International Affairs / Mezinárodní dění - Page 3

China’s peaceful rise and the good neighbor policy

ChinaChina’s road of peaceful development is a brand-new one for mankind in pursuit of civilization and progress, the inevitable way for China to achieve modernization, and a serious choice and solemn promise made by the Chinese government and the Chinese people.’

Peaceful development is the inevitable way for China’s modernization. With these incisive and forceful words, China’s State Council Information Office opened China’s Peaceful Development Road (the white paper has been published on December 2005) and Beijing government inaugurated the new foreign policy strategy.

With Chinese economic miracle, quick and fast-paced industrial development and high annual growth rates of above 9%, Beijing has not only consolidated the strategic cooperation with its Asian neighbors, but also has increased its economic influence on the regional geopolitical chessboard.

The string of Chinese investments and trade agreements with its neighbors have fostered a relationship of economic interdependence with Beijing, which increases in the international community, especially for competitors like U.S. and Russia, suspicions and fear of an imminent ‘Chinese threat’ to dominate and control Asian region and its resources.

First, the Bush administration and now the Obama administration informally adopted a policy of containment of Beijing economic and political influence in Asia to counterbalance this “Chinese threat” and to regain the most important role in Far East. The official statements of U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, at the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010, (the United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea‘) and Obama’s recent announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with eight Asian Countries are strong signals of this containment policy.

Beijing’s response to ‘Chinese threat’ perception

In response to ‘Chinese threat’ external ‘misperception’, Beijing government and a Chinese scholar devised a new perspective of thinking, which aims to build a new image of a reliable and credible China, as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.

The cornerstone of this new China’s foreign policy strategy is the adoption of the ‘peaceful development’ ideological doctrine, heping fazhan, for a ‘peaceful rise’, heping jueqi, in a harmonious and multipolar world governed by order and prosperity, where there is no room for a single hegemony. The rhetoric of government seeks to subvert the external perception, maybe a misperception, of the country as a ‘threat’ to the interests of major global powers. This concept, core of China’s new strategic doctrine, has been proposed first by the scholar Yan Xuetong in 1998 and used officially re-introduced by the Chairman of China Reform Forum, Zheng Bijian, during the Bo’ao Forum in 2003.

Since 2003, Beijing began on one side to concentrate the efforts on the dimension of public diplomacy, bound by the multilateral coordination, and also to pursue a peaceful rise, without seeking hegemony. Wen Jiabao stressed once again that China’s goal is not to obtain absolute control nor create a deadlock conflict with the United States or Russia, but rather to build good neighborly relations and strengthen the partnership with neighboring countries.

In fact, Beijing needs to strengthen collaborative and non-confrontational relationships, to neutralize the risk of an unexpected growth-braking. In the speeches of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao the ‘heping jueqi’ is described as the focal point for the development of the Country:

Peace, opening-up, cooperation, harmony and win-win are our policy, our idea, our principle and our pursuit. To take the road of peaceful development is to unify domestic development with opening to the outside world, linking the development of China with that of the rest of the world, and combining the fundamental interests of the Chinese people with the common interests of all peoples throughout the world. China persists in its pursuit of harmony and development internally while pursuing peace and development externally; the two aspects, closely linked and organically united, are an integrated whole, and will help to build a harmonious world of sustained peace and common prosperity.

China’s new diplomatic approach: periphery policy and good neighbor policy

With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of China to international markets, a new type of political culture is born in Beijing. In the wake of Deng Xiaoping’s mission of modernization, China inaugurates its pragmatic strategic behavior: tao guang yang hui, you suo zuo wei, ‘keep a low profile and never take the lead’.

For its own interests, Beijing works to promote a multipolar community, duojihua, where both cooperative and friendly relations with neighbors and principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in internal state affairs, can preserve regional stability. The “good-neighbor” integrated regional policy is the China’s new diplomatic approach. Before the 1980s China was not able to create a good network of relations with its neighbor countries nor to make an integrated regional policy or to promote economic cooperation.

But with the open door policy and the end of international isolation, Chinese leaders offer a new perspective of development related to a new ideology: zhoubian zhengce, an integrated ‘periphery-policy’, known as the ‘good neighbor policy’, mulin zhengce. Establishing good relations with neighbors, China can convert its image as a responsible power willing to promote stability, security and regional cooperation, increasing its influence in world affairs, soft power and moral authority.

The key-points of this strategy seem to be: the multilateral diplomacy with the normalization of the relations with several Southeast and Pacific-Asian countries; the emphasis on the emergence of a ‘new Asianism’; the participation in Asian regional organizations (first of all the ASEAN + 3 and the SCO) and the activism within the most important international institutions.

During last ASEAN Summit, held recently in Indonesia, Premier Wen Jiabao has highlighted how China intends to strengthen good-neighbor policy in maintaining the status quo equilibrium in the region:

We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.

The desire to consolidate the diplomatic and economic relations with Old Europe and U.S. reflects Beijing’s goal to put itself forward as the great debt crisis solver and as guardian of equilibrium in a new peaceful international order. In the words of the ideologist Zheng Bijian:

China’s cultural tradition, featuring ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘priority to peace,’ also goes a long way toward facilitating China’s harmonious coexistence and sharing of prosperity with the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.


China chooses the road to peaceful development to strengthen its soft power and its international influence, but this strategy serves not only to Beijing for its economic development or for its regional affairs, but also to increase its political and diplomatic weight.

Indeed, the construction of a peaceful world, orientated to maintaining the status quo relationship with Taiwan, the economic interdependence and the participation in Asian Regional Fora keep off the risks of possible military confrontations in the South China Sea and neutralize U.S. influence in the area.

Few days ago, President Hu Jintao alerted military personnel to ‘make extended preparations for warfare in South China Sea. Hu Jintao’s statement has provoked strong reactions and more than one question: is China’s rise really peaceful? How can China’s rearmament and the increasing in military spending be consistent with Beijing’s good neighborly strategy? A war in South China Sea would be a war for the assertion of hegemony, but it is improbable that China intends to address a military dispute in this time of global crisis. Hu Jintao’s call seems only a demonstrative test of the military strength of an ambitious rising power.

We can thus say that if China’s rise was first a big problem for the interests of the West, now the real “China’s threat” is its peaceful rise, that allows Beijing to build new relations of good neighborliness, to exercise more political influence and to regain international credibility.



Suisheng Zhao, China-U.S. relations transformed: perspectives and strategic interactions, Routledge 2008.

C. Fred Bergsten,Charles Freeman,Nicholas R. Lardy,Derek J. Mitchell, China’s Rise: Challenges and Opportunities, Center for strategic and international studies 2008.

Sujian Guo, Challenges and Opportunities for China’s “Peaceful Rise”, in:

Zheng Bijian, China’s Peaceful Rise: Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004, in:

Putin’s Eurasian Union: A danger or strategic opportunity?

Putin and EurasiaWhen Vladimir Putin recently published an article in the Russian daily Izvestia that officially announced his plans for the establishment of an Eurasian Union in the geographical space of former USSR countries, he caused quite an uproar in the Western media.1 The headlines such as those in the Telegraph run that Putin’s wish is nothing short of re-forming ‘a pseudo-Soviet Union’ reassuring readers that the plan is about ‘reclaiming the Russian Empire’,2 even though in the same article Putin explicitly rejected any comparison with the USSR. Newspaper commentaries are naturally inclined to exaggeration and the use of catchy words to raise readership figures, but they still reflect general fears of the West towards the resurgent Russian foreign policy of the last decade. The essential policy question for the EU and US is whether these concerns about a Eurasian union are justified and reflect a real threat of some ‘incoming Russian empire’. Or perhaps, if considered from a different angle, the Putin’s and Russian administration’s plans might just as well present the NATO allies with a real strategic opportunity.

A short notice to readers about my argument’s presuppositions is first due, however. In the grand realm of foreign policy, one can speak about natural allies and interests only with a grain of salt. If the cultural and value-based factors remain excluded, economics, energy, nor even geography can offer clear-cut answers on choosing a country’s allies and by extension, also its enemies. To say that Russian foreign policy now poses a threat or strategic opportunity then implies taking a particular normative stand, which is in turn arguable based on the principles adopted. In this short piece, my purpose is singular: to contrast the arguments of those on the side of the EU and US who claim that the Russian initiatives in the Eurasian basin should be opposed with those less numerous voices to which I also humbly join, who argue that Putin’s ‘Eurasian Union’ is a sound initiative of regional integration that can serve the EU’s and US’s interests in stabilising the whole region thus creating a strong ally to balance out other rising superpowers such as China.

Flags of the three present members of the Customs Union
Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia already form a Customs' Union, Eurasian Union will be its successor

The critics of the Russian foreign policy generally argue that Russia under Putin and Medvedev is simply rebuilding its former empire, sometimes using its leverage in energy resources, sometimes outright military aggression as in case of Georgia. In their interpretation, such efforts must be vigorously opposed, as the result will be nothing but Russia’s domination of its ‘Near Abroad’ that will prevent countries such as Ukraine and Georgia in making a free choice to join the international community of liberal democratic states. These arguments are often joined by those in the EU who believe that the Union’s foreign policy should be based on stabilising its neighbourhood through spreading of its norms, functioning as a sort of ‘a neo-medieval empire’ (Jan Zielonka) or ‘neoliberal empire’ (Warwick Armstrong and James Anderson). Naturally, approaching Russia, a country that has consciously adopted a development strategy of ‘modernisation without Westernisation’, with this approach is inherently ineffectual, as the EU as Russia’s equal ally does not have any leverage that it could impose on its eastern partner. The result is that Europe’s prominent politicians such as German FM Guido Westerwelle and his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski, who recently addressed a joint letter to the EU’s chief of foreign affairs Catherine Ashton, where they urged her to reorient her policy towards realpolitik of securing energy supplies and modernising Russian economy.3

If the Russian leadership’s military solutions to the Georgian and 2nd Chechnyan conflicts can regarded as controversial, Putin’s latest initiative shows that the Russian political elite clearly realises that their country’s influence on its neighbourhood can be achieved only if it brings benefits to both sides and is not based on force. Far from being a Russian empire, the Customs Union, which is to be a first step towards a full Eurasian Union, was joined by Kazakhstan and Belarus of their own sovereign decision and they will retain a proportionate control over the decision-making of the whole union. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan already have submitted their own bid for the membership. Similarly, where Russia once had relied on its hard currency reserves to gain from its neighbours political concessions through cheap provision of loans and direct subsidies of fuel, the new policy aims at elevating the economic prospects of the entire region with Russia serving as a natural gravity well.4 While Russia will over time benefit by reinforcing its status as the region’s financial and business centre, the other countries of the Union will be more competitive in agriculture and heavy industry such as steelmaking, gain investments for their backward, Soviet-style economies (this especially applies to Belarus), just as benefit from the competitive advantage of their cheaper labour force.

For the EU and US, the Russian effort to lead a regional integration brings a possibility of an alternative form of the international ordering. Without making any positive or negative judgements, the present international order can be broadly labelled as the global military hegemony of the US with the support of its NATO allies. This hegemony has been supported by the combined economic might of the US, EU and Japan, but as the economies of indebted Western countries will be experiencing their relative decline, their military control will inevitably wane too. The obvious alternative is that this hegemony will be replaced by another – that of the Asian or Chinese century. As this is naturally an infeasible outcome for the European and American interests, maximum effort should be made to seek out other options, the most significant of which is a return to the principle of balance of power remodelled for the purposes of the ‘grand scale’ of the globalised world. While the original international order of nation-states presupposed the relative equality of countries in the still rather localised world of the 19th century, sovereignty in the postmodern world becomes intangible but for the largest of polities that possess a broad control over the world’s natural and economic resources. Thus, political equality in the 21st century can be achieved only on the level of ‘grand spaces’, by political groupings that are sufficiently large and powerful to maintain an effective control over their territory that would balance out that of other similar entities.

A Eurasian Union, modelled on the EU is a clear step into the direction of such a multipolar world. As its plans develop from the current Customs Union to a full economic union, it is based on fully voluntary grounds and is expected to bring benefits of peace and economic growth to all its members – not just the Russian giant. In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, a Eurasian Union could well become a strong ally of the EU and US and help them to ensure that their relative strength will remain preserved, even against the odds of the rising Chinese dragon.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Vladimir Putin, ‘Новый Интеграционный Проект Для Евразии: Будущее, Которое Рождается Сегодня / Buduscheie, Kotoroie Rozhdaeietsa Segodnia / Novyi Integratsiovannyi Proiekt Dlia Evrazii’, Известия, 3 October 2011 <> (accessed 4 October 2011).
  2. Andrew Osborn, ‘Vladimir Putin’s Plan to Create a Eurasian Union Is About Reclaiming the Russian Empire’, The Telegraph, 5 October 2011 <> (accessed 11 November 2011).
  3. Andrew Rettman, ‘Putin’s Return Poses Questions for EU Strategy’, EUobserver, 14 November 2011 <> (accessed 15 November 2011).
  4. Andrew E. Kramer, ‘Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan Form Customs Union’, The New York Times, 5 July 2010, section Business Day / Global Business <> (accessed 1 July 2011).

China-U.S. Competition to lead Asian Development

A new ‘Great Game’ in Asia-Pacific arena arouses the antagonism and the rivalries between old and new world powers. The future of the United States is closely connected to and dependent on the Asian geopolitical chessboard. Therefore, last week, President Obama said in his speech to the Australian Parliament that:

Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in. With most of the world’s nuclear powers and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.

‘We are here to stay’ is a strong message directed to the great rising power, China, the most ambitious player in the competition to gain the regional hegemony in Asia-Pacific. The Sino-US relations, oscillating between competition and cooperation, seem to have inaugurated a new course. Officially, Barack Obama emphasizes the importance of the US-China cooperation and recognizes Beijing’s balancing role in the region:

We’ve seen that China can be a partner, from reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula to preventing proliferation. We’ll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation.

US-China trade © Forbes
US-China trade © Forbes

On the unofficial side, Obama’s strategic goals are glaring and China knows them: Washington aims to regain the leadership in the Far East, implicitly carrying out a policy of containment of Beijing’s political and economic influence. The United States define their role in Asia  just when in the West people live out through the peak of global crisis,with Euroland  looking to China, already the largest single holder of U.S. government debt, and to its 3200 billion USD foreign exchange reserves as the only resource for the rehabilitation of the public debt.

The first significant sign of U.S. interests in Asian geopolitical space is the announcement of the imminent dispatch of a military aircraft and up to 2.500 marines to Darwin in northern Australia, only 500 miles from Indonesia. The U.S. goal is to strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and protect core U.S. interests across Asia. By 2016, the number of American troops stationed in Asia will be staggering: 2500 marines stationed in Australia, 50000 already stationed in Japan and 28000 stationed in South Korea.

New Asia-Pacific order

The new chapter of the Washington’s Asian policy started at the last Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu. During the APEC Forum, which brought together 21 Pacific Rim Countries, the ‘member economies’ that seek to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region, President Obama has defined new conditions to Beijing government. Obama insisted that China should appreciate its official currency, the renminbi. A faster rise of its value would balance global trade and make American goods more competitive, but also it would discourage the inflow of foreign capital to China. We’re going to continue to be firm that China operate by the same rules as everyone else. We don’t want them taking advantage of the United States‘, stated President Obama.

While the United States are not afraid of China’s rise, China begins to worry about Obama’s recent  announcement of the achievement of the broad outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement negotiated among the United States and 8 other partners (Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). The TPP will exclude China and Russia from this free trade regional area in Asia-Pacific, with a related market of 500 million consumers.

China’s response: ASEAN + 3 is the keystone of Asian development

Beijing’s swift response arrived at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, held recently in Bali, Indonesia. Premier Wen Jiabao has summarized in four key-points his proposal for South-East Asia’s development, highlighting how China intends to strengthen multilateral relations and participation in regional organizations in maintaining equilibrium and balance in the region.

First, we should enhance strategic consultation and mutual trust. We are committed to a policy of building good-neighborly relations and partnership with our neighboring countries, and we abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. The disputes over the South China Sea between the relevant countries in the region have existed for many years. They should be settled through friendly consultation and negotiation between the sovereign states directly concerned.

The second China’s priority is the regional economic development and a common coordination of strategies:

Second, we should pursue economic development and social progress as a top priority. Both China and ASEAN Countries are in a crucial stage of development. We should better coordinate development strategies, draw on mutual strengths and promote cooperation in more fields and at a higher level.

The third key-proposal of Wen’s speech at the Bali Summit points out that the development of cooperation in Asia should be addressed through the mechanism of ASEAN 10 +3 (China, Japan and South Korea). This is a way to strengthen the partnership with Japan and South Korea, historical allies of the United States. On the other hand, in these days the United States and Russia for the first time take part at the East Asia Summit and aim to strengthen the mechanism of ASEAN +8, to counterbalance China and ASEAN +3.

Third, we should adhere to ASEAN centrality in promoting East Asian cooperation. China supports ASEAN integration and community building and welcomes a stronger and more influential ASEAN. We are confident that ASEAN is fully capable of leading East Asian cooperation. China will open a permanent mission to ASEAN next year. We will continue to support ASEAN and work with it, and we will continue to take 10+1 as the foundation, 10+3 as the main vehicle and the East Asia Summit as an important supplement in pursuing East Asian cooperation.

In the last fourth point of his speech, Wen Jiabao said that China will seek to strengthen cooperation through multilateral approach.

Fourth, we should uphold our common Interests in the multilateral field.

Undoubtedly, the main passage of Wen’s stronger new Asian policy is summarized in this sentence: China will never seek hegemony and is opposed to all hegemonic acts.The reference is to the strategic and geopolitical ambitions of the United States in Asia, especially compared to the frequent interference in inter-regional disputes between China, Vietnam, the Philippines over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea between China and Japan in Diaoyu-Senkaku in East China Sea.

South China Sea: core interests and sovereignty

The South China Sea is Beijing’s core interest, with China claiming its ‘indisputable sovereignty’ on the myriad of islands, rocks and vast natural resources, especially hydrocarbures, sited in the subsurface sea. With the Dong Feng-21 D, also called the ‘aircraft carrier killer’, a ballistic missile with range of 3000 km, and the increasing military spending, Beijing government could shift Pacific power balance. China has turned its ‘Continental Policy’ into a new “Oceans Policy”, oriented to shake the balance of powers in the maritime space through a strengthening of military outposts in the South China Sea.

This refinement of Chinese military technology has increased the concern of Japanese and Philippines, who have called upon a U.S. intervention. At the 17th ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010 U.S. State Secretary, Hillary Clinton stated:

The United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea.  We share these interests with not only ASEAN members and ASEAN Regional Forum participants but with other maritime nations and the broader international community.

It is difficult to make predictions on the future development of Sino-U.S. relations with regard to the effort to achieve strategic supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region. One thing is certain: participation in regional organizations seems to have become the keystone in establishing a new balance of power in Asia.

Egypt: Facing the Challenge of Democracy

Egypt: Facing Challenges to DemocracyThe elections in Egypt  are a great deal since the aim of the Tahrir Revolution was and still is ‘democracy’. Considering  the on-going experiences of my country, Turkey, I am very well aware that the consolidation of democracy is not something that might come over in one election. It will take years before Egypt is a fully-functioning democratic state, but I would like to continue being optimistic. I believe that once the Egyptians taste the ‘power’ they hold in their hands, which will be their unique version of democracy, they will not give up on it. The aim of this article is to summarize the main issues and challenges in the wake of the election season in Egypt, and present some moderate suggestions in order to contribute to the on-going brainstorming for ‘where it all began’.

Discovering ‘Power’: The Case of Egypt

I attended a seminar yesterday on ‘the fundamental principles of politics’. It was given by a professor who is also a member of the Turkish parliament. The first words of the lecturer were a question: ‘What is power?’. This question is very familiar to international relations and political science students. There are various possible answers according to different schools of thought. Personally, I welcome power only if it’s used for the good of others; if it’s used as a means to do more for a better company, city, country, world, universe (in the case of God) or whatever else you are into. Unless you use ‘power’ to leave something behind that others can benefit from, then I say you wasted your power together with your life. Anyway, while I was considering my own thoughts on power, there appeared a follow-up question ‘May power cause a soul to decay because of the abilities it provides to its holder?’ My answer was an immediate ‘yes’, considering the history of abusive dictators of the past, present and possibly, but not hopefully, of the future. The lecturer continued by telling historical examples of controlling the power and its side-effects. ‘The most recent one’ he said ‘is democracy,’ then he lowered his voice and said: ‘and by democracy I mean the elections.’ I would argue that in contemporary democracies the best functioning tool is free elections. You make your choice and vote for the representatives whom you think might be the best for you and your country. If you don’t like the way they work, you punish them by not voting for them again. This way you save their souls from possible decay and control their power. Isn’t this a better way of limiting power compared to the bloody end of Gaddafi?

Why did I say all this? Well, I’ve been reading a lot about Egypt lately and the first elections are to be held at the end of this month. These elections are a great deal since the aim of the Tahrir Revolution was ‘democracy’. Considering my country’s on-going experience for consolidating it, I am very well aware that democracy is not something that might come about after a single election. It will take years before Egypt is a fully-functioning democratic state, however, I would like to continue being optimistic. I believe that once the Egyptians taste the power they hold in their hands, which will be their unique version of democracy, they will not give up on it. The aim of this article is to summarize the main issues and challenges in the wake of the election season in Egypt, and present some moderate suggestions in order to contribute to the on-going brainstorming for ‘where it all began’.

What is ahead?

If the current plan for elections is implemented then the elections for both parliamentary chambers will start with on the 28th of November, ten months after the overthrow of Mubarak, and will be carried out in three phases until March 2012. After the completion of the parliamentary elections, the process of drafting theconstitution writing will start. This commission was originally to be formed by the parliament but according to a document published recently, 80% of the commission is to be selected by the army and 20% by the parliament. The constitutional commission will have six months for drafting. If the commission is unable to draft a constitution in six months the communique anticipates that the task of writing will be handled by the army. This constitution will be voted upon in a national referandum and only after it is approved, SCAF and the parliament will work on organizing the presidential elections. This process might continue till 2013 and until then the military will continue to act as the president.1

Major Challenges

As an outsider I can point out three major challenges ahead. These are the army and the role it will play in the Egypt’s future, the role of Islam, and the economic situation that needs a comprehensive planfor the short and long term duration.

The Army

The fear in the heart of many pro-democracy Egyptians is rooted in the long-history of the military-supported and -dominated state governance of Egypt. Obviously, the army would not like to yield the sweet power it holds over to a civilian government. This is easily seen in the latest el-Selmy Communique made public by the Deputy Prime Minister Ali el-Selmy, from which it becomes clear that the army is using its power to get a privilieged position in the country’s future. There was immediate and unanimous uproar against the communique from almost all political actors.2 They threatened the SCAF with a million-men march in Tahrir and then two sides negotiated for amendments.[1]3 Political actors, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, will join demostrations unless the document is issued without these amendments. 4 I think this is a very positive step, not for the country’s stability of course, but to understand that what Egyptians want is democracy and they won’t give up their fight until they achieve this goal. So, although I am worried about the stability issue, I think the political and social actors should continue the pressure against the army with the goal of controlling the power until their democracy matures enough to do this automatically.

The Role of Islam

To be honest, I don’t think there will be an Iran-like Egypt. However, analysing the potential political actors of the upcoming parliament, it would be naive to hope for pure secularism. The majority of the political actors, except for the extremes of course, want a ‘civil state’ with Islam being recognized as the state religion. This includes the Egypt Bloc as well as the Democratic Alliance for Egypt. 5They also want Islam to be the main source of legislation. Well, as a citizen of a secular country, I could easily claim that ‘without secularism there won’t be democracy’, however I am not going to do that. As long as the political decisions are taken by representatives of the people and state and judicial institutions are treating every citizen equally regardless of their religion, ethnicity, race, sex  (and whatever else is included in those international agreements) without interfering in personal choices and lives, I won’t argue in favor of the need for secularism. Although there are divisions among them as well, it looks like Islamist parties will win some important portion of the votes in the Egyptian elections. Tunisia and Egypt will be experimens in this sense. We’ll see if they will be able to control the power of religion through democracy and show the world if Islam and democracy can work together.

The Economic Situation

The economy seems to be in a mess right now. Egypt is one of the biggest recipients of international aid and funds, but the efficiency of their usage is questionnable. The public sector is excessively crowded and not functioning efficiently.  Tourism profits and investments have been decreasing significantly since the revolution. The private sector lacks the dynamism and small and medium enterprises don’t have easy access to funds. The health sector is not in a good shape either. Corruption is everywhere. 6 Looking at this negative picture, the socio-economic demands of the masses who rose up against Mubarak can be understood easily.  These demands are still waiting in line and this issue will be a major determinant of stability in the near future. I am not an economist, but I can easily comprehend that there should be a comprehensive economic plan that aims to provide for the basic needs of the people in the short term. This could be done by channeling a proportion of funds to a programme that might include social projects, incentives for the SMEs, micro-crediting for individual entrepreneurs and trainings for skilled and unskilled labor force in order to dynamise the urgently needed business sector. Once the people are shown that they have a prospect of being employed and earning some money, stability will be easier to achieve and this will open a way for investments and trade. In the medium term, there is a clear need to re-organize the public sector which constitutes a big proportion of the large budget deficit. 7 The people working in the public sector are not earning much and they are not considered to be very qualified. This is why large numbers of people could be transferred to the private sector, with the social benefits of the state sector being preserved of course, after some training programmes that are created according to the needs of the private sector. In the long-term, the private sector and trade needs to be boosted alongside the re-structuring of banks and the funding, health and education systems. In this regard, the support from international donors like the US and the EU should not be limited to providing the funds but asist the Egyptian government in coming up with a comprehensive plan for measures that meet the needs of the Egyptian people. For all this to happen, first there needs to be an established political elite to lead the process – which will emerge only after some time.


Well, I am very well aware that I had to skip many other issues and actors that are crucial to understand the current situation in Egypt. I hope I can fill in the blanks in another article but my intention for now was to summarize the most debated issues and to contribute to the brainstorming as a young observer who lives in a once-military-dominated democracy with a developing economy that had similar problems and a Muslim-majority population, which has been polarized over the issue of Islam and secularism for years.

As the Turkish parliamentarian said yesterday, the question is ‘how to control the power ’. In democracies, politicians hold the power to shape the lives of their people and the people hold the power of ballot. In Egypt, the question remains the same. Nevertheless the answer may be different, which would still be good since even universal concepts like democracy need some diversity.

Drug Trafficking and Countermeasures in Turkey: A General Assessment

Drug trafficking has been on the global agenda for more than a century.1 In simplest terms, it is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.2 Globally, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that between 149 and 272 million people, or 3.3% to 6.1% of the population aged 15-64, used illicit substances at least once in the previous year.3 These numbers are worrying, especially for countries on inter-regional trafficking routes where there are numerous non-state actors involved in manufacturing, importing, exporting, distributing, dispensing or possessing drugs across the borders.

Turkey is one such country; with its unique geographical location at the center of the drug smuggling crossroads, it has been one of the most negatively affected countries by drug trafficking in Eurasia. It has been a transit country, where drug trafficking has provided a breeding ground for other organized crime activities and a financial relief for Kurdish terrorist organization Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK) for years. These harsh realities necessitated Turkey to take concrete steps to fight against drug trafficking at the national, regional, and international levels and embrace a cooperative, multi-faceted, and decisive approach. The following sections contain detailed information regarding the major trafficking routes affecting Turkey, drug trafficking-PKK terrorism nexus, and Turkey’s domestic and international efforts against drug trafficking with particular emphasis on the aspect of intelligence sharing.

Major Drug Trafficking Routes Affecting Turkey

According to 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report published by the US Department of State, Turkey is affected by three main heroin drug trafficking routes, namely: the Balkan route, the northern (Black Sea) route and the eastern Mediterranean route.4 In addition, starting from early 1990s, traffickers began to use a new route called the ‘Silk Road,’ where the inadequate border controls between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries allowed traffickers to transit illicit drugs from Afghanistan to Russia, Ukraine, Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic and the Nordic countries.5

Given its excellent strategic location between Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, Turkey acts as a transit route for opium and its derivates originating from Afghanistan6 en route to Western Europe, for methamphetamine from Iran for markets in the Far East, for captagon tablets originating in Eastern Europe en route to countries in the Middle East, and cannabis from Lebanon, Albania, and Afghanistan.7 As an outcome of this high rate of drug trafficking, approximately 75% of heroin seized in Europe has a Turkish and Kurdish connection; having either transited through Turkey, been processed there, or been seized in connection with Turkish criminal syndicates.8 According to more recent sources, the percentage is even higher; Robins indicates that 90% of the heroin trade is controlled by Turkish and Kurdish gangs.9 This trend is no different within the country. Many major traffickers based in Turkey are ethnic Kurds and many of the same individuals and families have been involved in smuggling contraband for years.10

Indeed, there are other factors fueling drug trafficking in Turkey and the region. To name a few, smuggling has a long tradition within the east and southeast regions of Turkey. Common ties of language, culture, and religion among the residents of southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and northwest Iran encouraged the smugglers to continue their business.11  As clearly put by a Kurdish smuggler living in Van, a city in eastern Turkey, “in this region, smuggling is part of [the] economy. If it weren’t for animal husbandry and smuggling, the people in this region would not have survived for centuries. Smuggling is a way of life here and is not something negative.”12 Another fueling factor is high profit margins; the market is so lucrative that a kilogram of heroin worth $1,000 to $2,000 in Thailand or Afghanistan rises to $6,000 to $8,000 in Turkey and $20,000 to $80,000 in Germany with a street value of $200,000.13  These factors combined indicate how profitable drug trafficking business is for illegal non-state actors, such as organized crime groups and terrorist organizations in need of instant money especially for operational capability.

Drug Trafficking-PKK Terrorism Nexus

It is by and large the case that politically motivated terrorist organizations, mostly due to financial burden, have established links with the illegal businesses. The PKK is no exception to this. The ongoing lawlessness, disorder, and poor sociopolitical and socioeconomic conditions of the region paved the way for the organization to carry out illegal operations to finance its activities. In this context, the PKK aimed to exploit a considerable amount of money in a short time span in order to be capable of continuing its fight against conventional Turkish forces. Towards this end, the organization was involved in the taxation of drug shipments, the protection of drug traffickers throughout the southeastern Turkey,14 and illegal drug trade.15

Drug trafficking-the PKK nexus is not mere speculation; there are clear evidences regarding PKK’s involvement in the business. To name a few, for example, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) concluded that nearly 178 Kurdish organizations were suspected of illegal drug trade involvement in 1992. In addition, Germany’s Chief Prosecutor maintained that 80% of the drugs seized in Europe were linked to the PKK in 1994.16 As expected, the revenue the PKK has raised out of drugs is considerably high. According to Turkish intelligence sources who wished to remain anonymous, the revenues of the PKK earned from the control over the drug as well as arms trafficking between Central Asia and Europe during the first half of the 1990s vary between 5 to 7 billion dollars a year.17 The numbers suggest that the PKK has found the financial relief it has sought through drugs; considering that these large sums are used to purchase arms and maintain the core military cadre controlling the military wing of the organization.

PKK’s trafficking activities are interlinked with other Turkish organized crime networks as well; traffickers are thus able to take advantage of the freight traffic into Europe. In addition, with almost 8 million Turks and Kurds living in Europe, half of whom visit Turkey each year, there are tremendous opportunities to take out the drugs and bring in the cash in return.18 It has also been alleged that persons whom Turkish state had granted some rights and privileges as the civilian counterinsurgency forces in southeastern Turkey contributed to the untrammeled growth of the drugs trade through eastern Turkey, and enabled criminal networks to gain control over parts of the Turkish state apparatus.19 Drug smuggling, therefore, constitutes a major part of the PKK’s financial apparatus, given the involvement of the organization in almost all phases of drug trafficking to sustain its activities. Turkey, in response, is indeed taking counter measures at home and abroad to prevent the activities of organized crime groups and terrorist organizations both to maintain its national security and contribute to regional stability.

Turkey’s Efforts Against Drug Trafficking

As mentioned earlier, Turkey’s struggle against drug trafficking is multi-dimensional and multi-level. To begin with the domestic level, first and foremost, the essential need for the fight against addictive substances is stated under the Turkish Constitution. According to the Article 58, “the state shall take all the necessary measures to protect young people from alcohol addiction, illicit drugs, delinquency, gambling, illiteracy and other similar bad habits.”20 To this end, Turkish law enforcement organizations focus their efforts on stemming the traffic of drugs and intercepting precursor chemicals. The Department of Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime of the Turkish National Police (TNP), Gendarmerie, and Coast Guard are all part of the Ministry of Interior and have significant anti-narcotics responsibilities.21 The other state agencies that actively participate in the struggle are Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Supreme Council of Radio and Television, Directorate General for Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, Directorate General of Turkish Grain Board,22 and Undersecretariat of Customs. This extensive list, along with a considerable number of local authorities and NGOs assisting state agencies, manifests Turkey’s commitment to disrupt narcotics trafficking at home.

To illustrate Turkey’s efforts to fulfill this commitment, the country has adopted a series of new pieces of legislation in late 1990s; the most operationally important change was most likely the new legislation that would permit international controlled deliveries of illegal drugs.23 Also, more recently, Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organized Crime (TADOC) organized 60 training programs focusing on drug law enforcement, intelligence analysis, illegal immigration and human smuggling, interview techniques, surveillance techniques, and antiterrorism training for judges and prosecutors for 1500 local and regional law enforcement officers and trained a total of 639 Turkish officers in computer-based training centers throughout Turkey in 2009.24 In addition, during 2010, Turkish counternarcotics officials began a series of efforts to address the increase in narcotic smugglers using international airports to smuggle illegal drugs either from Turkey or through Turkey. Since the inception of this program in January 2010, 133 couriers were arrested and over 329 kilograms of illegal drugs were seized, a dramatic increase from the previous year.25 It should also be noted that the increase in the quantity of heroin seized between 2002-2007 is five-fold,26 thanks to Turkey’s momentum and dedication in institution building, training, and supply and demand reduction.

Turkey’s global strategy on the fight against illicit trafficking of drugs, on the other hand, is based on the principle that the issue can only be addressed by extensive cooperation, exchange of information and expertise within the international community.27 Under this principle, Turkey has concluded more than 65 bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements as of 200628 to continue its anti-trafficking efforts and contribute to related projects together with the international community, specifically the ones addressing the problem and its implications in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, three countries forming the “Golden Route” for traffickers.

For this purpose, Turkey has assisted other countries to take substantial steps to address the drug-related issues in Afghanistan not only by hosting and attending international meetings such as Paris Pact Round Table Meeting, but also funding and planning training programs for Afghan law enforcement officers.29 Its contribution to solve the drug-related problems emanating from Iran should not be underestimated, either. In 2008, Turkey and Iran signed agreements to cooperate in the fight against illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.30 To strengthen the cooperation, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has announced a newly passed law on an Iran-Turkey agreement to work together in the same areas in 2011.31 In a similar vein, Pakistan and Turkey have agreed to take measures to “broaden an deepen” security cooperation and greater interaction between their intelligence agencies against terrorism, illicit arms and, drug trafficking, under the name “intensified cooperation” in 2009.32 President Zardari and his Turkish counterpart Gul agreed to further deepen, broaden, and strengthen the partnership between two countries in every field for better results in 2011.33 These agreements suggest that Turkey aims to take preemptive measures against drugs entering its soils from Central Asia, where the illicit cultivation and production is the highest in the world.

Indeed, Turkey has not directed its attention solely towards the Golden Route; there are numerous bilateral agreements signed between Turkey and European countries affected by drug trafficking. To name a few, for instance, under Turkey-UK Strategic Partnership, two countries agreed to strengthen ties and deepen the level of cooperation on the fight against terrorism, aviation security, illegal drugs trade, illegal immigration, and other organized crimes, and also to regularly update their joint assessments of the threats in 2007.34 A similar cooperation mechanism exists among Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany. Turkey accepted to share wiretap evidence with those countries as a part of its efforts; specifically the close relations established between MIT, Turkish National Intelligence Organization, and German Verfassungschutz generated positive results in terms of their fight against drug trafficking and PKK.35 Additionally, in line with Turkey’s EU accession process, Turkey became a full member of the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) after the European Parliament ratified Turkey’s participation in 2006, following a successful EU twinning project.36

Turkey cooperates closely with the US as well. Drug Enforcement Administration and the US Embassy in Turkey work closely with Turkish officials to offer regional training opportunities to Turkish Law Enforcement officials throughout the country and at the TADOC center to provide additional investigative and prosecutorial tools to Turkish officials and their international counterparts.37 The US government also provides Turkish National Police with equipment support for intelligence gathering and interdiction operations and assists Turkish Customs to improve interdiction at Turkey’s main land border crossings with Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Georgia.38 Most notably, to break the drug trafficking-terrorism nexus, the US imposed sanctions on the PKK to cut off its funding resources under Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, froze any assets some senior PKK leaders might have in the US, and banned US citizens from engaging in any business with these persons.39

In addition to bilateral agreements, Turkey has ratified major multilateral agreements and international conventions in the combat against addictive substances. These include, but not limited to, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and Protocol amending the convention (1972), Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988), Agreement Between the European Community and Turkey on Precursors and Chemical Substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotics drugs or psychotropic substances (2004).40 Turkey also actively contributes to the work of most relevant major international and regional platforms such as the UNODC (the Commission on Narcotic Drugs-CND, the Paris Pact), the International Narcotics Control Board, the Pompidou Group, the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, and Economic Cooperation Organization.41 Still, intelligence sharing plays a critical, yet overlooked role in the cooperation to prevent trafficking. In terms of this matter, Turkey has been a member of Central and Eastern Europe Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) since 1994, concentrated its focus on tight coordination with its neighbors, and presented proposals for the “Istanbul Platform”, which contained the creation of a regional coordination and analysis unit for Turkey and its neighbors, and also the setting up of a regular dialogue between drug and police liaison officers from several countries stationed in Turkey, other Balkan countries, and in some countries of the South Caucasus.42 Additionally, FBI’s Office of International Operations runs the Legal Attaché Program in Turkey.

Conclusion and Way Forward

Just as terrorism, drug trafficking can be reduced and contained, yet cannot be totally eliminated. Inter-regional and intra-regional drug trafficking is likely to continue, given the high and growing demand for drugs in destination countries and high production rate, lawlessness, poverty, and instability in the source countries in Central Asia. In addition, so long as the windfall gains and profit margins remain high, terrorist organizations are likely to continue their involvement in drug taxation, protection, production, and trafficking. Accordingly, Turkey, as an outcome of its location, is likely to remain as a key transit country for drug traffickers for a considerable period of time in the future.

Turkey’s national, regional, and international efforts against drug trafficking appear to be effective, yet better results can be achieved through more intelligence cooperation and case-by-case collaboration. Even though intelligence and security cooperation is problematic due to the fundamental tension between an increasingly networked world and highly compartmentalized national intelligence gathering,43 cooperation at international level has become an effective tool of foreign policy conducting, of using that intelligence for ensuring their national security,44 and of combating drug trafficking and terrorism nourishing from organized crime. In addition, liaison arrangements reduce the risks of collection operations against adversaries, particularly if the collaborating party has ethnic, geographical, or historical ties that offer improved cover, language skills, or physical access to the target.45 Under this light, Eurasian countries on the critical trafficking routes can initiate a regional intelligence sharing mechanism where Turkey, with its location, mixed identity, and long-standing experience in fighting against drugs, may be the key actor in intelligence gathering against targets that European governments have difficulty tracking.46

Without a doubt, establishing such mechanism is a difficult task. However, similar mechanisms established earlier in the past, such as “5 Eyes” group that permitted the division of effort in sharing signals intelligence (SIGINT) among the US, UK, Commonwealth countries, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Turkey47 in 1947, or Treaty of Periphery (TRIDENT) initiated by Turkish, Israeli, and Iranian intelligence in 1958 to provide intelligence cooperation against the rising tide of Arab nationalism48 prove its feasibility.  In the same vein, a similar intelligence sharing and liaison arrangement mechanism can be initiated in Eurasia with the support of specifically Western intelligence services that are operationally more capable, experienced, and knowledgeable of drug trafficking.

It should be noted that establishing liaison relationships can be highly difficult and costly, even among close allies. There is always the risk that a weak power may be able to inflict considerable strategic damage on a great power by manipulating its asymmetric advantages in intelligence liaison relationships or by using its counterintelligence apparatus to effectively capture the great power’s intelligence system for its own purposes.49 It is also possible that some smaller countries in particular regions may lack regional SIGINT capabilities; in the Mediterranean region, for instance, the intelligence services cannot afford extensive global coverage with the possible exception of Israel and Turkey.50 Similarly, some advanced intelligence services may lack human intelligence (HUMINT) and suffer from insufficient numbers of linguists, difficulty accessing certain countries, and the challenges of infiltrating tribal organizations in Eurasia. There is also the problem of national interests. As one former director general of Britain’s Security Service notes, international intelligence sharing “is [still] something of an oxymoron,” since intelligence services embody “individual state power and national self interest.”51 Apart from these, differences between legal systems, the lack of knowledge of these differences, different law enforcement systems as well as diverging interests and cultural differences, excessive bureaucracies, endemic corruption,52 strict privacy laws are other obstacles that complicate the cross-border liaison arrangements and intelligence sharing.

In sum, drug trafficking is an international problem with growing and dangerous links to other criminal activities and terrorism. In Turkey’s context, PKK’s engagement in trafficking and marketing drugs is a sound example supporting this argument. Turkey remains strongly committed to disrupting drug trafficking and addressing its implications on its national security and regional security. Still, for Turkey and other actors, increasing the level and quality of cooperation with particular emphasis on an intelligence-driven approach is strongly needed to counter drug production and trafficking in Eurasia, given the complexity of emerging security threats, changing threat perceptions, and the incapability of states to address non-traditional threats alone in changing international relations environment. Thus, taking steps towards this end is a necessity, not an option for more effective future counter-trafficking policies and responses at national and regional levels.

Show 52 footnotes

  1. “World Drug Report 2009,” UNODC (New York: UN, 2009).
  2. “Drug Trafficking,” UNODC, 2010. Available at:
  3. “The World Drug Report 2011,” UNODC (New York: UN, 2011). Available at:
  4. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia,” US Department of State, March 3, 2011. Available at:
  5. Vladimir Fenopetov, “The Drug Crime Threat to Countries Located on the ‘Silk Road’,” China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly 4, No. 1 (2006): 5-13.
  6. Afghanistan is the major source of heroin, producing approximately 70-90% of the world’s supply of opium, which is converted to heroin. Conversion of local opium into heroin is increasingly common in Afghanistan because all Afghan-based drug traffic is destined to the lucrative illicit markets in Europe where the street price of heroin is 20-fold higher than in the areas close to the Afghan borders.
  7. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia.”
  8. Salih Fuat Sahin, “Case Studies In Terrorism-Drug Connection: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and The Shining Path” (M.Sc diss., University of North Texas, 2001).
  9. Philip Robins, “Back From the Brink: Turkey’s Ambivalent Approaches to the Hard Drugs Issue,” Middle East Journal 62, No. 4 (Autumn 2008): 630-650.
  10. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia.”
  11. Salih Fuat Sahin.
  12. Ahmet Icduygu and Sule Toktas, “How Do Smuggling and Trafficking Operate via Irregular Border Crossings in the Middle East?,” International Migration 40, No. 6 (2002): 25-54.
  13. Salih Fuat Sahin.
  14. Philip Robins, 630-650.
  15. Salih Fuat Sahin.
  16. Michael P. Hankard and Saruhan S. Hatipoglu, “The Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK),” United States Global Strategy Council, 1994. Available at:
  17. Mustafa Kibaroglu, “Turkey’s Concerns About the State-Building Efforts in Iraq,” The Iranian Journal of International Affairs 18, No. 4 (2005): 443-454.
  18. Michele Steinberg, “PKK Terrorists Named ‘Drug Kingpins’; Nations Move Against Narcoterrorism,” Executive Intelligence Review, August 1, 2008
  19. Martin van Bruinessen, “Transnational Aspects of the Kurdish Question,” (working paper) (2000).
  20. “Agenda Item 4: Cooperation in the Field of Drugs,” Screening Chapter 24, Justice, Freedom and Security: Turkey’s Country Session, February 15, 2006.
  21. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia.”
  22. “Action Plan For the Implementation of National Policy and Strategy Document on Counteracting Addictive Substance and Substance Addiction,” Ministry of Interior in Turkey (2007).
  23. Philip Robins, 630-650.
  24. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia.”
  25. Ibid.
  26. Abdullah Bozkurt, “EU Cannot Sustain Drug Policy Without Turkey,” Today’s Zaman, November 7, 2009,
  27. “Turkey’s Efforts Against The Drug Problem,” Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Available at:
  28. “Agenda Item 4: Cooperation in the Field of Drugs.”
  29. “Turkey’s Efforts Against The Drug Problem.”
  30. “Iran, Turkey Ink Pact to Fight Drug Trafficking, Terrorism,” Thaindian News, August 15, 2008,
  31. “Iran, Turkey to fight terror, narcotics,” Press TV, May 23, 2011. Available at:
  32. “Pakistan, Turkey Resolve Against Terrorism,” Asia News, October 25, 2009,
  33. “Pakistan, Turkey agree to deepen, broaden and strengthen partnership in every field,” The President of Pakistan Press Center, October 31, 2011. Avaiable at:
  34. “Turkey UK Strategic Partnership 2007/2008,” Foreign and Commonwealth Office, October 25, 2007,
  35. Enis Berberoglu, “MIT’in Orta Asya Zirvesine Sabotaj,” Hurriyet, September 2, 1997,
  36. “2011 INCSR: Country Reports – Somalia Through Zambia.”
  37. Ibid.
  38. “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Turkey,” US Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (March 1996),
  39. “Kongra-Gel’s Drug Kingpins,” VOA News, October 24, 2009,
  40. “Agenda Item 4: Cooperation in the Field of Drugs.”
  41. “Turkey’s Efforts Against The Drug Problem.”
  42. Vladimir Fenopetov, 5-13.
  43. Richard J. Aldrich, “Transatlantic Intelligence and Security Cooperation,” International Affairs 80, No.4 (2004): 732-733.
  44. Shlomo Shpiro, “The Communication of Mutual Security: Frameworks for European-Mediterranean Intelligence Sharing” (2001).
  45. Jennifer E. Sims, “Foreign Intelligence Liaison: Devils, Deals and Details,”International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 19, No. 2 (May 2006): 195-217.
  46. Stephane Lefabve, “Turkey’s Intelligence Community in Changing Times,” International Journal 61 No. 124 (2005-2006): 105-124.
  47. Derek Reveron, “Old Allies, New Friends: Intelligence-Sharing in the War on Terror,” Orbis 50, No. 3 (Summer 2006): 453-468.
  48. Shlomo Shpiro.
  49. Jennifer E. Sims, 195-217.
  50. Shlomo Shpiro.
  51. Stephen Lander, “International Intelligence Cooperation: An Inside Perspective,” Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17, No. 3 (October 2004): 481-493.
  52. Ludo Block, “Cross-Border Liaison and Intelligence: Practicalities and Issues,” in Clive Harfield, Allyson MacVean, John GD Grieve and David Phillips, eds. The Handbook of Intelligent Policing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Ten awkward questions to ask Crazy Crab, cartoonist who challenges China’s Great Firewall

EVERYONE is looking, but nobody knows who he is. Bloggers around the world, censors and guardians of the World Wide Web, national and foreign press. In recent weeks, there is too much talk about him, Crazy Crab, pseudonym of the first cartoonist who challenges China’s Great Firewall doing political satire. Hexie Farm is a political satire comic book and has attracted lots of attention from internet users all around the world, because it reveals the contradictions and the dark side of China’s society with one ruling Party and corrupted protagonists. Following the publication of Hexie Farm, the name of his comic, in the new list of Sina Weibo’s banned search terms and “sensitive words” (as “Tiananmen square”, “democracy” and “leadership change”), The Post Internazionale found Crazy Crab and gave him a voice through a unique and exclusive interview.

Hexie Farm is the first and most famous example of political cartoon and political satire in the history of contemporary China. Its popularity has spread beyond the Great Wall in Europe and the United States. But what does it mean to do political satire in China, today?

It’s hard to say what political satire means in China today. Public political satire is rare in China. Public critic on Chinese politics is dangerous. People might lost jobs, be detained or arrested for doing this.  Due to strict censorship, it seems that most Chinese political cartoonists lose their courage to criticize. But what a harmonious time we live! Every day, hilarious news of tragicomedies pops up from the corner of GFW. What a waste it would be if we remain silent at this.  Although no media in main land China dares to publish my cartoons, and the authority is trying hard to locate my cartoons and delete them, they are still got reposted to more audience.


Interview made by Maria Dolores Cabras. You can read it in full at the website of the international politics’ magazine Post Internazionale.

One of the Crazy Crabs's many cartoons
One of the Crazy Crabs's many cartoons

The regional implications of the Gilad Shalit deal

Many unexpected events happened this year in the Greater Middle East region, but an agreement between Hamas and Israel was maybe the least probable one. Now that Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped five years ago by Palestinian militants, is free in exchange for more than a thousand convicted Palestinians, we have to analyze what factors were  needed for this policy change and what does Hamas’s new approach to Israel mean to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Freed Gilad Shalit salutes Israeli PM Netanyahu
Freed Gilad Shalit salutes Israeli PM Netanyahu

Since day one of the imprisonment of Gilad Shalit, who was 19 years old when he was kidnapped, there was great pressure on the Israeli government to bring the soldier back home. The parents, the Israeli society, but also the Jewish and Zionist communities outside Israel lobbied for his release. Also  international actors tried to persuade Hamas to set Gilad free, or at least to give him the basic rights of a prisoner of war, which he was refused, like letting the Red Cross supervise his imprisonment. At least four factors had to change to make this deal possible and shift the Israeli-Hamas relations into a new direction. I will examine these factors in the following paragraphs.

Regarding the Israeli government’s willingness to accept a rather high price for only one soldier, we have to understand the effect of the summer protests in Israel. During a wave of mass demonstrations a large part of the Israeli society showed their fury against the rising prices of accommodation, food, childcare etc. and that the gap between rich and poor in one of the world’s most developed country is reaching a dangerous level. The Netanyahu government had to calm down the public rage by freeing Gilad. Israel’s military and social spirit depends on the idea of not letting even one soldier behind. With a system of general conscription, the leadership’s negligence would seriously damage the morale of the armed forces and also of the “home front” – meaning parents and partners of the soldiers. Although most Israelis think that the price Israel paid for Gilad’s freedom was too high, there are only few voices saying that the deal was a mistake, since this claim would go against the core values of the Israeli society.

The second reason why Israel gave in to Hamas’s demands follows the logic that since the Palestinian Authority is not willing to continue the peace process by negotiation and pursues a unilateral strategy of declaring a state in the UN, Israel empowered Hamas by making it the “savior” of the Palestinian prisoners convicted for acts of aggression in Israel. This move has meant to be a punishment for Abbas for not cooperating with Israel and it worked since Hamas’s popularity is on the rise even in the West Bank since the deal. Not everyone is happy about this result, mainly the highly influential security establishment (meaning high ranking officials of the Israel Defense Forces and Ehud Barak Minister of Defense), since they are interested in a strong PA in the West Bank because this is the key to the stability in the territories. This is why there is currently a battle on the Israeli political scene over the necessary gestures Israel should show towards Fatah in order to rebuild its shaken influence in the West Bank. Apparently, the army supports a greater extent of help for Abbas, while Netanyahu and Israeli FM Lieberman are more interested in the punishment and less concerned about Abbas stepping down in return – which would lead to chaos in the PA leadership.

On the other hand, the Israeli willingness would meant nothing without Hamas’s eagerness to strike a deal with Israel. Here it is important to note that the breakthrough happened a result of great effort of the Egyptian intelligence establishment which is interested in a moderate Hamas on its borders. We have to understand this new mutual interest between Hamas and Egypt. Hamas had a great dilemma during this summer when other even more radical militant groups from Gaza started rocket attacks against Israel’s southern cities. Hamas had the option to escalate the conflict (which it did by joining the attacks for a while) or to suppress the other groups and therefore in a way take Israel’s side. Hamas choose the later alternative; it got into a ceasefire agreement with Israel, for which it had to take the punishment from its former mentor Iran, which greatly reduced its support to its former ally. Hamas had to find another great patron and at the same time ease the Israeli security inspection rules in the Gaza Strip, which would pave the way to a better economy in the area with Hamas needing less support from outside to maintain its rule. In addition, Hamas was interested in portraying itself as the one who can get results from Israel in opposition to Fatah, which is currently loosing the diplomatic battle in the UN and all great powers try to push them back to direct negotiations with Israel.

Egypt was quickly willing to step in and spend a great amount of energy to reach a deal between Israel and Hamas. A few months ago, the new Egyptian military junta experienced the chaos that Islamist and mostly Bedouin criminal groups could stir up in the region, when it had to start an armed campaign in the Sinai to take back the control over the peninsula. All signs showed that the tunnels used for smuggling between Gaza and Egyptian territories are the main channel, where trained militants can get into Sinai from their bases in Hamas ruled Gaza. In addition, the Egyptian leadership watches closely the struggle between Iran and Turkey for the heart and resources of the Arab countries. Emerging from the “Arab Spring” Egypt must oppose this invasion of non-Arab forces. Thus it is now embracing Hamas after Iran maybe unintentionally gave an opportunity for Egypt to extend its sphere of influence and to stabilize the Sinai Peninsula. The important question is how far would Egypt go to counter the Iranian and Turkish incursion into Arab territories, since currently Syria and Iraq are turning into real battlegrounds and Saudi Arabia is too weak to fight off the two rising powers of the Middle East.

Currently we have a situation when we can clearly see an emerging race for dominance in the Middle East between three sides — Iran, Turkey, and the shaky “Arab coalition” led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia; with the Jewish state caught in the middle. Israel has its own dilemma when it has to deal with the moderate Fatah and the radical Hamas. The Gilad Shalit deal showed these lines of conflict between the actors of the region in a new light and therefore the story of one kidnapped soldier has turned into a milestone in the Middle Eastern power struggle.

Ágnes Szunomár: The roots of Chinese-Central European relations – The case of Hungary

The Great Wall of ChinaThe Chinese presence in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has intensified recently as China’s great power ambitions have grown and the CEE-region has been in dour need of this new partnership due to the economic crisis. However, this relationship is not as new-fangled as it seems. In some cases – for example the case of Hungary – it dates back several decades. Overall, Hungarian-Chinese relations are very successful. They have a six decade history, as old as the PRC itself.

Hungary formally recognized the People’s Republic of China on 4th October 1949. During the following decade the relationship began to develop with a huge number of high-level visits followed by the improvement of economic, political and cultural ties. Although the Hungarian-Chinese relationship was basically within the Soviet sphere of interest, Hungarian foreign policy did not follow, but rather differed a bit from the policy of Moscow. In international affairs Budapest cooperated closely with Beijing and has always supported the Chinese position on Tibet, the reunification of China (one china policy) and United Nations (Security Council) membership. By the end of the 50s, deep ideological differences began to appear between the two countries and, in the wake of the 60s, – during the Chinese “cultural revolution” – the relationship became increasingly colder. Much later, with the reorientation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978 – its economic reforms and its opening-up policy – the two countries were brought closer together again. The Chinese leadership was genuinely interested in the experiences of the Hungarian economic reform process of 1968 and, in this spirit, a series of expert delegations visited Hungary. In the 80s, state and inter-party relations were normalized and high-level delegations were also reinitiated. After the democratic transition of 1989, the level of contacts between the two countries declined again, primarily as a result of the reorientation of Hungarian foreign policy, as more attention was given to Euro-Atlantic interests. For more than a decade, the degree of contact declined to a minimum.

Another fruitful period began at the beginning of the new millennium, after the visit of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Peter Medgyessy in 2003 to Beijing. The new wave of development was initiated independently by Hungary, because the government recognized that China is an unavoidable player in the global economy and international politics and because EU membership made Hungary more attractive to China as well. But for this purpose, steps had to be taken before others would take them. In this spirit, several confidence-building measures and gestures were undertaken and the results have become almost immediately apparent in the form of economic growth indicators. Over the past decade, the Hungarian government – regardless of political orientation – has committed itself to developing its relationship with China. Hungary has good results in the field of bilateral trade and investment with China. And this has led to greater expectations: infrastructure development and the financing of Hungarian public debt are just some of the areas where Chinese involvement is expected or has already been achieved.

When asking about the reasons for choosing Hungary instead of Poland or the Czech Republic, an interesting hypothesis can be found about the relation of the Chinese population in Hungary to the success of the Chinese-Hungarian relationship. The fact is that within Central-Eastern Europe the highest Chinese population can be found in Hungary. There are now around 10 000 – 15 000 (12 653 officially) native Chinese living in Hungary. And the majority of this population arrived in the early 90s. This is one of Hungary’s biggest advantages when building economic, political and cultural relations with China. Confidence and good impressions are of particular importance in dealing with China. But why Hungary? What made Hungary so popular to Chinese people 20 years ago? In 1988 a Hungarian-Chinese consular agreement – among other things – included the abolishment of visa requirements between the two countries. In 1990, 11 000 Chinese people arrived to Hungary, while in 1992 the number was 27 000. Overall, in the 90s Hungary had a Chinese minority of approximately 40 000, even though in the 80s, the number of Chinese people living in Hungary was only a few hundred. Of course, in addition to the lack of a visa requirement, there were other – economic, political and emotional – factors which pushed the Chinese towards Hungary.

Economic factors:

  • 1989 was a recession year in China and Chinese residents living abroad did not have to pay taxes.
  • There was social stability in Hungary compared to China.
  • Accessing Budapest by train was inexpensive compared to other destinations.
  • Chinese migrants found a gap in the Hungarian market, a business opportunity, as there was huge demand for cheap consumer goods.

Political factors:

  • After the massacre in Tiananmen Square and the democratic shift in Hungary, the possibility of free travel became especially important.

Emotional factors:

  • Thanks to the attention the Chinese government paid (during the 78/79 reform process) to Hungarian “reform socialism”, Hungary’s reputation among Chinese people was quite good and the impressions of the first Chinese migrants were also promising. They described Hungary as a treasure land, “Eastern Europe’s heavenly palace”, so more and more people chose this destination.
  • Finally, there were and there continue to be some Chinese who really believe that the Chinese and Hungarians are distant relatives.1 The evidence is that we have similar physical characteristics to Asians (dark hair, dark eyes, medium height), which differentiate us from other Eastern or Central European nations. And names are written and sometimes spoken in the same order (the family name followed by the first name), which is unique in Europe.2

After 1992, the Hungarian authorities re-introduced the visa requirement, so the number of Chinese immigrants has declined. Some of the original 40 000 Chinese people living in Hungary left the country, went home or moved to other countries in the following 5-10 years. But close to 30% have stayed, supplemented over time by a small number new arrivals – for the most part relatives of the Chinese already living in Hungary.

To maintain this advantage and to make Hungary a popular destination for Chinese businesses and investment in the 21st century, the Hungarian Government has undertaken several measures and gestures, including the creation of a new special envoy position within the Prime Minister’s Office for the development of Hungarian-Chinese relations and for the coordination of the China-related work of governmental institutions and the public administration. The first results of the new policy were the arrival of a branch of the Bank of China in Hungary (2003), the creation of the Bilingual Chinese / Hungarian Primary School in Budapest (2004) and the initiation of a direct flight connection between Budapest and Beijing (2004). All of these are unique in the region. There are many other results – a complete list would be too long to enumerate here – including collaboration between the Hungarian and Chinese railway companies, the establishment of a wholesale trade centre in Budapest focused on hosting quality Asian exporters and manufacturers, and the establishment of the China Investment Promotion Agency’s (CIPA’s) European Office in the Hungarian capital last year.

As shown above, there are more and more opportunities in relations between Hungary and China, but also a lot of things still to do to strengthen ties between them. As Barna Tálas, one of the more well-known Hungarian sinologists put it, with a well-coordinated, open and development-oriented foreign economic policy, Hungary has very good prospects to become “Europe’s Hong Kong”,3 namely the international trade and financial centre between the two regions, managing the exchange of goods and information and the transfer of technology and capital, as Hong Kong did earlier in East Asia.

Ágnes Szunomár is a China-expert and Research Fellow at the Insitute of World Economics, Budapest

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Another reason for the supposed kinship is Hungary’s name in Chinese, “Xiong ya li”. The pronunciation is similar to that of Hungary’s English name, “Hungary”. Though this Chinese expression has no further meaning, the first part “xiong” is similar to the Chinese word “Xiongnu”, which was the name of a nomadic tribe in Central Asia and thus a very close neighbour to China. Relations between early Chinese dynasties and the Xiongnu tribe were complex, with repeated periods of military conflict and intrigue alternating with exchanges of tribute, trade, and marriage treaties. There is no precise evidence however for this kinship.
  2. In fact, the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and Hungarians are the only nationalities in the world who use this order.
  3. Tálas, Barna (2008): Adalékok Kína-stratégiánk megalapozásához. In: Kína: realitás és esély. Stratégiai kutatások : Tudomány – Kormányzás – Társadalom (ed.: Inotai A. – Juhász O.) MTA VKI – Miniszterelnöki Hivatal, 2008, pp. 197-218.

Rethinking the European Union’s Economic Relations with the Mediterranean


Starting with the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia and spreading onto Egypt, Libya and most recently Syria, the sudden wave of upheavals in the Mediterranean have created a whole new reality across the Arab world. By showing the limits of their tolerance for the corrupt and autocratic regimes that have governed their countries for decades, the Arab peoples have made it clear that a new era of governance is due in their region. This historical moment is as crucial for the European Union as it is for the Arabs of the Mediterranean. In some aspects, it may be regarded as a wakeup call for the EU after long years of neglect for its southern neighborhood.

Rethinking the European Union’s Economic Relations with the Mediterranean: A Historical Opportunity*

The “short-sightedness, self-satisfaction and feeling of safety with the status quo” have been, in the words of Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, EU’s the dominant attitude towards the Mediterranean, where the “status quo” was in fact mistaken for “stability” for long years.[1] It is perhaps a result of this realization that a new and ambitious European Neighborhood Policy was recently launched by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. Unable to ignore the urgent need for reconstruction in the region, EU provided €140 million of humanitarian assistance to those most in need[2], and an extra €1.24 billion (totalling nearly €7 billion) was made available for the ENP following the political developments in EU’s southern neighborhood.[3] Indeed, given the failure of the Barcelona process and the inefficiency of the later the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the current political climate in southern Mediterranean gives the EU a historical opportunity to rethink its economic relations with the wider region, take advantage of a great potential to ensure sustainable security, prosperity and stability within the wider region, and to fix its past mistakes in the inefficient conduction of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

Brief history: Barcelona Process and Union for the Mediterranean

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) was initiated by the Barcelona Process in 1995 by 15 Foreign Affairs Ministers from EU member states and 14 Mediterranean counterparts. The main goal of the partnership was to gradually establish a free trade area between the EU and Mediterranean countries. Its political aims were equally sophisticated and ambitious as they sought to create “a common area of peace and stability underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights”.[4] The EMP specifically aimed at strengthening the economic relations among the Mediterranean non-EU member countries while providing them the necessary financial and technical support to promote a balanced socio-economic development besides equipping them with the tools to build capacity for further development. With the Eastern enlargement phase of the early 2000s and the introduction of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, the ambitious EMP entered a period of stagnation to gradually transform into an invisible component of the ENP.

Upon the suggestion of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the EMP was eventually re-launched in 2008 as the Union for the Medierranean (UfM). The revised UfM was this time launched by 43 EU member and Mediterranean states. The establishment of this extended partnership received substantial criticism for serving as a political tool for Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign in France, and was moreover regarded as a sign of increased competition between France and Spain over their influence in the Mediterranean region. The new goals set forth by the extended partnership seemed promising in the beginning – the establishment of the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative providing assistance for small and medium sized enterprises, a Mediterranean University for high quality research on the region, extended focus on the environment and transportation, and finally a permanent general secretariat in Barcelona initially raised hopes for a serious improvement in the cooperation between the northern and southern ends of the region. The inadequacy of the bilateral partnerships within the countries of the region and the outbreak of the global credit crisis, however, acted as catalysts for the fast demise of the ambitious goals of the UfM and made way to its perceived failure.

The reasons for the failure of the EMP and UfM could loosely be identified under two main headings – political and economic. The lack of an EU membership prospect and the absence of any clear, concrete and short-term gains for the partner countries served as the most obvious political shortcoming of the EMP. Moreover, the politicization of certain sectors within the bilateral trade agreements (namely agirculture due to the protectionist contraints posed by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy) further watered down the potential incentives for partner countries. Lastly, the shift of EU focus to its Eastern neighborhood during the enlargement process moreover marginalized the Mediterranean from the core of EU’s priorities. The most important economic reasons, on the other hand, have been a serious lack of business interest in southern Mediterranean, and consequently, very low levels of foreign direct investment in the wider region.

Reviving Euro-Mediterranean relations: Motivations

Although the Barcelona process has so far shown to be a failure, there are enough legitimate and pragmatic reasons why the original objectives of the EMP should be revived and given more emphasis by the EU. The strategic significance of the geographical location of the Mediterranean region, rising concerns on uncontrolled migration into the EU from its southern neighborhood and escalating fears of Islamic fundamentalism in the Arab countries could be named as the main (if not the only) reasons why the future of Europe lies in a secure, prosperous and stable Mediterranean region.

Perhaps the most visible reason why the original goals of the Barcelona declaration and UfM should be revived is the EU’s growing concern for uncontrolled immigration. The issue of immigration has been continuously ranking high in priority in the European agenda within the recent years. Catalyzed by the financial crisis, tighter border controls and stricter policies against immigration have become commonplace in member states. The efficiency of such measures, however, is yet to be proven, and therefore remain under scrutiny. This perceived threat of an “immigration wave from the South” has noticeably increased following the revolutionary upheavals in Europe’s southern neighborhood – hundreds of thousands have filled up refugee camps in North Africa, and over 20,000 are estimated to have reached Italian shores. What is certain is that Europe needs to rethink its “cure” for the problem of uncontrolled immigration. Addressing the symptoms of this problem so far has not produced any smooth answers to the issue – targeting the causes, however, have the potential to generate more sustainable solutions. Creating positive incentives and practical means to ensure that potential migrants stay home could therefore be an optimal recipe for controlling immigration. Taking into account the large volume of immigrants coming into the EU from the southern Mediterranean, working towards achieving the original goals of the Barcelona declaration would prove to be useful. Europe should address this problem by shifting its focus on creating jobs in the south of the Mediterranean, and seriously liberalizing its trade regimes to foster growth through trade with the region’s countries. [5]

The geo-strategic signifiance of the southern Mediterranean and Europe’s trade security together constitute another reason why the EU should rethink and reprioritize its Mediterranean policy. As the former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has justly observed in a recent article with Angel Saz, the container traffic between East Asia and Europe is crucially dependent on the EU’s southern Neighborhood.[6] Solana and Saz have drawn attention to two important issues related to this container traffic. Firstly, although the container flow from East Asia uses the Mediterranean route (i.e. passing through the Suez Canal), only 28% of the transported goods enter Europe via southern European ports such as Barcelona, Genoa or Marseille. The remaining 72% of the goods are unloaded at northern European ports such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg, following a longer route through the English Channel. Even though this option involves extra financial and environmental costs, it is nevertheless preferred over unloading at southern European ports due to the superior efficiency of the northern European ports and their more advanced transport infrastructure.  Secondly, Solana and Saz emphasize that the Suez Canal must always stay as a “safe and reliable shipping route” in order to avoid the shifting of the route to the southern end of Africa, hence generating even higher costs for trade and the environment, and excluding the Mediterranean region altogether. In brief, the security of the opeations of the Suez Canal is of great strategic importance to Europe and therefore stable political regimes in and around the Mediterranean are of paramount importance for the secure and efficient operation of the economic activity between East Asia and Europe.

Lastly, there have recently been mentions of a possible Marshall Plan for the Arab World following the rapid regime changes and political reconstruction in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The transformation across the region will surely have serious consequences for Europe, as regional peace, prosperity and stability is indeed vital for Europe’s stability in the long term. It is with this motivation that Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini has recently suggested that the revolutionary countries of the Arab world share the same needs with the post-war countries of Western Europe. Although a financial aid package by the EU for the democratizing MENA countries (similar to that of the post-war Marshall Plan) may indeed seem unrealistic given the current financial burden on the EU due to the alarming condition of southern European economies, additional measures could be taken to build on the existing financial and institutional structures.[7] Indeed, what is important in this stage is not how much of its financial resources the EU can allocate to support the democratic transition in the MENA, but how it can work to prioritize the Mediterranean within the existing financial and institutional resources. The ongoing financial crisis, therefore, should not any longer be an excuse for turning a blind eye on the developments in the southern Mediterranean.

Reviving the Euro-Mediterranean relations: Immediate remedies

Having reviewed why the EU should prioritize strenghthening its economic relations with the Mediterranean, it is also necessary to acknowledge the main limiting factors that are currently acting against a stronger Euro-Mediterranean economic dialogue, and outline the most immediate remedies for recovery. The first and most debated of these is undoubtedly the issue of the persisting protectionist measures in European trade, and most notably those in the agricultural sector. As discussed earlier, perhaps the most obvious technical obstacle that has played a role in the failure of the EMP has been the current state of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and the resultant illiberal tendency in Euro-Mediterranean trade. Europe seriously needs to liberalize its trade regime if it is to induce any form of economic development and promote democracy in its southern neighborhood. At this critical time when the political character of the entire MENA region is going through a historical change, the EU cannot afford to continue ignoring the need to liberalize the barriers in its trade activity with the newly democratizing Mediterranean.

Secondly, the weakness of the institutional setup of the former EMP has been a very important though less visible limiting factor for the advancement of Euro-Mediterranean relations. The Barcelona process originally promoted the creation of a free trade zone in the wider Mediterranean region, which would provide the basis for enhanced cultural dialogue, promotion of stability and security in the South, and flow of financial and technical aid. When compared with other successful regional free trade agreements, the EMP stands out for not having an advanced institutional framework. The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada, for instance, could be taken as a good institutional example for the future of the Euro-Mediterranean trade relations. In comparison with the relatively looser Association Agreements between the EU and non-EU Mediterranean states, NAFTA provied a good institutional example with its side agreements and subsidiary organizations, most notably in the areas of labor rights and environmental protection. There is little doubt that the future of the UfM and Mediterranean trade could benefit substantially from such a move towards institutional development and capacity building.


The history of the world shows that the Mediterranean region has been the global center of trade and economic activity for many prominent civilizations like the Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, the Spanish, and Ottomans. The current lack of a healthy and sustainable economic dialogue between the northern and southern ends of the Mediterranean Sea may continue only for a given period of time as the security and prosperity of the wider region is possible only with economic cooperation and extended social and political relations among the region’s countries. The Arab Spring has provided a historical moment for the realization of this regional cooperation, though to achieve this long term goal, EU needs to shoulder the lion’s share of responsibilities. Removing non-tariff barriers to further liberalize its trade regime, and enhancing the backbone of the EMP with a serious instiutional reform are of vital importance for the EU to fulfill this immediate duty. Bearing in mind that the security of the Mediterranean is the security of Europe, EU can no longer afford not to invest in its economic relations with the Mediterranean if it is to pursure a healthy and stable presence.

* Originally published on Turkish Policy Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 65-71

[1] Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, “EU must fundamentally redesign its Mediterranean policy”, EurActiv, 10 March 2011 (

[2] Catherine Ashton, “Speech on North Africa and the Arab world in the European Parliament”, 6 July 2011, (

[3] “Barroso announces extra €1.2 billion for Europe’s neighbours”, ENPI Info Centre, 25 May 2011, (

[4] “Barcelona Declaration, adopted at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference”, Summaries of EU Legislation, 27-28 November 1995, (

[5] Peter Sutherland, “Europe’s Test in North Africa”, Project Syndicate, 27 April 2011 (

[6] Javier Solana and Angel Paz, “The Mediterranean Reborn”, Project Syndicate, 11 July 2011 (

[7] Franco Frattini, “A Marshall Plan for the Arab World”, Project Syndicate, 26 May 2011 (

Systematic Human Rights Abuses in North Korean Prison Camps

North Korea is the enigma of the modern world. Ruled by the mysterious Kim Jong-Il through a God-like personality cult, its inhabitants are conditioned from a young age to worship their leader. The government relies heavily on a large propaganda machine that censors and controls all media, casting Kim Jon-Il and his family into a mythical light. Few North Koreans will ever see much of the world: they are unable to leave their country; mobile phones are banned and you need a permit to travel even within North Korea.

Repercussions of non-adherence to governmental rules are harsh to say the least. There is substantial evidence that torture is used to extract “confessions” from offenders and a fair trial is probably not a concept with which North Koreans are familiar. In 2001 satellite photographs showed a series of vast prison camps in remote areas of the country, surrounded by agricultural land and industrial developments such as mining. Products such a soy beans, coal, sweets and cement with camp origins have all been in circulation in the country. Earlier this year new satellite imagery re-confirmed the existence of six camps and worryingly, in the current period of instability as Kim Jong-Il prepares to hand over control to his son, Kim Jong-Un, these camps have grown. Yet North Korea continues to deny their existence.

Yodok is one of the larger camps with an estimated population of 50,000 inmates. The camp is spread along two river valleys with worked land possibly totalling up to 90 square kilometres. There are two sections to the camp: the “Revolutionary Zone” which houses people with supposedly shorter sentences, and the “Total Control” zone in which people are bound for life. Any babies born in the Total Control Zone will remain there for the entirety of their existence on earth; they are born, live and will die in circumstances akin to slavery.  Families of those accused of crimes are often also imprisoned for life on the grounds of “guilt by association”. The original crime could have been something as simple as listening to a South Korean radio broadcast.

Life in the camps is hard. In the winter temperatures can drop to minus 20 degrees centigrade and the camps do not give people clothing to cope with working in these conditions. In a testimony to Amnesty International, former inmate Jeong Kyoungil described life in the camps. The working day ran from 4am until 8pm with two breaks for food, then “from 9pm to 11pm it’s time for ideology education. If we don’t memorise the ten codes of ethics we would not be allowed to sleep”. Work for Jeong at Yodok was sweeping overgrown weeds off fields. “Everyone would be assigned 350 pyong (1157metres squared) of field and only the people who finish off their task would be given food. If you finish half of your task, you would only be given half of your food.” Daily food rations are just 200g of “poorly prepared corn gruel” per meal.

Public executions in the camps are frequent as are deaths from malnutrition, preventable diseases and exposure. Inmates also describe people eating rats and picking out corn kernels from animal waste just to survive. But even for this desperate act you could be held in solitary confinement and tortured. According to a former detainee in the “Revolutionary Zone” at Yodok, approximately 40% of inmates died from malnutrition between 1999 and 2001. In his testimony Jeong also describes the reactions of inmates to death: “Seeing people die happened frequently – every day. Frankly, unlike in a normal society we would like it rather than feel sad because if you brought a dead body and bury it, you would be given a bowl of food”.

Amnesty International compiled a report based on the testimonies of 15 former detainees and prison guards from camps around North Korea. They believe the camps have been in existence since the 1950s. Only three people are known to have ever escaped from Total Control Zones and around thirty are known to have been released from the Revolutionary Zone at Yodok and escaped North Korea. Many still live in too much fear to publicly testify their experiences in the camps.

The Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International, Sam Zafiri said: “These places are out of sight of the rest of the world, where almost the entire range of human rights protections that international law has tried to set up for the last 60 years are ignored”. Across the world, organisations and public protests have called for North Korea to recognise the camps’ existence and ensure that they are closed down.

In the words of Amnesty International: “Conditions in these camps are inhuman and Kim Jong-Il must close them immediately”.

Emily Judson

Emily Judson is a guest contributor of the European Strategist.