Repeat: We cannot abandon the EU
Where are the days? We were even trying to solve external problems.
We had become the country that was setting the order in the region. We had embraced Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and we had almost become one country. Our relations with Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt had flourished. We were achieving major investments in Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. We were bringing Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel into line.
Our prime minister’s posters were decorating streets of Arab countries. Our flag was flying everywhere.
Everybody in the Middle East was talking about the Turkish model.
Including Gulf countries, this new Turkish approach had brought along a major increase in investment and trade. Its foreign policy had expanded its domain.
We forgot the EU
Meanwhile, we had forgotten the European Union. It was not on our agenda. Europe, as a matter of fact, was looking for ways to save itself. They were not in a position to see us either.
We had entered such a state that we felt as if even if we were to give up on the EU, the new order we had created around us would have been sufficient.
Then the “Arab Spring” began.
The pieces of the order Turkey had created up until that moment collapsed one after the other.
Neither Mubarak nor Gadhafi was left. When al-Assad went his own way, not listening to Ankara’s recommendations, relations with Syria then started to deteriorate.
A fear erupted in every country in the region, and not just in our important neighbors.
Facing this new situation, Turkey started looking for a new policy.
It was a relieving development for Ankara indeed in the long term that dictators were toppled and democracy arrived in place of them, but nobody was able to calculate the aftermath.
Let’s talk about facts now.
It’s good to create new options, not to settle for one source and get carried away by excitement. Societies like that. Especially if you add to this picture the exclusionary approach of some European countries toward Turkey, then you should regard it as normal that the public’s interest to go elsewhere has increased.
Let’s see the facts
Well, nice, but when you look at figures, a very different picture emerges.
This picture demonstrates that in 2010, 42 percent of Turkey’s total foreign trade, 46 percent of its exports, 39 percent of its imports and 75 percent of total foreign direct investment – that is, the resources needed for the country to get rich and increase its economic power – have come from EU countries.
These are the facts.
We can set up new relations. We can search for new harbors. We can open up to new markets. But we cannot turn our back on this data. We cannot deny that the EU is an extremely stable and rich market, a partner and an ally that is too important to abandon. The capacity of the EU to improve Turkey is much more than the total of the entire Middle East countries.
Turkey’s image in the EU gradually changing
A factor that has caught my attention recently is that the atmosphere regarding Turkey in the EU has started to change. Officials who closely monitor the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe explain this change clearly.
There are few reasons for the change:
- The most important factor is that Turkish foreign policy has entered a phase where it is very much in accordance with Europe. The stances on Syria and the NATO radar system are especially much applauded.
- Another factor is the constant vetoes of the Greek Cypriots. Their tactic of cornering Turkey is bothering people.
- Turkey’s economy is the final one of these factors.
Especially in the European Parliament, it is no longer in fashion to drag Turkey through the mud. Greek and Greek Cypriot parliamentarians, contrary to the past, receive an immediate reaction. The situation is the same in the commission and the council.
The section about Turkey in a report issued at the last EU summit was especially very significant from the angle of demonstrating Europe’s viewpoint. Such a positive report has not been issued for a long time. The only problematic area was those criticisms about freedom of the press and expression.
I cannot understand the coarseness of this government on the topics of freedom of the press and expression – or its refusal to make necessary moves on the matter at least.