1 December 2010
ESI in Amsterdam: Turkey and the Balkans
View of the panel (Minna Jarvenpaa, Rory Stewart, Gerald Knaus, and Miroslav Lajcak. Photo: ERSTE Stiftung
Ahmet Davutoğlu and Erik-Jan Zürcher

ESI's Gerald Knaus was invited by the Turkije Instituut in Amsterdam to speak about current developments between Turkey and the Balkans. Erik-Jan Zürcher, director International Institute of Social History, gave a short introduction on the historical background of relations between Turkey and the Balkan region.

Turkey is asserting itself ever more prominently on the international stage. Ankara is reinforcing its ties with Turkey's neighbours and the wider region, including the southern Balkans – largely part of the Ottoman Empire until the early twentieth century. Turkey has acted as mediator between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was one of the prominent guests attending the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre last July. The countries share a common history and, partly, culture and religion.

Which role do the Balkans play in Turkey's foreign policy, now and in the past? How does Turkey, a rising regional and economic force, relate to the small and sometimes messy states on the southern Balkans?  – some in the same waiting room for EU membership as Turkey. Does the shared Ottoman legacy play a role in generating support for an active Turkish Balkans policy?

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