SONER ÇAĞAPTAY > Turkey’s post-EU world

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In the past 10 years the relationship between Turkey and the European Union (EU) has transformed drastically. A decade ago, Turkey lacked any real economic growth, which translated into low self-esteem nationally. Turkey, believing its only solution was to become a member of the European community, desperately hoped for a successful bid into the EU. This perception, however, that Turkey has to subsume itself under the European continent and become a member of Europe in order to succeed, is now history. 

A great deal has changed within the past decade, which has shifted Turkey’s focus away from the EU. Europe’s economic conundrums and problems arising within individual member states have made the EU a less attractive venture in the minds of many Turks. Beyond this, however, is the fact that in the last decade, the Turkish economy has grown significantly. According to some estimates, the GDP has more than doubled, income per capita has increased by three times and Turks are wealthier than ever before. This high rate of economic growth has given Turks a new sense of self-confidence as well as a newfound role for the country’s foreign policy. 

Ten years ago, Turkey’s foreign policy would have been pretty much indexed to that of its Western allies. Currently, Turkey is more of an independent actor regionally and globally. It will work with the United States, NATO and the European Union, but it will not allow those alliances to solely drive its foreign policy. Turkey’s new foreign policy is best characterized by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdoğan’s close relationship. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan reportedly receives more frequent phone calls from the White House than the British prime minister. With such close attention from Washington, who in Ankara feels the need to call Brussels?

While Turkey’s perception of the EU has changed in the past decade, so has Europe’s perception of Turkey. Many in the EU believe Turkey is perhaps too big to be successfully integrated into the union. Turkey is not a tiny country. The EU has a population of 500 million people and Turkey’s population is roughly 75 million. Turkey’s entrance would be a significant addition to the union. Not only this, but 10 years ago the EU had the money to integrate countries such as Turkey from the fringes of the continent. It no longer has the capital available to do so. 

The recent changes within Turkey have certainly altered the identity of the country as a whole. Turkey no longer sees itself as a country whose historic vocation is to join Europe. It is rather a country which has a European overlay to its identity but a very independent Turkish one as well. It is a country that is growing economically while every European country is going through a financial meltdown. It is a country brimming with self-confidence and an independent outlook to the future. 

So what is the future of Turkish-EU ties? Beyond membership, the relations will enter a period of strategic dialogue. They will cooperate on a select number of issues, but they will also fail to cooperate on a number of other issues. The notion that Turkey will become a full member state of the EU is no longer the case – at least for now. 

This column is based on the author’s interview with Atlantic Council on Turkey’s Economic and Political Transformation, which is available at:



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Ameer Raschid

4/18/2012 4:14:48 PM

First objective analysis by Soner that I have read as he is part of a proIsrael think tank. He has previously demozed the AKP and the polices of Davutoglu as anti- American/ anti Israel for his Zionist masters because of şts Islamic leanngs.

Chris Green

3/19/2012 10:24:17 AM

The EU in the form of France, Greece, greek cyprus, Germany and others, have no intention of allowing Turkey into the EU. Herby is right that Turkey have made huge strides but should look to purely maintain trade links with the EU, nothing more!

Jarman Hani

3/17/2012 11:19:07 PM

@JRCJRC, I fully agree with you. And Turkey should response to EU visa policies by introducing similar policies for EU pasports on reciprocal basis in terms of cost and procedures. The EU visa policies are best proof of EUs intentions.

andrew michael

3/17/2012 7:07:37 PM

JRC and mara mcglotin both ditto dr andrew michael

mara mcglothin

3/16/2012 3:57:39 PM

JRC I sure hope someone beside me read you comment because you are spot on!

Chris Green

3/1/2012 11:40:34 AM

Interesting point Blue: Good thing that Turkey and Britain already have agreements in place to take full advantage of life outside the EU!

Blue Dotterel

3/1/2012 9:28:36 AM

In a few years it may be a moot point, as there may not be a EU for Turkey to join.

Chris Green

2/29/2012 10:39:19 AM

Exactly right RED TAIL; that would be a logical solution. EU membership comes with a heavy price, that of sovereignty so trade at all costs, but not at any price!

Red Tail

2/28/2012 4:09:31 PM

Turkey is not very welcome to EU, and Turkey is not very interested in EU. So why try to force the two together then? Why not instead make a strategic partnership which is mutally beneficial and then both units can do what they want?

Chris Green

2/28/2012 11:32:07 AM

Mr Stern: Turkey is indeed more likely to end her accession bid than be told by the Franco/Prussian cartel that she is not welcome. I look forward to the opportunity to vote on UK membership and we can join Turkey on the outside! Well said, Dogan bey
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