by instituDE, published on 22 April 2024


"Turkey Is In The Critical Junction: Modernize Customs Union With Rule of Law or Else" by Mehmet Demirbas, The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

On April 17, 2024, the Dutch parliament made a significant decision concerning Turkey. It urged the Dutch government to condition negotiations aimed at modernizing the customs union agreement between Turkey and the European Union. This resolution was prompted by Turkey's failure to adhere to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Osman Kavala, Selahattin Demirtaş and others. Such actions underscore the mounting pressure within EU member states for Turkey to uphold democratic principles and the rule of law, particularly concerning human rights and judicial autonomy. 

The Erdogan government, victorious in the 2011 general elections, subsequently slowed down reform processes and even caused many reform packages, especially concerning public procurement legislation, to regress.

Although the Customs Union Agreement, in effect since January 1, 1996, has provided a significant boost to the Turkish economy and trade, it is not fully capable of meeting the needs of today's global economy and trade conditions. Especially clauses such as the exclusion of services trade, the exclusion of agricultural products, and the necessity for Turkey to negotiate separate free trade agreements with countries with which the European Union has already signed such agreements have rendered the agreement's applicability challenging. 

By returning to the rule of law, implementing decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, and guaranteeing investor capital and property rights, Turkey can primarily achieve the modernization of the customs union agreement. This would actually mean a return to rational policies, exactly what Mehmet Şimşek desires, and it would pave the way for a more sustainable, structural economic development for Turkey. Otherwise, the Turkish economy, deprived of its sound economic policies and now a hub for money laundering, may become a new Venezuela, where millions of people have left for the their richer neighbors, in this case the EU countries.

"How trade became a battleground in Turkey-Israel ties" by Ylenia Gostoli, The New Arab

Last week, Turkey introduced restrictions on trade with Israel, announcing a list of 54 products whose export it will halt until Israel declares a ceasefire in Gaza, according to the trade ministry.

Turkey's official reason for introducing the trade measures is Israel's denial of its request to join air drops of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Critics point out that trade restrictions don't mean an outright ban, and that it remains to be seen how companies will try to circumvent them.

Turkey's facilitation of crude oil exports from Azerbaijan to Israel through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline continues, for example, with an investigative report recently highlighting the significant intertwining of civilian and military fuel supply chains.

"Azerbaijan has no closer friend or ally than Turkey. So I don't think Turkey would want to hurt Azerbaijan," Bryza said.

Azerbaijan and Israel also enjoy close military and economic ties. "If Turkey really wanted to squeeze Israel, that's what it would do." 


Ipsos Survey Shows 13.3% of AKP Supporters Voted for CHP in Local Elections

An Ipsos survey conducted after the March 31 local elections in Turkey indicates that 13.3% of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters voted for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

Sidar Gedik, CEO of Ipsos Turkey, announced the survey findings, which involved 2,029 participants across the country and was conducted over two days following the local elections.

The survey revealed that 13.3% of AKP voters, 20.4% of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters (an ally of President Erdogan), and 42.6% of nationalist opposition Good Party voters supported the CHP in the local elections.

Turkish Opposition Leader Set to Meet President Erdogan

Ozgur Ozel, leader of Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), announced on April 17 that he will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the coming days. Ozel stated that since the CHP won the local elections on March 31, they are obligated to work with Erdogan's ruling AKP to protect the country's rights and interests. 

Ozel previously expressed his intention for the meeting following his party's success in the elections. President Erdogan, responding to Ozel's offer during a press briefing on April 16, welcomed the offer, stating they have "many topics to discuss.

Opposition Mayor Uncovers Bugs and Hidden Cameras in Municipal Building

After taking office in the western city of Afyonkarahisar, the newly-elected mayor from the main opposition party in Turkey, Burcu Köksal, announced on April 17 that she discovered bugs and hidden cameras in the municipal building. 

Köksal, from the Republican People's Party (CHP), stated that she initiated a sweep of the city hall due to claims of bugs and hidden cameras being present. She revealed that four bugs were discovered in various locations, including the mayor's office and two hidden cameras—one in her office and the other in the waiting room. 

Köksal expressed suspicion towards the ruling party, stating, "The Afyonkarahisar Municipality has been under AKP rule for 20 years. Who could be behind this? Surely, the strongest suspicion falls on the ruling party."

AKP Deputy Chairman Voices Support for Trade Relations with Israel

Nihat Zeybekçi, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), defended Turkey's trade ties with Israel, emphasizing their mutual benefits, and said that these economic relations be evaluated separately from political conflicts.

"We strongly denounce Israel's violence against Muslims. However, from a trade perspective, Israel remains a significant partner with whom we maintain a free trade agreement," stated Zeybekçi.

On April 17, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), rejected a parliamentary motion submitted by the opposition Felicity Party (SP), which aimed to investigate the impact of Turkey's trade restrictions on Israel and the repercussions of ongoing trade with Israel on the people of Gaza.


Government-backed Savings Program Blamed for Central Bank's $25 Billion Loss 

In 2023, the Turkish central bank incurred a significant loss of 818.2 billion lira ($25 billion), a big shift from previous profitable years. This loss was mainly due to higher interest rates and expenses linked to a government-backed savings program aimed at shielding depositors from currency devaluation (KKM), Bloomberg reported on April 19. 

Hakan Kara, the bank's former chief economist, described the loss as a result of what he called "the world's most expensive economic experiment" on the social media platform X.

Economist Haluk Bürümcekci also highlighted the KKM as a major factor contributing to the central bank's loss. More details are expected to be revealed by Governor Fatih Karahan during the central bank's upcoming annual meeting with shareholders this month, Bürümcekci said. 

Turkish Government Seizes $2.8 Billion in Assets from Organized Crime Groups

The Turkish government has confiscated assets worth TL 92 billion ($2.8 billion) from international organized crime groups in a crackdown over the past 10 months, as reported by Birgün daily on April 17, citing data from the Interior Ministry.

Security forces conducted 1,187 operations targeting criminal gangs in Turkey since June 1, when Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya assumed office, until April 8.

During these operations, 8,052 individuals were detained, with 3,036 suspects arrested and 1,751 released under judicial supervision. Authorities seized 242 rifles, 5,970 pistols, and 3,593 valuable documents.

The crackdown resulted in the confiscation of apartments in high-rise buildings, villas, mansions, company accounts, expensive watches, jewelry, and luxury cars, including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and custom-made Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, the daily reported.

Over 384,000 Homes Sold to Foreigners in Turkey for Citizenship

The daily Cumhuriyet reported that since 2012, over 384,519 houses have been sold to foreign buyers in Turkey, primarily for the purpose of obtaining citizenship.

According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), Russians have been the top foreign buyers since 2019, purchasing 39,172 units, followed by Iranians (35,573) and Iraqis (31,319).

Approximately 75% of homes sold to foreign buyers in recent years have been for citizenship purposes. Many buyers profit from selling these properties after holding them for the required three-year period.

In April 2022, changes to regulations increased the minimum investment required for citizenship eligibility from $250,000 to $400,000. This minimum investment was further raised to $600,000 in 2024.

Surplus Chinese Steel Floods Global Markets Including Turkey

China's epic property bust has saddled its steelmakers with a glut of unsold metal. They are now shipping it overseas at knockdown prices—and the U.S. isn't the only country pushing back. 

Chinese steel is pouring into other countries including Brazil, Vietnam, India, the U.K., the Philippines and Turkey, all of which have antidumping investigations under way.

Chinese data shows that exports of steel to Turkey in the 12 months through February were 58% higher than a year earlier.

US and UK Impose New Sanctions on Iran, Including One Turkish Company 

The US and the UK have imposed new sanctions on Tehran in response to Iran's use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles following an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus.  

The sanctions, announced by the US Treasury Department on April 18, target Iran's drone and steel industries and its automobile companies. In total, 16 individuals and two entities involved in Iran's drone industry have been sanctioned by the US. 

One of the entities listed is the Turkey-based "HSF Dış Ticaret Limited Şirketi" accused of trading with Iran's Khuzestan Steel Company (KSC), a major steel producer. According to the US Treasury Department, HSF purchased tens of millions of dollars worth of steel products from Iran's KSC between 2022 and 2023.

Finance Minister Highlights Monetary Policy Success, Meets with IMF Vice President

Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek stated on April 18 that Turkey's monetary policy is functioning well, and the future policy mix will be more supportive. However, he emphasized the need for more time to observe its effects and gain the trust of the broader society. 

Speaking at an event during the International Monetary Fund/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, Simsek stressed that while the country is on the right path and implementing the correct measures, demonstrating tangible results and convincing the public will take time.

Simsek also held a meeting with IMF Vice President Gita Gopinath on April 20.

Gopinath posted photos of the meeting on her social media account with the caption, "I had an excellent conversation with Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek about the global outlook." She tagged Minister Şimşek in the photos, but Simsek did not interact with her tweet.


Dutch Parliament Links EU-Turkey Customs Union Modernization to Kavala and Demirtas' Release

The Dutch parliament passed a motion, conditioning the modernization of the European Union customs union agreement with Turkey on the release of two prominent prisoners, Kati Piri, a member of the Dutch parliament and former EU rapporteur on Turkey, reported.

On April 17, Dutch lawmakers voted to block any updates to the customs union with Turkey unless Ankara complies with European Court of Human Rights rulings demanding the immediate release of Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala.

This decision by the Dutch parliament establishes a firm diplomatic stance ahead of Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's visit to the Netherlands on April 19. During his visit, Fidan held meetings with Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Turkish Police Detains Dozens Over Alleged Gulen Movement Links

Police in western Turkey detained 36 people on April 17, including several small business owners, over alleged ties to the Gulen movement.

Authorities in İzmir issued detention warrants for 45 people as part of an investigation into an alleged network associated with the movement. During house raids, police seized over $35,000 and 25,000 euros in cash, gold and other valuables.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya also announced on X that 60 people were detained in 14 cities for suspected Gulen movement links. The operations resulted in the seizure of money and jewelry worth 6 million, according to initial findings.

The detainees are accused of fundraising for imprisoned or convicted movement members, residing in "absence houses," and communicating through pay phones.

Retired General's Wife Raises Concerns Over His Health in Prison

Nilgül Doğan, the wife of 83-year-old retired general Çetin Doğan, has spoken out about her husband's declining health in prison, stating that it poses life-threatening risks.

In a statement, Nilgül Doğan said that her husband's health has significantly worsened over the past 45 days, emphasizing the grave consequences of his incarceration.

Çetin Doğan, who has been behind bars since August 2021, reportedly suffers from various health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.

He is currently serving a life sentence for his alleged involvement in a 1997 military memorandum that led to the government's forced resignation.

Top Court Strikes Down Restrictions on Student Freedoms

The Constitutional Court of Turkey invalidated certain parts of a law that imposed disciplinary measures on university students for activities like distributing leaflets and organizing unauthorized meetings on campuses. The decision also prevents universities from penalizing students for alleged terrorism-related actions if they have not been convicted yet. 

These provisions, introduced in 2023 under Law No. 2547 on the Higher Education Council, were criticized for limiting freedom of expression and assembly. 

In its verdict, published in the Official Gazette on April 19, the court found that the provisions violated constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.


German President to Meet Istanbul Mayor and President Erdogan in Official Visit to Turkey

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will make an official trip to Turkey from April 22 to 24, marking his first visit to the country since assuming office. During his visit, he will travel to Istanbul, Antep, and Ankara.

According to a statement from the German Presidency, Steinmeier's visit aims to commemorate the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany. He will visit Sirkeci Station in Istanbul, where many Turkish workers departed for Germany by train for long years, and meet with Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. Additionally, Steinmeier will meet with representatives of German companies in Turkey and members of civil society.

In Antep, Steinmeier will meet with earthquake victims and celebrate April 23rd National Sovereignty and Children's Day with children.

During the final day of his visit, Steinmeier will visit Anıtkabir in Ankara and hold a meeting with President Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan Meets Hamas Leader, Calls for Unity 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on April 20, urging Palestinians to come together amidst Israel's conflict in Gaza. The talks at Dolmabahçe Palace reportedly lasted over two and a half hours. 

Erdogan emphasized the importance of Palestinian unity, stating that it is crucial for their response to Israel and for achieving victory. Discussions during the meeting also covered Israeli attacks, humanitarian aid, and the pursuit of lasting peace, as per the Turkish presidency's statement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Highlights Key Issues Ahead of Erdogan's Visit

Commenting on Erdogan's visit to Iraq on April 22, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Sudani said that sensitive talks would be held on all issues, especially security, and water, and that there is a will between the two countries to resolve them. "It will not be an ordinary visit; it will not be a passing visit. For the first time, there is a will between the two countries to resolve issues instead of postponing them."

"We will not allow Iraqi territory to become a theater of attack against Turkey. With its security institutions, Iraq can protect its own security and stability and prevent any threat to Turkey," Sudani said.

Prime Minister Sudani added that another critical issue to be discussed with Erdogan is the Iraq-Turkey Development Road Project, which will connect Iraqi ports and gates to Turkey, Europe, and the Gulf.

On the occasion of Erdogan's visit to Baghdad, Iraq is also expected to restart pumping oil from the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline after 10 years.

"Erdogan will sign 20 bilateral agreements with Iraq on April 22", Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan said ahead of the visit.