Turkey’s European Union membership has been a debated subject for many years. Much contradiction has emerged since then. EU protracts the issue under different pretexts. Organization’s 2014 report on Turkey drew experts’ attention. Official Ankara described it as ”balanced and objective”. That being said, there are serious disagreements between the parties. So, what is Turkey’s EU strategy all about? Is there a chance for this country to become a member of the organization in the foreseeable future? These are undoubtedly relevant questions. In the meantime, Ankara’s EU membership strategy could bring clarity to certain issues.
Problem’s Solution: Positions of Ankara and Brussels
Turkey’s EU membership has seemingly faded in light of the geopolitical problems of the Middle East, although some discussions are held occasionally. In general, there are not that many promising developments for Ankara. Some experts even contend that it is simply not going to happen, and cite two reasons.
First, in reality, EU does not want to see Turkey in its ranks due to latter’s formidable social-economic and cultural potential. And therefore, its membership in the EU may entail certain constraints for powerful members of the organization. Second, being dynamically developing nation with a prominent stature in the region, Turkey is reluctant to gain EU accession and play a secondary role in the organization.
These views of the experts are quite justified. Turkey’s membership is rejected under different pretexts. Nonetheless, it would be erroneous to consider this issue as irrelevant. Turkish leaders have repeatedly stated that for them, the EU membership is a priority and the topic occupies a top position on the foreign policy agenda. Therefore, there is a process dubbed ”discussion period”. Experts analyze the mechanisms of its development.
At present, Turkey is required to be EU-compatible in three directions and has to perform more efficiently to that end – political reforms, social-cultural introductions and rapid communication development (see: Furkan Senay. Turkiye’nin AB Sureci’de Yeni Iletisim Stratejisi / ”SETA Perspektif”, 2014 №75). The third point gets most attention. It is being underscored that Turkey must implement principal changes in information and campaign sphere.
This seems to be reasonable. However, implementation of substantial political reforms bears great significance and it is no secret that this is very area where Turkey gets most accusations from Europe. There are quite a few areas such as protection of human rights, legal proceedings, ensuring rights of journalists and others where Turkey faces criticism. Their validity is another issue but nonetheless these are the requirements forwarded by the EU and it demands their implementation.
For the sake of justice it has to be said that Ankara is not denying this. But given the specific historical development path, it refuses number of Brussels’s demands. Turkey is rigorously advocating own arguments when it comes to human rights, ensuring liberties for minorities and freedom of speech. Official Ankara insists it will not allow for disintegration of the country.
Interestingly, in the context of organization’s report on Turkey, on 8 October EU’s Enlargement Commissioner reiterated, ”Turkey and the European Union need each other like never before” (see: Fatma Tilmaz-Elmas. 2014 Ilerleme Raporu: Turkiye Gundeminin Neresinde? / www.usaw.gov.tr, 9 October 2014). This means that in light of the geopolitical changes observed in the Middle East, albeit unable to push Turkey away, EU is not willing to embrace it.
Communication and Information Capabilities: Ankara Stepping Up
What can the strategy of negotiations with Turkey in this regard be? In the outset it must be stressed that Ankara’s significance for Brussels is not confined to the issue of the Middle East. Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia factors deserve consideration here. Turkey can play a crucial role in delivering oil and gas resources of the Caspian to Europe as this country rests on several routes of energy supply to Europe. Crisis with Moscow also brings Brussels closer to Ankara. The problem is about the extent of EU’s cooperation with a nation it is unwilling to embrace. This aspect is yet to be clarified.
Nevertheless, it must be reminded that the official Ankara referred to EU”s Turkey report as ”balanced and objective” (see: previous reference). This may seem unexpected but if viewed from another perspective there is certainly logic behind Turkey’s attitude.
Ankara recognizes the importance of broadening of political and economic reforms for transforming itself into a global player. Detailed government programs are already in place. Yet the issue can be tackled only if domestic stability is ensured. And disturbing of peace in the society is what certain quarters interested in turmoil in the country are after. Turkish officials repeatedly stated that some of such ”tentacles” were reaching out from the EU member states. Ankara would like to see an end to Europe’s endorsement of the forces seeking undermining of internal stability. Regrettably, there is no substantial progress on this subject.
On the other hand, geopolitical processes unfolding in the Middle East have compounded Turkey’s regional role. In the beginning, Ankara was employing a formula called “zero problems with neighbors”. Down the road however, the external interferences with the region increased and the landscape Turkey sought to establish was shattered. This situation was immediately used against Turkey and country’s prominence was overshadowed. Evidently Turkey needed reliable partners to ensure its leadership in the region.
EU also ran into trouble as it encountered problems with Russia and China. But the most fascinating development was surfacing of “toxic areas” in the EU-U.S. relations. Information on tapping of phones of EU leaders emerged. Berlin was infuriated but the Ukraine issues exacerbated the situation the most. All of this is seemingly drawing Turkey and EU closer. They are compelled to buttress one another. Apparently, this is why EU chose to produce a well-balanced report. Moreover, Brussels intends to maintain its strategic posture with respect to Turkey.
As far as Ankara is concerned, it has plans of its own. The term ”new Turkey” has already been introduced, implying a nation with global relevance, the one that is more resolute, democratic and powerful. This is what underpins harsh response of the authorities to internal turmoil.
In light of the above mentioned Turkey’s new EU strategy is fascinating and relevant. Apparently, Ankara is determined to elevate relations with this organization to the next level. Envisaged renewal in the political, social-economic and communication areas could further propel the country’s development. Information feed is expected to play a crucial role. Official Ankara has to persuade the domestic audience on the advantages of European Integration.
This means swaying the public opinion and it requires significant efforts. Building of trust on the issue of the society to excel in order to meet the European standards constitutes an important element of the new strategy. And this is a profoundly calculated approach. In the meantime, Turkey is poised to change its image in Europe. In order to test the ground in terms of the European public opinion the country aims to expand the outreach of its organizations abroad. And the outcome of the researches will be the cornerstone of dedicated programs.
Obviously, Turkey is trying hard not just for the sake of EU membership but rather for the establishment of a globally accepted democratic and powerful state. And the strategy appears to be promising. Should the official Ankara step up its performance in this direction this activity would translate into real success. But would some foreign quarters allow this to happen? Answer to this question remains unclear.