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Academic Event – Foreign and Security Policies in the Balkans

Academic Event – Foreign and Security Policies in the Balkans

Understanding the New Activism of Turkish Foreign Policy: The Case of Western Balkans

Alper Kaliber‚ Yasar University, Turkey


This study examines the post-Cold War regionalization in Turkish foreign and security policy (FSP) with a particular reference to the Western Balkans. Here regionalization refers to two interrelated processes: first, the process whereby security interest definitions and threat perceptions in Turkey have gained an increasingly regional character, and second the process whereby Turkey has increasingly defined itself as an activist regional power. This study suggests that the end of Cold War politics and global bi-polar rivalry has recognized some leeway for Turkish policy makers to more actively engage in regional security institutions, issues and challenges. In this context, the first wave of regionalization in Turkish FSP began soon after the end of the Cold War and developed in parallel to the rise of the ‘region’ as a new unit of security in global politics. However, regionalism of Turkish FSP took its more mature and comprehensive turn in the regionalist assertiveness in the first decade of 2000s. This second regionalist turn draws on the construction of a particular foreign policy identity defining Turkey as a peace-promoting ‘soft power’ bearing the capacity of ‘order instituting’ in its surrounding regions, namely the Middle East, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. This paper addresses Turkey’s intensifying engagement with the Western Balkans with a particular emphasis on its mediatory initiatives and policy of encouraging socio-economic integration in the region. Turkey’s bilateral and multilateral diplomatic initiatives, i.e. the Istanbul Declaration on Peace and Stability in the Balkans will be analyzed with respect to its aspiration of becoming an activist multi-regional actor. The current study also seeks to discuss whether the discourses of Turkish policy-makers emphasizing strong cultural-historical ties between Turkey and the regional countries could be associated with recent debates on Neo-Ottomanism. The paper also suggests that the definition of Turkey as a multi-regional actor with an expanded sphere of influence serves to the problematization of the conventional foreign policy paradigm in the country. In the conventional Kemalist discourse Turkey is depicted as an island of stability and as a bridge between the West and the East. For the current foreign policy-makers, this symbolized nothing but passivity and stagnation, which is replaced by a new activism based on an assertive regionalism. For them, Turkey’s Ottoman historical and cultural legacy, which is marginalized by Kemalism, provides Turkey a unique geographical depth to realize its potentials. Regionalist theories of international security provide useful insights to analyze the emerging and developing activism of Turkish foreign policy since the 1990s. However, they are analytically ill-equipped to explore the power politics behind the reorganization of Turkey’s geopolitics and the reconstruction of Turkish FSP identity in recent years. This article argues that the process of region building is a political one and the rise of regionalism in Turkish FSP both in the 1990s and in the 2000s may not be understood as independent from the domestic power political relations.


Between Neutrality and Ambiguity: Serbia and NATO

Vujo Ilić‚ FPS, University of Belgrade


The essay presents an attempt to examine the main arguments in favor of Serbia’s NATO approximation. It is possible to distinguish three basic positions towards NATO in Serbia: the first one advocating the approximation, the second strongly opposing it and the third in favor of maintaining the status of proclaimed ‘neutrality’, although open for its revision. The issue of NATO memberships stirs occasional debates in Serbian public, with most vocal arguments stemming from the ‘anti-NATO’ camp. Nevertheless, the essay argues that the burden of proof should fall on the proponents of  NATO approximation for  at least two reasons: as a prerequisite for a reasoned public discourse but also as a mean to change mostly negative public opinion towards NATO, which is considered a prerequisite for any aspirant country. The essay analyzes eight most often mentioned  arguments in favor of approximation. On one hand, these are: benefits of joining NATO as ‘the most powerful alliance in history’, avoiding danger of becoming a ‘geostrategic island’, claim that Serbia’s recent history would’ve been different if it were a NATO member and relying on NATO to secure Serbian claim to sovereignty over Kosovo. The second strain of arguments claim benefits in form of technological modernization of army and reducing of military spending, benefits to the overall reform of security sector, suggests potential NATO membership as an attractor of foreign direct investments and finally as an impetus to EU approximation. These eight arguments are accessed by presenting historical arguments, analyzing available data and comparing different experiences of countries that were or are in a situation comparable to Serbia as well as consulting the available research on costs and benefits of  joining the military alliance. The conclusion is that most, but not all arguments suffer from fallacies and it reiterates the need for a continuous dialogue and more reliable argumentation in public debate.


Could the Emerging Balkan-Israeli Strategic Alliance Alter Energy Security in the East Mediterranean Basin?

Sigurd Neubauer‚ SOS International Ltd, USA


Following what has widely been described as the collapse of the Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership over Ankara’s support for the 2010 Gaza-bound “Freedom “Flotilla, the Jewish state began forming alternative alliances with several countries in the Balkans. In particular, ties with Bulgaria and Greece have blossomed over mutual concern over an increasingly assertive Turkey, while Israel has also significantly increased bilateral defense and intelligence cooperation with Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia as part of a wider effort to deter international jihad and terrorist networks from establishing a foothold in the Balkans. In the case of Bulgarian-Israeli relations, Prime Minister (PM) Boyko Borisov requested a special meeting with Mossad Director Meir Dagan while on an official visit to Tel Aviv in January 2010. Borisov also received assurances from his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that the two countries would increase joint air force cooperation. Similarly, following last year’s flotilla incident, Greek PM George Papandreou chose to reverse course from Athens’ longstanding “pro-Arab policies “to deepening military cooperation with the Jewish state. Meanwhile, as both Bulgaria and Greece feel particular threatened by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “aggressive foreign policy,” 2011 has become a significant milestone for the Greek-Israeli strategic partnership. As a testimony to that relationship, PM Netanyahu successfully persuaded the Athens government from preventing this summer’s “Gaza-flotilla” ships from departing Greek ports. On all accounts, the “personal romance” enjoyed between the Israeli leader and Papandreou should be considered a significant foreign policy victory for Netanyahu. On a strategic note, following Erdogan’s 2010 “flotilla support,” Ankara’s policies were arguably not only perceived as a threat to the Jewish state but also to its former Ottoman colonies. Hence, it was perhaps not surprising that Israel sought to establish herself as a “patron” to the Balkan states against Erdogan by deepening bilateral military and intelligence cooperation with Greece and Bulgaria in particular.


Post-conflict Personal-Political Imaginations: Understanding Meanings of Gender Security

Laura Jane McLeod‚ University of Manchester, UK


‘Gender security’ has become an important consideration in south-eastern Europe, particularly since Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina approved National Action Plans for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security during 2010. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how the way in which conflict and post-conflict is thought about shapes how ‘gender security’ is conceptualised, and the subsequent policy implications. Part one of this paper draws upon over 100 interviews conducted in Serbia during 2008 and 2009 with activists from feminist and women’s organisations, and policy-makers working in international organisations, to explore how the way in which post-conflict is thought about has a profound impact on how gender security is conceptualised.  Serbia was selected as a case study because the country has a difficult and problematic association with conflict and post-conflict.  The social and political tensions around how to view the wars in ex-Yugoslavia continue to shape the dynamics of contemporary Serbian politics, and indeed, how Serbia is perceived by “outsiders”.  These perceptions about Serbia’s relationship to conflict and post-conflict are not merely based upon memory.  These perceptions are also shaped by our positioning in the present and – critically – our hopes for the future.  Past, present and future are bound up in what I describe as a personal-political imagination (echoing the key feminist insight that the personal is political).  It will be clear that the way in which ‘gender security’ is conceptualised is constitutive of a post-conflict personal-political imagination. Part two demonstrates that this understanding of the connection between perceptions of post-conflict and how ‘gender security’ is described matters because these perceptions have a significant impact upon how gender security policy is developed.  Documentary analysis of a number of gender security policies in Serbia will highlight the connections between post-conflict personal-political imaginations and gender security policy.  The policies investigated will include Serbia’s National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325. This paper will conclude with discussion of why it is important for policy-makers to understand how security policy is made.  Critically thinking about how our ideas facilitate the world we live in   enables us to avoid unconsciously reproducing the different forms of oppression and exclusion that potentially arise from policy.  This process of understanding is not in pursuit of the perfect policy (given that perfection is an impossible task), but rather, about awareness of how political ideas are organised and how these ideas are (re)produced in the making of a policy.  Furthermore, developing awareness of the effects that personal-political imaginations of conflict and post-conflict have upon how we conceptualise ‘gender security’ could potentially open way for a more effective dialogue between groups that may normally be at odds with each other.




Cvete Koneska‚ University of Oxford