EU States Divided Over How National Governments Should Exercise Power

European Union leaders increasingly are at cross-purposes with agreement elusive on the big issues facing the bloc — as witnessed midweek at a summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg, where over a four-hour dinner they aired deep divisions over migration.

But they are not only divided on the headline issues of migration, Brexit and economic governance, say analysts and EU officials. 

Expectations about how national governments exercise power and observe EU rules are diverging, too. And some national leaders worry that the liberal democratic values the bloc was founded on are now being eroded by some of their counterparts. 

“It is not clear that we have shared expectations,” says a senior EU official, who sees the primary fault line running between the more traditional states of Western Europe on one side and new nativist and populist governments in Central and southern Europe on the other.

Clashes are coming fast and furious and more often than not focus on rule-of-law issues and arguments about democratic checks and balances. One of the latest flash-points has come over the Schengen system of borderless travel. 

The system, which is observed by 26 member states, has already been coming under pressure from the migration crisis roiling the continent. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden have all temporarily re-imposed border controls at some or all of their borders after citing security threats. But they are within Schengen rules when doing so and have been careful not to break them.

Activist blacklisted

But Poland has been accused of flagrantly abusing the system by blacklisting a rights activist and trying to limit her freedom of movement within the Schengen area.

Last month, the Polish government of the populist Law and Justice Party (PiS) deported Crimean-born rights activist Lyudmyla Kozlovska. Married to a Pole, the 33-year-old had been living in Warsaw for many years and applied for permanent residency only to find herself expelled after the application was declined. Kozlovska runs a high-profile rights foundation focusing on democracy issues in former Communist countries, and was active in the Maidan protests that led to the ouster of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.

After deporting Kozlovska, the Poles added her name to a Schengen-wide blacklist — in effect preventing her from entering any of the 26 Schengen-member states. Polish officials claim the non-governmental organization she runs, Open Dialog Foundation, has funding irregularities and is involved in “subversive activities.”

Kozlovska told VOA she believes she’s been targeted because “the PiS is afraid of popular protests like Maidan developing” and is fearful of ODF’s contacts with European politicians in Brussels.

Her blacklisting has prompted the anger of German lawmakers, straining already tense relations between Berlin and Warsaw. German parliamentarians argue Schengen blacklisting is meant to be reserved for people who are convicted or suspected terrorists or for criminals, and that critics or dissidents, however inconvenient they might be, shouldn’t be listed. 

Kozlovska, a critic of the PiS, spoke this week at an event in the German parliament after the German embassy in Kyiv issued her a temporary entry permit, despite the Schengen ban. Frank Schwabe of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), one of the lawmakers who invited her, says, “the Polish government has a problem with accepting criticism” and he dubs as “scandalous” the blacklisting of her.

Kozlovska’s case is just one of a series of growing disputes between member states over rule-of-law issues and the interpretation of EU regulations, reflecting how different expectations are in the Western EU states compared to Central and southern Europe, ruled now by new nativist governments.

EU officials say Western states tend to be more punctilious in the observance of EU-wide laws and regulations. While their counterparts in the east and the south are less legalistic and more pragmatic in their compliance when it suits their domestic political purposes, breaching fiscal rules, banking transparency and money-laundering regulations more often, and increasingly flouting continent-wide human rights protections, from freedom of expression to the rights of civil society. 

“The Kozlovska case is just one example of an increasing split between states who are wedded to classical liberal ideals and those who are not,” says a senior EU policy-maker. “Freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, legal certainty are democratic achievements that bind us together as a community — or they did once. Now they are being challenged,” he added.

Both Poland and Hungary have clashed with Brussels and Western EU states over their efforts to reshape civil society and to curtail the activities of NGOs.

Midweek, Hungarian officials vowed they won’t withdraw a package of laws passed earlier this year that criminalize any individual or group offering to help illegal immigrants claim asylum. The legislation, which was passed in defiance of the EU, restricts the ability of NGOs to act in asylum cases. Under the law, individuals or groups that help illegal migrants gain status to stay in Hungary will be liable to prison terms.

The measures are called officially the “Stop Soros” laws, named after Hungarian-American billionaire NGO philanthropist George Soros. Two leading European rights bodies, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have criticized the measures as “arbitrary” and vague, arguing they are incompatible with EU law.

Hungarian state secretary Pál Völner told a midweek news conference that Budapest finds it objectionable that the European Commission, which has started infringement proceedings against Hungary, is getting involved in domestic political activities.

That’s also Poland’s position when it comes to rule-of-law issues.

Poland was banned Monday from an EU body representing member states’ judicial institutions for the perceived erosion of the independence of country’s judiciary following changes introduced by the PiS government. Polish ministers say their reforms are popular and are in line with their electoral mandate. Polish President Andrzej Duda has rebuffed EU threats telling supporters earlier this week at a rally in the south of Poland, “they should leave us in peace and let us fix Poland.”

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EU States Divided Over How National Governments Should Exercise Power

European Union leaders increasingly are at cross-purposes with agreement elusive on the big issues facing the bloc — as witnessed midweek at a summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg, where over a four-hour dinner they aired deep divisions over migration.

But they are not only divided on the headline issues of migration, Brexit and economic governance, say analysts and EU officials. 

Expectations about how national governments exercise power and observe EU rules are diverging, too. And some national leaders worry that the liberal democratic values the bloc was founded on are now being eroded by some of their counterparts. 

“It is not clear that we have shared expectations,” says a senior EU official, who sees the primary fault line running between the more traditional states of Western Europe on one side and new nativist and populist governments in Central and southern Europe on the other.

Clashes are coming fast and furious and more often than not focus on rule-of-law issues and arguments about democratic checks and balances. One of the latest flash-points has come over the Schengen system of borderless travel. 

The system, which is observed by 26 member states, has already been coming under pressure from the migration crisis roiling the continent. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden have all temporarily re-imposed border controls at some or all of their borders after citing security threats. But they are within Schengen rules when doing so and have been careful not to break them.

Activist blacklisted

But Poland has been accused of flagrantly abusing the system by blacklisting a rights activist and trying to limit her freedom of movement within the Schengen area.

Last month, the Polish government of the populist Law and Justice Party (PiS) deported Crimean-born rights activist Lyudmyla Kozlovska. Married to a Pole, the 33-year-old had been living in Warsaw for many years and applied for permanent residency only to find herself expelled after the application was declined. Kozlovska runs a high-profile rights foundation focusing on democracy issues in former Communist countries, and was active in the Maidan protests that led to the ouster of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych.

After deporting Kozlovska, the Poles added her name to a Schengen-wide blacklist — in effect preventing her from entering any of the 26 Schengen-member states. Polish officials claim the non-governmental organization she runs, Open Dialog Foundation, has funding irregularities and is involved in “subversive activities.”

Kozlovska told VOA she believes she’s been targeted because “the PiS is afraid of popular protests like Maidan developing” and is fearful of ODF’s contacts with European politicians in Brussels.

Her blacklisting has prompted the anger of German lawmakers, straining already tense relations between Berlin and Warsaw. German parliamentarians argue Schengen blacklisting is meant to be reserved for people who are convicted or suspected terrorists or for criminals, and that critics or dissidents, however inconvenient they might be, shouldn’t be listed. 

Kozlovska, a critic of the PiS, spoke this week at an event in the German parliament after the German embassy in Kyiv issued her a temporary entry permit, despite the Schengen ban. Frank Schwabe of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), one of the lawmakers who invited her, says, “the Polish government has a problem with accepting criticism” and he dubs as “scandalous” the blacklisting of her.

Kozlovska’s case is just one of a series of growing disputes between member states over rule-of-law issues and the interpretation of EU regulations, reflecting how different expectations are in the Western EU states compared to Central and southern Europe, ruled now by new nativist governments.

EU officials say Western states tend to be more punctilious in the observance of EU-wide laws and regulations. While their counterparts in the east and the south are less legalistic and more pragmatic in their compliance when it suits their domestic political purposes, breaching fiscal rules, banking transparency and money-laundering regulations more often, and increasingly flouting continent-wide human rights protections, from freedom of expression to the rights of civil society. 

“The Kozlovska case is just one example of an increasing split between states who are wedded to classical liberal ideals and those who are not,” says a senior EU policy-maker. “Freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, legal certainty are democratic achievements that bind us together as a community — or they did once. Now they are being challenged,” he added.

Both Poland and Hungary have clashed with Brussels and Western EU states over their efforts to reshape civil society and to curtail the activities of NGOs.

Midweek, Hungarian officials vowed they won’t withdraw a package of laws passed earlier this year that criminalize any individual or group offering to help illegal immigrants claim asylum. The legislation, which was passed in defiance of the EU, restricts the ability of NGOs to act in asylum cases. Under the law, individuals or groups that help illegal migrants gain status to stay in Hungary will be liable to prison terms.

The measures are called officially the “Stop Soros” laws, named after Hungarian-American billionaire NGO philanthropist George Soros. Two leading European rights bodies, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have criticized the measures as “arbitrary” and vague, arguing they are incompatible with EU law.

Hungarian state secretary Pál Völner told a midweek news conference that Budapest finds it objectionable that the European Commission, which has started infringement proceedings against Hungary, is getting involved in domestic political activities.

That’s also Poland’s position when it comes to rule-of-law issues.

Poland was banned Monday from an EU body representing member states’ judicial institutions for the perceived erosion of the independence of country’s judiciary following changes introduced by the PiS government. Polish ministers say their reforms are popular and are in line with their electoral mandate. Polish President Andrzej Duda has rebuffed EU threats telling supporters earlier this week at a rally in the south of Poland, “they should leave us in peace and let us fix Poland.”

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Britain’s Brexit Proposal Dead, May Humiliated, Press Says

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposals were declared dead by the British media Friday after what they cast as a humiliation at the hands of European Union leaders at an informal summit in Salzburg.

EU leaders said they will push for a Brexit deal next month but warned May that if she will not give ground on trade and the Irish border by November they are ready to cope with Britain crashing out.

For the British media, the message was clear. “Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said on its front page.

British newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, attired in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.

Two hedgehogs

The negative headlines indicate the extent of the divergence in perceptions between London and the capitals of the EU’s other 27 members on the future of Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron bluntly said May’s Brexit proposals, known as Chequers after the country house where they were agreed by the British Cabinet in July, were “unacceptable.”

European Council President Donald Tusk was criticized for posting a picture of him offering May a choice of delicate cakes beside a message: “Sorry, no cherries.” That is a reference to what EU leaders cast as British attempts to cherry pick elements of EU membership.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sought to calm any hurt feelings but called for caution, comparing Britain and the EU to two loving hedgehogs.

“When two hedgehogs hug each other, you have to be careful that there will be no scratches,” he told Austrian newspapers.

Deadline March 29

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, yet little is clear: There is, so far, no divorce deal, rivals to May are circling and some rebels have vowed to vote against a possible Brexit deal.

Both London and Brussels say they want a divorce deal, though there is limited time if the British and EU parliaments are to ratify a deal by March 29. Any deal must be approved by British lawmakers.

May on Thursday promised new proposals to reassure Dublin that it would not get a “hard border” with Northern Ireland but said that she too could live with a no-deal outcome.

Opposition from Conservatives

May’s former Brexit minister David Davis has said up to 40 lawmakers from the Conservative Party will vote against her Brexit plans.

Davis told Huffington Post there was a “rock-solid” core of party lawmakers who belonged to the European Research Group (ERG), a grouping which wants a sharper break with the EU and were willing to vote down her plans.

If a possible deal were rejected by the British parliament, Britain would face leaving the EU without an agreement, delaying Brexit or calling another referendum.

If Britain left without a deal, the country would move from seamless trade with the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states.

Many business chiefs and investors say a “no-deal” Brexit would weaken the West, panic financial markets and block the arteries of trade. Brexit supporters say such fears are exaggerated and Britain would thrive in the long term.

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Britain’s Brexit Proposal Dead, May Humiliated, Press Says

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit proposals were declared dead by the British media Friday after what they cast as a humiliation at the hands of European Union leaders at an informal summit in Salzburg.

EU leaders said they will push for a Brexit deal next month but warned May that if she will not give ground on trade and the Irish border by November they are ready to cope with Britain crashing out.

For the British media, the message was clear. “Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said on its front page.

British newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, attired in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.

Two hedgehogs

The negative headlines indicate the extent of the divergence in perceptions between London and the capitals of the EU’s other 27 members on the future of Brexit.

French President Emmanuel Macron bluntly said May’s Brexit proposals, known as Chequers after the country house where they were agreed by the British Cabinet in July, were “unacceptable.”

European Council President Donald Tusk was criticized for posting a picture of him offering May a choice of delicate cakes beside a message: “Sorry, no cherries.” That is a reference to what EU leaders cast as British attempts to cherry pick elements of EU membership.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sought to calm any hurt feelings but called for caution, comparing Britain and the EU to two loving hedgehogs.

“When two hedgehogs hug each other, you have to be careful that there will be no scratches,” he told Austrian newspapers.

Deadline March 29

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, yet little is clear: There is, so far, no divorce deal, rivals to May are circling and some rebels have vowed to vote against a possible Brexit deal.

Both London and Brussels say they want a divorce deal, though there is limited time if the British and EU parliaments are to ratify a deal by March 29. Any deal must be approved by British lawmakers.

May on Thursday promised new proposals to reassure Dublin that it would not get a “hard border” with Northern Ireland but said that she too could live with a no-deal outcome.

Opposition from Conservatives

May’s former Brexit minister David Davis has said up to 40 lawmakers from the Conservative Party will vote against her Brexit plans.

Davis told Huffington Post there was a “rock-solid” core of party lawmakers who belonged to the European Research Group (ERG), a grouping which wants a sharper break with the EU and were willing to vote down her plans.

If a possible deal were rejected by the British parliament, Britain would face leaving the EU without an agreement, delaying Brexit or calling another referendum.

If Britain left without a deal, the country would move from seamless trade with the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states.

Many business chiefs and investors say a “no-deal” Brexit would weaken the West, panic financial markets and block the arteries of trade. Brexit supporters say such fears are exaggerated and Britain would thrive in the long term.

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Prince Vaults Open Up with Jazzy ‘Piano & A Microphone’

A nine-track album from Prince’s vast vault of unreleased material goes on sale Friday, along with a new video highlighting gun violence.

“Piano & A Microphone” is compiled from a 1983 home studio cassette of the late musician playing jazz piano versions of some of his own songs and those of others, record company Warner Bros. said Thursday.

Prince, 57, died of an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl in 2016, leaving behind thousands of recordings and videos in the vaults of his home studio in suburban Minneapolis.

The new video, shot recently in New York City, accompanies the album track “Mary Don’t You Weep,” a 19th century spiritual.

It is intended to pay tribute to the hundreds of people who are killed or wounded by gun violence in the United States, the record company and the singer’s estate said in a statement.

Prince in 2015 performed at a Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody. The “Mary Don’t You Weep” video begins with a quote the musician made at that rally, “The system is broke. It’s going to take young people to fix it.”

“Piano & A Microphone” hears Prince working through his songs “Purple Rain” and “17 Days,” as well as a version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”

It is one of a handful of recordings released posthumously by Prince’s estate, including an expanded edition of his “Purple Rain” album and “Anthology: 1995-2010,” a selection of 37 of his biggest hits.

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US Demands Freedom for NASA Scientist Imprisoned in Turkey

The Trump administration on Thursday thanked Turkey for its reduced sentence for an imprisoned U.S. scientist but continued to demand his immediate release.

The State Department said there was no “credible evidence” in Turkey’s case against NASA scientist Serkan Golge.

Turkey sentenced Golge to 7½ years in prison in February on charges of belonging to an outlawed group that Turkey blames for attempting a coup that failed in 2016. The verdict was appealed. A court in Adana threw out the conviction, ruled instead that Golge had aided the group, and reduced the sentence to five years.

Golge’s lawyers said they would appeal his case again to a higher court.

Golge is a research scientist with the U.S. space agency. He and his family were visiting his native Turkey in 2016 when the coup attempt was carried out.

He was swept up in the mass arrests of tens of thousands of people suspected of playing a part in trying to overthrow the Turkish government.

Golge insists he is innocent. His wife says that he was arrested because he is an American citizen and that Turkey is holding him hostage.

The Golge case and that of another jailed U.S. citizen accused of participating in the failed coup, clergyman Andrew Brunson, have caused tension between the United States and Turkey.

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US Demands Freedom for NASA Scientist Imprisoned in Turkey

The Trump administration on Thursday thanked Turkey for its reduced sentence for an imprisoned U.S. scientist but continued to demand his immediate release.

The State Department said there was no “credible evidence” in Turkey’s case against NASA scientist Serkan Golge.

Turkey sentenced Golge to 7½ years in prison in February on charges of belonging to an outlawed group that Turkey blames for attempting a coup that failed in 2016. The verdict was appealed. A court in Adana threw out the conviction, ruled instead that Golge had aided the group, and reduced the sentence to five years.

Golge’s lawyers said they would appeal his case again to a higher court.

Golge is a research scientist with the U.S. space agency. He and his family were visiting his native Turkey in 2016 when the coup attempt was carried out.

He was swept up in the mass arrests of tens of thousands of people suspected of playing a part in trying to overthrow the Turkish government.

Golge insists he is innocent. His wife says that he was arrested because he is an American citizen and that Turkey is holding him hostage.

The Golge case and that of another jailed U.S. citizen accused of participating in the failed coup, clergyman Andrew Brunson, have caused tension between the United States and Turkey.

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Suge Knight Pleads to Manslaughter Over Fatal Confrontation

Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight pleaded no contest Thursday to voluntary manslaughter for running over and killing a Compton businessman nearly four years ago and agreed to serve nearly 30 years in prison.

The Death Row Records co-founder entered the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court and has agreed to serve 28 years in prison. The plea came days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the long-delayed case.

Knight was charged with murder, attempted murder and hit-and-run after fleeing the scene of an altercation in January 2015 outside a Compton burger stand. Knight and Cle “Bone” Sloan, a consultant on the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, were involved in a fistfight that ended with Knight clipping the man with his pickup truck and running over businessman Terry Carter, who died from his injuries.

Knight’s attorneys have said he was acting in self-defense and was fleeing armed attackers when he ran over Carter and Sloan. Sloan has denied he was carrying a gun during the confrontation.

During Thursday’s hearing, Knight answered Judge Ronald Coen’s questions, loudly and quickly saying “no contest” when the judge asked for his plea. He will be formally sentenced Oct. 4.

The plea deal calls for Knight to serve 22 years in prison on the voluntary manslaughter count, and another six years because it is a third strike violation.

Carter’s daughter, Crystal, sat in the front row of the courtroom and displayed no visible reaction to the proceedings. “I’m surprised he pleaded out,” Crystal Carter said outside court. “Normally he likes the cameras to be on him 24-7.”

Courtroom drama

Delays, detours and drama marked the runup to Knight’s trial, which was expected to begin Oct. 1 under tight security and secrecy. Court officials had said that no witness list would be released ahead of the trial, and that some witnesses might not be identified by name during the case.

Knight collapsed during one court hearing, two of his former attorneys were indicted on witness-tampering charges, and his fiancee pleaded no contest to selling video of Knight hitting the two men with his truck.

His attorney Albert DeBlanc Jr., appointed by the court five months ago, was his 16th, and Knight tried to fire him and get yet another lawyer just a day before the deal was reached. DeBlanc declined comment Thursday.

While awaiting trial, Knight was also accused of threatening Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray.

Knight would frequently, against the advice of Coen and his attorneys, speak extensively during hearings, complaining about jail conditions, his attorneys and his health issues.

While Coen read legal language about the plea and told Knight he was subject to deportation if he was not a citizen, Knight said “ICE is coming to get me?” to a smattering of laughs.

Prior convictions

The 53-year-old was a key player in the gangster rap scene that flourished in the 1990s, and his label once listed Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg among its artists. Knight lost control of the company after it was forced into bankruptcy. He has prior felony convictions for armed robbery and assault with a gun. He pleaded no contest in 1995 and was sentenced to five years’ probation for assaulting two rap entertainers at a Hollywood recording studio in 1992.

He was sentenced in February 1997 to prison for violating terms of that probation by taking part in a fight at a Las Vegas hotel hours before Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by attack as he rode in Knight’s car just east of the Las Vegas Strip. Shakur’s slaying remains unsolved.

Knight had faced life in prison if convicted of murder for killing Carter.

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UN Official: Buffer Zone in Syria’s Idlib Province Averts War for Now

A Russian-Turkish agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone between the Syrian army and rebels inside Syria’s northern Idlib province has averted a war for now, according to a senior United Nations official.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to set aside a large area along the border between Turkey and Idlib to potentially protect some 3 million civilians from attack. Turkey already shelters more than 3 million Syrian refugees and fears a massive exodus into its territory if Idlib were under attack.

Jan Egeland, a senior adviser of the U.N. special envoy for Syria, says he was informed of the agreement’s details during a meeting of a U.N.-backed task force on humanitarian access in Syria. Egeland says he feels relieved the countdown to war was stopped at the “11th hour.”

Egeland says the threatened military onslaught by Syrian and Russian forces to retake Idlib, the last rebel-held enclave in Syria, would have risked the lives of the civilians, including one million children. 

He says the Russian-Turkish agreement bought more time for diplomats and politicians to protect civilians inside the buffer zone and avert a catastrophic humanitarian disaster.

“What I understand is that the so-called war on terror is not called off,” Egeland said. “On the contrary, there will be in the future, air raids against the listed organizations. There will also be fighting between armed groups, armed actors and the so-called terrorists, the so-called radicals.” 

Under the deal, Egeland says only al-Nusra and other U.N.-listed terrorist groups can be attacked. These groups, which number about 10,000, will be moved outside the buffer zone, he says, adding that other “more moderate fighters” supported by Turkey will not be attacked.

Egeland warns that the terrorist groups will be scattered in different parts of Idlib, which is cause for alarm. Many of the groups vow to fight to the end, he says, but efforts will be made to reach out to them to try to get them not to fight to the last fighter and not to fight to the last civilian in their areas.

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Turkey Looks to Germany for Help on Deepening Financial Distress

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak heads to Berlin Friday to meet with his German counterpart, Olaf Scholz, as Ankara struggles against an emerging financial crisis.  Turkey’s currency fell 40 percent this year and discussions on potential financial support from Berlin are expected to be on the agenda.

Albayrak, speaking in Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace Thursday, unveiled his much-vaunted medium-term economic plan. He promised to curb debt-fueled growth, enforce financial austerity and undergo a reshaping into the “value-added” economy investors have been clamoring for for years.

The Turkish lira surged before Albayrak’s speech, fueled by rising expectations. However, once delivered, the currency fell sharply with investors criticizing the plan for lack of details, along with concerns over the exposure of Turkish banks to foreign debt.

 

The Turkish corporate sector is estimated to owe over $100 billion in foreign denominated debt in the next 12 months.

“We are talking of a five or six percent drop in the economy, to pay off debt by contracting imports and expanding exports at any cost,” analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners said. “It’s going to be extremely painful, really painful. The IMF(International Monetary Fund) can take some of the pain.”

During Turkey’s economic crises in the 1990s through to the early 2000s the country depended on bailouts from the IMF. However Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly ruled out IMF support.

“There is a stigma attached to the IMF given that the government has repeatedly said that one of its biggest achievements was to end Turkey’s dependence on the IMF, “ said Sinan Ulgen, head of the Istanbul-based research group Edam.  “So for these reasons Erdogan does not want to return to the IMF for support. “

The IMF might be unwilling to provide funds to Turkey given the current animosity between Ankara and Washington, warns international relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul.

 

“The bill that was passed in (the U.S.) Congress to ask American agencies to block multi-international economic institutions, to actually block any kind of loans or favorable terms for Turkey was a very significant and very hostile move,” Ozel said.

The bill Congress passed was in response to the ongoing detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges. Washington claims the allegations are baseless.  

Analysts point out while the United States does not have a veto on IMF funding decisions, Washington could delay or complicate any deal with Ankara.

 

The European Union and in particular Berlin, observers suggest, is seen by Ankara as a politically acceptable source of international financial support. “…That is certainly an idea that is being openly discussed in some of the European capitals, analyst Ulgen said.

“The EU could be an alternative to the IMF, but that is an open-ended question,” he added, “because we don’t have examples of the EU acting unilaterally. Even in past cases related to Greece, for instance, the EU was part of a consortium that also included the IMF.”

Analysts suggest Ankara is likely to be banking on its strategic importance. “Turkey plays an important role in keeping the refugee flow outside the EU. That is a starting point,” former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen said.

Two years ago Ankara and Belgium signed a migration agreement that resulted in a big reduction in the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants a year that once entered the EU.

The continuation of the migrant deal, analyst Ulgen argues, is viewed as a necessity by Berlin.  “From the German perspective, there seems to be a fear that the economic instability in Turkey could end up affecting the overall political stability of the country so possible jeopardize Turkey’s ability to stand by its commitments on the refugee deal,” Ulgen said.

However, given any financial assistance to Turkey would likely be in the tens of billions of dollars, there is skepticism about whether Berlin and the rest of the EU would be prepared to act alone.

“Regarding the European funding, the indications are so far they would want an IMF involvement,” chief economist Inan Demir of financial services company Nomura International said.

“Even if there is no IMF involvement in the (financial support) package,” he added, “that funding would come with conditions similar to those that would come from the IMF.  I am very skeptical that those conditions would be acceptable to the Turkish government.”

Analysts suggest measures including ending Erdogan’s prestige mega-construction projects would likely be demanded in any financial assistance deal, along with calls for reform to ensure an independent judiciary, a concern of many foreign investors. The Turkish president has until now resisted such reforms.

 

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