Turkey’s geographical position between Asia, Europe and four geopolitical regions (the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle-East and northern Eurasia) is increasingly becoming more strategic as its internal forces are gradually being reinforced. Undoubtedly, Turkey has thrived over the past 60 years to become a true regional power and, more recently, a potential candidate to join the European Union. Indeed, it is its internal and foreign policies, economic and military policies since 1945, that allowed Turkey to continuously adapt and reposition itself in order to meet the EU admission standards.
From the perspective of politics, the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi abbreviated AK party, in english the Justice and Development Party, was elected on a moderate platform enforcing economic and constitutional reforms and protecting Ataturk’s secularist tradition from Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore, Erdogan’s government extensively in favor of “market-friendly policies” increased the AK party’s recognition (Barkey). The party in power, which suggested the changes in the constitution approved in September 2010, portrayed the repair as an effort to reinforce Turkey’s vibrant and competitive democracy while clearing its way towards the most exclusive 27-nation club membership.
Historically, Turkish foreign policy was always oriented westwards since Ataturk’s dissolution of the Muslim caliphate, adoption of the Latin alphabet and institution of a democracy. However, after the end of the cold war, Turkey could no longer be identified as one category. Indeed, “in terms of its spheres of influence, Turkey is a Middle-Eastern, Balkan, Caucasian, Central Asian, Caspian, Mediterranean, Gulf, and Black sea country all at the same time” (Davutoglu 1).
Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s visionary policy of “zero problems with neighbors” enables Turkey to play an important role in its region, underlining how valuable it would be as an EU member (Salem). Turkey’s foreign policy technician is often perceived as a neo-ottoman with his policy being very similar to Ataturk’s “peace at home, peace in the world” (Landon). In fact, Mr. Davutoglu is betting on stability and security around the borders “not only for itself but also for the region”(Davutoglu 1).
The latter is doing so in order to strengthen Turkey’s image of a tangible buffer that could play a role of “mediation”, maintain security between Europe and the Middle-East and “access to as many markets as it can secure” (Salem). As Salem argues, its external relations are “based largely on Turkey’s economic interests”. Indeed, Turkey re-tought its diplomatic relations with Syria, a problematic country for the West and the extremely questionnable Islamic republic of Iran, its only alternative energy after Russia and the Middle-East (Salem).
Furthermore, over the past decade, Turkey has increasingly grown as a crucial actor in its complex and strategic geopolitical region to resolve the Iraqi/Kurdish conflict, discuss the Arab/Israeli peace process and think of a solution to the Iranian uranium enrichment (Salem). Thus, all these components of its foreign policy assess how valuable it would be for the EU’s interests, as a permanent member.
Turkey’s economy has not been healthier since the second world war, with an outstanding 11. % growth rate for the first quarter ranking it as the second fastest growing economy after China and pushing itself to the BRIC’s (Brazil, Russia, India, China) level with an inflation rate that decreased from 72% to 8% in less than 10 years (Landon). However we cannot deny the fact that IMF’s rescue to Turkey’s 2001 economic crisis – “an external financing gap of US$10 billion for 2002, with gaps of US$1 billion in each of the following two years” – was crucial in preparing the economy for the catastrophic economic down turn of 2009 (International Monetary Fund).
The $16 billion stand-by credit granted to stimulate the economy and “protect it from futures crises” was a great success as it helped the country increase its Gross National Product by 7. 4% from 1999 to 2004 (International Monetary Fund). As stated by the IMF press release of February 4, 2002, the Turkish currency was reevaluated by 10% compared to the U. S. Dollar and the stock market increase accounted for 80% since 9/11.
Nowadays, Turkey is becoming a more apparent economic power, fully integrated into the world’s economy with strong international competitive firms specialized in exports (growth of 13% in June) and attracting foreign investments as Turkey’doesn’t have any natural resources like its Iranian neighbor’s oil and gas. Europe is by far its largest market as its leading producer of TV, DVD players and its third largest car maker. As Intercity’s – the largest car leasing company in Turkey- CEO Vural Ak said: “Turkey is now strong enough to stand by itself” (Landon).
As stated above, Turkey’s strategical relation with Iran and Syria can be exemplified by the amount of exports totaling “$1. 6 billion worth of goods to Iran and Syria this year, $200 million more than to the United States” (Landon). Another central aspect of Turkey’s prospering economy is its energy and more specifically its pipeline politics. Indeed, at the crossroads of nations, Turkey is a transit country linking Central Asian and Caspian energy suppliers with Europeans consumers.
Therefore, “thanks to the geographical position Turkey enjoys, part of its national strategy involves facilitating the transit of energy across its territory” (Davutoglu 15). Since the end of the second world war Turkey’s economy is flourishing like never before. In fact, it is almost reaching the level of most of the poorer countries in continental Europe hit by the 2009 subprime mortgage crisis that now generate a modest 1% annual growth.
The gap is so considerable that Turkey is close to meet the requirements to adopt the Euro compared to most of the damaged economies of the old continent (Landon). Overall, Turkey is already a loyal business partner with Europe, but its fast-growing economy renders it comparable to the European powers, thus is perfectly eligible for the union membership. Since it joined NATO in 1952 and now constitutes its largest army after America’s, Turkey is an undeniable military force positioned between Asia and Europe serving as a strategical bridge with these two continents.
Originally, the Turkish army maintains order in the secular democracy to avoid any kind of political coups, which is a good sign of a healthy democracy. Its strong presence in Iran and Syria could support EU’s security as the latter’s influence is weak in that region and help the EU play an important role in international relations. Turkey has the geographical potential to complete Europe’s integration. Turkey’s situation offers chances to resolve a decent amount of problems in the region with PM Erdogan’s strong and imposing leadership backed by his military power (Salem).
For example, based on Salem’s analysis, after the Davos and flotilla crisis in 2009 and 2010, Erdogan has been portrayed in the Arab street, tired of its weak and uncharismatic heads of state, as a true hero. It is the same scenario in the case of Iran, the state that refuse to recognize Israel’s existence: indeed, “Turkey and Brazil voted against sanctions, they have the trust of the Iranians and this is valuable for the international community”(Salem). Moreover, Turkey is the only country to have a military power stronger than Israel in the region.
Hence, his strong credibility and how valuable his government would be for the EU’s security. By extending its borders to Turkey, the EU will be at the doors of the Middle-East and would be able to directly apply its policies in the region. Furthermore, there will be military cooperation between the EU and Turkey, therefore the latter could be on the military committee that is charged of engaging discussions with non-EU countries and international organizations. Indeed, EU’s image will change among the countries of the so called third-world.
Moreover, as a part of the military cooperation Turkey will be a good example against racism, prejudices and radicalism as it will have the opportunity to show that Islam can coexist with other religions. Overall, Turkey’s membership would provide a tangible asset in terms of military power to the union, allowing the EU to solve difficult problems by increasing its military capacities and influence in the region. It will harden security and international stability.
As a member of the EU, Turkey would no longer only be an economic boom or a political actor but also a regional military power that would make decisions and enforce them. Turkey has become truly a global power in the political, economic and military arenas, and its possible EU membership would be mutually beneficial for the two parts. Yet, before focusing on the EU, Turkey should keep on growing and not only satisfying Brussels’ bureaucracy. As long as it keeps going Turkey will always progress and be substantive, and therefore, an EU that wants to remain pertinent will find it hard to keep Turkey on the side.