A top adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wrote on Wednesday that Turkey needs to stop aspiring to European Union membership and seek to expand its influence in the Middle East and elsewhere, raising questions as to whether Turkey is abandoning its goal of EU membership.
In his column for the Star daily, titled “Could Turkey be among the leaders?” Yiğit Bulut said that “the West, or the imperial order” drew a roadmap for Turks during both the Ottoman and republican eras to steer the course of events toward its own benefit. Bulut explained his views by giving examples of Turkey's relations with Germany from the fall of the Ottomans to the present day.
According to Bulut, Turkey is the center and leader of a circle that includes the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He said that Turkey's leadership emerged “naturally” after 2006 when the country left behind the “artificial period of 1850 to 2006.”
“Today, everything is under the control and will of the Turkish state, not the imperial powers. Within the scope of this ‘natural leadership' in the region, I personally think Turkey will be successful in leading the new models emerging in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa and that Turkey should immediately get rid of the European Union scenarios. We're still dealing with those who have wasted our time with nonexistent roadmaps for the last 150 years. If there is a civilization project underway, it will emerge from the richness of our roots and history, not from the EU, which has gone into a process of dissolution,” Bulut said.
Bulut's statements came as latest step down of declining expectations for Turkey's EU accession process. Turkey's EU Minister Egemen Bağış has recently said that Turkey will probably never become a member of the European Union because of stiff opposition and "prejudiced" attitudes of current members, and that Turkey had to accept that its long-cherished goal of joining the EU was likely to end in disappointment.
Joining the EU has been a difficult road for Turkey, as negotiation talks have been blocked on eight of the 35 negotiating chapters since 2006 due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus, an EU member.
The government remains committed to the goal of EU membership, however, despite recent troubles -- at least in its rhetoric. President Abdullah Gül, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, said Turkey's accession process continues despite technical problems.
“As for the European Union, it remains a strategic goal for Turkey. Although the accession process seems to be frozen, on a technical level, things are actually moving along. And we have benefited greatly from the process, not just politically and democratically but also economically, because we've done a lot to make Turkey a functioning free-market economy,” Gül said in an interview in New York.
In a meeting in New York with French President Francois Hollande, Gül told his French counterpart that EU membership is a strategic target, noting that Turkey attaches great importance to the negotiations on the opening of new chapters.
Although Turkey gives the message that it has no desire to break ties with the EU in its official statements in the international arena, pundits see Turkey's desire to join dying day by day.
Soli Özel, a senior lecturer on international relations and political science at İstanbul's Kadir Has University, told Today's Zaman that he doesn't see much will on Turkey's part to pursue its EU accession process.
“It's not easy to say there is great excitement about the EU in the Turkish government. The EU minister, who is responsible for the process's continuing in a healthy way, doesn't do anything for the process. In fact, he makes the harshest statements on the EU. With his latest statements, he implied that they [the Turkish government] didn't prioritize the EU candidacy anymore,” Özel said, adding, “It's easy to pass the buck to EU members because of their stances but I don't think everything can be explained by prejudices against Turkey.”
The opening of Chapter 22 on regional policy and coordination of structural instruments was approved in June despite attempts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to block it over the Gezi Park protests, which started as an environmental movement and turned into nationwide demonstrations. Though Merkel welcomed an agreement to reopen talks with Turkey by stepping back from her harsh remarks, she underlined that Turkey's democratic values were “non-negotiable.” The opening of Chapter 22 was approved in June but the actual start of the talks was postponed until after the announcement of the European Union Commission's annual progress report on Oct. 16.
Turkey's accession talks have been frozen for three years. France and Germany have been maintaining a hardline position.
According to a deputy of Turkish origin in the German parliament, İsmal Ertuğ, Merkel's gaining strength after the national election is not a positive development for Turkey's EU bid. Ertuğ is not hopeful on the chances of the Chapter 22 negotiations, which took three years to open. “If there weren't Gezi Park incidents, they would have found another reason to prevent the launching of the chapter. Though it is early to say, I don't think the chapter will be put into action.”
Beril Dedeoğlu, an academic at Galatasaray University, said that the remarks of Bulut and Bağış simply describe Turkey's EU situation, which has been in limbo.
“From the beginning, the main goal of the EU members that don't want to see Turkey in the union is to see Turkey throw in the towel. They want to make Turkey say, 'We dispense with the candidacy,' and I guess they'll reach their goal soon,” Dedeoğlu told Today's Zaman, blaming Turkey's lack of will on EU countries that don't approve of Turkey's membership.
Dedeoğlu said that Merkel's stance has been clear from the beginning, but Turkey's EU process depends on other members -- as well as Turkey itself.
“Turkey lost is hopes. If they [Turkish government officials] want they can revive the process. It is possible to make a new roadmap. If things don't go this way, than they can go the other way as there are alternatives [to solve the problems in the process], but they don't intend to push it,” Dedeoğlu said, pointing out that the deadlock on the road to the EU can be overcome with new strategies.
CihanLast Mod: 26 Eylül 2013, 09:14