Foreign Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1567

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Evidence heard in Public

Questions 1 - 84



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 18 October 2011

Members present:

Richard Ottaway (Chair)

Mr Bob Ainsworth

Sir Menzies Campbell

Mr Frank Roy

Sir John Stanley

Rory Stewart

Mr Dave Watts


Examination of Witness

Witness: John Roberts, Energy Security Specialist, Platts, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Mr Roberts, thank you very much for coming along. This is the first session of inquiry into Turkey’s bilateral relationship with the UK and her role as a regional player. We think that energy issues are particularly important, so we thought we would start with you. Thank you for coming; you are very welcome. Do you want to say anything by way of an opening overview of energy issues?

John Roberts: Yes, if I may. First, I am John Roberts, and I am the energy security specialist for Platts but, of course, anything I say is in a private capacity and does not reflect my company, which is strictly neutral on energy issues.

Q2 Chair: You realise that you are on the record, though?

John Roberts: I realise that I’m on the record, and that is fine.

I don’t think one can overstress the importance of what is called the southern corridor to European energy security. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that over the next five to 10 years European import demand will grow, particularly for gas. After that, everything is open because an enormous amount depends on how indigenous resources, notably shale gas, are developed in Europe.

The key point I want to make is that in terms of our specific relations with Turkey, I don’t have anything to add in terms of the aspirations embodied in the FCO’s paragraphs 35 to 41. They’re perfectly decent in terms of both logic and aspiration. Where I disagree is on whether Turkey is actually delivering as much as the European Union, including the UK, would like it to. By that, I mean specifically that Turkey has very clear views of its own concerning the southern corridor. It basically doesn’t like any project except the interconnector between Turkey, Greece and Italy. It tolerates Nabucco because it has reached agreements, but it has stated that the Nabucco project to deliver gas for central Europe, if it is to proceed, must not be changed. One of the key points that the Azerbaijanis make with regard to transit across Turkey is that they want to see flexibility. I will return to that.

The Turks have a particular antipathy to the latest concept put forward by BP-the developer of the giant Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan-that perhaps one should simply transit the gas across Turkey, sell it into south-east Europe using enhanced local infrastructure in the region, and not bother about taking it either to central Europe or to Italy.

The Azerbaijanis have a particularly important attitude to Turkey. They blame Turkey for three years of delay in the Shah Deniz project because they argue that it was the Turks and not them who held up a transit agreement. Indeed that transit agreement was supposed to have been concluded in the summer a year ago, and we are still waiting for it to be concluded.

None the less, it is important to note that energy for Turkey is absolutely crucial. Turkey is expected to have a near doubling of consumption from, I think, 126 million tonnes last year to 222 million tonnes in 2020. It has a massive import bill-roughly $50 billion a year on energy imports. That accounts for two thirds of its current account deficit. That is very important, given the fact that Turkey is extremely worried that every time the oil price goes up by about $10 or so, its import bill goes up by about $4 billion.

Then there are the questions concerning the eastern Mediterranean. One ought to work on a reasonable assumption that you should judge Turkey by its actions rather than its words. It does feel-I think wrongly-that there is some kind of conspiracy between Israel and Cyprus to develop gas off the southern Cypriot shores. It does not understand that in fact the timetable for that development is perfectly logical. It falls naturally following the discoveries of the Tamar and Leviathan fields on the Israeli side of the Israel/Cypriot boundary.

In terms of the overall Turkish approach, we have got a difficult situation. We have a Government who, in an unprecedented occurrence in modern times, have secured three election victories in a row. They are convinced of their own rectitude. They are less flexible than they were and, of course, one of the main reasons why they are less flexible is the diminishing prospect and indeed the diminishing interest in Turkey in membership of the European Union. The issues of the EU and energy security, no matter how much it would be desirable to see them decoupled, in practice are very closely related.

Q3 Chair: Thank you very much. We have all got a map here, which you helpfully supplied to us. Does Turkey have any production of its own, or is it simply a consumer or a transit country?

John Roberts: Turkey used to be a major producer of brown coal-lignite-and it was the pollution caused by using lignite at its power stations that prompted it to turn to Russia for gas imports. It had great hopes of developing large-scale gas resources in the Black Sea, but so far it has had little result, and its biggest prospect-drilling by Petrobras last year-yielded very little. So it is hope deferred and thus it is one of the world’s great energy importers in its own right, and this is a major issue because one has to consider Turkish import requirements alongside the desire to use Turkey as a transit country.

Q4 Chair: Does that lead to conflict? It is a big transit country. If we look at this map, we realise what sort of a Khyber pass it is for the oil and gas sector. Is there a conflict between its own requirements and its transit obligations?

John Roberts: The answer to that is, in a bureaucratic sense, at the moment, yes. But whether it gets solved in a political sense in the next few weeks is one of the key issues. Without getting too technical, this is the issue known as the network code. Turkey developed a network code, which basically handles the day-to-day distribution of gas in the system, at a time when it was purely in charge of every molecule of gas inside the system. What it is now proposing and now has agreed in principle, is that Azerbaijan will have the right to export gas at the Greek border into the European Union. The question then arises, who has priority? I will put it in very simple terms. Is it an Azerbaijani exporter seeking to push the gas over to Greece, or is it, for example, a city in southern Turkey that happens that day to be short of gas and needs to have priority use of the trunkline system? All those issues have to be sorted out and they appear to be causing some sort of dispute.

Q5 Chair: Sorted out by whom? By the Turkish Government?

John Roberts: By the Azeris and the Turks jointly. We had thought that they would have sorted it out by now, but they have not.

Q6 Chair: Are there any obligations? If it so wishes, can Turkey turn off the tap of everything being transited through or is it internationally committed to keeping supplies going?

John Roberts: Much depends on what choice the developers of the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, and that includes the Azerbaijani Government, make for their export pipeline. If the export pipeline chosen is the Nabucco system, that is governed by a specific set of separate treaties that would create, in effect, a dedicated line across Turkey that would be for nothing but Azerbaijani gas, so the problem ought not to arise under those circumstances.

That is certainly the kind of approach favoured by the European Union; it is also the kind favoured by the Azerbaijanis. But, and it is a very big but, there is a question as to whether Nabucco is commercially feasible on the kind of volumes likely to be available in the current time frame. If they opt for a smaller system, the smaller system requires the use of existing Turkish infrastructure that would have to be upgraded, and if it requires use of the existing Turkish infrastructure there has to be an accommodation concerning the rules governing who has priority within the system under what circumstances. I do not think they are impossible to solve, but at the moment they are causing some problems.

Q7 Chair: I will come back to Nabucco in a second. Are the EU and the Turks in competition for supplies from the Caspian?

John Roberts: No, because the agreement for the development of Shah Deniz gas is that 10 bcm should go to Europe and 6 bcm should go to Turkey and, if anything, right now Turkey is over-supplied with gas.

Q8 Chair: You mentioned an agreement. Which one is that?

John Roberts: This goes right back to at least four years ago, that there would be a split between the European Union and Turkey. I think the finalisation of that agreement was probably summer last year. It is not a formal agreement as such-

Q9 Chair: It is an understanding.

John Roberts: It is one of the elements that would be incorporated in the formal agreement that is due to be signed-this dread word-imminently.

Q10 Chair: One gets the impression that good will is needed to keep these agreements going.

John Roberts: I think there is certainly a concern in Azerbaijan about Turkish good will. That is why the Azerbaijanis talk regularly of wishing to have a dedicated pipeline across Turkey. The question is whether in fact a dedicated pipeline literally means that physically-a separate pipeline-or whether in fact you can get the same through legal agreements that guarantee the passage of your gas.

It is important to realise that Turkey is not going to be arbitrary in the way in which it handles gas that is going through to Europe. It is well aware that if there were anything other than genuine force majeure stopping the gas supply through to Europe, the impact would be very considerable. The Azerbaijanis certainly are very concerned that they do not want to see Turkey become another Ukraine, as it were, but that is also understood by the Turks.

Q11 Chair: Could you outline the history of Nabucco for colleagues and sat where it has got to? What are the political impediments and why is it not moving forward so well?

John Roberts: There are no real political impediments. The real impediment is a commercial one. Nabucco is structured to carry about 31 bcm of gas and-

Q12 Chair: Could you describe what it is?

John Roberts: Okay. Nabucco is a pipeline that would go, as a concept, from the Turkish border with Georgia all the way through to Austria, where there is a hub at Baumgarten, from which gas delivered to Baumgarten could go in several different directions and be commercially available. It would also include a spur to take in gas from Iraq, as and when gas from Iraq became available. It was originally conceived with a spur to take in gas from Iran, but the Nabucco proponents have not considered that to be a viable option for at least four or five years. The problem it faces is that it is a very big project, costed officially at about €8 billion and unofficially at about €14 billion. Financing for it is difficult, because to justify such a big pipeline, you need to guarantee that you will get most of the gas up front and have a pretty clear idea where the rest of the gas to fill the line will come from subsequently, and that is one of the issues currently in question.

The Azerbaijanis who have the biggest immediate prospect-the Shah Deniz II gas-could commit 10 bcm. The question is whether their further resources, which have yet to be developed, could make up the balance or, indeed, whether Nabucco could get gas from a source like Turkmenistan as well. All of those issues are a mixture of commercial, technical and political questions, which means that, even though Nabucco is strongly backed by the European Union, it might not necessarily get under way. I am not saying that to do down Nabucco; I am simply saying that, at the moment, we still have a stage in which all options for the transport of Azerbaijani gas remain open.

Q13 Chair: Are there any alternatives to Nabucco?

John Roberts: Yes. The proposals to ship 10 bcm of gas through to Greece with the ITGI system; the proposals to ship 10 bcm of gas with the capacity to increase that considerably to Italy by means of another similar pipeline; the Trans-Adriatic pipeline that would go to Greece, Albania, Italy and the new fourth option proposed by BP, which is just to ship the gas across Turkey and pump it into south-east Europe, which is an area that is likely to be one of the booming gas markets in coming years.

Q14 Chair: Is the policy of both the previous Government and this Government in the United Kingdom to try to liberalise EU energy policy? Is there anything that the UK Government could or should be doing at the moment that you particularly recommend?

John Roberts: The biggest thing they could do would be the continued pursuit of their goal to get Turkey into the European Union and to get Turkey to become more flexible on energy transit across Turkey, and co-operation and development of the southern corridor. I think that in practice the two go hand in hand.

Q15 Chair: Is there any reason why they are not being flexible?

John Roberts: The Turks have a default position, which is to stall. Each time they stall, it means delays in developing the Shah Deniz gas field and that prompts greater antagonism. The Azerbaijanis consider that Turkish stalling has delayed bringing a giant gas field online for some three years and they fear that it could be another year of delay.

Q16 Mr Roy: Staying on the EU linkage, the Foreign Office is claiming that Turkey’s accession would obviously help in relation to better supply routes to the European Union. Compared with the situation today, what difference would it make to European Union energy security if Turkey were a member of the EU?

John Roberts: The first thing is that all European energy rules-the energy acquis-would apply to Turkey. That might come about also if Turkey were to join up to something that it helped formulate-the Energy Community treaty-but that is not likely to happen. Turkey has opted for all or nothing: "We either get European Union membership or we don’t." The specific thing is that Cypriot Government objections are preventing the opening of discussions on the energy chapter, which is the crucial chapter. If there were a specific role for the UK Government to play, it would be somehow to break that extraordinarily difficult deadlock.

Q17 Mr Roy: If Turkey had to commit to the European Union, are there any gains that the European Union might reap in terms of the Turkish position on energy issues?

John Roberts: Yes, I think there are. First, both the European Union and Turkey would make gains. If Turkey were to be a member of the European Union and have the entire energy acquis, that would imply that it would have considerably liberalised its internal market, and under those circumstances it would be able to fulfil its own ambition, which is to be become a genuine hub for the trading of energy. At the moment, it is a physical hub, in the sense of a lot of energy coming in and quite a lot going out, but it is not a trading hub, because it lacks the liberalisation of the market that would make traders wish to conduct their trades in the area.

Q18 Mr Roy: In relation to being a hub for energy-I know it is moving off the subject a bit-would it also be a hub for anything else, which could piggyback on that?

John Roberts: I don’t think so. There is a certain amount of gain that they make from physical construction of new lines. That is obviously a major project, with major employment, for a limited amount of time, but that is about it. The only point I would make that I have not so far, is that Turkey is talking at the moment of transiting anything up to 40 bcm of gas in the near to medium term, but in the long term it is looking to transit around 100 bcm of gas to Europe. That is quite doable in terms of the resources around it. That would pretty much cover any increase in demand that we expect in Europe over the next 10 years. In that sense, Turkey’s role is potentially very important.

Q19 Sir Menzies Campbell: I wonder if I might take you back to the question of liberalisation, so far as it is related to the Turkish aspiration to become a trading centre. The capacity to liberalise lies with the Turkish Government. If the aspiration is ever to be realised, a Turkish Government will have to embark on liberalisation. What is stopping them doing so now?

John Roberts: Officially, they are liberalising. I am trying to think when they passed the relevant acts-eight or nine years ago. They are just slow. This is a classic example of the fact that Turkey is prone to move, if it is not pressed, at a snail’s pace. After all, we are talking in particular about one company, BOTAS, the state pipeline monopoly. Monopolies do not give up their position easily and BOTAS is no exception.

Q20 Sir Menzies Campbell: It seems contradictory that this lies within the power of the Government but the Government do not proceed at other than a snail’s pace. Could you relate that to economic growth in Turkey? Let’s put it this way: in this country we would be very happy to have Turkish annual rates of growth. That must surely be something of a catalyst in this approach to liberalisation, is it not?

John Roberts: Why?

Q21 Sir Menzies Campbell: Why not?

John Roberts: If you are the Turkish Government and are presiding over considerable economic growth, why would you want to tinker with what you think is currently working? We could argue perfectly reasonably and rationally-and I would argue myself-that liberalisation of the gas market would provide a further fillip to Turkish growth, but liberalisation happened when Turkey was suffering from economic constraints. Now that it is growing and doing well, you don’t want to change things. In that human sense, it is perfectly understandable that Turkey would go slowly on liberalisation. It is saying, "If it ain’t broke, why fix it?" The fact that you can get something better, to them might still be considered hypothetical rather than real.

Q22 Mr Watts: You talked about the growth levels in Turkey and the dependency on gas and oil imports. What is Turkey’s position? Is it trying to diversify so that it is less reliant on those imports in future? What are the major initiatives, if any?

John Roberts: The Turks have a peculiar attitude towards imports. Until the arrival of the AK Government, successive Governments pursued what one might almost describe as the personal policies of the Energy Minister: one Energy Minister might favour imports from Russia, another might favour imports from Azerbaijan, and another might favour imports from Iran. That was in the 1990s and resulted in a string of contracts that were not necessarily competitive. There was no question of doing a financial calculation and asking, "Are we better off importing gas from A, B or C?"

The AK Government inherited long-term gas agreements, and it is interesting that they have adopted a more flexible attitude. For instance, the AK Government did not renew the first gas agreement with Russia, which ran out a week ago and was for 6 bcm through the Balkans, but that may be part of the Russian policy of running down exports through that route because it crosses Ukraine.

So there is a degree of increased flexibility in Turkish imports, and there is an understanding of the need for diversified imports, which is one reason why Turkey wants more gas from Azerbaijan. At the same time, Turkey is far more comfortable with Russia now than it has been for many years, although I would argue that Turkey has an amazing ability to antagonise potential partners, as it has done with Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and just about every other energy supplier.

Q23 Mr Watts: That addresses how Turkey is trying to diversify its gas and oil supplies, but what about other forms of energy? Is Turkey interested in nuclear power and wind power?

John Roberts: The Turkish Government are genuinely interested in all alternative forms of energy. They have an active programme to develop both wind power and geothermal power. They have tried to get a nuclear power station up and running off and on for 40 years. That has invoked considerable controversy because the power station is in Akkuyu, which is in an earthquake zone. They restated their commitment to the project even after Fukushima. They had an agreement with Russia, which it thought would be implemented, for the construction of that power station, but the agreement now appears to be in abeyance. One always has to distinguish between "agreements" in Turkey and actual implementation in the form of contracts. As far as I know, no contracts for the construction of nuclear power plants are physically being implemented.

Q24 Mr Watts: Do the Turkish Government have any targets for that transfer? Do they, say, want to become 10% less reliant on gas and oil imports? Is it that sophisticated, or are they trying to work up scheme by scheme?

John Roberts: If the Committee will allow me, I will come up with an answer to that question when I have done a bit more research and gone back to my notes. Turks come up with constant projections of what their future energy balance will be, and I cannot remember the current projection. I apologise for that.

Q25 Chair: Cyprus thinks there may be quite a lot of gas to the south, in the eastern Mediterranean. How much credence do you give to such reports? What is the significance of the discovery down there?

John Roberts: I will answer very carefully, because I don’t want to forecast or prognosticate. I simply want to point out that gas has been found on the Israeli side of the maritime boundary between Cyprus and Israel, which is a delineated line. The company that has been drilling on the Israeli side is now drilling on the Cypriot side. One could make a perfectly logical case for saying that it is reasonable to assume that the company would not be drilling on the Cypriot side if they didn’t assume that there is a good prospect, but until a well is drilled you do not know whether there is oil or gas. So, yes, it is very serious, but until we get the results of the drilling, it is probably best not to speculate.

Q26 Chair: If something were there, hypothetically, how would it be brought to market? Would it be piped into Israel and Cyprus, and then into Turkey?

John Roberts: There have been what one would describe as semi-formal talks. It has certainly been raised at ministerial level, in discussions between Israeli and Cypriot Ministers, that a liquefied natural gas plant might be constructed in Cyprus to handle whatever gas is produced in the region. I spoke to the Cypriot Minister for Energy, who is responsible for this, in June I think, and he felt that being a regional centre made sense. On the other hand, his concept of politics was interesting, because he said that this might apply to gas produced by Syria, too, if they found gas.

These are such early days that I think one has to be very careful. I make one point: no one has yet built an LNG terminal in another country to handle their own gas. They have built LNG terminals in their own country, but they have not built one in another.

Q27 Chair: Qatar?

John Roberts: Qatar has its LNG terminals in Qatar.

Q28 Chair: It has a plant in Milton Keynes.

John Roberts: No, that’s the import system. We are talking here about the major, big projects. Very roughly, the liquefaction or upstream side costs many multiples of a downstream regasification plant, and no one has built the upstream end in another country. I am not saying it is impossible-indeed, in many ways it would make sense to do it in Cyprus-but it would be unusual.

Q29 Chair: I am asking you to put a political hat on now, which is a bit unfair, but do you think that the jurisdictional dispute between Turkey and Cyprus will impede this?

John Roberts: I do not see how it can in that Cyprus, in terms of the EU, the United Nations and the rest of the world, is a sovereign country, and this is quite within its sovereign rights. There are issues in terms of what happens as fallout from such a development, whether in relation to Turkish antagonism, or if it impedes a settlement to the Cyprus problem, or should Turkey in some way fall out with Europe on energy issues. Those are the consequences, rather than the direct consequences concerning energy development.

Q30 Chair: That is very helpful. I think that is all. Have we asked you all the right questions?

John Roberts: The only thing I would say is that one ought to look carefully at Turkish relations with Iraq, because it has begun to understand that its strength in Northern Iraq is essentially commercially based. Its company is notably Genel Energy, which is now forming the new Tony Hayward project, and which is the biggest single stakeholder of gas resources in Northern Iraq. At some point, some of that gas is likely to cross Turkey and perhaps enter Nabucco, or whatever pipeline systems are operational.

In the last five to seven years, Turkey has been pursuing a much more nuanced approach to Northern Iraq and the Kurds there than one would ever have expected a decade earlier. If Turkey can do that with the Kurds, don’t necessarily underestimate it with regard to Cyprus. The point here is to look to the actions and not the words. This matter goes back to 2004, when after years of pressure, the Turkish Cypriots voted yes to a settlement agreement, but then to the great shock of everybody else, the Greeks voted no. That has left a very sour taste in Turkish mouths. It will take a really big effort to solve the Cyprus problem, but I think that one should quite definitely continue to regard the Turks as a partner in that process. They are not an automatic blocker, though they do have concerns. As I say, I think that sometimes their foreign policy can be a little more nuanced than we give them credit for.

Q31 Chair: That is very helpful advice. Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed for coming along, Mr Roberts. It is very much appreciated and if any more energy issues pop up, which I suspect they will, we will get in touch with you to pick your brains again. Thanks for coming.

Examination of Witness

Witness: John Peet, Europe Editor, The Economist, gave evidence.

Q32 Chair: I welcome Mr John Peet to the witness box. For someone who has subscribed to The Economist for most of my life it is a pleasure to have someone from The Economist here. Mr Peet is the Europe editor and has written quite a lot about Turkey, which is why we have asked you to come along, Mr Peet. Is there anything you’d like to say by way of opening remarks or should we just go straight into questions?

John Peet: Thank you, Chairman. I would like to make a couple of opening remarks if it is helpful. As you say, I have been Europe editor of The Economist since 2003. I have followed Turkey quite closely during that period and have written a special report on Turkey. I visit the country quite often. I would like to offer three starting points for today. First, I and The Economist have consistently supported Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union, on the basis that we think it would be good for Turkey, by boosting its economy, underpinning democratisation in the country and supporting the process of reform. We also think that taking in a very important country that has been economically successful over the past decade and is vibrant and from the Muslim world would be good for the EU.

Secondly, I have also been an admirer of the AK Government since it came into office in 2002 and, with reservations that I will come to, of the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, since he took office in March 2003. The economic success of Turkey speaks for itself. The AK Government managed to open EU membership negotiations, which previous Governments had failed to do. They have also done more reform, including for the Kurdish issue, than almost any of their predecessors. Initial fears about the Islamist roots of the AK Party seem to me to be overblown, and I would stick to that view. Even looking back from now, in practice it has governed in many respects as a fairly normal centre-right party, akin to a European Christian Democratic party. In foreign policy, I think it has achieved some worthwhile things. The famous slogan of the Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, of seeking to have zero problems with the neighbours represented a shift in Turkish policy towards taking a greater interest in the region that was once part of the Ottoman empire. It hasn’t always worked, but it was worth doing compared with what went before.

Finally, I have had some worries, which I have expressed in The Economist, about the direction in which the Prime Minister is going. That is why, as I expect the Committee knows, I wrote an editorial in support of the Opposition Republican People’s Party during the last election. The real danger with the AK Party in government was never Islamism or its assertive foreign policy, but rather the autocratic instincts of Prime Minister Erdoğan himself. During his now long period in office, he has managed to overcome or sideline many of the obstacles that stood in his way: the presidency, first of all; the judiciary, which over time has shifted a little more towards the AK camp; and the military, which is, I think, cowed after losing repeated clashes with the Prime Minister. Turkey is a highly centralised country with a single parliamentary chamber, few well-established checks and balances and also several obvious problems of corruption.

Against that background, it seems that freedom of the press, freedom of academia and freedom of speech are all vitally important. In some respects, all three have been partly compromised in recent years. The big danger that I worried about as the election came near was that the AK Party might use the opportunity to change the constitution, which they have set as one of their understandable goals, the constitution having been inherited from 1982 after a military coup. They might have used the opportunity to institute a French-style executive presidency, with the obvious candidate for that job being Mr Erdoğan himself. I felt that it was important for Turkey and for its relations with Europe that they should not secure the two-thirds majority that would have enabled them to do that. I am pleased to say that they did not secure that majority, but the issue of constitutional change continues to be on the table.

I think that is all I want to say by way of introduction.

Chair: Thank you. That leads us neatly into Dave Watts’s questions.

Q33 Mr Watts: Can you touch on how the Government’s decision to try to upgrade UK relations with Turkey is being perceived in Turkey? Could you also give us some general view about how the UK is viewed in Turkey-before that initiative and after?

John Peet: You are talking about the Turkish Government’s view on that.

Mr Watts: Yes.

John Peet: Very positively. They identify the UK as one of their strongest supporters in terms of the quest for EU membership. Perhaps along with countries such as Sweden, we are seen as their closest supporter for that. They also think the UK is quite an important economic country, and economic links have not perhaps been as well developed as they could have been in past years. I think the present British Government have done quite well to identify Turkey as a growing and increasingly important economy, with which UK business should have more to do.

The only area where there are perhaps still some reservations about the UK in Turkey relates to Cyprus, because of the UK’s history there. I do not think it is regarded as hostile in the way that, for example, the Greek Government sometimes are, but the UK position in Cyprus is often regarded as compromised by its history there.

Q34 Mr Watts: Can you actually see any physical or practical changes since that initiative was announced by the Government? You are saying that it is positive, but is there an upward spiral in general trade? Has there been a marked difference? I accept your point that Turkey has a positive view about links with the UK, but the Prime Minister obviously wanted to take it a step further than that, and he wanted to have some actual practical gain out of the relationship. Is that happening?

John Peet: It is beginning to. I have to admit that I do not have figures with me, but I know that many businessmen went with-I think-Vince Cable to Turkey. There are certainly increasing signs of interest on the part of British business in Turkey, and trade between the two is clearly increasing. So from a lowish base, it is improving.

Q35 Mr Watts: What is the environment like for businesses trying to get into Turkey? Is that a positive experience or do they experience difficulties? Is there something more that the Government could do? Given the fact that it is at a low level and that everyone wants it to increase-it seems that both Turkey and the UK do-how can that environment be improved and what can be done to facilitate that change?

John Peet: If I were in the position of thinking from the Government’s point of view about that, I would let business get on with it. On the whole, the business environment in Turkey is quite good, and Turkey is much more receptive and much more accommodating of foreign investment than it was 10 years ago, so that is on the increase. The one specific area where the UK Government could perhaps think about doing more is making it easier for Turks to get visas to come to this country, which I think your next witness may have more to say on.

Q36 Mr Watts: You mentioned corruption. Is that a problem for UK businesses that are trying to do business in Turkey?

John Peet: Corruption is a problem wherever it exists. I do not think that Turkey is worse than many other countries, including those in its region, but corruption is a problem for it. It is a difficult thing to measure, but my perception is that it may have got worse because of the long period of single-party rule in Turkey. So it is something that the Turks themselves should do more about, yes.

Q37 Sir Menzies Campbell: You have partly answered the question I was going to begin with, Mr Peet. Leaving aside other matters, such as social or cultural elements, just how serious an irritant is the visa issue as far as Turkish trade is concerned? Is it a substantial irritant?

John Peet: I happen to have been at a conference with British and Turkish people two weeks ago, which took place at Ditchley Park. Visas was the number one issue that most of the Turkish participants raised. As far as trade is concerned, visas are not too much of a concern, because trade is about goods and services. But certainly, if this Government are trying to increase our economic relationship with Turkey and benefit from its economic success, allowing easier entry to this country by Turkish businessmen, bankers and others would help.

Q38 Sir Menzies Campbell: Is a factor in this caused by Turkey’s decision to allow non-visa entry to a number of countries that the British would most certainly want visas from?

John Peet: I would guess that that makes the issue of giving visas more freely to people from Turkey harder.

Q39 Sir Menzies Campbell: I appreciate that you are not a visa expert, but I am trying to get at the political problem.

John Peet: I understand that. The Turkish draw a rather different conclusion. They say, "Look, we have successfully implemented a policy of trying to get rid of visas for our neighbourhood and it has worked very well." Business with other places and Syria-admittedly, before the recent events-has been booming, partly thanks to the ease of crossing the borders. The Turkish sometimes perceive the increasing difficulty of getting visas to come to Britain, and sometimes also to the Schengen area, as an unnecessary and unhelpful obstacle to further integration and trade.

Q40 Sir Menzies Campbell: I have a copy of an article dated 4 June 2011 that appeared in The Economist, of which I, too, am a reader. It seems that the tone of that article is a little different from the-if I may characterise it-relatively optimistic approach that you adopted a moment ago. I am looking at a passage that states, "A new tolerance for the Muslim headscarf and an intolerance of alcohol point the way towards a more fiercely Islamist future, partly inspired by the opaque Fethullah Gulen movement, which seems strongly represented in the police." Then, a little later, there is a reference to journalists being in jail, lawsuits pending against writers and broadcasters, and Turkey’s having dropped to 138th place in the press freedom ranking of Reporters Without Borders, which is a lobby group with which, I am sure, you are more than familiar. I see a slight contrast between the expression of those reservations and what I have described as the relatively optimistic approach that you sounded at the beginning of your evidence.

John Peet: Thank you for the question, because I wrote the article.

Q41 Sir Menzies Campbell: I rather suspected that.

John Peet: It makes me sound rather schizophrenic. I started from a position that also informed my thinking when I visited Turkey before the election. I then wrote both the article and the editorial that went with it. I am pro Turkey and am quite pro the AK Government, but I have reservations at the same time. I have worries about future direction and media freedom. Perhaps that is why the tone sometimes seems to vary. I do have criticisms of the AK Government. It is reprehensible that 64 journalists are held in jail, which is more than in China. Many generals are in jail as well. I have legitimate grounds for worry about the future direction of the country under this Government. At the same time, I am impressed by what they have achieved over the past 10 years, and I am hopeful for the future, if that is not a contradictory way of answering your question.

Sir Menzies Campbell: No, I quite understand. It sounds like the kind of thing a politician might say. Thank you very much.

John Peet: I am glad I am not one of them.

Q42 Chair: Just following on from that, is there not a contradiction? I can also see what I suspect you wrote about the generals. The generals were the hard-line secularists, yet they have been replaced. There is a bit of a contradiction here. I think you were slightly critical of that development.

John Peet: I was certainly critical of the military’s long involvement in politics in Turkey, which has not been helpful to Turkey, although if you go back through the history of the country, there were times when a military coup-I particularly think back to 1980-seemed justified to many people. Overall, however, the military’s involvement in politics has been a bad thing. One improvement in the past nine or 10 years has been that the prospect of anything like a military coup seems extremely remote. That is a good thing.

I have been told by people who follow the issues more closely than I that there genuinely was some evidence surrounding possible plots among certain levels of the army during the early part of the AK Government against that Government. My impression has nevertheless been that the pursuit of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases has sometimes taken too long, has sometimes brought too many people into the net, the evidence has not always been terribly clear and, to some extent, the prosecutors appear to have used those cases as a way of intimidating the army, rather than purely as a matter of pursuing justice.

Q43 Mr Ainsworth: Please continue to pick up these contradictions in your views. Taken across the piece, are human rights in Turkey improving or deteriorating?

John Peet: Human rights are improving in Turkey. That has been a fairly consistent pattern for much of the past 10 to 15 years. The areas where I would have some reservations include media freedom, which I have spoken about, if you can count it as part of human rights. The other area is that at times when the Kurdish conflict has hotted up, possibly including the current time, respect for human rights has tended to fall. It rises and falls according to how much they are trying to settle the Kurdish problem, as opposed to pursuing the PKK terrorists.

Q44 Mr Ainsworth: You still think that the needle is over on the positive side.

John Peet: I do, yes.

Q45 Mr Ainsworth: Our position under both Governments has been to champion entry into the European Union. Does that compromise us in our ability and preparedness to raise human rights issues? Is the UK Government’s position a positive thing, or is it potentially negative? Does it stop us from being principled in the things that we say to the Turkish Government?

John Peet: I see no reason why it should not be a positive position to be in. In a way I think it may be easier to criticise the Turkish Government on issues such as media freedom and some aspects of human rights if it is coming from a country that supports the principle of Turkish membership of the European Union. One of the problems of outside criticism of Turkey, particularly from Europe, is that some people in Turkey-this might even apply to the Prime Minister-tend to brush it off on the basis that the European Union does not seem to want to let Turkey in anyway.

Certain countries in the European Union are well-known opponents of Turkish membership of the European Union. That position makes it harder for those countries and for Europe collectively to exert influence in Turkey in matters such as human rights. Indeed, I think that is one reason why it would be good for Europe to continue to work towards Turkish entry into the European Union-because it strengthens its influence in Turkey.

Q46 Mr Ainsworth: Are we not now in a position where, effectively, Turkish entry to the European Union has been parked? Neither side wants to kill it off for fear of the consequences, but it is not going to make progress. Therefore, any positive role that potential entry to the European Union was having on human rights development in Turkey is non-existent, really, isn’t it?

John Peet: I think "non-existent" might be a bit strong, but your analysis is quite logical. To me, the European Union’s influence and leverage in Turkey reached its highest point roughly in October 2005 under the British presidency, when negotiations began. As over the years the feeling in Turkey has developed that the negotiations are really not going anywhere, European leverage in Turkey has correspondingly declined. The negotiations continue, however. We have not opened a chapter of the negotiations for over a year, and many chapters are blocked by Cyprus, by France or by the European Union as a whole, but the process continues. Leverage is not non-existent, but if the perception continues in Turkey that it will never be let in, leverage clearly will be weaker.

Q47 Rory Stewart: Can I bring you on, please, to the Kurds? Where do you think the Kurdish issue is going? Do you see it as an inevitably successful Turkish counter-insurgency campaign that will just take a matter of time, as a result of which there will be some terrorist problems but eventually-maybe in the way the Spanish have dealt with ETA-there will be a victory? Or do you see it drifting in the other direction, and becoming a losing campaign where the Kurds will eventually achieve some form of near-total autonomy?

John Peet: It is hard to be sure where it is going, but I have the firm view that it would not be possible to resolve the Kurdish issue purely by military means. I do not think the analogy with the Basques quite holds, partly because of the Kurdish autonomous region of Northern Iraq. You might draw more of an analogy with Ireland; I do not believe that a military solution alone was ever going to work in Northern Ireland; there had to be a political solution. Sometimes, I believe, the Turkish Government have recognised that. As I said in my opening comments, they have been more positive about the Kurdish issue than most of their predecessors have. When the so-called Kurdish opening was at its highest point in 2009, I would have been quite positive about the prospects for a relaxation, for allowing the Kurdish language to be used in schools and for some of the other things that the Kurds wanted. Most of them do not want complete independence; they just want much more autonomy and freedom to run their affairs. I believe that that could be achieved, but not purely by military means.

Q48 Rory Stewart: Let me just push you one more time on that. With any counter-insurgency campaign we always say that we need a political settlement and that it will not be achieved by military means, but that would apply to almost everything. It is what people say about Ireland, Afghanistan and Tibet, and about Russian relations with Chechnya. Different regimes deal in different degrees of brutality, however, and with different degrees of success, depending on the exact conditions. What is your best guess of what it will look like in 10 years’ time?

John Peet: I think we could see a situation in 10 years’ time-I assume that Turkey will not be a member of the European Union before then, but it may have come closer to joining-in which the Kurds have much more autonomy than they do now; in which there is more decentralisation of power in Turkey; and in which the PKK is a much less active force than it was. I think that is a perfectly plausible scenario to sketch out for the future.

Q49 Rory Stewart: Moving on to European Union accession, you are obviously pro-EU accession for Turkey. How realistic do you think it now is that Europe would actually accept Turkey, and to what extent do you think European concerns about Turkish immigration are justified? In other words, the main fear, from Germany right through even to Britain, seems to be that we would be swamped with Turkish migrants.

John Peet: I think the prospects for Turkish accession to the European Union look quite bad at the moment for two reasons. The most obvious reason is that there continues to be quite strong resistance from some countries to Turkey joining, and if it is something that has to be decided unanimously by the current members of the European Union, as long as any one country does not want it, it cannot happen. The second reason is that Europe is very preoccupied at the moment with other things, most notably the euro crisis, which in a sense has put the whole issue of enlargement further off into the future. So long as people are worried about the survival of the club in its current form, they are perhaps less interested in expanding the club than they were.

I am still more optimistic in the longer term, for two reasons. I think the Turkish economy will continue to do well and will almost certainly outperform most of the European Union economies, so the gap between the two will clearly narrow. As one consequence of that, fears of being overwhelmed by a flood of Turkish immigrants will start to diminish. It is actually a curious fact that in the past three or four years Turkey has become a net immigrant country and not a net emigrant country, including from Germany; more Turks seem to be returning to Turkey than are coming from Turkey to Germany. Turkish demographics are also changing and are becoming a little closer to western norms. Although the population will continue to grow, the rate of growth is much slower than it was.

All those things suggest to me that worries about immigration should diminish over time. I also think that, when it came to it, the Turks would accept restrictions on the free movement of labour for quite a long time after they joined the European Union-perhaps not for ever, but for quite a long time.

Q50 Rory Stewart: What additional steps should Britain be taking to accelerate Turkish EU accession, if that is the stated policy of our Government?

John Peet: By far the most important thing Britain and other countries could do would be to advance the prospect of settling the Cyprus issue. As I think I said in answer to an earlier question, Britain’s history in Cyprus may make it harder for this Government to play a specific role in that, but the West collectively has a huge interest in settling the Cyprus issue, which clearly causes problems between the European Union and NATO, as well as being an obstacle to Turkish accession. It is a very difficult problem to solve, which no doubt is why it has been unsolved for 45 years, but I would be inclined to put a great deal more effort into it.

Q51 Mr Roy: May I ask you about the optimism that our Government have in relation to the extent to which Turkey’s more assertive foreign policy in the region is complementary to UK interests? Is that true or is it false?

John Peet: I think it is a very interesting question. On the whole, Turkey as a functioning, mainly Muslim democracy with a successful economy seems to me to be a useful-I am pausing over the word "model"-example to the countries of its region. Turkish success in the past 10 years or so has been noted across particularly the Arab world-Turkish television is very influential across the Arab world-and it seems to me that seeing Turkey as an example or something to emulate complements the interests of the UK and Europe in this region. Turkey is a better model than Saudi Arabia or, until recently, Egypt, so that is a plus.

A slight negative, but not enough to outweigh that plus, is that Turkey obviously has its own interests in its region, which do not always correspond with the interests of the EU or the UK specifically. For example, we have seen in the deteriorating relationship with Israel and in Turkey’s independent policy towards Iran two good examples of that. I would not put them down as therefore meaning that Turkish foreign policy is a very bad, unhelpful thing, but I think there are aspects of it that will not always complement the interests of the UK and the EU.

Q52 Mr Roy: Is there a danger that the further away Turkey goes from EU accession, the spin-off is that it goes further away rather than stays as close as it can? In other words, it gets in a bad mood, for example, and starts withdrawing from where it was going in relation to the EU?

John Peet: I would assume, as with most countries, that Turkey will pursue the foreign policy that it thinks is in its own best interests. But I do think that you have a very good point in saying that one very strong interest of Turkish foreign policy has consistently been a desire to join the EU, and if the Turkish establishment comes to the conclusion that that is never going to be on the table, then that influence on Turkish foreign policy will clearly weaken and they will be more inclined to pursue what they perceive as their interests in their region without much regard to Europe, so I think that is clearly a danger.

To put it a different way, when Turkey considers its approach to countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran or Israel, it may be somewhat constrained by a desire still to keep in with Europe, because it still has the aspiration to join the EU. If it decides that that aspiration is never going to be met, that constraint would obviously diminish.

Q53 Chair: Do you think the decision to cut off Syria or to keep Syria at arm’s length is decisive? Do you think that is going to be a big influence in Syria?

John Peet: Syria is not a country I have followed closely, because my professional interests are confined to Europe, but Turkey clearly is a very important country to Syria. It has been very important economically. It seems to me that the Turks have taken a decision that one way or another the Assad regime is on the way out. I think they are working a little bit towards achieving that result. If they prove to be wrong and the Assad regime remains, I think the relationship between the two countries will be quite fraught.

Q54 Sir Menzies Campbell: Can we pick up on the cooling of relations between Turkey and Israel? Is that a part of the reaction towards Syria? Or is that something that is justified for different and separate political ambitions?

John Peet: I think Turkey’s relations with Israel reflect as much public opinion at home in Turkey as any other interests in the region. In a way, the anomaly-if there was an anomaly-was Turkey’s very close relationship with Israel for many years, which did not necessarily reflect public opinion in Turkey. The current Government are closer to public opinion in having a more difficult relationship with Israel than most of their predecessors. That said, I do think that sometimes this has been allowed to become almost too strident and too antagonistic, and I sometimes get the feeling that the Prime Minister rather likes being a hero of the Arab street when it comes to relations with Israel. I am not sure that that is actually in Turkey’s long-term interests, not least because the Turks seem to have the view that they can have this relationship with Israel without it affecting their relationship with Europe and particularly with the United States. I do not think they are correct in that. I think their relationship with Israel is a complicating factor that makes their relations with Europe and especially with the United States harder.

Q55 Sir Menzies Campbell: How far is that attitude conditioned in recent times by the interception of the ship carrying humanitarian goods and things of that kind? Is that just a blip or is that something that you think may have had the effect of hardening public opinion and therefore encouraging the Government to recognise it?

John Peet: I think the Mavi Marmara incident was hugely important in Turkish public opinion. It had a very big influence on the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, in particular. They have taken the consistent line that they want an apology from the Israeli Government. The Israeli Government appear to have taken a consistent line that they are not going to offer an apology. Until that impasse is resolved, I think the relationship between the two will not be repaired.

Q56 Chair: But if apology were forthcoming, you think it could be patched up.

John Peet: My understanding is that the military relationship between the two countries continues. There have been attempts on both sides to keep a dialogue going. It seems to me, yes, that if the Israelis were to offer a more full-hearted apology for what appeared to have been a mistake by them-but perhaps also by Turkey-they could repair that relationship. I would have thought that was in Israel’s interest as well as Turkey’s.

Q57 Mr Watts: May I turn that question on its head? Turkey might take the view that, for example, America needs Turkey, with all that is happening in that region. As you said earlier, it is a model that perhaps should be followed by other Muslim countries. How much thought do you think Turkey has given to that? Do you think they are trying to push America into a certain direction on the back of the fact that they now feel far more confident, that they are a bigger and more important player than perhaps in the past?

John Peet: I think they do think that. It is not just in relation to America. You often hear Turkish politicians say, "Europe needs us more than we need Europe." I think that attitude is quite strong in Turkey and it has been reinforced by the years of economic success and increasing diplomatic clout in the region. However, I also think that Turkish leaders are wrong if they think that that economic success and diplomatic clout and all that goes with it mean that they can bend the Americans a bit more in their direction, particularly over something like Israel. I have sometimes heard Turks say, "We still have very good relations with Washington, so it doesn’t matter that we have very bad relations with Jerusalem." However, on a subject as sensitive as Israel, relations with Washington are not relations with just the State Department; they are also relations with American public opinion and Congress. In those areas, a difficult relationship with Israel can have adverse consequences for the relationship between Turkey and the US.

Q58 Chair: Mr Peet, thank you very much. Is there any concluding remark you would like to make, or any point you think we have missed?

John Peet: No. I did say right at the beginning that watching the development of the new Turkish constitution was going to be very important. As I said, we got into quite a lot of hot water with this Government by advocating a vote for the opposition party in the election. The analysis that we also had-that we thought it was undesirable to have a French-style presidency occupied by Mr Erdoğan-I think still holds. If that were to happen, that would be bad for Turkey and its relations with Europe.

Chair: That is a good note to end on. Thank you.

Examination of Witness

Witness: Sir David Logan KCMG, former British Ambassador to Turkey (1997-2001); Chairman, British Institute at Ankara, gave evidence.

Q59 Chair: Our third witness is Sir David Logan, who is a past ambassador to Ankara and still chairman of the British Institute there. Thank you for coming. Is there anything you would like to say as opening remarks? The first questions might lead to general remarks.

Sir David Logan: There are two things. I wish to say something about the British Institute, which the Committee might not know a lot about. We fund, facilitate and implement research in Turkey across a range of the humanities. We have fellowships. We give scholarships to both British and Turkish scholars. We are the only British institution undertaking primary academic research in Turkey. It is worth thinking of us, perhaps, as a modest example of British soft power in Turkey. We work closely with the British Council and with the embassy there.

You may have had time to look at my written comments. The thrust of those was to say that I think that Turkey, by virtue of being an increasingly prosperous and confident nation, is an increasingly important prize as a partner for the United Kingdom. EU accession is very much on the back burner at the moment. I believe, however, that it is a long-term benefit for both Turkey and the United Kingdom and so an objective for all of us who are interested in that relationship is to think of ways of sustaining the process while accepting the fact that accession is not a short-term prize.

Q60 Chair: To what extent have things changed from when you were the ambassador? We see these periodic fits of enthusiasm over Turkey. Did we have one during your period in office or do you see life very much now as it was then?

Sir David Logan: Oh, no, I think it has changed enormously, and at the Turkish end in particular, because of the accession of the AK party to power. The 1990s was a period of more or less ineffectual coalition Governments, and they were representatives of this now very old-fashioned looking secularist establishment which dated from Ataturk and had not changed very much since. I was always enormously struck by the difference between when I served in Turkey in the 1960s, when this kind of structure did not look very odd, and when I went back in the 1990s, when we in the West had got used to pluralist, transparent societies in which individual human rights had become extremely important, but nothing had changed in Turkey. Now, post-2001, there have been tremendous changes, as your previous witness said. I think that is very important.

Q61 Chair: Do you think the new forum, which I am told is called the Tatli Dil forum, will be of benefit? Do you think it will have a big impact?

Sir David Logan: This is an attempt to set up with respect to Turkey the kind of institution which exists with other countries.

Q62 Chair: Are you a member, by the way?

Sir David Logan: Yes, I am. I am on the steering committee. What is supposed to make it different from previous such arrangements with Turkey is that it is supposed to span a range of interests. We have senior businessmen, senior politicians, journalists, civil servants and academics. This was the first session of all. It went well. We had a good Turkish team, and a very good British team. The subjects were broad and interesting. It was a start and only a start, but it laid a foundation for something that should develop further. It will become even more important in future to identify concrete objectives which can be agreed on and then pursued by these different groups of interested parties on each side.

Q63 Chair: But it will not replace any mechanism that already exists?

Sir David Logan: No. On the contrary. In my experience, the kind of mechanism that already exists tends to be either businessmen talking to each other, which is great, or politicians and civil servants talking about Turkey in the European Union, but in a rather narrow way. It will bridge a much wider spectrum. That is thoroughly desirable.

Q64 Sir John Stanley: When our Committee was last in Cyprus, which was towards the end of the previous Parliament, a real window of opportunity seemed to be opening to try to resolve the long-standing dispute between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. President Christofias seemed to have a real personal commitment to trying to produce a settlement, and the Turkish leader, again, seemed to be very positive. Do you agree that that window of opportunity seems now to have closed somewhat? As far as the present Turkish Government are concerned, where do you think Cyprus rates on their order of priorities? Has trying to achieve a settlement slipped down the scale, or is it still one of their top priorities? Could you give us your assessment of what degree of influence the present Turkish Government have over the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community?

Sir David Logan: First of all, I absolutely agree with your first piece of analysis that there was a sense of hope at that point and that the window closed with the change of Administrations.

The particular problem, as I am sure you know, on which Turkish accession is stuck as regards Cyprus is the issue of the additional protocol and the failure of the Turks to implement it, which they believe should be part of a dual process. The other component of that process is the opening up of northern Cyprus and the liberalisation of access to northern Cyprus, which has of course not happened. The European Union takes the view that the first is a legal requirement on them and that the second is merely a political commitment. That is the approximate cause of the present impasse.

The Turkish Government certainly regard a settlement as important, but they, unsurprisingly, regard their relationship with the European Union as even more important. They see the Government of Cyprus as a major obstacle in the accession process, and in that situation there is really not very much that they can do in Cyprus.

Turkish politicians in general take the view that if the European Union really wanted progress on Turkish accession, the difficulties that the Government of Cyprus make could be overcome and that the major European countries could use influence on the Government of Cyprus to adjust their position. They think that,in the absence of that, however, there is not much that can be done.

Q65 Sir John Stanley: You said that the Turkish Government always attach more importance to their relationship with the EU than to settling the Cyprus issue, but is there not a factor here that may intertwine the two? Is it not a very real possibility-I would say danger-that those members of the European Union who are sceptical of or indeed in outright opposition to Turkish accession may try and play the Cyprus card and say that it would be unthinkable to allow Turkey to obtain entry into the EU until there is a settlement in Cyprus?

Sir David Logan: Absolutely. There is a close connection and you are absolutely right, but I think the Turks then look at the present situation on Cyprus and believe that there is no prospect of progress there and that nothing can be done about that. I understand your point, but since there is no prospect of progress there, they are stuck on the EU agenda as well. I have no very good suggestions to make. In my written evidence, I said that in the present situation the best thing to do was to try to identify steps that could be taken unilaterally by different parties, because at the moment the negotiations are completely paralysed by linkage. The atmosphere might be improved, and it may be a better way forward, if modest steps are taken independently by the Government of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Government and the Turkish Government, but I am not saying that that is a silver bullet.

Q66 Chair: What is the commercial environment like for a businessman trying to do business in Turkey? Has our support for membership of the EU made any difference?

Sir David Logan: British exports to Turkey rose by 38% last year and by 31% in the first six months of this year over the same period in 2010, so things are going well. As the previous witness said, British business does reasonably well, but could do better. My personal experience-I was a non-executive director of a British company working in Turkey-is that the bits of the British Government that are tasked with aiding and assisting British companies working in Turkey are efficient and effective. From the next appointment, which will be this autumn, the post of Director General of Trade and Investment in Turkey will be upgraded to a more senior position.

The company I worked for encountered many obstacles on the Turkish side. I don’t suppose that you want to go too far down that track, which is parochial and detailed, but it would be wrong to say that anyone can go into Turkey and find making an investment there tremendously uncomplicated, at least not in the field in which my company operated.

Q67 Chair: So it is far from easy?

Sir David Logan: Yes. The Turks might well say that my company was a special case, but it certainly was not easy.

Q68 Rory Stewart: The two most worrying things in the analysis are whether it is possible to convince anyone in Europe or the United Kingdom that EU accession for Turkey makes sense. There is a consensus among the diplomatic and political community that Turkish accession is the thing to do, but we are not getting the message across. Unless we can convey the message to European voters, it seems to be a slightly flaky political objective.

Sir David Logan: Part of the problem is with the context. We are operating in a context in which the European Union is entirely preoccupied with its own problems, which are primarily economic. We are operating in a context in which, for all kinds of reasons, including the economic downturn, there is opposition in Europe to immigration and the appearance of foreigners. We are operating in a context in which, simply, enlargement is off the agenda because it requires a spirit of optimism and daring, and we do not have that in Europe. So the context is bad before we even go on to Turkey.

My impression of the Turks is that they labour under the post-9/11 problem of being Muslim. Whatever we may say, post-9/11 and post-7/7 there is anti-Muslim sentiment. We used to say that the goal was to demonstrate that the European Union was not a Christian community, but that may not have the resonance that it once had. My impression is that all that has changed. However, opposition to Turkish accession is quite soft. It is reversible, just as I think that French and German opinion about Turkey is reversible. There is nothing at the moment to make it reverse, and no context in which to do it. Your previous witness made the point that is certainly relevant in the general context, and that not many people know: Turkey is now a net immigrant country. Turks with good qualifications are leaving Germany and going back to Turkey. Many people are now migrating to Turkey because it is economically successful and they can find opportunities there. That is also the sort of thing that will change attitudes over time.

Q69 Rory Stewart: I am also aware of having slightly jumped sequence. Let us return to the European Union. The second thing is how our Foreign Office is set up to deal with Turkey. It says that it has about 100 UK-based FCO officers with Turkish language skills, although it adds the proviso that some of them may not have formal FCO language qualifications, which sounds a little suspicious. It then says that it had 11 UK-based positions in Turkey requiring Turkish speakers, but not all of them were filled with Turkish speakers this time owing to staff elements. Perhaps this is an unfair question, but do you think that we could be doing a bit better in terms of getting Turkish specialist language speakers into our missions?

Sir David Logan: It is an unfair question in the sense that I am out of date on that sort of thing. In my written evidence to your Committee on British diplomacy, I said one thing that you took account of, namely that language training at the Foreign Office was not as good as it was, and that the Diplomatic service Language Centre should be re-established and so on. I also made a point that you did not take up, which was that the Foreign Office needs not only to teach the languages that it requires, but to go on using them. That is more difficult now than 20 years ago when personnel deployment was more authoritarian. None the less, having invested a lot of money in teaching people the Turkish language, you need to be able to use that investment not just once the first time, but again later. I really cannot comment on the embassy in Ankara at the moment, but my overall impression is that there is room for improvement on language training.

Q70 Sir Menzies Campbell: You heard Mr Peet talk about the visa issue. You were also present at the conference at Ditchley to which he referred. What is your take on the visa issue? How significant is it, and what is the scope for relaxation?

Sir David Logan: I banged on about it in my written evidence. At the Tatli Dil meeting, which we have just been discussing, it was very striking, as Mr Peet said, that one prominent and very distinguished Turkish representative said, "We hear all this wonderful stuff from Brits who say how much they want Turkey in the European Union, but we can’t even get through the door when it comes to visas and we are humiliated there." Examples of what has happened were given. This is all hearsay, but the important point is that while it may not be possible to change the visa regime itself, it should be possible to find ways to operate it more efficiently and in a manner which does not appear to visa applicants to be unnecessarily arbitrary, intrusive and obstructive.

Q71 Sir Menzies Campbell: Does the humiliation argument carry a great deal of weight or is it a more practical approach?

Sir David Logan: Well, it is both. The humiliation argument is quite important because people say that when they get on board an aircraft in Istanbul bound for London even when they have a visa and so on, there are sometimes four security checks for Turks going towards the aeroplane. They may then be questioned again when they get to London. The problem about the humiliation argument-I know this from personal experience-is that it simply puts people off. Why bother to go to Britain when the process is complex, intrusive and humiliating?

I suggested in my written evidence that it might be possible to put together institutions-for example, there is a Turko-British Business Council and a Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose members must have experience of this-to produce examples of what has happened. The Chairman asked about trade, and I suspect that bilateral trade between us suffers from what is happening. I also think that academic exchanges probably suffer due to what is happening. These are very direct interests. It is not just a matter of having some nice tourists.

Q72 Sir Menzies Campbell: Does the visa issue condition Turkish public opinion towards Britain or is it confined to those, who will only be a very small portion of the population, who want to travel to Britain?

Sir David Logan: I will answer that in a different way, but I will try to get back to you. As you know, the Turks themselves have embarked on this extraordinary policy of lifting visa restrictions for all their neighbours-they started with the Greeks. That has produced tremendous growth in exchanges of all sorts: trade, politicians and just ordinary people. You find visitors in both directions from all over the place. It is really remarkable how that has changed perceptions of Turkey in the Middle East and how Turkish perceptions of some of their neighbours have changed. That is not happening with us. To what extent a potential Turkish tourist to the UK says, "Well, it’s easy to go there and it’s not easy to go to the UK," I do not know. I think it is quite off-putting.

Q73 Sir Menzies Campbell: I do not want to dwell too long on this, but is there any appreciation of the security position as far as the UK is concerned and of the fact that we have been subject to overt acts of terrorism and threats?

Sir David Logan: I think the answer at the popular level is probably no, but I am sure there is at an official Turkish level. There is good co-operation between the Turkish and British authorities on such subjects. I am sure they know perfectly well that that is an overriding concern and that anything that might be possible to do by way of simplification or better management must be in the very firm context of that concern.

Q74 Sir Menzies Campbell: Thank you very much for that. I think you’re probably aware of the Chatham House/YouGov survey on the attitudes of British citizens towards Turkey, which, putting it generally, are not particularly positive. To some extent you answered this question by what you said to Rory Stewart a moment ago, but do you think that those attitudes are susceptible to being changed? To put a historical slant on this, in the Cold War, who was guarding the southern flank but Turkey? That led to great appreciation in the United States, but perhaps not so much appreciation here in the UK.

Sir David Logan: I think that is absolutely true. I don’t know to whom the survey was addressed, but I think that if you asked the British public at large what they thought about Turkey, their assessment would be based first on football and secondly on holidays. What else-? That trend will continue.

Q75 Sir Menzies Campbell: I think those are the benchmarks for all our international relations.

Sir David Logan: If you took a serious survey of a cross-section of the British public, that may apply to many countries, but I am sure it’s true of Turkey. The kind of people who go for other reasons are quite limited-businessmen, journalists and so on-so, as I said in respect of Mr Stewart’s question, the results of such surveys are not positive and one should not minimise the importance of that, but I think negative opinion is soft and could be turned round in the right circumstances.

Q76 Sir Menzies Campbell: One last question about attitudes, since you mentioned holidays: how important is the tourist trade to the Turkish economy and, in particular, how important is it in so far as it might be based on encouraging British citizens to spend time there?

Sir David Logan: Oh, very important. I do not have figures, but I think 2 million British citizens a year go there. Many more go from Russia, which makes up the biggest proportion of tourists, and a large community of retired German expatriates lives there. So, yes, it is very important.

Q77 Mr Watts: Can I follow the same theme as my two colleagues? You said that British people’s perception is, perhaps, that this is a Muslim state that is not like us. That is one explanation; the other is about whether Turkey is committed to a democratic and pluralist society. Considering the number of journalists who are locked away, the way that the legal system is being controlled by the state, and the increasing centralisation of power, British people might have some suspicions about not just the religious element but the cultural element. How committed is the Turkish regime to dealing with those matters? If it wants to be a member of the European Union, how committed is it to addressing those to bring its cultural and political life in line with the rest of Europe?

Sir David Logan: That is a very important question, which also covers other questions that I am sure the Committee has. Questions about Kurds’ human rights, and so on, are turned, to some extent, on these issues.

First, countries operate in the framework that they have got; the framework that the Turks have got is not good. Although their 1980 constitution has been amended, it is-perhaps it is excessive to call it totalitarian-a constitution under which you have to demonstrate that you are doing the right rather than the wrong thing; it assumes that you are probably doing the wrong thing.

The same is true in many of the laws. There is an anti-terror law, and other laws that are not good. Constitutional reform-creating a new constitution in which the rights of the individual rather than the rights of the state are prime-is absolutely essential. We hope that things will happen in the medium term. There is a Commission that is supposed to make proposals at the end of this month. The next stage will be long and slow, but, at any rate, it is there. That is what underpins all this.

I am sure you have looked at the latest Commission progress report, which came out last week. It says that progress is being made in a range of matters, including in legislation on journalistic freedom. You mentioned that there is criticism, which is quite right. Again, it says that the Turkish problem is that there is no legislation that anchors Turkey’s handling of press freedom in the ECHR framework, which is absolutely right. There has been imprisonment of journalists-Mr Peet gave you numbers that we would all find disturbingly high. Many Turks recognise that.

The Commission report is reasonably balanced on this subject and it itemises concrete progress in a number of areas, including, for example, in civilian oversight of the military, reform of oversight of the constitutional court and so on, which is positive. All that really must be embedded in proper legislation-in a new constitution. Given the opportunity to do so, the real risk, which has been demonstrated on various occasions, is that certain judges, prosecutors or whatever will come up with the wrong answer; they need the right framework in which to operate.

Q78 Mr Watts: British foreign policy seems to be to improve trade. It is probably one of the leading countries in promoting membership for Turkey in the EU. What does our present position do to our ability to influence things such as human rights? Are we concentrating on the wrong things, both for our own interest and for Turkey’s? Can we influence them by being a bit more critical and by putting down some markers on where we think they are going wrong and where they need to go?

Sir David Logan: I would not make a connection between trade promotion and the promotion of human rights. I cannot see how one would do it anyway. It seems to me to defeat the interests of British businessmen.

Q79 Mr Watts: I think it was more the other way round. Perhaps we are not as critical as we should be, because we are interested in promoting trade.

Sir David Logan: I see what you mean. Sorry, I misunderstood you. If you look at British Government pronouncements on things like this-I left 10 years ago, so I am not directly involved now and I cannot say what happens currently-it is not my impression that they gloss it over. On the contrary, what they have tried to do is to find practical ways of making improvements. For example, when I was there, we ran courses for the Turkish police to give examples of how our police went about the process of collecting evidence and so on and the requirement to base prosecutions on factual evidence, rather than confessions. That is the way that you have to deal with things like this. You have to demonstrate the importance of the legal basis on which to handle issues such as prosecution of journalists and the evidence and standards to which you are required to adhere if you are going to be an EU member. Rather than say it is bad, you have to suggest how to make it better.

Q80 Rory Stewart: I think that this follows up on Dave’s questions. How troubled should we be by Turkey’s operations in the Kurdish areas of Turkey? Are you saying that there is not a great deal we can do about it, because it is an important trading partner, so it is better to be nice to them and slightly turn a blind eye in the way that we might turn a blind eye to what China or India are doing? Is it essentially saying that this country is too wealthy and powerful for Britain to do much about it? Is it saying that even though we may have many reservations about their conduct in the Kurdish areas, it is not a priority for us?

Sir David Logan: On the contrary. Because we know the Turks so well, we can get much closer to them in dealing with the Kurdish issue than that implies. The situation in the south-east is one where it is clear to an outsider what both sides need or ought to do. It is equally clear to Turks. What the Kurds need, for example, in the use of their own language in courts, in learning Kurdish and in Kurdish media is absolutely clear. For their part, the Kurds have a responsibility to say much more precisely than they have ever done what they think they need in terms of acceptance, in recognition of their rights and what would satisfy them. They need to make it clear that they are willing to take part in the political process.

The PKK is a difficult interlocutor. Not more than about half of the Kurds in the south-east support the PKK-sorry, the political arm, if you like-because its political doctrine was Marxist, and actually, a lot of Kurds vote for the AKP because they believe that it represents the prosperous future of Turkey. On languages, it is very complex, because the two major Kurdish communities in Turkey cannot understand each other. They speak really different sorts of Kurdish.

What the Government need to do is equally clear. They need to change the political party law, which discriminates against Kurdish parties being represented in Parliament, and they need to come back to the constitution again, because it is biased against people who are not of Turkish ethnicity, and so on.

What is needed is very complex, but it is all out there. Any Turkish politician who wished to see the way forward-and there are plenty of them-would be able to identify all that straight away. The problem is that they operate in political circumstances in which, for all kinds of reasons, they may decide not to pursue this agenda. Typically, as elections approach, a Turkish Government will have more interest in ensuring that they do not lose votes to the nationalist right, rather than the Kurdish vote, if you like. You have to get through that process before you can get back to the table.

The PKK has to avoid such things as the 2009 opening, when the Turkish Government declared an amnesty and all these fighters came across the border. The Turks hoped, or assumed-rather like the British when al-Megrahi returned to Libya-that this would not be a triumphalist event but that they would go back to their villages in civvies. What happened was that they came back in uniform and had this tremendous welcoming ceremony as great heroes of the violent opposition to the Turkish Government.

I have no idea what the British say to the Turkish Government about dealing with the PKK. If you look, however, at the history of the Kurdish problem over the last few years, it consists of attempts by this AKP Government to do better. This Government is the first one to have spoken directly to Öcalan and it is the first that has taken on the nationalist Turkish right-wing press on Kurdishness and told them to moderate. They have done quite a lot of stuff, but they operate in a very difficult political situation and are vulnerable to pressures that throw things off the rails. That is as true for the Turkish side as it is for the Kurdish.

So, what am I saying? I suppose it may sound to you as though I am suggesting that the British do not have a role in this. Well, the role they have to play, as I said to Mr Watts, is in all these concrete things that go together to make up a solution, and it is multifarious. There is an awful lot on each side that can be done, but it requires the political will to do it on both sides.

Q81 Rory Stewart: Moving back to the EU, is there any point at all in thinking about a plan B? We continue to assume that this is just being put on hold and a time will come when we all return to it, and we need to keep the process warm and the European countries engaged. I suppose, however, that there is an alternative scenario in which while we keep it warm, Turkey itself gets fed up and bored with the whole process, and is not really interested in proceeding. Could you sketch out what that alternative, non EU-accession scenario for Turkey over the next 20 years might look like?

Sir David Logan: The first point is that although it is occasionally peddled, the idea of some kind of special relationship between Turkey and the EU as an alternative to full membership is not only impossible to define-they have everything short of membership, such as the customs union, and so on-but is also regarded by them as deeply offensive. So, that is not possible.

Secondly, before I get on to your point, I think there is a lot that can be done meanwhile. Accession is on the back burner, as we have said. However, the Turkish Government, for example, at the moment have a programme that requires all their Ministries to come up with action plans that they have to implement by 2013, which will bring them in line with the acquis. So it is happening anyway on their side.

Q82 Rory Stewart: The world is changing very quickly. Turkey is changing very quickly economically and demographically, and the European Union is facing troubles of its own. Delay this by a decade and the world could look very different, and the possibilities would change. After a decade, you could imagine a world in which it would be almost unimaginable that Turkey would want to join what is left of the European Union.

Sir David Logan: I was going to approach that from a slightly different direction. One of the outcomes of what is happening in the European Union at present, surely-the impetus towards greater economic integration of the eurozone-is that you will find a European Union in 10 years’ time that has a core and at least one outer circle, of which the UK will be a part. I suspect that that might be a kind of European Union that it might be easier for Turkey for join. Turkey will clearly not be part of the core, but it might easily fit into the outer circle in a way that looks difficult now.

Q83 Rory Stewart: So, just to push you a final time, it seems to me that the Turkish move to join the European Union represents a moment of optimism about the European Union. The real enthusiasm-the time when everyone got very excited about it-was exactly the moment where we had accession from central and eastern European countries. We could see the great benefits of Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, and then from the Balkans, and then Turkey was coming in. As that wave recedes, joining the European Union becomes a very different affair. It is no longer something where you can see a very clear economic benefit for Turkey, a very clear security benefit for the European Union or that grand vision to be held up. It is now becoming a club that looks a bit ropier. Are you sure that is not going to change the calculus?

Sir David Logan: The next alternative is as you say. The balance of advantage, I guess, shifts more in favour of the European Union. It seems to me that, if anything, the European Union will need Turkey more in 15 years’ time than vice versa. Who knows what changes there will be in EU attitudes to Turkish accession and the kind of blockages that exist to that at the moment? If none of that works, clearly it is not impossible to conceive of a situation in which Turkey is not a member of the European Union and is an important country in her region with which we have to maintain, in my view, close relations for the kind of reasons that we all understand. It seems to me that Turkey’s role in her part of the world is important to us because, broadly speaking, her policies there are in line with ours. That will be important.

Your question is, I guess, how that will be sustained in a situation in which Turkey has no relationship with the European Union. I can only say that she is not the only country in that kind of situation. You have to think of Turkey, then, as a country whose interests will be broadly the same as Europeans’. She will be a developed economy and her exports will go primarily to Europe and the United States, not to the Middle East. You probably know that Ford has set up a plant in Turkey to make all its taxis for New York. It is not making taxis for Cairo. As Turkey prospers, as a generalisation, her interests will be more closely the kind of interests that she shares with us in Europe than those that she shares with impoverished neighbours.

I realise that that is very broad stuff, but the objective remains clear. Even if the European Union goes out of the window, Turkey will be an important partner for the kind of reasons that we agree on. The objective is to sustain that without the attraction of the Union. That is a challenge, but Turkey’s underlying posture seems to me, because of how she is developing, one in which her interests will be broadly speaking the same as ours.

Q84 Sir John Stanley: The Erdoğan Government appear to have made a shift-not a very big shift, but a discernible shift-in an Islamic direction. Do you believe that the future of Turkey as a secular state, as conceived and founded by Ataturk, is absolutely assured, or could you conceive of circumstances in which Turkey drifts towards becoming an Islamic state?

Sir David Logan: I do not accept that it is an Islamic Government. First, those old secularist parties that regarded themselves as the guardians of Ataturk’s secularism were dinosaurs. I can see that secularist is a nice label to hang on to, but it is not defining a benign and positive characteristic when there are other parties-in this case, the AKP-that are modernisers and reformers.

Ataturk’s reforms did not touch the majority of the population; they touched 30%. The rest were left out. They are the people who have supported a series of non-"secularist" parties and now support the AKP. They are people who have become increasingly prosperous and articulate and now are a significant force in Turkey. They are the majority. They are, because Turks are, fundamentally conservative and fundamentally devout in outlook. The AKP is-how shall I say it?-a clientilist Government, who depend on their support and also go out and pander to it, if you like. So you see things happening in Turkey now, which are quite surprising and not necessarily desirable. You find parts of cities where no drink is sold-that kind of thing. That is because the local municipality believes that that is unattractive to its supporters. But that is a very long way from saying that the Government are Islamist. Certainly a return to the sharia is out of the question.

If you have a moment, I will read what Erdoğan said when he was in Egypt a few weeks ago. "In Turkey, constitutional secularism is defined as the state remaining equidistant to all religions. In a secular regime people are free to be religious or not…Do not fear secularism because it does not mean being an enemy of religion. I hope the new regime in Egypt will be secular." He runs a secular Government that has a constituency that is, as I said, conservative and devout. He is clientilist, but that is what other Governments have been before. He is certainly not interested in a return to the sharia.

Chair: I am sure that is an issue for debate that we will be looking at at some length over the coming weeks and months. Sir David, thank you very much indeed. That is a wonderful contribution-we very much appreciate it-as was your written evidence, which we have very much taken on board. Many thanks for coming.

Prepared 2nd April 2012