• In the past year, Turkey’s unauthorised exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean increased regional geopolitical tensions. Ankara’s intervention in conflict zones like Syria, Lybia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, despite U.S and its NATO allies’ objections, reveal Turkey’s ambition to assert itself as an important global power.

    On the other hand, through the 2016 deal on migration, Turkey has been providing support to EU Members States to cope with refugees and manage the Union’s external borders since 2016. Discussions on the deal’s renewal, and the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union, imply a special partnership with this candidate country.

    For nearly two years, Turkey has been one of the main topics of almost all EU Council meetings. In December 2020, European leaders adopted a framework of restrictive measures in response to Turkey’s provocative activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. During the last EU Council, the leaders agreed – following the EU’s High Representative report – on a “phased, proportionate and reversible” restart of the Union’s cooperation with Turkey on key issues. The meeting of the EU Council President Michel and EC President von der Leyen with Erdogan on 6 April confirms this special relationship.

    The Martens Centre organises this online event to take a closer look on the characteristics of the EU – Turkey relationship and to bring a deeper understanding of the strong interdependencies between Brussels and Ankara.

    Olivier Le Saëc Islam Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    EU-Turkey: A long, love-hate relationship?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    08 Apr 2021

  • Famagusta was one of the most beautiful resorts in the Mediterranean Sea, attracting tourists from all over the world to its sun-kissed golden sand beaches. On the morning of 20 July 1974, this all changed. 40,000 heavily armed Turkish troops illegally landed at Kerynia and invaded northern Cyprus. On 14 August, Turkey launched its second offensive, under the code name “Attila II”, occupying Morphou, Famagusta, and Karpasia. Thousands of Greek Cypriots lost their lives, hundreds went missing, and 200,000 people were forced to abandon their homes. Since then, Famagusta, “the pearl of the East Mediterranean”, has become a ghost city.

    Famagusta was much more than just a touristic resort. It was considered the cultural centre of Cyprus, while its Port attracted the largest business volume in the country, functioning as an important commercial hub until 1974.

    Famagusta has a long and continuous history of 36 centuries, predominantly shaped by its Greek and Christian past. A large number of Christian refugees, fleeing the downfall of Acre (1291) in Palestine, transformed it from a tiny village into one of the richest cities in Christendom. In 1489, the Venetians made Famagusta the capital of Cyprus. The old walled and bastioned town contains some of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in existence. Famagusta fell to the Ottomans after a bitter and prolonged siege in 1570–71, followed by the British who ruled the island from 1878 to 1960, when Cyprus became independent. Under the British administration, a modern suburb called Varosha bloomed south of Famagusta, as a commercial centre and tourist resort.

    During the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Turkish Air Force began bombing Famagusta and its troops approached Varosha. The inhabitants of the city were forced to flee their homes, with the hope that they would return when the situation became safer. However, the Turkish army violently seized control of the resort and illegally fenced off the area. Entry has since been forbidden, other than for Turkish military and United Nations personnel. Since then, it has been used by Ankara as a bargaining chip in talks to resolve the Cyprus issue. A UN resolution from 1984 called for the return of Varosha to UN control, and prohibits any attempt to resettle it by anyone other than those who were forced out, its legal inhabitants.

    The United Nations has, in fact, set a very specific framework for the return of Varosha to its lawful inhabitants as early as 1979, through the High-Level Agreement between the then leaders of the two communities (Greek and Turkish). The resettlement of Varosha by its lawful inhabitants, under UN auspices, was set as a priority and “without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem”.

    On 8 October 2020, following the announcement made two days prior, Turkey illegally and in violation of the relevant UNSC Resolutions, extended the license for entry to the coastal front of Varosha. This is a provocative action against not only the Republic of Cyprus, but against the EU, the UN, and any sense of human rights and international law. Subsequently, this development raised significant obstacles in the ongoing effort for a resumption of reunification talks. The “re-opening” of the fenced area of Varosha, under conditions of military occupation, reveals Ankara’s real intention to permanently divide Cyprus.

    This intention was confirmed by Erdoğan himself. On 15 November 2020, the Turkish President, in an action of unprecedented provocation, “held a picnic” at Varosha, calling for a “two-state” solution in Cyprus, causing public outrage in Cyprus – even among Turkish Cypriots – and drawing condemnation from the international community.

    Once again, Erdoğan is behaving like a bully. Turkey is further distancing itself from EU standards and values, not only by violating human rights and dignity within Turkey, but also by manipulating the crisis in Syria, weaponising refugees against the EU, openly threatening the territorial integrity of Greece and Cyprus, and fuelling the conflicts in Libya and the Caucasus. Finally, the Turkish President has proceeded with insulting remarks against EU leaders. Erdoğan’s regime follows anachronistic methods, a dangerous mix of venomous rhetoric and aggressive actions.

    History has taught us that appeasement policy can sometimes lead to a greater threat of war. Turkey’s aggressivity is becoming bolder by the day. The time for words has passed.  The EU cannot shy away from its responsibilities. The European Parliament has paved the way for this with its latest resolution (11/2020), on Turkey’s recent illegal activities in the wider East Mediterranean. Now, it is the EU Council’s turn in December. We must re-define Europe’s strategy towards Turkey for the short, medium and long-term. Tough sanctions are the only way forward.

    Lefteris Christoforou Margarita Kaimaklioti Foreign Policy Mediterranean

    Lefteris Christoforou

    Margarita Kaimaklioti

    Erdoğan’s Picnic at Varosha: Europe Must Stand Tall Against Turkish Provocations


    07 Dec 2020

  • ‘The Geopolitical Challenges of the Eastern Mediterranean and the EU – Turkey Relations’ with Glafkos Clerides Institute (Cyprus)


    – Paolo Alli, former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly

    – Dora Bakoyannis, Member of the Greek Parliament, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece

    – Ioannis Kasoulides, President, GCI, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus

    – Michalis Sophocleous, Member of the Cypriot Parliament, Executive Director, GCI- Moderator

    Eastern Europe Mediterranean

    NET@WORK Day 2 – Panel 1

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    26 Nov 2020

  • After a couple of months of a tense standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey, it seems that the situation is cooling off, with the ’Oruc Reis’ research vessel and its accompanying warship fleet withdrawing back to Turkish shores. However, Ankara continues its drilling activities in the waters off Cyprus. Ahead of the Special European Council, Brussels must push Erdogan to cease any provocative actions and rhetoric and start negotiations on the basis of international law and the Law of the Sea. Otherwise, the imposition of economic sanctions, further destabilising the already weak Turkish economy, cannot be ruled out.

    On the other hand, the signing of the Abraham Accords signals a new era for the Middle East and the hope that the Mediterranean basin and the wider Gulf region can become a land of peace and prosperity for its people. The alliance formed between France, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus, together with many of region’s Arab states, change the geopolitical map of ‘Mare Nostrum’.

    This online event aims to discuss the recent developments in the area and Turkey’s revisionist stance. How can the EU defend its interests in the region, and what could be the role of Israel and the main Arab countries? Is Turkey NATO’s ‘fifth column’? Finally, what should we expect from the United States and Russia?

    Roland Freudenstein Defence Mediterranean Middle East

    Online Event ‘The Perils of Revisionism: Security Threats in the Eastern Mediterranean ‘

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    22 Sep 2020

  • This week episode focuses on Greece and Turkey during the current Eastern Mediterranean conflict. Roland Freudenstein hosted Τάσος Χατζηβασιλείου, who argued why the EU has to stand by its members and principles, and why no ‘Deus Ex Machina’ will do for us what we need to do ourselves.

    Roland Freudenstein Mediterranean

    The Week in 7 Questions with Tasos Chatzivasileiou

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    11 Sep 2020

  • The recent deployment of Russian fighter jets to Libya is a dangerous escalation of an already complicated and bloody conflict, with a surge in civilian casualties. The civil war raging in Libya has, in effect, created a situation where outside powers (mainly Russia and Turkey) are vying for control of Libya’s future and trying to expand their footholds in the Eastern Mediterranean. This escalation not only affects Libya, but it is also impeding on the effort of solving other regional issues such as illegal trafficking of both people and drugs, terrorism, and border disputes in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.

    Crisis European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean

    State of play in the Libyan Civil War


    19 Jun 2020

  • Migration proved to be a multidimensional challenge for Europe with wide implications: political, economic, and social. Recent incidents at the European borders (Evros river) also underlined the geopolitical aspect of the situation. The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy are organising a webinar in order to explore the migration issue and the geopolitical challenges for Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Mediterranean Migration

    Online Event ‘Migration and Geopolitical Challenges for Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    09 Apr 2020

  • Search and rescue (SAR) in the central Mediterranean continue painting a disturbing portrait of European disunity on disembarkations and relocations of the rescued passengers. This research paper provides a more optimistic outlook. It argues that, despite the inter-governmental conflicts, which remain unresolved, the EU states have been developing a two-segment policy which has greatly reduced the numbers of irregular maritime arrivals via the central Mediterranean route. The European policy segment has consisted of SAR operations by the individual South European member states, ad-hoc arrangements following disembarkations and a coordinated withdrawal from the Libyan SAR zone.

    The EU’s Afro-Asian policy segment has been based on the prevention of illegal border crossings and support for Libya and the other North African countries in running their own border control and SAR operations. The EU should be moving towards a policy that balances the traditional rights-based SAR system that primarily guarantees the rights of individuals with a functioning rules-based system that encourages adherence to international norms by all the countries around the Mediterranean. The EU needs to continue addressing the human rights abuses in the Libyan detention centres, without compromising on the imperative that the Libyan coastguard should continue bringing the rescued migrants back to their country.

    Human Rights Mediterranean Migration North Africa

    Rescue Operations in the Mediterranean: Towards a Reliable EU Policy

    Research Papers

    13 Nov 2019

  • The rising terrorist threats in the region have compelled Morocco to enhance the protection of its vast territory, long borders, 34 million citizens and over 10 million visitors per year. Morocco’s comprehensive security strategy combines a wide range of policies which link the improvement of the socio-economic situation to the capacity to anticipate the risk of terrorism and the operational aspects of the strategy.

    Security governance and the modernisation of the security forces, religious reform and the promotion of moderate Islam, the involvement of civil society, and close international cooperation, including religious diplomacy, are all key to preventing terrorism and countering extremism. Reforms to improve human security and to lift vulnerable groups out of poverty and exclusion have contributed to enhancing sustainable security.

    An example for many, Morocco still has a few big challenges ahead, especially to provide quality education, both to ‘immunise’ the minds of the youth against extremism and to create jobs so that hope can be restored to an overwhelmingly young population.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Assia Bensalah Alaoui Defence Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy North Africa Security

    Assia Bensalah Alaoui

    Morocco’s security strategy: preventing terrorism and countering extremism


    07 Jul 2017

  • The Libyan conflict is the result of a complex and controversial series of developments, where local political events have been strongly influenced and driven by exogenous factors. A dual set of conflicting interests can be found in both the Euro-Mediterranean and inter-Arab dimensions, with Italy and Turkey struggling against France and Great Britain on one side, and Qatar being opposed by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other.

    Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, which was certainly not an example of good governance and respect for human rights, was quickly swept away by a conflict primarily fought by non-Libyan actors, which eventually caused the collapse of the central institutions in Libya and the creation of dozens of local militias. The failure of both local and exogenous ambitions has caused a crisis in which additional factors have been able to influence the Libyan civil war, making the situation very opaque and extremely difficult to solve.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Nicola Pedde Crisis Mediterranean North Africa Security

    Nicola Pedde

    The Libyan conflict and its controversial roots


    04 Jul 2017

  • As Tunisia continues to move forward on the path of democratisation and pluralism, the problems it may still face remain significant. A comparative analysis of the (failed) Algerian attempt to democratise and the current process underway in Tunisia could shed light on what Tunisia needs to do to avoid a setback in its democratisation process.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Dario Cristiani Arab Spring Democracy Foreign Policy Mediterranean North Africa

    Dario Cristiani

    Consolidating pluralism under the terrorist threat: the Tunisian case and the Algerian experience


    07 Nov 2016

  • This article looks at how the Greek, German and British press have addressed the issue of the refugee crisis in Europe. Using a mixed research approach that combines corpus linguistics and discourse analysis, this article examines 1340 articles that were published online between 20 March and 31 May 2016 in Greece (KathimeriniTo vima), Germany (Die WeltSüddeutsche Zeitung) and the UK (The GuardianThe Telegraph). The results presented by this article suggest that the press in all three countries mostly presented the refugee crisis in numbers. Geographical qualifiers were also deployed in the effort to broach this thorny issue, while the managerial aspect of the refugee crisis, the critical issue of child refugees and the EU–Turkey agreement were all among the most frequent topics covered by the press.

    Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Stergios Fotopoulos Crisis EU Member States Mediterranean Migration

    Stergios Fotopoulos

    Media discourse on the refugee crisis: on what have the Greek, German and British press focused?


    07 Nov 2016

  • On March 27, the Centre for European Studies welcomed a delegation of the Alwasat Party (Centre Party) from Egypt. The aim of the meeting was to exchange views on the current political situation in Egypt and to discuss the role of the EU in the country’s transition process. The Alwasat Party aims to be one of the parties engaged in breaking the deadlock between the ruling Islamists and the opposition. With their long history of opposition under the old regime and the current Muslim Brotherhood government, they could act as credible mediators as they are also closely involved in the current political developments of Egypt.

    The delegation was formed by Abou Elela Mady, Chairman, Essam Sultan and Hatem Azzam, Vice-Chairmen and Amr Farouk, Speaker of the party. A day earlier, members of the delegation had participated in a conference organised by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (Brussels office), entitled “Polarized Egypt – Can moderate political Islam bridge the gap?” The delegation’s visit to Brussels was facilitated by Christian Forstner, HSS Brussels office Director and Nina Prasch, HSS Resident Representative in Egypt, also present during the meeting.

    CES Director Tomi Huhtanen and Ingrid Habets, foreign policy Research Officer, presented the Centre’s activities related to the Middle East and North Africa region in general and Egypt in particular. Mr Huhtanen emphasised that the Arab Spring events had led to an increased focus of the EU on its neighborhood policies; as a result, the CES also started conducting research, establishing links and offering policy advice on the developments in the region. Ms Habets then presented the results of the Springeneration online initiative, a 2011 survey on how the EU could positively contribute to the momentous changes taking place in many MENA countries. She stressed that while the European Union was mainly focusing on human rights issues at the time, the survey revealed that the 70,000 young respondents from the region emphasised instead the importance of cooperation in the fields of education, entrepreneurship and economic development.

    Furthermore, Nicolas Briec, European People’s Party Secretary of External Relations, outlined the EPP’s engagement and support for democratic movements in the region. During the 2011 EPP Marseille Congress, the EPP in cooperation with the CES hosted a group of 40 MENA political activists; in 2012, together with the EPP Group and the CES, they welcomed to Brussels political leaders from four Tunisian parties. Through all these activities, the EPP remains committed to dialogue with like-minded partners and parties in the region; in this respect, the work of political foundations such as the Hanns Seidel Foundation are of great added value.

    The Centre for European Studies will continue to devote attention and carry out research focusing on developments in this region. To this end, a policy brief by Lorenzo Vidino, senior fellow at the Centre for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, its challenges and future scenarios will be available online on the CES website end of April.

    Arab Spring Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    CES discusses political developments with Egyptian moderate party

    Other News

    28 Mar 2013

  • Turkey’s growing assertiveness on the international stage, difficulties with EU accession, rapidly rising economy, and the long and controversial reign of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are all necessitating a need for analysis. The present study of the Centre for European Studies presents two papers which look at Turkey and the AKP from different perspectives. Svante Cornell’s paper argues that AKP has moved away from democratic reforms and that Turkey’s ‘zero problems with the neighbours’ approach to international relations has failed. Gerald Knaus maintains that the AKP and the EU’s influence on Turkey have effected radical changes in the balance of power between the military and civilian actors, thus bringing Turkey somewhat closer to Western democratic standards. Both authors advocate continued EU engagement with Turkey, irrespective of the progress of accession negotiations

    European Union Foreign Policy Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    Dealing with a Rising Power: Turkey’s Transformation and its Implications for the EU

    Research Papers

    01 Oct 2012

  • A consensus is emerging across Europe that the EU needs a much more effective and coordinated maritime border control policy, enabling national and EU law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies to work more closely in tackling emerging threats and challenges concerning irregular migration. Policymakers stress that more effective border controls and maritime security depend both on new equipment and enhanced operational capabilities, as well as on achieving tighter cooperation and interoperability between maritime players within each nation and in coordination with EU agencies.

    For the first time, almost all nations now agree that the maritime environment must become a controlled one, similar to air space. This represents a substantial shift in thinking. Migratory pressures on the southern European border pose a tremendous challenge to European policymakers. So far, the development and strengthening of the EU bordermanagement strategy has been framed at the official level as a key policy priority on the EU agenda.

    The EU has managed to construct the first generation of Integrated Border Management (IBM). This includes a common codification of the acquis on internal and external borders, the Schengen Borders Code; the creation of Frontex, an EU agency tasked with coordinating operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security; and a commonly agreed definition of what IBM means at a European level.

    The EU model of border management defines Frontex as the main institutional actor in charge of putting the integrated and global paradigm into practice. Frontex encapsulates the need to have a common European approach and to promote European solidarity in addressing the challenge of irregular migration

    Immigration Mediterranean Migration

    Addressing Irregular Migration in the Mediterranean

    Research Papers

    01 Jul 2012

  • The Schuman Report on Europe, the State of the Union 2012 edition is a unique, unequaled reference work on Europe. The Report is a source of information, analysis and proposals in which the most eminent thinkers express their ideas on governance, federalism, the euro, regulation, European industry, European budget, energy, international policy, social model, in other words a complete review of the European Union and its policies. This publication is also a practical tool with 34 unique maps, a summary of political and legal Europe and a complete range of statistics on the European economy. The third edition is devoted to the means to implement to overcome the crisis, with an exclusive interview with Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank. All 26 contributions in the Schuman Report converge to one message: “the reasons calling on Europeans to stand together have never been as numerous as today”. Basing themselves on 67 commented tables and graphs and 34 colour maps, most of which are unique, the authors invite you to understand all of the challenges that the European Union faces today.

    Crisis Economy European Union Mediterranean Values

    Schuman Report on Europe: State of the Union 2012


    05 Mar 2012

  • Political Islam is becoming increasingly important to European politicians and policymakers. This research paper gathers together three edited papers from the event ‘The Atlantic Seminar: Understanding Political Islam’, organised by the CES and the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party (Polak) and International Republican Institute in Vienna (IRI). The three authors emphasise the need for a tailored approach with regard to each Islamic political organisation, because political Islam includes elements with varying programmes and agendas recognition of internal differentiation and disagreements within individual Muslim political organisations and recognition that Islamic organisations change and evolve over time.

    Islam Mediterranean Party Structures

    Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean: Three contributions

    Research Papers

    01 Sep 2011

  • The upcoming Communication of the European Commission on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is likely to re-confirm conditionality and differentiation as the two guiding principles for the EU’s assistance to its Eastern neighbours.

    Eastern Europe Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy

    European Neighbourhood Policy: Addressing Myths, Narrowing Focus, Improving Implementation


    14 Jun 2011