False hopes

Turkey, like the Ottoman Empire before it, has always constituted a historical paradox, eternally seeking balance between East and West. Its ability to survive has been admirable, and that’s mainly thanks to the fact that, in one form or another, it has always been an expansionist power. However, the start of EU accession talks on October 3 warrants a westward shift that has already fueled internal tensions. Normally, the Europeanization process should cause no problems, as the traditional establishment has always leaned toward the West while the Eastern legacy is limited to an authoritative, albeit necessary, administrative system, a hardline policy toward minorities and aggression toward Greece and Cyprus. The Europeanization process clearly entails a deconstruction of the status quo as well as political modernization at home and in foreign relations. The political establishment would benefit by extending the negotiation time frame while relishing EU funds. Problems emerged as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a reformist in the eyes of most European leaders, tried to deconstruct the traditional establishment and at the same time reintroduce Islamic elements that had been wiped out by Kemalist forces. Hence the internal tug of war. In any other European country, the struggle would end with certain victory for the political forces. But this is far from certain in Turkey – and not just for historical reasons. In his attempts to appease the grassroots of his Islamic-rooted party, Erdogan has undermined his own image among European leaders who are facing the threat of Islamic extremism at home. Greece must treat developments in Turkey with caution. The theory that Turkey’s Europeanization will soften its aggression could be disproved by internal Turkish tensions, with repercussions for the entire region.