Turkey in the world of realpolitik

EU Council

After months of europhobic posturing in the run up to April’s referendum, Turkey’s leaders are expressing hope for a genuine revitalization of relations with the EU, once again.

In a written statement marking Europe Day , Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that becoming a member of the European Union was a strategic target for Turkey, based on “mutual respect, quality and a win-win concept”.

“Our wish is to carry our cooperation with the EU to the utmost level in fields such as migration, economy, energy, the customs union and membership negotiations,” Erdoğan added.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik talked of their desire to speak on fields in which they can cooperate, instead of speaking about their ‘concerns’.

The decline in Turkey’s democratic institutions in recent months has been so fast and the country’s drift away from Europe so wide, finding any common ground with the EU may not seem an easy task.

However, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the intention to mend relations is not only mutual, but realistic.

The surprising element is that none other than Germany, the country that bore the brunt of the worst anti-EU rhetoric from Turkey, turns out to be one to try and make peace.

It was Germany that urged other EU members not to end membership talks with Turkey last Friday in Malta.

On Monday, Turkish and German Economy Ministers  met to discuss ways to revive their business ties.

The German Economy Minister said afterwards that the current trade volume and investments with Turkey were 12 billion euros, making Germany Turkey’s most important business partner, and what’s more, the bilateral trade volume could more than double.

If there were any concerns over the rule of law, it was only mentioned in the context of “setting reliable framework conditions to facilitate continued investment by German companies in Turkey”.

Sacrificing human rights for other foreign policy and trade objectives is all too familiar and Germany’s approach is consistent with much of the rest of the world.

On the other hand, what looks like a rudderless and inconsistent foreign policy by Turkey, can also take unexpected turns.

Long before anybody else, the Washington-DC based Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman reported  last week that President Trump would approve a decision to arm Kurdish YPG fighters against ISIS to take Raqqa.

Sure enough, despite fierce opposition from its NATO ally Turkey, the USA has decided to supply heavy arms to the Kurdish fighters in Syria.

A week before Mr. Erdogan’s much publicized trip to the White House, what do you think will happen? A deadly blow to Turkish-American relations? Another major crisis in the making?

My guess is, just like the EU “putting wider foreign policy objectives and other concerns” first, Turkey, too, will come up with a pragmatic and upbeat explanation.

This post is also available in: Turkish

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