by : Mehmet Ali Birand
date : Thursday, November 5, 2009
Extremely interesting developments are taking place in the relationship between Turkey and the European Union. In fact not only in its relationship with the EU but also Turkey’s relation to external relations in general started to experience a change.
I describe it as “Turkey splitting from the West and sliding toward the East.” But the prime minister says, “No, we are not changing direction. We are only doing what we have to do.” It does not matter what you name it, what’s obvious is a change is taking place.
It would be easier if I give an example to explain what I mean.
During the Cold War, Turkey’s foreign relations were on a one-way road.
We were on the Western front and we called them allies. Usually there wouldn’t be any problem in our relationship with our allies in general. The opposite front was the communist front. We would treat them like an enemy.
Within this frame we would move in the direction of European countries and the U.S. Their politics would lead us. In the region, Israel would be described as our ally, and Iraq and Syria our enemy.
Now the balance has changed.
Especially during the past two or three years of the AKP administration new balances and new values emerged. What’s been experienced recently created an interesting impression of Turkey starting new experiments on external politics.
Turkey for the first time takes Eastern countries seriously
- Relations with Syria have advanced to a never-before-seen dimension. Both countries have started to act almost in unison. And this has naturally changed Ankara’s steps and direction.
- Rapprochement with Iraq and especially with northern Iraq is developing into a never-before-seen dimension. Baghdad and Arbil’s sensitivities are taken much more seriously by Ankara.
- Advances in the relation with Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have started to roll faster. Turkey now better understands these countries and takes their attitudes much more seriously than before.
- Relations with Israel, on the contrary, are worsening progressively. In relations that used to be carried out with extreme caution, boorishness seems to spread. It appears as if they want to punish Israel on every occasion.
- Besides all these changes, one other country progressively approached by Ankara is the United States. Especially since the Obama administration came to power, relations between Ankara and Washington have tightened incredibly.
- Relations with Russia warm up as well. Turkey started to position itself as a passageway for particularly Russia but also all other countries rich in energy resources.
Turkey’s relation with EU somehow doesn’t get on track
After looking at all these developments, when we ask ourselves, “So, where are relations with the European Union heading?” we are facing very interesting scenery.
Looked upon from the outside it seems Turkey and the EU are trying to split their way. The EU’s general reluctance still prevails. Brussels still gives the cold shoulder and Ankara does not seem enthusiastic about rolling up its sleeves to take action.
Especially French President Sarkozy’s general attitude is so negative that it does not signal any hope for Ankara. The same is true for German Prime Minister Merkel. Both quite often repeat that Turkey needs to content itself with a privileged partnership instead of full membership.
We are talking about two countries that are the founding members of the European Union. This means that it is impossible to realize a project that would be “negated” by these two countries. On one hand they keep saying that they are in favor of a continuation of negotiations and will decide over a full membership or privileged partnership down the road and will not hinder it. On the other hand they do not deny having started efforts to fill out the contents of a privileged partnership.
Sarkozy and Merkel take everybody’s enthusiasm
This attitude takes all the enthusiasm in the Turkish government as well as the business world.
The Turkish private sector hesitates to invest for the sake of meeting high cost liabilities required for the adaptation to the EU. No one intends to allocate resources to a subject with uncertain outcome while anxiety still persists due to an economic and financial crisis. It also pressures the government to speed up in the EU process.
Almost the same is true for the government.
The administration does not intent to allocate billions of euros as a resource while it still has a deficit in its budget and while it is uncertain what will happen next.
When there is lack of power for motivation then somehow the process does not speed up either.
Don’t get me wrong. Technical effort still continues but especially laws to ensure political criteria cannot pass under these uncertain conditions.
Turkey is in a new trial period
Let’s now answer the question asked in the beginning.
I think Turkey tries to satisfy the EU with different approaches and keep the relationship going rather than fulfilling criteria required for the membership process.
It tries to take steps which satisfy the EU in issues like the Armenian and Kurdish Initiative and Iran and Afghanistan issues, and it also tries to maintain the global picture with steps like signing Nabucco.
This is certainly in favor of some EU countries that would like to slow down the process.
We need to pay attention to the matter that Turkey does not slip into a trial period.
Turkey tries to find out whether the world would or would not spin without the EU and whether or not to create a new world. If it turns out to be a success then Turkey might continue its path by tightening its relation with the U.S. and get closer to countries in its own region.
But if this happens then Ankara might wish for the privileged partnership which it definitely denies today.
source: Hurriyet Daily News