibid., Ev 32-35, 38-39 [BBC World Service] Back

73   Ibid., Ev 33 [BBC World Service] Back

74   Ev 139 [BBC World Service] Back

75   Foreign Affairs Committee, The Implications of Cuts to the BBC World Service, Ev 39 [BBC World Service] Back

76   Ev 40-41 Back

77 Back

78   Ev 133 Back

79   Ev 71 [FCO] Back

80   Q 59 [Sir David Logan], Ev 120 [Turkish Area Study Group] Back

81   Ev 121 Back

82   British Attitudes Towards the UK's International Priorities: A Chatham House-YouGov Survey, Chatham House, July 2010; The Chatham House-YouGov Survey 2011: British Attitudes Towards the UK's International Priorities: Survey Results; and Robin Niblett, The Chatham House-YouGov Survey 2011: British Attitudes Towards the UK's International Priorities: Survey Analysis, both Chatham House, July 2011. Turkey's inclusion in the group of European (rather than worldwide) countries for comparison may have affected the survey results.  Back

83   Q 191 Back

84   Ev 121 Back

85   Q 75 Back

86   Q 191 Back

87   Q 191 Back

88   Ev 121 Back

89   Ev 121 [Turkish Area Study Group] Back

90   Ev 142. The British Council's staff in Istanbul included four UK-appointed personnel with a wider regional role. Back

91   Ev 132 [British Council] Back

92   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2010-11, FCO Performance and Finances, HC 572, paras 74-86 Back

93   Ev 132-134 [British Council] Back

94   Ev 133-134 [British Council] Back

95   Ev 133 Back

96   Ev 142 Back

97   Ev 134; see Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2010-11, FCO Public Diplomacy: The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012, HC 581, paras 37, 42. Back

98   Foreign Affairs Committee, FCO Public Diplomacy: The Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012, para 51 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 4 April 2012