The EU and Turkey: event with Mario Zucconi, author of ‘EU Influence Beyond Conditionality’

Written by Riccardo Talini Lapi

Mario Zucconi studied at the universities of Perugia and Palermo, Italy. In 1968-1970 was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University with a Harkness Fellowship. He then taught or was a guest/research fellow, among other places, at Naples University, Urbino University, Johns Hopkins’ SAIS (Bologna Center), NATO Defense College, Columbia University, University of Maryland (College Park), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He taught (as visiting professor and later lecturer) at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs first in 1987 and then regularly from 2003-04 to 2017-18. He led research projects for the Italian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs and was, on several occasions, expert witness at hearings of the European Parliament and at UN’s consultations. His research has focused on transatlantic relations, East-West relations, the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East and, most recently, on democratic transition.

Professor Zucconi came to present his new book “EU Influence Beyond Conditionality: Turkey Plus/Minus the EU.”  Professor Zucconi tries to fill the gap in the literature on EU conditionality, which rarely looks at what happens within the target country and focuses too often on normative problems, rather than political conditions. His research centered on analyzing the difference in Turkish domestic politics before and after the start of the accession talks to the EU.  Professor Zucconi’s thesis is that EU enlargement can bring peace and stability, and the case of Turkey proves it.

Turkey became candidate country to the EU in 1999, after years of political instability and military rule. In 1995 there were a dozen parties in Turkey, of which 6 represented in parliament. The Welfare party, the Islamist party, became the leader of government, but in 1997 the secularist military staged a coup and took over. By the turn of the century, the EU had become the “substitute authority” Turkish people looked upon for hope and direction. The Islamist AKP, born from the ashes of the Welfare and the Virtue parties, the party still ruling today, adopted EU conditions as their official political platform at the 2002 elections. In 2002, the AKP won over 2/3 of seats in parliament, and was thus able to govern without coalition partners. This victory did not only come about because of the mass migration of the rural population to the cities, but mainly because Islamist was the first alternative to authoritarianism. The periphery was, in fact, emancipating itself through the process of migration and political participation in the cities. By 2001, over 75% of the Turkish population favored being part of the EU. The popularity of the EU could not even be stopped by the military, whose chief of staff declared in 2003 that the military would respect the people’s democratic decisions. This positive cycle was reinforced in 2004, when formal negotiations to enter the EU began.

A staff adjusts European Union and Turkish (L) flags ahead of the arrival of Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (not pictured) at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

However, in the same year, Cyprus joined the EU thanks to Greek pressures and the Cypriot question became the scapegoat to suspend the accession talks in 2006. As Professor Zucconi noted, perhaps Europe was not ready to accept a majority Islamic country in the Union and to have borders with Iran and Syria. Yet, he thinks that Turkey would have been a strategic member for the EU, as much if not more than the UK as he was once told in Brussels. In 2006, Europe disappeared from Turkish domestic politics, while the AKP has remained in power under Erogan’s leadership. Without the EU, Turkish politics went back to the polarization between secularism and Islamism, with the latter succeeding in the creation of an authoritarian regime under Erdogan’s leadership. The Islamists used the military’s own methods to construct a regime where the links with Europe would progressively disappear.

Today, Turkey is still ruled by Erdogan’s AKP and it has redirected most of its trade and political network from the EU to the Middle East. It is playing an aggressive role in the eastern Mediterranean and is far from the stabilizing Middle Eastern power it used to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. The case of Turkey teaches us that the EU enlargement process should be reformed, and conditionality should be tailored to the domestic politics of the target country to ensure successful entry into the EU.

Pipeline Politics: Europe, Russia, and Energy

Written by Lyubomir Hadjiyski

This article originally appeared in Business Today on December 10, 2018.

One doesn’t have to read the news to know that relations between Russia and the West are the frostiest they’ve been since the Cold War. Disagreements over Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, nuclear missile treaties, and a myriad of other topics have increasingly strained ties between Moscow on one side, and Washington and Brussels on the other. While it is usually easy to distinguish where Russia and the West stand on many issues, the line becomes blurred when addressing the energy market. The reason is simple: basic economics take precedence over complicated geopolitics.

Europe relies on Russia for its natural gas and oil needs. The European Union imports 67% of its natural gas from abroad, and Russia makes close to 40% of those imports. In 2016, around 30% of the EU’s total oil imports came from Russia. The share of imported Russian crude oil and gas imports are even higher in certain countries. A network of intricate gas pipelines ensure a constant flow of Russian gas from the northern and eastern parts of the country to consumers and businesses in Europe. While the EU has been importing gas from Russia for decades, it is the construction of yet another pipeline that is causing controversy.

The new pipeline is called Nord Stream 2. It will pump natural gas from the world’s largest reserves, located in Russia, to the EU through a pipe network under the Baltic Sea connecting Russia directly with Germany. Running parallel to the existing Nord Stream pipeline, which was built in 2011, Nord Stream 2 can double its existing capacity. Further, Europe’s gas production, which is currently concentrated in the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom, is expected to decrease in future as North Sea gas runs out; Nord Sea 2 aims to fill the gap between decreasing supply and steady demand by supplying Russian gas in a cost-efficient way. Indeed, the shorter route of Nord Stream 2 provides for cheaper transportation costs, and the promoters of the pipeline predict that it will lower European gas prices by some 32%.

Existing and planned pipelines. Source: The Economist

“Critics worry that expanding the combined capacity of the two Nord Stream pipelines to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year will only increase Europe’s reliance on Russia for its energy needs.”

Most importantly, the project would bypass Ukraine as a transit country for Russian gas. The political relationship between the two countries has been difficult in recent years, to say the least, but their energy partnership has been strained for, arguably, an even longer time. A substantial portion of Russian gas flowing to Europe—around 80% in 2009—travels through Ukraine first. When Russia stopped the flow of gas over price disputes and Ukraine’s outstanding debts in the winters of 2006, 2007, and 2009, European consumers were affected, too. A pipeline like Nord Stream 2 circumvents this problem, and, in theory, ensures non-stop access to Russian gas without having to rely on cooperation and agreement between Russia and Ukraine.

But that’s not the end of the story; there are other reasons why Nord Stream 2 remains controversial. Critics worry that expanding the combined capacity of the two Nord Stream pipelines to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year will only increase Europe’s reliance on Russia for its energy needs; this dependency, they argue, is dangerous in a time when relations between Russia and the West are especially heated. President Trump, in July 2018, criticized the paradox of Germany being “captive to Russia” by importing too much energy from Russia while also participating in the NATO alliance—the aim of which is to counter threats from that very same country.

The United States has been the most vocal critic of the project. Its logic is that by possessing such a key stake in Europe’s energy market, Russia could hold the continent hostage and cut off supplies if it wishes to do so. Further, Nord Stream 2 would circumvent Ukraine and therefore deprive it of $2 billion in valuable transit fees each year; this money is a valuable income source for the Ukrainian government—a US and EU ally. It is apparent that Nord Stream 2 is deeply divisive and is creating disagreements not only between Russia and the West, but also between the US and its partners in Europe.

So what does the United States propose? First is legislative action. A bill introduced in Congress back in July 2018 aims to impose sanctions on Russian firms and individuals involved with large-scale energy projects. The bill would also target firms partnering with Russia, such as those involved in Nord Stream 2. This course of action would affect Western companies based in key US allies like Germany, which would no doubt worsen relations between the US and the EU at a time when the Trump Administration has already put this relationship under significant stress. It would also alienate Europeans, and would increase the perception that the United States is opposing Nord Stream 2 because it wants to push its own energy agenda.

This introduces the second proposed American course of action: exporting more of its own LNG—or liquified natural gas—to the European Union. LNG is gas that has been cooled down to liquid form for easier transportation and handling before it is reheated for consumption. This process is both tedious and expensive, but countries like Poland and Lithuania have already constructed LNG terminals on their coasts to receive shipments of gas from the United States, thereby diversifying their energy supply. While critics of the US agenda argue it is only pursuing its own interests, proponents assert that the EU also stands to gain from diversifying where it gets its natural gas from.

Simple economics, rather than complicated geopolitical maneuvering, reveal that American LNG is not a viable solution to Europe’s energy needs. Pipeline gas is some 25% cheaper than LNG imports, making the latter economically inferior to the former. The US argues that a steeper price tag is justifiable given the potential for Russia to blackmail the EU by cutting off its gas supplies. However, Moscow needs Western payments as much as the West needs Russian gas, and stopping, or even reducing, the gas flow towards Europe would harm Russia financially. Further, since LNG is still a relatively new US export, America doesn’t yet have the production and export facilities required to meet Europe’s large demand of over 120 billion cubic metres a year by 2035. Even if the EU did move in the direction of American gas, it would face severe supply shortages.

The topic of the EU’s imports of Russian gas and oil will continue to remain an issue in the future. The German government has maintained that energy policy must be “entirely left to commercial actors,” thereby stripping Nord Stream 2 of any political significance and prioritizing economic considerations over political ones. The United States takes the reversed stance, urging EU countries to prioritize politics over economics (even if it means buying more expensive American gas). It is clear that energy has become a point of major contention not only between Russia and the West, but among Western nations, too. It is also evident that a new theater of disagreement and competition has opened up, alongside an already long list of points of contestation. For the time being, however, no other viable solutions are on the table; the gas must keep flowing.