Strategic goals

The government of Costas Karamanlis has elevated the prospect of Turkey’s accession to the European Union to the level of «national strategy» in the belief that such a development will promote peace and stability in the region by «Europeanizing» Ankara’s behavior. The argument is evidently targeted at the domestic public as it is extremely offensive to the Turkish regime, regarding our neighbor as an uncivilized mass that needs to be tamed within the framework of European procedures. Of course, Ankara did not concern itself with Athens’s theorizing and simply continued with its military activities in the Aegean. Officials of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government have stressed that they still refuse to recognize Vartholomaios as ecumenical patriarch and have linked the opening of Turkish ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft to the lifting of sanctions on the Turkish-held north of Cyprus. The Greek government insists on making the – perfectly logical – point that any change in Turkey’s behavior will not be quick but a gradual and timely process. This might have been the case had Turkey faced the prospect of full membership in the EU, following successful negotiations. However, despite the failure of Austria’s attempt to impose a provision foreseeing a «privileged partnership» between Ankara and the EU, Turkey’s future in the Union is in no way guaranteed. France and Austria will both hold a referendum on Turkey’s potential accession, and whose results are likely to be negative. In view of the fact that there is no certainty about Turkey’s EU bid, there is no obvious reason for any Ankara government to make the changes Greece demands. Naturally, Turkey did not concern itself with comments by France and Austria regarding referendums at the conclusion of accession talks and simply acted as if it is already well on the way toward joining the bloc. The Turkish regime does not appear to be naive but rather to be ignoring the European leadership’s intent to humble it as it does not believe that its future is exclusively linked to its bid to join the EU and because the process of accession is probably more significant than the possibility of its eventual entry. Turkey has made significant progress since the era of Turkut Ozal in the 1980s. But in order to continue this progress and make some of the other important changes, it needs a broader, more disciplined framework which can be provided by the EU. In short, Turkey will undergo major economic restructuring over the course of the accession negotiations. Funding for the economic sector is likely to be released fairly promptly, but securing funds for human rights reforms will not be such an easy job. An amended form of the Chinese model – combining economic reform with the preservation of an authoritarian regime – is to be implemented in Turkey, which is set to become an extremely powerful player in the region. Following his triumphant return from Luxembourg, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that Turkey would conclude accession talks and then decide if it still wants to join the EU. Gul’s comments were regarded as the «usual Turkish arrogance.» Maybe, but perhaps they specify the framework for Turkey’s strategy. One wonders whether this may also be Greece’s strategy.