Prime Minister Erdoğan has been carrying out a visit to two important European capitals in Europe, Vienna and Paris, at a moment when there is a total political and military disaster in the Levant, both in Syria and Iraq. Syria has lost all kind of statehood because of a civil war and Iraq has turned into a failed state mainly because of the mismanagement and dysfunctional nation-building processes.
In both countries, central governments are overtly using their sectarian religious appurtenance as ideologies and fighting becomes more and more savage. The exclusion of the Sunnis by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, the Baathists' contempt for Maliki, tribal divisions, a general lack of democratic culture, inner dynamics of civil war and the intervention of foreign non-democratic powers can be given as explanations for the complete tragedy in Iraq, but there is more to it: the divide between Turkey and its southern neighbors has gone very deep. Almost two different planets are separated by the south-eastern frontiers of Turkey. Such a situation is obviously detrimental to Turkey, but in the medium run, such a situation remains unsustainable for the E.U. and the U.S.A.
This was mostly the essence of the speech made by Prime Minister Erdoğan in Vienna yesterday. He has put a very important stress on the principles that made the European integration a success. He also, and repeatedly, underlined that the Republic of Turkey, much before the start of the European integration in 1952, has decided to turn its face to the "West". In fact, the "modernization" of Turkey was essentially based on importing and establishing the European law codes and to be present in all Western alliances. The European Union is the only European organization where Turkey does not enjoy a full-member status.
But the essential message the prime minister delivered was more important: Turkey, despite all the biases existing in some of the mass media, has been a secular democracy, NATO ally and an integral part of the global economy. In fact, since its inception, the Republic of Turkey has been in close alliance with all Western international organizations and its structure has been almost totally modelled on the European civilian and trade codes. Because of the opposition to Turkish membership of the E.U., there has been a totally biased perception of Turkey as shifting towards Eastern alliances. This has created a very unhealthy atmosphere where both the E.U. and Turkey, through mass media, have been accusing each other of having hidden agendas. As a matter of fact, there is no big picture targeted by any major Western power in the Middle East: the reality is that nobody knows how to mend a terrible situation where a savage violence reigns. Obviously, the unintended consequences of U.S. policy in the region has triggered this whole bloodshed, still there is no utility to try to accuse each other for the disastrous situation.
Erdoğan has insisted heavily upon the need for the E.U. decision-makers to try to stop underlining inexistent "cultural" differences to explain the refusal of Turkish membership. As the E.U. is based on universal values such as democracy and human rights and not at all religious principles, Turkey is a secular democracy and within this scope, no partner can disregard each other. A close and efficient cooperation is very much needed in the immediate future. Hopefully, the prime minister's visit could be an opening towards much needed cooperation between the E.U. and Turkey.