In his first major speech in office, in July 2010, the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon William Hague MP, declared that the Government would “make a particular diplomatic effort to work with Turkey”. Within three months of taking office, the Prime Minister had visited Turkey, where he signed a “strategic partnership” and declared the UK-Turkey tie to be a “vital strategic relationship”. The Government’s October 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review referred to a “deepened bilateral security partnership” with Ankara.
The Government’s ambitions for the UK-Turkey relationship form part of its strategy of strengthening the UK’s relations with a range of emerging powers, not only diplomatically but also in the economic and commercial spheres. Turkey is a priority market for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), and the Government hopes to double UK trade with Turkey over the next five years.
EU accession process
Compared to other emerging powers being targeted by the Government’s foreign policy, Turkey is distinguished by being also a candidate state for EU membership—although in the period before the country’s June 2011 parliamentary elections, Turkey’s EU accession process appeared to have ground almost to a halt. At the same time as it is a supplicant for EU membership, Turkey’s position as a transit state for energy into Europe arguably gives it leverage.
There is widespread recognition that in recent years Turkey has become a more significant diplomatic and economic presence in its region. However, following the re-election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in June 2011, views about Turkey—both inside and outside the country—appear to remain polarised. While some regard Turkey as a model of a democratic secular Muslim state, others focus on what they claim are increasingly illiberal and authoritarian trends in the country, and on claimed backtracking on human rights. Some see Turkey as a helpful ally for the West in, and bridge to, its region and the Muslim world, while others increasingly see Ankara turning away from the West if necessary to pursue its own geopolitical interests.
Terms of reference
In this context, the Foreign Affairs Committee is launching an inquiry into UK-Turkey Relations and Turkey’s Regional Role, and invites submissions of evidence. The Committee would in particular welcome submissions which address the following questions:
- How should the Government’s efforts to strengthen UK-Turkey relations be assessed, especially with respect to the economic and commercial spheres?
- To what extent is Turkey a helpful partner for the Government’s foreign and security policy, in the Middle East and North Africa, the South Caucasus, Central Asia or the Western Balkans? To what extent is Turkey such a partner for the UK in NATO?
- To what extent do Turkey and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) function as models for other Muslim countries and organisations in a way that is helpful for UK Government policy, particularly in the context of the ‘Arab Spring’? How should Turkey’s role in this respect affect UK Government policy towards it?
- Should the UK Government be concerned about trends in the quality of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Turkey, including the rights of ethnic and religious minorities (including the Kurds) and freedom of expression?
- Is the Government correct to continue to support Turkey’s membership of the EU? If so, what should the Government do to reinvigorate Turkey’s EU accession process—for example, with respect to other EU Member States and EU policies, or the issue of Cyprus, as well as Turkey itself? Does Turkey still want to join the EU?
- How important is Turkey to UK and EU energy security? How compatible are UK and EU, and Turkish, energy interests? How should Turkey’s energy role affect UK Government policy towards the country?
Call for evidence:
Interested groups or individuals are encouraged to submit written evidence to the inquiry. As of the start of September 2011, written submissions remain welcome.
Form of written evidence:
Submissions must be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain:
- a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
- a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, perhaps explaining their area of expertise or experience;
- any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses; and
- any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.
Submissions should be in MS Word format with as little use of colour and logos as possible.
View further information on submitting evidence.
Submissions should be sent as an e-mail attachment to [email protected] and the email entitled ‘Inquiry into UK-Turkey Relations and Turkey’s Regional Role’. Paper copies may be sent to Foreign Affairs Committee, Committee Office, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
Please contact Brigid Fowler, Committee Specialist, on 020 7219 4082 or by email to [email protected].
Members of the press with enquiries should contact Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589, or 07917 488488, or by email to [email protected]