International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU Rightists Slate 'Double Standard' on Montenegro

The right-wing Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, AECR, has accused the EU of double standards in its dealings with the crises in Montenegro and Macedonia.

Read more: EU Rightists Slate 'Double Standard' on Montenegro

How Syria's earliest refugees are about to become Turkish citizens

The first group of Syrian refugees in Turkey will be able to seek citizenship — and the right to vote and run for office — beginning in April.

Five years ago, the first 252 refugees arrived. Turkey initially agreed to accept a maximum of 100,000, and many people at that time thought there would never be that many refugees. But the flow gained momentum and by the end of 2012, 150,000 Syrians had crossed into Turkey.

As time passed, millions of Syrians sought refuge in Turkey as well as Jordan and Lebanon. On Feb. 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the latest numbers: "From Syria alone we received 2.7 million, and from Iraq, 170,000 refugees,” he said.

Those first 252 arrivals will complete the five years of continuous residency required to seek Turkish citizenship on April 29. Every day thereafter, that number will grow. By 2019, when three elections are scheduled, the refugees who arrived in 2014 will be eligible. A Syrian human rights organization estimated there were 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey at that time. 

After they apply, they must be approved by the Council of Ministers, according to Hikmet Sami Turk, the former minister of justice and a professor of constitutional law. "Once they are granted citizenship, then they also get the right to elect and be elected," he said. "Not only Syrians, but we have those who have come from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Libya. The same applies to them.”

The three contests set for 2019 are local elections in March, presidential elections in August and general elections in November. If the refugees who are granted citizenship are well organized, there could be Syrian and Iraqi mayors, parliamentarians and city council members. They will have the opportunity to wield political power particularly in provinces where they are concentrated, such as Kilis, Sanliurfa, Istanbul, Gaziantep and Osmaniye.

Will the Council of Ministers respond positively to those applying for citizenship?

With the pending elections, the voting potential of refugees is of keen interest to political parties. No doubt the ruling party — which always reminds refugees that it takes care of them and portrays opposition parties as anti-refugee — will not hesitate to make sure that citizenship applications are approved. There is speculation that the true beneficiary of the potential new voters, who are predominantly Sunnis, will be the ruling Justice and Development Party, because the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is identified mainly as an Alevi party. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the current CHP chairman, is an Alevi.

But there are some who claim that the refugees will not be entitled to citizenship. Before the 2014 local elections there were allegations that arrangements were made to allow the Syrians to vote for the ruling party, and the opposition CHP deputy Gursel Tekin openly claimed that the refugees were secretly given citizenship rights.

At that time the Association for Solidarity with Refugees had warned that such allegations were baseless and were making refugees a target of hostility. In a December 2013 statement, the association had even said that refugees cannot be citizens.

It appears that there is confusion between the status of refugees and that of immigrants. The Ankara Strategy Institute issued a statement that read, “Being a refugee is a status that requires the approval of the host country of the request for refuge. An immigrant is a person who has left his country and whose status has not yet been decided, and is therefore undetermined.”

Refugees also have the ability to get married and adopt children, and they can request citizenship by proving they have family members in Turkey. In some cities with a large refugee presence there is a high number of marriages between refugee women and Turkish men.

In summary, the path to the ultimate goal of citizenship appears to be open to those refugees who have been given residence and work permits, who have been issued biometric identification documents and who have had children — some 150,000 of them — in Turkey. That there will be three elections in 2019 surely guarantees support for them from political parties now.

Mehmet Cetingulec

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/02/turkey-syria-refugees-becoming-political-force.html#ixzz41jSilNsA

Read more: How Syria's earliest refugees are about to become Turkish citizens

Turkey: HDP lawmakers collaborating with terrorists




Turkey's prime minister has once again lashed out at the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), accusing its lawmakers of working with 'terrorists.'

Read more: Turkey: HDP lawmakers collaborating with terrorists

Serbia’s Opposition Fails to Unite Ahead of Polls




Three Serbian opposition parties halted coalition talks, saying they would face Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his Progressive Party in the upcoming parliamentary elections separately.

Read more: Serbia’s Opposition Fails to Unite Ahead of Polls

Jewish Group Seeks Nobel Prize for Bulgarian Church




The Bulgarian Jewish Community in Israel has called for the Orthodox Church to get a Nobel Prize for saving thousands of Jewish lives during World War II.

Read more: Jewish Group Seeks Nobel Prize for Bulgarian Church

Hashim Thaci elected President of Kosovo

MPs vote Hashim Thaci in as Kosovo president on Friday night (26.02.2016) amid violent opposition party protests outside parliament.

Read more: Hashim Thaci elected President of Kosovo

Montenegro Opposition Urges PM Djukanovic to Resign

Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Podgorica on Saturday (27.02.2016) demanding that the government resign and hold new elections.

Several hundred opposition protesters gathered in front of the parliament in Podgorica, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has held power since 1991.

Read more: Montenegro Opposition Urges PM Djukanovic to Resign

Montenegro Parliament Set to Oust Speaker




Ruling coalition MPs are mustering to dismiss the Speaker and Social Democratic Party leader Ranko Krivokapic - who has fallen out with his former ally, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. 

Read more: Montenegro Parliament Set to Oust Speaker

Macedonia Postpones Elections amid Battle of Nerves




Parliament votes to postpone elections planned for April 24, 2016 following tense political talks brokered by EU and US diplomats.

Read more: Macedonia Postpones Elections amid Battle of Nerves

Turkey: Two AK Party senior figures removed from party’s co-founders list

Former President Abdullah Gül and ex-Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış, who are both co-founders of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), were removed from the list of founders after they recently leveled criticism against both PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdoğan and the party over what they called Turkey's current misguided domestic and foreign policy.

Read more: Turkey: Two AK Party senior figures removed from party’s co-founders list

EU, US Advise Postponing Macedonia Elections

Macedonia is not ready for fair elections on April 24, the EU and US said on Sunday (21.02.2016), advising a postponement of the pre-term polls that are intended to end the country’s political crisis.

Read more: EU, US Advise Postponing Macedonia Elections

These 5 Facts Explain Why Turkey Is in Deep Trouble




As Turkey ramps up its involvement in the war in Syria, it risks being hit by serious international blowback.

Read more: These 5 Facts Explain Why Turkey Is in Deep Trouble

Erdogan's AKP critics grow bolder




The main talk of the town in Ankara these days is the unrest brewing within Turkey’s unrivaled political powerhouse, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and its potential impact on the country’s future. Let’s spell it out immediately that the emerging dissent is unlikely to split the party or lead to the creation of a new party by in-house critics unhappy with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overbearing style.

This may sound confusing, given the recent stir triggered by former Deputy Prime Minister and parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc, one of the AKP’s top three heavyweights ever since the party’s creation in 2001 until the June elections last year. Why did Arinc rebel? To answer this question, a few reminders are in order.

During his term as deputy prime minister, Arinc clashed publicly with Erdogan on several occasions, including the anti-government protests in the summer of 2013, which broke over a redevelopment project at Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Erdogan, then prime minister, was abroad at the time, with Arinc acting as his official substitute. In a major step to cool the revolt, Arinc announced the plan to demolish the park had been canceled. Soon, however, Erdogan was back home and, embarrassing Arinc, he declared the project would go ahead. Arinc came to the point of resignation but was stopped by President Abdullah Gul, another key AKP co-founder.

On other occasions, Arinc irked Erdogan and his loyalists by speaking out against undemocratic practices and corruption in government ranks. Similarly, he sought to soothe tensions when police raided homes shared by male and female university students, when Erdogan declared a war on the Fethullah Gulen movement or implied that the head of Turkey’s top business group was a traitor. Each time, he was rebuffed or contradicted by Erdogan but chose to swallow the snubs instead of publicly standing his ground. In a memorable outburst in November 2013, he grumbled he had his “own specific weight” in the party, using a physics term to assert he did not owe his political clout to Erdogan. Yet once again he left it there.

The collapse of the Kurdish settlement process was another issue that brought Arinc and Erdogan to loggerheads. In February 2015, government representatives and Kurdish lawmakers, meeting at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, agreed on a road map for the next stage of the settlement talks. Erdogan, now president, rejected the accord in a pre-election maneuver designed to court the nationalist vote. Arinc, however, lent support to the deal, speaking in his capacity as the government’s spokesman. The controversy grew, and Arinc came under vitriolic fire by Erdogan loyalists. In an unprecedented public exchange, Ankara’s sharp-tongued mayor, Melih Gokcek, an AKP member, urged Arinc to resign, while Arinc slammed the mayor’s “impertinence” and charged he had “sold out Ankara, plot by plot” to the Gulen community, the AKP’s former ally. Furthermore, Arinc vowed to reveal at least 100 shady dealings by the mayor after the June 7 polls. Yet he kept silent after the elections, which marked the end of his parliamentary membership.

On Jan. 29, however, Arinc was back in the spotlight with a television interview in which he insisted the Dolmabahce accord had been concluded with Erdogan’s knowledge, contrary to what the president claims. Arinc spoke of other “domestic problems” within the AKP, saying that “many truths remain in the shadows.” Erdogan retorted without uttering Arinc’s name, calling him “that man” and accusing him of dishonesty.

It was a critical moment. Was Arinc to step back and keep mum again? Not this time. In a message tweeted exactly at 17:25 — timing that was widely interpreted as an innuendo to the corruption scandals that rocked the government on Dec. 17-25, 2013 — Arinc stood his ground in what came as a sign that some AKP members had crossed the fear threshold despite ongoing attacks by Erdogan loyalists. Other prominent AKP figures — former Ministers Huseyin Celik, Sadullah Ergin, Nihat Ergun and Suat Kilic — spoke out in Arinc’s defense.

Celik went further in a Feb. 10 interview with Hurriyet, in which he voiced more criticism of the course the AKP has taken. The emerging wave of dissent now seemed to be systematic, and all eyes turned to Gul, the former president who is also said to be increasingly irked with Erdogan’s rule. In what seemed to be more than a coincidence, Gul was scheduled to meet with Arinc the day of Celik’s interview, reinforcing the impression that some coordinated action was underway.

Erdogan made a maneuver, inviting Gul to his presidential residence for a three-hour dinner designed to send a message of a warm “family reunion.” Gul went along, true to his conciliatory political persona, which detests wrangling and mutiny and opts for calm in dealing with matters concerning the party and its cause. There is no doubt, however, that Gul shares the dissidents’ concerns over Turkey’s deepening domestic and foreign policy problems. Many AKP members have long pinned their hopes on Gul as the man who can stop the downturn.

Fresh out from the presidential palace, Gul came together with Arinc and the four former ministers. What they discussed is as important as the Gul-Erdogan meeting, but little has come to light so far. According to two former AKP lawmakers close to Gul — who, by the way, sounded disappointed — the former president agreed with the dissidents’ concerns but stressed the need to protect the party’s interests and discuss problems internally.

So, what’s the bottom line after all the fuss? In short, Gul softened the climate a little bit. He did this at the expense of annoying some of his associates who complain that in-house critics, too, bear the brunt of the AKP’s current mistakes. It is important to note that those critics are not willing to quit the AKP or to start a new party. What they want is to raise their voices, together with Gul, and stop what they see as Turkey’s drift into troubled waters.

Though Gul seems to have soothed the tensions to some extent, no one has stepped back from their positions. This is evident from the pages of the pro-government press, which offered only meager coverage of the Erdogan-Gul meeting and claimed that Arinc and Celik could be summoned for questioning for alleged links with the Gulen community.

In sum, the unrest within the AKP is not over, and fresh outbursts of dissent should not come as a surprise. AKP members seem to no longer dread the traitor label, which has been used so often and so readily that it has now lost its meaning. True, no dissenting move could open a serious crack within the party as long as Erdogan preserves his current power. But the critics are now more emboldened. One critical trend to watch is the upcoming parliamentary process on drafting a new constitution, which Erdogan hopes will deliver the executive presidency he craves. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s stance during this process is likely to be an important factor amid reports that not all AKP members are keen to hand Erdogan more power. That Davutoglu has withheld any criticism of Arinc and his associates in the latest controversy is also noteworthy.

Sukru Kucuksahin

Source: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/02/turkey-fear-threshold-crossed-inside-akp.html#ixzz40WQ4QVZT

Read more: Erdogan's AKP critics grow bolder

Kosovo Opposition Gives Ultimatum to Govt




At their biggest anti-government rally yet, Kosovo's opposition parties told Isa Mustafa's administration to resign before February 27, 2016  or face “unstoppable” protests.

Read more: Kosovo Opposition Gives Ultimatum to Govt

Proposal for Bulgarian Parliament to probe claims of Russian and Turkish interference in domestic politics




MPs from several political parties have signed a petition by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) calling for the establishment of a parliamentay ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of interference by Russia and Turkey in the domestic politics of Bulgaria.

Read more: Proposal for Bulgarian Parliament to probe claims of Russian and Turkish interference in domestic...

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