Monday, December 5, 2016

Turkey Looks East - Global Times

By Zhou Jiaxin

Global Times - 2016/12/4

Frustrated leaders decide nation may not have much in common with EU after all

Turkey's accession talks with the EU started on October 3, 2005, but the 11-year-long process of the membership bid has been stalled since the European Parliament's vote on November 24 criticizing the Turkish government's "disproportionate repressive measures" after a failed military coup on July 15.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan downplayed the non-binding vote and said his country has not yet given up on its objective to join the EU.
He also warned that Ankara may rupture the migrant deal signed in March to help Europe ease the flow of refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries.
Helmut Schmidt, former West German Chancellor, evaluated Turkey's EU membership in his book Perspectives for the 2oth Century, listing reasons why Turkey would not be taken to the EU including its cultural origins, growing population, the instability it causes within Europe and its economic performances.
After the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atuturk, embarked upon Kemalism in 1920s, the career military officer created a modern and secular nation state.
Atuturk's resolve has been followed, and Turkey has held the long-standing ambition to join the EU, thereby become part of Europe.
Turkey became an associate member of the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the EU, in 1963 and officially recognized as a candidate for full membership in late 1999. "This objective is not a purely economic ambition to facilitate more economic activities or trade," said Tugrul Keskin, associate professor at the Center for Turkish Studies of Shanghai University. "But it is rather rooted in the history of the late Ottoman Empire and the pre-existing social and cultural insecurity of the Turkish political and economic power elite."
Keskin sees the country's joining the EU as a symbol of modernity as the "deeper cultural objective."
In Turkey people see little or no translations from Chinese, Persian, Arabic and Urdu novels or books, but instead from German, French, and British sources.
The transcontinental country in Eurasia bordering Greece, Syria and Iraq would be the only Islamic country in the bloc if it received full membership.

American project
Despite the government's unremitting and protracted efforts to join the EU, the Turkish people had different ideas, long before the post-truth Brexit.
Adnan Akfirat, chairman of Shanghai-based Turkish-Chinese Business Matching Center, said that Turkish people are "against" EU membership, adding the membership is an "American project" while Turkey, in the role of a pawn, is already within the US "European Free Zone" plan. "It is more or less the common understanding in Turkey that the majority of Turkish people really don't believe that one day the state can become a full member of the EU," Ilker Basbug, the 26th chief of the General Staff of Turkey, told the Global Times, noting the EU hasn't treated Turkey "equally."
The former military head and nativist, once was jailed by the country's US-backed Fethullah Gulen group who allegedly organized and coordinated the failed coup, said that Turkey's border security was "violated" by the presence of terrorist groups like Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraq, groups which have received safe havens in Europe and support from the US.
At the same time, Washington hasn't taken Turkey's "many proposals" regarding "terrorism elimination" into consideration, said Busbug.
The number of the refugees including Syrian, Iraqi and other nationalities have so far been up to 3.1 million and the cost for them has been estimated more than $12.8 billion since the beginning of the crisis, according to the European Commission report in September.

EU hardliners
The refugee problem is not just a critical issue for Turkey itself but also for major European countries like Germany, France and the UK whose leaders have been vexed by the migrant inflow.
The rising far-right trend in the West is also leaving little chance for the EU to accept the membership of the Muslim-majority Turkey.
Worries over terrorism and unemployment have been growing in Europe in recent years, as well as the xenophobic trend represented by Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, said Qin Hui, professor at the School of Humanities of Tsinghua University, noting the stigmatized Muslim community are deemed threats to Europe.
Keskin argued that the European attitudes would, in return, affect Europe's economy, saying that Europe needs Turkey to help resolve the problems of the refugee crisis.
Turkey 's location creates an convenient crossroads for 1.5 billion customers in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, with a combined GDP of $23 trillion, said Akfirat.
"If Turkey is not accepted into the EU, it will slide into the Asian bloc," Akfirat added.

SCO an alternative?
After the EU froze the accession talks, Erdogan said the government will continue by evaluating other "alternatives."
Erdogan referred to saying "goodbye" to the EU early in 2013 and said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) seeking regional security in Central Asia is "better and much more powerful," noting that Turkey has more "common values" with the SCO member states including China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Erdogan hit similar tones late last month and China's Foreign Ministry welcomed the idea from Turkey, the current dialogue partner who will chair the SCO Energy Club in 2017, as the first non-member country to do so.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, however, clarified that the SCO was not an alternative to Ankara's EU ambition given that he, Erdogan and their AK Party represent the more Eastern perspective of Turkish culture.
"EU membership depends on good relations with NATO and Turkey is using the SCO as a bargaining chip with NATO," Keskin explained.
Akfirat believes that Turkey should continue Ataturk's resolve by uniting with rising Asia.
Turkey is an indispensable country for China's strategic Belt and Road initiative, Akfirat continued, pointing out the key cooperation between Turkey and China includes infrastructure development.
Still, sectarian tension incurred by Uyghur issue could cast a pall over Ankara-Beijing relations, said Keskin.