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Eerie Silence about the Euro Zone Crisis

Eerie Silence about the Euro Zone Crisis

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This policy brief argues that at its peril, Turkey is ignoring the European Fall in favor of the Arab Spring.
This policy brief argues that at its peril, Turkey is ignoring the European Fall in favor of the Arab Spring.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Aug 02, 2012
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11/22/2012

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Summary:
The euro crisis hasemboldened Turkey, the EU’slongest waiting candidatecountry. But in Brussels’ greatesthour of need, Ankara remainseerily silent and distracted aboutthe euro zone crisis and itsown accession process. Turkeyfocuses on the “Arab Spring,”not the “European Fall.” Thedirection of relations betweenthe EU and Turkey during thiscritical juncture could determinethe future direction of Europe asa global or parochial power along with Turkey’s own future.
Eerie Silence about the Euro Zone Crisis
 At its Peril, Turkey is Ignoring the European Fall inFavor of the Arab Spring 
by Joshua W. Walker 
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 200091 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
August 2012
Paper Series
 
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TheEuroFuture Project
 
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Only seven years aer Greece joinedthe euro zone in 2001, the globalnancial crisis erupted in the UnitedStates and spread to Europe. oday,previously unthinkable scenarios havebecome common discussion points.Te question now is whether theeuro zone will disintegrate and whatthe consequences or the EuropeanUnion would be. Tere is widespreadconcern among economists that aGreek exit rom the euro zone willlead to serious, maybe catastrophic,consequences or the rest o Europeand the global economy. WhileEurope has been able to avoid disasterso ar, the crisis has greatly humbledcore constituencies while empoweringkey peripheral players, rst amongthem urkey, which has been on thedoorstep o the EU longer than any other nation o Europe.At the moment in which the oun-dations o the European Union arebeing questioned, urkey’s newoundswagger and emergence as a globalactor has been both decried asarrogant and welcomed as a sign o amore engaged partner that could helpto determine the uture direction o Europe as a global actor. Yet, in theEU’s darkest moment thus ar, urkey remains eerily silent about the eurozone crisis, as well as its own acces-sion process.Newspaper columnists that usedto write about every aspect o theaccession process and EU decision-making with sensationalist headlinesabout ramications or urkey haveturned their attention elsewhere. Temost visible sign o the apathy andindierence o the urkish govern-ment and public was the most recentEU Commission progress reporton urkey released last all. In thepast, it would have been one o themost signicant international spot-lights or Ankara, but now it has tocompete with other “neighborhood”events such as the “Friends o Syria”or Iran nuclear negotiations. For therst time, the progress report gener-ated almost no headlines other thanthe urkish EU minister’s colorulcriticisms about Europe being likea camera that was out o ocus thatcould not capture the dynamism o urkey in a still rame. Unlike thepotential Greek exit rom the eurozone or events in Syria that continueto make headlines, urkey’s Euro-pean dreams seem to be driing intooblivion with little attention beingpaid on either side o the Mediter-ranean.
 
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Despite having been an imperialpower itself during the OttomanEmpire, Turkey has been able toportray itself as an enlightenedmodel of development.
Starting to Look Eastward
Te unusual silence o the urks is a symptom o a long-term trend. Rather than columnists debating the ate o Europe and the role that urkey might play in it, more ink is used on domestic or Middle Eastern issues. Tere is agenerally dismissive air whenever the euro zone crisis ismentioned. Cartoons o the urkish prime minister joiningan old man’s club as the only dynamic and vigorous athleteillustrate the eeling that Europes time has passed whileurkey’s has come.Te Arab-Spring to urkey’s south has captured the imagi-nations o urkish policymakers ar more than the “Euro-pean Fall” to its west and north. While there are many reasons or this, including the disposition o the currenturkish government in contrast to previous administra-tions, the greatest reason is Europe’s own treatment o urkey historically.Te shi rom Ankaras obsession with Greece to Syria hasbeen most noticeable throughout the euro crisis. urkishDeputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told news agencies inMarch: “Greece is a member o the EU yet it is the poorestmember that lacks reorm. Greece has no choice but totrade and invest more with urkey. It is crucial or urkishbusinessmen to invest in Greece. However, Greece is not aneasy location or the business world.”
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Babacan’s statementpoints to a recent trend in urkey. Rather than building onthe links with Greece that have traditionally driven urkishoreign policy towards the West, Anatolian businessmenare increasingly ocused on new opportunities in the Arabworld that were previously unthinkable. Government poli-cies such as visa-ree travel and subsidized entourages o business, investment, and trade delegates on ocial travelby urkey’s leaders to these new markets have made urkey a major player in a way it never was in Europe. While it isEurope’s sixth largest economy, urkey is the Middle East’slargest economy and seems to preer being the biggest shin its neighborhood pond versus a smaller sh in its tradi-tional ocean.Since the beginning o the uprisings in Syria, urkey hasbeen cautiously weighing its options as it decides how todeal with President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown andthe ongoing humanitarian disaster unolding in its own
1 http://ekonomi.milliyet.com.tr/babacan-turkiye-yunanistan-in-gelecegini-kurtaracak/ekonomi/ekonomidetay/22.03.2012/1518605/default.htm
backyard. Having claimed regional leadership or itsel andannounced a policy o “zero problems with neighbors,Ankara’s loy rhetoric has put urkey in the internationalspotlight over Syria. Te same cannot be said about theeuro zone and its bailout debates. urkey is a central playerwhen it comes to the international response to the Syrian,but not to the euro zone crisis. Tis hierarchy infuencesthe domestic debate and priorities. urkey’s leaders know that they cannot sit idly by as their neighbor disintegratesinto civil or sectarian war, nor can they aord to inter- vene unilaterally. As an increasingly stable democracy with the same leader and government or more than tenyears and three consecutive election victories, one mightexpect urkey to naturally transorm itsel into a Europeanspokesman or its neighborhood. But not so.urkey has positioned itsel as being a regional mediatorand “inspiration” or its ellow Middle Eastern neighborthat oen benets at the expense o the EU’s cumbersomecommon oreign and security policy process. Ankaras abil-ities to strike quick deals with its neighbors and deliver onpromises o “zero problems with neighbors” have made it amore attractive interlocutor or some regional powers thanmany European nations, which still carry imperial baggage.Despite having been an imperial power itsel during theOttoman Empire, urkey has been able to portray itsel asan enlightened model o development: it has not seeded itssovereignty to the EU while asserting power regionally andserving as a gateway to the European market at the sametime.
The Root of Turkey’s Problem with Europe
With the EU accession process on lie-support, urkswould be orgiven or labeling its European integration as aproverbial urkish “snake’s story,” a prolonging unullled
 
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It is implausible to assume thatTurkish perceptions have not been
inuenced by the euro zone crisis.
process. Large parts o the urkish public, as well as many policymakers, are rustrated with Europe. urkey has beenwaiting on the doorsteps o the European Union since theurkish application to the European Economic Commu-nity (EEC) in 1959, shortly aer the Greek application.In 1963, urkey and the EEC signed the “Ankara Agree-ment” that established a three-phased customs union. In1987, urkish Prime Minister urgut Ozal applied or ullmembership. In considering the application, the EuropeanCommission at the time underlined the need or compre-hensive cooperation and acilitation o the Customs Unionby 1995. In 2004, the EU decided to start accession nego-tiations with urkey due to the reorm package that thegovernment o Recep ayyip Erdoğan initiated. However,since then the accession negotiations have ground to anoticeable halt. So ar, 13 chapters ranging rom scienceand research, industry, consumer and health protection, tointellectual property law have been opened. However, theEuropean Council halted negotiations on eight chaptersthat relate to urkey’s restrictions regarding the Republic o Cyprus in 2006.
2
 Public opinion in both Europe and urkey has ollowedthis general trajectory. Te
Eurobarometer Surveys
show that in 2004, 62 percent o urks supported urkey’smembership to the EU. However, as the accession negotia-tions slowed down, the approval rates also went down dras-tically. Te 2011 Eurobarometer survey shows that only 45percent o the urkish public considers urkey’s member-ship to the EU as “a good thing.” Te more worrisomendings o the same survey is that in 2011, the percentageo survey participants who consider joining the EU as a“bad thing” jumped rom 12 percent in 2004 to 26 percentin 2011.
3
Having once been thought o as the solution tourkey’s many domestic problems, Europe is suering roman image and perception problem in urkey. It is impos-sible to quantiy the role the euro zone crisis has played inthese numbers. Yet, it is implausible to assume that urkishperceptions have not been infuenced by the crisis.Although the ocial urkish position remains supportiveo Ankara’s accession to the EU, a loss o motivation romurkish leadership is apparent. When the Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP) came to power in November
2 Turkey 2011 Progress Report3 http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/cf/showchart_line.cfm?keyID=5&nationID=30,&startdate=2004.10&enddate=2009.11
2002, many secular parts o society eared that the party would pursue a “hidden agenda” to gradually Islamize theRepublic. However Erdoğan and his party became the most vocal advocates o accession to European Union whileAtaturk’s party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), aswell as the urkish army voiced opposition. In 2004, only two years aer the urkish elections, the EU decided tostart accession negotiations with urkey due to the reormpackage that the AKP had initiated. Te EU thereby vindi-cated Erdoğan and handed him a major domestic victory.Yet, the ri between Erdoğan and then French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy as well as German Chancellor AngelaMerkel paralyzed urkey’s relations with Europe. Aerthe French Parliament passed a bill making it illegal todeny the massacre o Armenians in 1915 as genocide,Erdoğan warned Europe: “Tis is a racist and discrimina-tory approach; i you cannot see this, then you are dea tothe ootsteps o ascism in Europe.”
4
Erdoğan’s emotionalresponses have rustrated many European leaders. Yet,President Gul still advocates and still seems to believe thatthe EU is vitally important or urkey’s democrazation andreorm process. However, despite his position as the presi-dent, Gul’s infuence in oreign policy has been in declinesince the euro zone crisis. Given his more moderate dispo-sition and rhetoric as head o state, as in other Europeancountries, the more extreme nationalist and populist voiceshave drowned the President’s voice out.
Turkey and Europe Still Need Each Other
Te EU is no longer the sole driver o reorm now thaturkey is coming o age as a regional power in the midst o the Arab Spring and euro zone crisis. Reorm must comerom within. Yet the EU is needed as an anchor. In act, itis needed more now than ever beore, especially in orderto encourage the pro-reorm grand coalition that the AKPsucceeded in rallying in its rst decade in oce. Tis coali-tion is now in disarray and o course, as curtailments o 

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