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Turkey: an actor not an issue?

This morning as the night’s fog cleared around our offices in Westminster, ECFR hosted a gathering of senior journalists, diplomats and academics to argue if Ankara’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is right when he states - “Turkey is an actor not an issue.” 

We call these regular sessions our “Black Coffee Meetings,” and both the caffeine and our panel, Dimitar Bechev our Sofia’s office chief, Firdevs Robinson from BBC World Service and Vessela Tcherneva, the spokesperson of the Bulgarian MFA,  had the effect of waking us up to just how much Turkey’s geopolitical rank has changed.

Vessela opened the debate with the view from the Balkans and Turkish activism there. She roll-called some of Turkey’s most potent acts in the region. It was Turkish mediation that brought Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia’s foreign ministers together in Istanbul. Turkey is active in trying to influence both

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Medvedev in Lisbon, Wen in St. Petersburg

The Tsarist thinker Konstantin Leontyev used to warn, “Russia’s death will come in either of two ways – from the East by the sword of the awakened Chinese, or through the voluntary merger with a pan-European republican federation.”  The country bruised by recession and in desperate need of modernisation, this old quote has resurfaced in Moscow as the Kremlin tandem prepare to meet with NATO and Chinese leaders. 

Medvedev is attending the NATO Summit after months of discussions that have even seen the prospect of a Russian membership perspective discreetly mooted or forcefully argued for in Foreign Affairs by Charles Kapuchan.

Russia seems to have taken strides westwards, attending the Deauville summit with the French and the Germans for frank discussions on how to move forward and talk of an EU-Russia Security Council if Moscow can resolve the Moldovan ‘frozen conflict.’

Meanwhile the

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The view from Istanbul.

Turkish foreign policy is notable at present - at least for the noise it is making. But is there more to it than the hyperactivity of Ahmet Davutoglu and some mightily impressive economic figures?

These are questions that I put to Gerald Knaus, ECFR Council Member and the chairman of the European Stability Initiative. He's not only one of the most insightful and intelligent commentators on Turkey at present, but also has the massive advantage of living and working in Istanbul itself. The result is the first podcast that we've been able to put out for a week - you can listen to it here - unfortunately, thanks to continued website transfer glitches it isn't on the podcast page of our website just yet. It is as ever available to subscribers (we've just hit 20,000 suscribers across all languages) on itunes or

At ECFR Turkey is attracting an increasing amount of reflection.

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A Balancing Power? The EU in Central Asia

I couldn’t think of a place further from the swaying poplars or the coarse bitter-bread of Central Asia than Berlin, where last Thursday I took part in the OSI-ECFR Conference on the region in a rather anti-septic five star hotel. 

My strongest impression from the event was the sight of a disheartened-looking Pierre Morel, the EU’s highest envoy to Central Asia; scrupously taking notes, occasionally pausing from the panels to glance at the world’s largest aquarium in the lobby, bathing everything in an ominous blue glow. 

The closed-sessions over, the Frenchman brought himself up to a lectern for some concluding remarks.

“From the discussions here today one could almost believe the EU should be a great power....”

He brought his fist softly to the podium.

“The EU is not a great power and will not be a great power.”

A few faces in an audience primarily made up of Germans, Frenchmen,

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