The Turkish Empire looks east

Article published on Jan. 24, 2003
community published
Article published on Jan. 24, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

With intergovernmental talks underway, there is no doubt that Turkey will become a member of the EU: no country will be able to ignore the Turkey's role and therby cannot be opposed to the entry into the EU of this unique power.

The enlargement in 2004 will consist of small Central and Eastern European countries from similar cultures, equipped with a fairly modern infrastructure and effective education system. These countries only aim to achieve economic prosperity which requires a restricted level of investment and to maintain their independence against a Russia which is required to maintain good relations with the EU. On the other hand, the entry of Turkey into Europe will change the face of the Union: it will no longer be a club of rich countries, stable institutions and strategies more or less in harmony. Turkey is different and its importance in the Middle East will profoundly mark Europe's presence on the international scene. The problems between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus would be for the main part resolved and would become fairly similar to those which sometimes divide France and Spain over fishing. These are problems which are not really serious between those countries which recognise the same arbitration. On the other hand, Turkey's entry into the Union would give the EU problematic borders and strategic advantages vis à vis the Arab states. For the moment, the EU and its Member states are planning on the international level to abandon a fool's deal with Arab politics. A powerlessness to act is emerging: if the EU can bring to the Eastern European countries what they are aiming for (political security and economic prosperity), it does not have much to offer the Arab states. A counterbalance to US influence? A solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Instead oil prospects and support for the oligarchies in place. Turkey is, on the contrary, in a strong position, as a key part in US strategy for the region, where Israel is only an outpost. Turkey has an armed force without equivalent in the Arab world since the disarmament of Iraq. The strategic system which compromises of Turkish forces, the Israeli army and the US bases in the area is the dissuasive element which makes the Middle East a 'ruled' area. Moreover Turkey provides essential water resources in this arid region. Turkey's hydroelectric programmes (no less than 11 dams in the Eurphastes and Jordan) enable it to cut the water supply to its neighbours at will, as it sometimes did against Syria. It's this privileged position which enables Turkey to remain a strong state, despite being prone to economic and budgetary crises (-11% of GDP in 2001) with hyper-inflation which would be fatal without the support of the US within the IMF (which Argentina has not been able to benefit from).

What developments in the case of Turkey's accession? From the perspective where the EU would introduce mechanisms which allow it to speak with a single voice on the international scene, two extreme scenarios will ensue: Turkey could become European or imperialist. In the European scenario, Turkey follows a 'German style' evolution: it becomes clearly democratic, gives real freedom to its ethnic and religious minority and makes peace with its neighbours to enable it to concentrate on its economic development. Its influence would therefore become of a peaceful nature as Europe's bridgehead towards the Arab states and the post-soviet Turkestan. In the imperialist scenario, the EU would replace the US as Turkey's privileged strategic partner. A blind eye would still be turned to the oppression of the Kurds and Palestinians, and an US style aggressive policy would be introduced with hostile regimes replaced by puppet governments with a less demanding oil policy. A mid-way scenario is, of course, the most probable but such is the consequence of Turkey's accession: for the first time the EU will have a real border. With this divide between them and us, religious, cultural, political, economic, social and strategic opposition will only express itself in a violent manner. A dangerous prospect for European pacifism.....