By Asli Aydintasbas, European Council on Foreign Relations

To put it mildly, “Europe doesn’t know what to do with Turkey”. Always difficult, even torturous, the relationship between the European Union and Turkey has hit new highs and new lows in the last year.

There was the refugee deal, the summits and photo-ops of a type that had been absent for almost six years. There were steps toward visa liberalisation and the opening of frozen accession chapters.

But there were also threats and accusations. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron, in an effort to convince British voters to stay in the EU, had to pledge that Turkey would not become an EU member until the year 3000. Meanwhile, in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made it a part of his routine stump speech to accuse Europe of supporting terrorism. Read more

Timothy AshIt is sad how anti-Turkish rhetoric and jingoism are so easily flowing off British and other western politicians’ tongues these days, with Turkey seemingly appearing as the whipping boy of Europe. So it is ironic how Brits and many continental Europeans are quite happy to go in great numbers to Turkey every year, to enjoy Turkey’s great hospitality and the common history of European and Asian civilisations in great cities such as Istanbul.

They also tend to forget that Turkey helped to defend Europe against the threat of Communism as a loyal Nato member for more than 50 years and is now standing in the front line, insulating Europe from the instability and terrorist threat emanating from the Middle East. Read more

One should always be cautious with TV documentaries but, knowing the terrain and winter climate of many of the countries through which thousands of refugees are pulling their families on a daily basis, last week’s BBC story told by two doctors certainly did hit home.

It also highlighted how Germany as a country has provided refuge to so many people against all odds. The latter is clearly reflected in the daily German TV debates on the crisis and the border restrictions that have again been set up between Germany, Austria and Hungary – a very big issue after so many decades of working on pulling down those very borders. Read more

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) say they wish to push for a new constitutional system, arguing that the current document has, according to one presidential aide, “lost its essence and become full of details”.

Yet while constitutions tend to use broad strokes to outline how a government should operate, in a pluralistic society they also require the detail that only a codified bill of rights can provide. Read more

The Republic of Turkey is going through one of its most challenging periods since its foundation in 1923, directly exposed to severe regional crises that are spiralling into serious geopolitical tensions.

Inevitably, this is not helping the economy. The new government’s commitment to reform has been welcomed; the key test will be to transform intentions into concrete measures. This is now more urgent than ever, and acting quickly will be as important as acting decisively. Read more

There has been much focus on the price of iron ore recently, and understandably so. Cooling Chinese demand at a time of surging Australian supply saw spot prices fall to a new nadir of $44 a tonne CFR (cost and freight) for delivery in North China on Tuesday, November 24, according to Platts data.

In an effort to survive this price environment, smaller iron ore miners are trying to diversify their portfolios, with some buying up cattle and dairy businesses to cash in on rising Asian demand for other commodities. At the same time, steel mills have been using this cost advantage, and structural supply surplus, to pour steel into the global market, as has been well publicised.

However, ferrous scrap – which accounts for around a third of steel production outside China – has been comparatively overlooked by commentators. Read more

Formerly a darling of emerging market investors, Turkey has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent months, as the political and economic environments have deteriorated. Turkey’s stock market has underperformed emerging markets by 12.4 per cent this year, and valuations for the market are cheap on both an absolute basis, with single-digit P/E ratios, and a relative basis, where the P/E is at a substantial 25 per cent discount to EM.

Despite this, there are several reasons why now is not a good time to buy Turkish equities. Read more

The 2014 Ukraine crisis reinforced the EU’s quest for security of gas supply. The European Commission released an Energy Union Communication in February, calling for intensified work on the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and for the establishment of a new strategic energy partnership with Turkey.

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Turkey’s recent initiatives within Nato are remarkable but, even so, may not be enough to secure the trust of its western partners. In the current geopolitical context, the new Turkish government’s ability to address deep-routed concerns over its foreign policy will be limited unless it takes comprehensive action. A loss of trust brings costs for Turkey, limiting its capacities in the transatlantic community.

At the Nato meeting of foreign ministers in Antalya last month, Turkey took the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the transatlantic alliance by offering to be a lead nation for Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force by 2021 – an initiative designed to deter Russian aggression after its annexation of Crimea. Turkey has recently donated $800,000 to Nato trust funds for defence capacity building in Iraq, Moldova and Jordan. In normal times, such initiatives would be seem as commonplace for a country known for its staunch commitment to Nato. This time, they weren’t. Turkey’s actions positively surprised its western partners, who have grown sceptical about its place in the alliance. Read more

This Sunday, Turkey heads to the polls for its parliamentary election. The outcome will be pivotal for the country’s future.

The election is the culmination of a political race started 13 years ago by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking to change the constitution and make Turkey a presidential regime. Read more

Blink and you missed it. The day after the US Federal Reserve appeared on Wednesday to put back the date of its long-awaiting interest rate rise, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote to clients: “Emerging market currencies temporarily halted their losing streak with a dovish Federal Open Market Committee sending the USD lower.”

“Temporarily” is right. The Brazilian real closed at about R$3.21 to the dollar on Wednesday from its open of R$3.24, a rare day’s gain in a two-month slide. But on Thursday it was back on course, falling quickly beyond R$3.30 before recovering a bit, an intraday move of nearly 3 per cent. In less dramatic manner, the Turkish lira, Russian rouble and South African rand all resumed their downward slides, too. Read more

A long awaited plan by the European Union to import Caspian gas moved forward this week as construction work began on the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (Tanap) in Turkey.

Tanap is the central link in the EU-backed Southern Gas Corridor, a jigsaw of existing and planned pipelines designed to diversify Caspian energy export routes and reduce European dependence on Russian gas. Initially, the 3,500km SGC network will transport gas from the giant, BP-led Shah Deniz field in offshore Azerbaijan, but could in future draw supplies from other Caspian and central Asian countries and even the Middle East, changing the energy map of the whole region. Read more

Turkey FT special report Tayip ErdoganThe Turkish government’s decision last month to ban a metalworkers’ strike on the grounds that it endangered national security is part of an familiar pattern in the country. At least nine other strikes have been similarly stopped since the year 2000.

This time, though, the Turkish government outdid itself in explaining how the labour action could be considered an issue of national security. It said that the strike by Birleşik Metal-İş (United Metal-Work), a union representing just two per cent of Turkey’s million-plus metal workers, would jeopardise production of the Turkish police’s water cannon trucks – the very vehicles that are used to suppress labour unrest and other protests. Read more

Is it time to quit as central bank governor if the president of your country suggests you could be a foreign agent? The answer to this not necessarily run-of-the-mill question may well help determine Turkey’s economic prospects.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all but accused Erdem Basci, the central bank chief, of working for Turkey’s enemies. Read more

Turkish lira per US dollar, 3 months to Feb 4. Source: Thomson Reuters

The Turkish lira went on a fresh slide on Wednesday, adding to its losses over the past fortnight. Investors have no doubt been alarmed by the pressure piling on Turkey’s central bank from the luscious new presidential palace in Ankara. But the lira’s new weakness may also signal an unwinding of some strongly bullish positions on Turkish local debt taken by foreign investors in recent months. Read more

Turkey’s exports are down – not exactly the most welcome piece of news as the country casts around for a new economic model to take over from its largely debt-fuelled growth of the last half-decade. A single month’s worth of data does not a trend make, particularly when the figures concerned come from an industry body rather than the official statistics institute (which takes about a month to compile its own tally).

But the press release issued on Monday by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly makes for grim reading all the same. It indicates that the European Central Bank’s recent experiment with quantitive easing, and the euro’s accompanying weakness, may not be all good news for Turkey, which relies on the EU as by far its biggest market. Read more

TRY per USD, week to Jan 16. Source: Thomson Reuters

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has got embroiled in interest rates again – and the country’s currency immediately felt the impact.

Erdogan’s allergy to high interest rates is well known, as is his insistence that there is something out there called “the interest rate lobby” that drives rates up in a bid to enfeeble the Turkish economy. But all the same he was in fine form in a speech on Friday. Read more

The Turkish lira rounded off the week by tumbling to its lowest levels against the dollar for almost a year, amid investor nervousness about
emerging markets.

By evening trade in Istanbul the currency had fallen beyond TL2.30 to the US dollar, more than 1 per cent down on the day and the weakest level since January, when the Turkish central bank moved to increase
interest rates – a dramatic shift in policy that at the time halted a
precipitous drop in its value. Read more

By Riccardo Puliti of the EBRD

Until recently the Nabucco pipeline, just like the chorus in Verdi’s opera of the same name, was a symbol of freedom. It was designed as an alternative route for large quantities of natural gas coming into Europe, reducing the continent’s dependency on the Soviet-built pipeline system that runs from East to West.

But the Nabucco dream did not become reality, mainly because it would not transport enough gas to make it viable and especially because Turkmenistan, a big producer of natural gas, was not part of the project. However, this vision of independence could yet live on in another guise – but only if there is the political will to drive it forward. Read more