Turkey and Germany: Forging the next phase of strategic dialogue
Bülent ArasThe burden of the future design of EU foreign policy seems to be shifting to Germany’s shoulders - whether it likes it or not. Germany’s foreign and security policies, its assets and capability to pursue these policies are likely to be more visible on the international stage at the eve of general reluctance to become involved in external issues in the EU. The best option is to deal with the issues on top of Germany’s agenda, as well as the EU’s in general. This requires out-of-the-box thinking, imagination and a plan looking forward to the future. The strategic dialogue initiative between Turkey and Germany concluded last May is a constructive and future-oriented step; it now needs to be structured and consolidated within concrete cooperation schemes that are international in scope.
There are at least three areas of cooperation that could bring the strategic dialogue to a new level, namely: Africa, Afghanistan and across the post-Arab Spring area. This cooperation would also engage with an ethical framework for the promotion of universal norms and values, in addition to a realpolitik convergence of interests. German involvement in Afghanistan has been ongoing since 2001, starting with the Bonn process to plan Afghanistan’s future. The U.S./NATO troop withdrawal in 2014 is matter of concern for both Germany and Turkey, along with the international community - and the Afghans themselves. There remains a broad scope for joint action and combining capabilities in Afghanistan, ranging from entrepreneurship to security, towards the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Turkey and Germany are pursuing specific and constructive policies in Africa. Germany’s involvement in peacekeeping and peace building, and Turkey’s mediation and humanitarian NGO’s activities are complementary. Both initiatives support African ownership of the problems, empowering local communities to work for peace and improving socio-economic circumstances. Policies aimed at the better use of resources and capabilities in Africa would also be beneficial. The Arab uprisings have caused a political earthquake in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with ongoing aftershocks.
There is obviously no Turkey and Germany, or even EU, involvement in the genesis of the Arab Spring. However, the post-Arab Spring MENA has a new collective consciousness to move closer to a political community valuing universal norms of governance, which is what the EU wants to see in this region. It is time for the EU and the international community to show solidarity with the people struggling for their rights, freedoms, and good governance. Turkey’s access to the new actors in the region and Germany’s capabilities in aid and development could work in tandem to support the transforming regional landscape.
Taking the German-Turkish strategic dialogue to a new level is not a distant possibility. The cooperation and coordination of policies in three areas could easily be expanded to a number of other spheres, providing the legitimacy, capabilities and power at a time when most other countries are reluctant to get involved in international issues. Turkey and Germany are both seeking stability and security in their respective neighborhoods and are working to develop policies to address international problems, though to varying degrees. A strategy of effective cooperation and joint action is likely to bridge the expanding gap between Turkey and the EU, as well as contributing to perceptions of Turkey’s in EU public opinion. This is a real window of opportunity. What is required is to launch the next phase of cooperation in order to create strong prospects for strategic dialogue.
* Bülent Aras is Professor of International Relations at Sabancı University.