Reyhanlı bombings show importance of Turkey’s EU bid

Reyhanlı bombings show importance of Turkey’s EU bid

Last week I was one of the guests of the Monocle 24, the radio station launched by the Monocle magazine, founded by the famous journalist Tyler Brule.

The radio station’s The Globalist program was broadcasted for three consecutive days last week from Istanbul. I was asked, together with Andrew Finkel, to talk about headlines in the Turkish press.

Among those invited to the program by Brule and his colleagues, who chose the terrace of Georges Hotel overlooking the Golden Horn, were Ali Kiremitçioğlu, the CFO of Istanbul 2020, which is working to win the bid for the 2020 Olympic Games; Ayşe Ege, the founder of the fashion brand Dice Kayek; Didem Şenol, the owner of Maya restaurant; and Kürşad Arusan, the CEO of Seabird Airlines.

You might well imagine the sort of conversations they had ahead of me. The headlines of the papers were full of stories about the Kurdish peace process, as it was the day outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants started to withdraw as well as the assault of the Syrian regime on the city of Baniyas.

As Andrew Finkel talked about the peace process, I was left with the Syrian civil war to talk about, as it was the second most important news in the papers. But I felt quite odd speaking about a depressing subject while most probably all the other guests ahead of me had talked about the bright side of Turkey.

That’s why I tried to give the message during the program that while Turkey was full of success stories and promised a bright future, it nevertheless still continued to live in a highly volatile, dangerous neighborhood, which might overshadow all the potential.

As I am writing these lines, headlines are full of the twin car bomb attack in Reyhanlı, near the Syrian border leaving more than 40 people dead and dozens wounded. So I might sound quite odd talking about Turkey’s relations with the EU. But the current depressive mood that has wrapped up the nation since the weekend is not going to change my decision to write about it, following Europe Day May 9, which of course went largely unnoticed in Turkey.

On the contrary the potential of a spillover of the Syrian crisis provides an additional reason to write about it. For the short and medium term Turkey will continue to live in a dangerous neighborhood while its relations with the West will continue to remain stable despite occasional ups and downs. In addition it is Turkey’s anchor to the EU that will make sure that it remains an island of stability in a region prone to turmoil for the foreseeable future.

The EU still remains and will continue to remain a reference point for Turkey’s quest for a better life for its citizens. Improving our standards is obviously not limited to changes in the Turkish food codex or labor rules. The EU needs to remain a point of reference for democracy, rule of law and human rights as well.

Talking to a Turkish daily, Tyler Brule summed up his observations saying Turkey would become a country admired more and more but respected less and less. Turkey will be respected if only it continues to stick to the EU’s democratic standards.