Turkish Foreign Policy: Promoting European Interests, speech delivered ath European People’s Party (EPP) Working Group 3 Meeting, Istanbul, 1 December, 2005

TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: PROMOTING EUROPEAN INTERESTS

 EPP WG-3 Meeting, Istanbul, 1 December 2005

Turkey’s westward oriented foreign policy dates back to the very beginning of the republican era, that is to say early 1920s. This vocation was transformed into a more structured framework with Turkey’s joining NATO. It is worth noting that misgivings similar to the ones expressed nowadays against Turkey’s accession to the EU were expressed in early 1950s when Turkey’s membership to NATO was discussed. These misgivings turned out to be baseless as Turkey proved to be a valuable ally in NATO and a substantial contributor to the security and stability of the alliance. We will see how long it will take for the misgivings on Turkey’s accession to the EU to dissipate and to be entirely eliminated ultimately.

            Turkey’s foreign policy is western oriented, but for reasons stemming from its geographical location it has to be a multi-dimensional foreign policy. Turkey cannot afford to distance itself from the problems and power balances at the local levels in its immediate neighbourhood.

            You may remember that NATO has identified 15 hot spots in the world that may threaten the security and the stability of the member countries of the alliance. 12 out of these 15 hot spots are located in areas adjacent to Turkey or in areas where Turkey has cultural or historical ties. These areas are Middle East (including Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Iran), Caucasus, the Balkans and the Central Asia. I do not want to imply that EU cannot carry out its goals in these areas without Turkey’s contribution. However, I may say without undue modesty that these goals could be achieved more easily, with less effort. and resources and with much less acrimony, if it is done in cooperation with Turkey

The importance attached by the US to the role to be played by Turkey in the Iraqi crisis is a living evidence of this. It was also an important development when the Turkish parliament denied authorisation to American troops to cross Turkish territory into Iraq in order to open a second front in the northern Iraq. This example demonstrates the importance of both the cooperation and the absence of cooperation with Turkey.

President Jacques Chirac of France, in a TV program broadcast immediately before the EU summit of 17 December last year, stated that if the EU contemplates to become a major player in the international arena, and if it does not want to remain a free trade area it will need Turkey. I presume that the parameters that convinced President Chirac to make such a statement are still valid, if not all the more valid today than it was last year.

            The importance attributed to Turkey’s contribution stems from various factors:

Turkey’s strategic location

Turkey is located at the crossroad linking Asia to Europe and serves as a gate to the warm seas for the Black Sea basin countries, namely Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Georgia. On the other hand Turkey is located on the land mass that links Europe on the one side and basins rich in oil and natural gas such as Iraq, Iran, Caspian Sea and Central Asia on the other.

   Given its strategic disposition and close historical and cultural ties with the world that surrounds it, Turkey could become an effective and assertive instrument of peace and stability in the areas of vital interest to Europe.  The political and economic prowess of the Union as a global actor projecting stability, prosperity as well as democratic and free market values to its wider periphery will be considerably supplemented with Turkey’s contribution. 

Energy routes

 Located at the confluence of increasingly important energy, transportation and communication networks connecting the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey will also facilitate the EU’s access to new consumer markets.

In a time when countries wage war for access to energy, Turkey lying at the crossroads of the energy routes flowing from the east to the west is the only country that is able to provide secure and flawless energy to the European markets. 

Turkey’s contribution to the ESDP

Turkey takes an active interest in the development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and it has displayed its capacity to contribute to it. The ESDP is a fundamental component of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In this connection, Turkey has participated in several EU led police missions such as those in Macedonia (Proxima), Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUPM) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (EUPOL KINSHASA). It has also made a substantial contribution to the EUFOR-ALTHEA operation and the Integrated Police Unit in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Turkey started taking part in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) after the 1999 Helsinki European Council in which Turkey’s candidacy to the EU was officially recognized. Turkey’s involvement in the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) are particularly important in areas where an initiative is launched by the EU.

Alignment with EU initiatives not only determines a candidate country’s willingness to side with the EU on a particular matter, but also demonstrates the harmony between the foreign policies of the candidate country and the EU. Turkey’s current rate of alignment with the EU statements and common positions had reached the level of 94 % even before starting Turkey’s accession negotiations to the EU.

 

The effects of Turkey’s accession on the neighbouring countries

Turkey’s membership will have positive effects on the development of democracy and human rights in its immediate neighbourhood. Experience has demonstrated that democracy and other good practices influence close neighbourhood more easily than the distant neighbourhood.

Turkey will also be an instrumental actor in the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which will serve to promote progress on the wider reform agenda in the countries concerned.  The EU can benefit from Turkey’s contributions to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) as a country that is well accustomed to the dynamics and realities of the Caucasus, the Mediterranean and the Eastern Europe as well.

Moreover, an EU that includes Turkey will be better equipped to address the new challenges to security such as terrorism, organized trans-border crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, xenophobia and racism. The significance of Turkey’s contribution is mounting in the prevention of conflicts, the preservation of stability, the spread of democratic tradition and the elimination of terrorism in its neighbourhood.

Turkey’s Islamic identity

A  modern, secular and prosperous country like Turkey, with predominantly Muslim population, will be an asset for Europe and its admission to EU will be a reconfirmation of the universality of the European Culture. Otherwise Europe will be identifying itself on the confessional terms and will confine itself exclusively to the Christian countries. This will deepen the divide between Europe and the Islamic world as well as the entire non-Christian world.

Turkey’s accession to the Union will transmit a greater message across different frequencies and it will impact on Europe’s wider relationship with the Islamic world. It will foster a greater sense of affinity with the European ideal for the millions of citizens within Europe of the same faith that currently feel estranged from the main stream.

The effects on Muslim population of the EU member countries   

There is at present about 10 million Muslims living the EU countries. The membership to EU of a secular country with predominantly Muslim population like Turkey may contribute to a better understanding of secularity by the Muslim population of EU. This may contribute, in its turn, to marginalize Muslim extremism in the EU countries.

Economic dynamics of Turkey

As a democratic and secular country with an enterprising free market economy, the Turkish experience testifies to the fact that a Moslem society can equally reap the benefits of pluralistic democracy and modernity. It has demonstrated that a country of a different religious persuasion can also be governed by the same European norms.  Turkey is a living proof where shared common values transcend geography and cultures. In this respect, its membership in the EU will confirm that the best recipe for political stability and economic development is to be found in democracy and the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Turkish experience clearly serves as a source of inspiration for the countries of its region in their home grown initiatives for economic, social and democratic reforms.

The advantages of our economic potential should not be overlooked. Turkey’s GNP is expected to exceed 300 billion US Dollars in the coming years. We will have a stronger economy with single digit inflation and with robust growth rates.

In 2004, the gross national product increased by almost 10%, while the per capita income rose by more than 20%. Turkey’s economy currently ranks as the 17th largest in the world. This is up from 22nd place only last year. As regards economic growth, Turkey ranked first among the OECD countries in 2004.

Last year, Turkey made gigantic strides in terms of increasing the volume of exports to a cumulative figure of 62.8 billion US Dollars. Turkey’s imports amounted to 97.2 billion US Dollars. Thus, the total trade volume reached record heights of 160 billion US Dollars in the past year. Turkey’s exports and imports are expected to grow significantly in the coming years. This will be reflected as large increases in Turkey’s overall trade volume with the EU.

Turkish contractors have undertaken many construction projects worth of over 70 billion US Dollars in the Eurasia region. This figure does not include companies owned by Turkish businessmen operating in the foreign countries, registered as a national company of the country of their residence. Turkish and EU contractors may wish to consider closer cooperation and undertake mutually profitable projects all over the world.

Aging population of EU countries

Statistics indicate that, because of the aging population, there will be an increasing need for young manpower in the EU countries during the next decades. Reports published by the EU Commission point out that the size of the labour force in the EU-15 countries will decrease by one million each year between 2010 and 2030, amounting to a total decrease of 20 millions in 20 years. The same reports point also out that the problem of aging population is even more acute in the 10 new member countries of central and Eastern Europe.

Turkey’s population is much younger as compared to the EU average. The age group between 0 and 25 constitute 57 % of the entire population of Turkey. The age group between 0 and 14 constitute 36 % of Turkey’s population, as compared to 18 % in most of the EU countries. To remedy the deficit of 20 million labor force, the EU will have to receive migrant workers from third countries. EU may use Turkey’s young and hard working population as an asset to minimize the negative effects of the aging population and depopulation in many EU countries.

 There are at present 3.5 million Turks working in the EU countries. 2.5 million Turks have worked in the EU countries and now came back to Turkey. They are adapted to a great extent to the living and working conditions in these countries.

A report published by a think tank that calls itself Friends of Europe points out that, in the future, the EU countries will have to encourage the flow of Turkish workers into their country rather than limit it.  

Businessmen of Turkish origin in the EU countries

Entrepreneurs of ethnic Turkish origin have already established more than 80 000 businesses in various EU countries, most of them being in Germany. They created hundreds of thousands jobs in these countries. When Turkey joins the EU, their contribution to the national economies of the countries where they are operating will be further strengthened and these economies will continue to benefit further from the creation of such new jobs. 

Customs’ Union 

Turkey has a customs’ union with the EU since 1996. Industrial commodities circulate between Turkey and the EU countries free of customs duties. This demonstrates that Turkey’s free market economy will be able to compete with the economies of the EU countries. Therefore Turkey’s economy will not have major difficulty in adapting itself to the economies of the EU countries.

Conclusion

Turkey roes not ask the EU to make a favour to it by admitting it as a member. What Turkey say is that it has means to contribute to the role that Europe wants to play in the international arena as a major player. Turkey will of course benefit from its cooperation with Europe, but Europe will benefit even more from this cooperation.

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