Turkey and Europe

Good points by Joska Fischer in The Guardian 1 July 2010:

In fact, Turkey’s foreign policy, which seeks to resolve existing conflicts with and within neighbouring states, and active Turkish involvement there, is anything but in conflict with western interests. Quite the contrary. But the west (and Europe in particular) will finally have to take Turkey seriously as a partner – and stop viewing it as a western client state.

Turkey is and should be a member of the G20, because, with its young, rapidly growing population it will become a very strong state economically in the twenty-first century. Even today, the image of Turkey as the “sick man of Europe” is no longer accurate.

When, after the UN decision, the United States secretary of defence, Robert Gates, harshly criticised Europeans for having contributed to this estrangement by their behaviour towards Turkey, his undiplomatic frankness caused quite a stir in Paris and Berlin. But Gates had hit the nail on the head.

Ever since the change in government from Jacques Chirac to Nicolas Sarkozy in France and from Gerhard Schröder to Angela Merkel in Germany, Turkey has been strung along and put off by the European Union. Indeed, in the case of Cyprus, the EU wasn’t even above breaking previous commitments vis-à-vis Turkey and unilaterally changing jointly agreed rules. And, while the Europeans have formally kept to their decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey, they have done little to advance the cause.

Only now, when the disaster in Turkish-European relations is becoming apparent, is the EU suddenly willing to open a new chapter in thenegotiations (which, incidentally, clearly proves that the deadlock was politically motivated).

It can’t be said often enough: Turkey is situated in a highly sensitive geopolitical location, particularly where Europe’s security is concerned. The eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean, the western Balkans, the Caspian region and the southern Caucasus, Central Asia, and theMiddle East are all areas where the west will achieve nothing or very little without Turkey’s support. And this is true in terms not only of security policy, but also of energy policy if you’re looking for alternatives to Europe’s growing reliance on Russian energy supplies.

The west, and Europe in particular, really can’t afford to alienate Turkey, considering their interests, but objectively it is exactly this kind of estrangement that follows from European policy towards Turkey in the last few years.

Europe’s security in the 21st century will be determined to a significant degree in its neighbourhood in the southeast – exactly where Turkey is crucial for Europe’s security interests now and, increasingly, in the future. But, rather than binding Turkey as closely as possible to Europe and the west, European policy is driving Turkey into the arms of Russiaand Iran.

This kind of policy is ironic, absurd, and shortsighted all at once. For centuries, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been regional rivals, never allies. Europe’s political blindness, however, seems to override this fact.

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