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Turkey: the Strategic Mistake

11th September 2010 marked a major turning point in relations between the EU and Turkey.

By way of its Foreign Minister it expressed its rejection of the European offer to discuss together major strategic world issues, demanding prior to this an acceleration in the accession process to the EU, asking to "ignore" the aspects of its policy that are preventing this - including its military occupation of a part of Cyprus.

The crisis that is about to occur between the 27 and its Asian neighbour has been on the horizon for a long time. The very idea of Turkey's accession is so strange that it could not have been otherwise.

Again with the constitutional referendum that is taking place on 12th September EU membership is being instrumentalised to Turkish domestic political ends in order to step up the pace in the modernisation of a country that has already moved forwards greatly - which shows that the Union has more influence that it believes itself!

At a time when Europe - with the Lisbon Treaty and a common diplomatic service - intends to spread its influence across the world, Turkey's foreign policy is now almost incompatible with European interests.

Turkey has the right to its foreign policy. And it cuts no corners on this. "The Bridgee between Asia and Europe" as it defines itself, concerned about having "no enemies on its borders" - although it has been accumulating them for a long time now - is now developing a policy that is mostly dictated by its public opinion, its neighbourhood and its trade interests, thereby distancing it from the convolutions it has had to undertake since the end of the Second World War. 

To re-integrate the European alliance of which it has long been the "sick man" it had to avoid isolation, contain communism, modernise its army which it did with the help of the US, NATO and the European Union.

In the eyes of the Turkish leaders this period is now over. They are increasing the number of agreements and visits to Syria, Iran and Sudan and are flirting with extremist Islamic organisations.

Now it seems it is better to be the leader of Muslim pride rather than be the example of secular Islam.

They have changed camps.

This explains why the "Gaza flotilla" was encouraged, supported and lauded by the Turkish government whereas it had been organised by an NGO associated to the Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation in Europe and what is worse by the Muslim Brothers. Hence Israel's image was damaged - which was the ultimate goal.

This also explains why Turkey voted against Europe and the USA at the UN Security Council which imposed sanctions on Iran and why it is supporting the Sudanese President who is under prosecution by the International Criminal Court, and why Turkish soldiers do not have the right to engage in Afghanistan, and why the organisation of the Islamic Conference of which it is ensuring the secretariat as well as the Arab League, of which it is an observer are so important to its diplomacy.

From a Turkish point of view this policy is logical but it has nothing to do with the interests of Europe which it is irritating more and more.

Of course the Union is divided over Turkey's membership, which is encouraged by the newer members and the small countries, ie those who cannot imagine that the Union might enjoy political power.

David Cameron and William Hague, Carl Bildt and Martti Ahtisaari, José-Luis Zapatero and all of those who have the wrong idea about the European foreign policy and who seriously maintain that Turkey would enhance the Union's influence, in fact fear Turkish blackmail or boycott- which is conveyed by effective diplomacy - and they stand opposed to the representatives of the founding countries.

The latter, contrary to what is claimed, are not primarily motivated by domestic policy, even though most Europeans now no longer want this membership. They are the guardians of the original Europe, the one that aims to become increasingly political, united and which hopes to count more on the world stage.

Everyone knows that the Union needs mass not dilution.

Because in the past European leaders never believed in it they committed the major strategic error of offering membership to an unstable partner rather than a strategic one, the only proof of joint interest, to a country that is searching for its identity.

With this Ankara can now make the Turks believe that Europe does not want them although the latter desires real dialogue and true alliances with regard to global issues - which are not the priority of the Turks.


They hope to recover the status of regional power, which counts in the international arena, even though they have not proven that they are ready to pay the price, ie making some concessions in the name of general interest and in a sense of international responsibility.

After all bringing the genocide to Darfur to an end, which is contested by the Turkish Prime Minister, preventing the return of the Taliban or nuclear proliferation are causes which deserve the widest possible support.

In Washington as in Berlin, Paris, the Hague, Vienna, Budapest and in all responsible capitals Turkey's development is under scrutiny. The referendum results with regard to the new Constitution will certainly increase concern.

In order to avoid difficult crises, and finally to be equal to its international ambitions the European Union has to correct this terrible error as quickly as possible by obliging the candidate countries to align themselves with its foreign policy since any delay may prove more costly.