EU, Shanghai and beyond…

EU, Shanghai and beyond…

Is there significance in asking “If Turkey has lost its hope of becoming a member of the European Union, why should it compromise so much on Cyprus?” Put aside the awkward question of “Is Turkey a negotiating party in the Cyprus talks?”A settlement on Cyprus cannot and should not be a bargaining tool for either the EU or Turkey in their unending love-hate relationship. Unfortunately, with the EU admitting in 2004, that Greek Cypriots should join the club days after they premeditatedly murdered a United Nations-brokered settlement plan, unfortunately, the Cyprus issue has become a negotiating chip in Turkey-EU affairs. The question thus becomes relevant.

Why Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan travelled to Pakistan and not to another country, might be a timely question to speculate upon in today’s Turkey in even more precious isolation. 

Wasn’t it İbrahim Tatlıses who was fed up with people constantly talking about his education level and said “Was there an Oxford (University) in Şanlıurfa and I did not attend it?” It is a matter of availability.

On his way back from Pakistan, Erdoğan pulled the trigger and hurled yet another bomb. He said Turkey should stop considering EU membership as an existentially important subject, because it had another option: The Shanghai Five.

“Some may criticize me but I am expressing my opinion. For example, I am asking ‘Why should we not take place within the Shanghai Five?’ I asked this to (Russian President) Putin, (Kazakh President) Nazarbayev and other leaders in the Shanghai Five. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) started with five countries. Later Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India have joined in. Iran aspires to join as well. Mr. Putin has as well told me ‘We are evaluating that.’ I hope that if there is a positive development there, if Turkey were to join the Shanghai Five, it will enable it to act with much greater ease.”

Erdoğan added, “Europe has never dreamt of something good for Turkey. They have been playing with us for the past 53 years. They have waived visa requirements even for Latin American countries, but are still pondering and bargaining for it for Turkey. Let’s wait until the end of the year. If we achieve it, we achieve it. Otherwise, we have to go our own way. Turkey is not a country without alternatives…”

The EU and the Shanghai Five are two different worlds. Can either be the alternative of the other? That is a very difficult question to answer. Yet before considering where to join, perhaps Turkey should consider what it aspires to get out of such a coalition, membership or effort to establish a common future? 

It is a fact that particularly in the last ten years Turkey has been moving away from the norms, values, principles as well as institutions required for democratic governance which remain as the sine qua non, or absolute requirements, of membership in the Western democratic club of nations. If the planned constitutional amendment drive of the undeclared “nationalist front” composed of the Islamist conservative Justice and Development Party and the ultra-conservative Nationalist Movement Party is approved by the nation early next year, Turkey will be ushered into an era of even more autocratic governance, a peculiar “sovereign democracy.”

Obviously such a Turkey will have more commonality with Putin’s Russia or Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan than any of the members of the EU, and it might perhaps be wiser for Ankara to stop swaying from side to side, put an end to the worries of derailment, put an end to systematic deception and place itself on a new track. 

Will there be anything in that course for Turkey? What will Turkey achieve by abandoning its almost-200-years of Westernization process and turning to the East? Or can we assume that Turks marching to the East on a train destined to West will finally be stopped and Turks will start marching to East on their train heading to East as well?

What the president said and suggested were indeed dreadful for the secular, democratic, republic project of the forefathers of the Turkish Republic but apparently the so-called second republic era is fast opening in Turkey.

Why should such a Turkey compromise on Cyprus, shoulder extra burden of refugees, serve as a buffer zone to please the EU that it no longer aspires to join. Why should it accept, particularly, to fully withdraw from Cyprus if whatever it might be the new Cyprus and Turkey might belong to two different worlds?