8th Annual Conference on Turkey

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The Middle East Institute (MEI) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation hosted MEI's 8th Annual Conference on Turkey. At a time of critical internal developments and international tensions, this program of three panels on Turkey's domestic politics, foreign policy, and economy featured Turkish and European office-holders, policy makers, and expert analysts from both sides of the Atlantic. 

Monday, December 4th, 2017 | National Press Club


Featured Speakers:

  • MP Michelle Muentefering, German Bundestag
  • Jonathan Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State
  • MP Ozturk Yilmaz, Turkish Parliament
  • MEP Arne Lietz, European Parliament
  • MEP Kati Piri, European Parliament




9:00 AM

Welcome Remarks | Introduction 

  • Gönül Tol, Director, Turkish Studies, The Middle East Institute (MEI)
  • Michael Meier, Representative to the U.S. and Canada, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) 


9:15 AM - 10:45 AM

Panel 1: Islam, Democracy, and Dissent in the New Turkey

  • Aykan Erdemir, Senior fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
  • Ahmet Kuru, Professor of political science, San Diego State University
  • Giran Ozcan, Washington representative, People's Democratic Party
  • Güneş Murat Tezcür, Chair of Kurdish Political Studies, University of Central Florida 
  • Lisel Hintz (moderator), Assistant professor of int'l relations, Johns Hopkins SAIS


11 AM - 12:30 PM

Panel 2: Economic Outlook: Trajectories and Setbacks

  • Hon. Arne Lietz, Member of the European Parliament
  • Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Neil Moskowitz Prof. of Economics, Uni. of Maryland
  • Omer Taspinar, Professor, National Defense University
  • Kemal Kirisci (moderator), Senior fellow, The Brookings Institution


1:30 - 2:00 PM

Keynote Remarks

The Honorable Michelle Müntefering, Member of the German Bundestag 


2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Panel 3: Turkey Between Russia and the West

  • Dimitar Bechev, Research fellow, University of North Carolina; senior fellow, Atlantic Council
  • Hon. Jonathan Cohen, Dep. Assistant Secretary for Turkey, Greece, & Cyprus, U.S. Dep. of State
  • Hon. Kati Piri, Member of the European Parliament
  • Hon. Ozturk Yilmaz, Member of Parliament, Republican People's Party, Republic of Turkey
  • Amberin Zaman (moderator), Columnist, Al-Monitor


3:30PM | Adjournment


Speaker Biographies: 

Dimitar Bechev

Research fellow, University of North Carolina; senior fellow, Atlantic Council
Dr. Dimitar Bechev is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He is also a research fellow at the Center of Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the European Policy Institute, a think-tank based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Dr. Bechev has published extensively, in both academic and policy format, on EU foreign relations, the politics of Turkey and the Balkans, Russian foreign policy, and energy security. His book Rival Power, published by Yale University Press in 2017, explores Russia’s role in Southeast Europe (Balkans, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey). From 2010 to 2014, he was the head of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) office in Sofia.


Jonathan Cohen
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Jonathan Cohen has been the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State covering Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey since August 2016. He previously served in Baghdad as deputy chief of mission (DCM), 2014-2016, and in Paris as Acting DCM (2013-2014) and as minister counselor for political affairs (2011-2013). A Foreign Service Officer since 1986, his previous assignments include Nicosia as DCM, Rome as counselor for political-military affairs, Ankara as political advisor to Operation Northern Watch and Iraq specialist, Irbil and Baghdad, Stockholm, Vienna OSCE, Jerusalem, Bangkok, and Washington.


Aykan Erdemir
Senior fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Between 2011 and 2015, he was a member of the Turkish Parliament and served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. Erdemir is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB), and a recipient of the 2016 Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom. He was also recognized in 2014 as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons by the Junior Chamber International Turkey in the field of Political, Legal and Governmental Affairs. Erdemir has edited seven volumes and coauthored three books, including Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge, 2016). 


Lisel Hintz 
Assistant Professor of International Relations, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Lisel Hintz is an assistant professor of international relations in the European and Eurasian studies program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. She received her Ph.D. in political science from George Washington University. Bridging the subfields of international relations and comparative politics with a regional focus on Turkey, her research investigates how contestation over various forms of identity (e.g. ethnic, religious, gender, regional) spills over from domestic politics to shape, and be shaped by, foreign policy. Hintz’s work is published in the European Journal of International RelationsInternational Journal of Turkish StudiesProject on Middle East Political Science Series, and Turkish Policy Quarterly. Hintz has also contributed to Foreign PolicyThe Washington PostThe Boston Globe, and BBC World Service.


Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan
Professor of economics, University of Maryland

Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan is a Neil Moskowitz Endowed professor of economics at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research as well as a fellow at the Center for Economic Policy Research. Professor Kalemli-Ozcan's main research interests are in international macroeconomics, finance and growth. Her current research focuses on the linkages between real and financial sectors in a globalized economy and the effects of such linkages on economic fluctuations and development.


Kemal Kirisci 
Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Kemal Kirişci is the TÜSİAD senior fellow and director of the Turkey Project at Brookings. He runs the Turkey Project Policy Paper series and frequently writes on the latest developments in Turkey, Turkish foreign policy, and migration issues. His book Turkey and the West: Faultlines in a Troubled Alliance, was published by the Brookings Institution Press in July 2017. He is the co-author of the monograph "The Consequences of Chaos: Syria's Humanitarian Crisis and the Failure to Protect" (Brookings Institution Press, April 2016), which considers the long-term economic, political, and social implications of Syria's displaced and offers policy recommendations to address the humanitarian crisis. Before joining Brookings, Kirisci was a professor of international relations and held the Jean Monnet chair in European integration in the department of political science and international relations at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul.


Ahmet T. Kuru
Professor of political science, San Diego State University
Ahmet T. Kuru received his PhD from the University of Washington and was a postdoc fellow at Columbia University. He is currently Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University. Kuru is the author of award-winning Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey (Cambridge U Press, 2009), and the co-editor (with Alfred Stepan) of Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey (Columbia U Press, 2012). His new book, Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison, will be published by Cambridge U Press.


Hon. Arne Lietz
Member of the European Parliament
Arne Lietz is a Member of the Foreign Affairs and Development Committees, and a Substitute in the Security and Defense Committee and the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion. He is also a Member of the European Parliament's delegations for relations with Israel and the Korean Peninsula. Born in 1976, Mr Lietz studied history, politics, and educational science at the HumboldtUniversität in Berlin and University of Cape Town in South Africa. After finishing his studies, he worked for the educational organisation Facing History and Ourselves in the USA, Germany, and England (2004-2006), and for the Federal Center for Education in Germany. His political career started when he became a parliamentary assistant to SPD member of the German Bundestag, Engelbert Wistuba, in 2007. Before becoming a Member of the European Parliament in 2014, Mr Lietz was a personal assistant for the Mayor of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Eckhard Naumann (2010-2014).


Michael Meier
Representative to the U.S. and Canada, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Michael Meier has been the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) representative to the U.S. and Canada since 2014. Prior to his current assignment, he was FES representative to Turkey for five years. Meier also served as department head for Western Europe and North America at FES headquarters in Berlin. From 1991 to 2003, he was the foundation's resident representative in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Botswana. He is an expert on foreign and security policy in the MENA region, where he has focused on Turkey’s role in the region and Turkey’s relations with the European Union and Israel in particular. He has served as advisor to the coordination group on Turkey in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and he is the author of numerous articles on policy trends in Turkey and the United States. Meier holds a diploma in African studies and economy from Leipzig University and has attended postgraduate training at the German Development Institute in Bonn.


Hon. Michelle Müntefering
Member of the German Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee
Michelle Müntefering, born in 1980, has been a member of the German Bundestag (parliament) for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) since 2013, directly elected in her constituency Herne/Bochum II. She was re-elected in September 2017. After completing her B.A. in journalism with a focus on economics, she worked as a freelance reporter and as a research assistant in the Bundestag. In parliament Müntefering is a member of the committee for foreign affairs and its rapporteur for Turkey and the Middle East. She is the SPD parliamentary group’s spokesperson for cultural and education policy abroad and chair of the German-Turkish parliamentary friendship group. Müntefering is also president of the board of trustees of the German Orient Foundation, vice president of the German-Turkish Society, and a member of the Atlantik-Brücke, a private, non-profit, nonpartisan association with the goal of maintaining and strengthening relations between Germany and the United States.


Giran Ozcan
Washington representative, People's Democratic Party
Giran Ozcan is the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Representative in the USA. After graduating from the University of Warwick with a sociology degree, he worked at the Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS) between 2011 and 2016 in London. He has been working with the HDP in its overseas representative offices since 2016.


Hon. Kati Piri

Member of the European Parliament
Kati Piri is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing the Dutch Labour Party. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and Justice & Home Affairs committees. Piri is the EP rapporteur on Turkey, drafting the annual report on Turkey's EU accession process. Politico ranked her as the 11th most influential MEP in 2017.


Omer Taspinar
Professor of National Security Strategy, U.S. National War College; Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins SAIS Omer Taspinar is a nonresident senior fellow with the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution, a professor at the National War College, and an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He has held consulting positions at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington and at the strategic planning department of TOFAS-FIAT in Istanbul. He has expertise on Turkey, the European Union, Muslims in Europe, political Islam, the Middle East, and Kurdish nationalism. He earned his a doctorate and masters in European studies and international economics at SAIS and his bachelor's in political science from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara.


Güneş Murat Tezcür
Jalal Talabani Chair of Kurdish Political Studies, University of Central Florida 
Güneş Murat Tezcür is the Jalal Talabani Chair of Kurdish Political Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida. He also directs the Kurdish Political Studies Program, the only academic unit dedicated to the study of Kurdish issues in the U.S. He is a social scientist studying political violence and identity, and democratic struggles in the broader Middle East and beyond. His work has appeared in many journals such as American Political Science ReviewComparative PoliticsJournal of Peace ResearchLaw and Society Review and Political Research Quarterly. He is also the author of Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey. Two of his current research projects examine the motives of ordinary men and women joining armed groups, focusing on the Kurdish insurgency, and the dynamics of mass violence, focusing on the attacks against the Yazidis. Güneş earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.


Gönül Tol
Director, Turkish Studies, MEI
Gönül Tol is the founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. After three years of field research in Germany and the Netherlands, she wrote her dissertation on the radicalization of the Turkish Islamist movement Milli Gorus in Western Europe. She was also an adjunct professor at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University. She has taught courses on Islamist movements in Western Europe, Turkey, world politics, and the Middle East. She has written extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, Turkish domestic politics, and foreign policy and the Kurdish issue. She is a frequent media commentator.


Hon. Ozturk Yilmaz
Member of Parliament, Republican People's Party, Republic of Turkey
Öztürk Yilmaz served at the Balkans, OSCE, Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus (head of department) Departments. Whereas being stationed abroad, he served at various positions in the Embassies in Bishkek and Brasilia and also as Couselor at the Permanent Representation to the European union. In 2013, Yılmaz was assigned to Mosul as Consul general from where he was appointed as Ambassador of Turkey to Tajikistan in 2015.At the General Elections on 1 November 2015, Yılmaz was elected as Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey from Ardahan Constituency. Yılmaz was elected Member of the Party Assembly of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) at the 35th Extraordinary Congress, held on 16-17 January 2015. Subsequently, he was appointed Vice President in charge of Foreign Relations of CHP.


Amberin Zaman
Columnist, Al-Monitor
Amberin Zaman is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. She has covered Turkey, the Kurds, and Armenia for The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, The Los Angeles Times and the Voice of America. She served as The Economist's Turkey correspondent between 1999 and 2016. She was a columnist for the liberal daily Taraf and the mainstream daily Haberturk before switching to the independent Turkish online news portal Diken in 2015.

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