Turkey's Today and Tomorrow

İlter TÜRKMEN
11 August 2009
A- A A+

The geopolitical location of Turkey had created the framework of the policies pursued during the first years of the Republic. Upon the circumstances in the post-WWII period, Turkey unwaveringly preferred to join the Western world. Despite the occasional bottlenecks that have arisen in terms of the compliance with the Western values during and after the Cold War, Turkey irreversibly integrated with the fundamental ideals of the Western civilization such as democracy, multi-party system, rule of law, respect for human rights, and the social market economy. This evolution has been accelerated also by the process of accession to the EU.


Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, countries have been seeking new balances to secure their political and economic development. With the impact of the current global financial crisis, it is generally assumed that this period of transition will bring about a new system of relations.

 
The rise of new powers in Asia and relative power loss of some countries are expected circa 2025-2030s. There are assessments that new areas of tension and accordingly new threats will emerge due to these developments. Globalization on the one hand creates unprecedented opportunities, but on the other hand, it gives rise to newer and more complicated threats. Emergence of global threats makes countries more interdependent. Threats posed by the countries with a high probability of disintegration (Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, Palestine, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan and Lebanon) jeopardize global peace. 

 
The geography in which Turkey is located requires the presence of internal and external peace in order to progress under republican and democratic values and to increase people’s welfare. We cannot achieve internal peace unless we improve and deepen democracy; create a sustainable welfare increase and distribute benefits to the people in conformity with the principles of a social state.

 

Turkey should take these facts and priorities into consideration while shaping its future plans. Alternative strategies other than this path will distance Turkey from the contemporary values that are identified with the Republic. Such alternative strategies may have geopolitical outcomes that can deepen certain critical issues which threaten our independence and integrity with artificial resolutions and end them with an impasse.


Turkey will face several challenges and opportunities in the near future. Bold and creative policies are needed more than ever. Implementation of such policies should not be impeded because of infighting, dogmas, clichés, and political opportunism. Public support is very important to pursue these policies. Rather than retreat as a response to abrupt reaction of the public, a long-term vision should be adopted. We should feel responsibility to future generations; guide and try to persuade them about the interests that are believed to be right.


It should be remembered that Turkey’s population, which is 72 million today and will be more in the coming years, either will be an element of our political, economic, social, and cultural power or will worsen the problems of today such as bigotry, tension, violence, and isolationist motives depending on the policies we will pursue in the next decade. From this point of view, elevation of the education level, promotion of free thinking, and the relieving of individuals from their prejudices should be our national priority.


Turkish nationalism, or what is called by some theorists as “ulusalcılık”, should be able to rule out the historical, geographical, and cultural isolation. If we continue to seek solutions to our problems within the dynamics of the 1920s, it should be admitted that it will be impossible to catch up with the modern values as projected by the founders of our Republic. Therefore, if Turkish nationalism requires Turkey to become an important actor in the world system of the 21st Century, it needs to renew itself and reconcile with the concepts of the international community such as global facts, international cooperation, and sharing of sovereignty within the framework of regional integration schemes. We should accept that drawing parallels between history and the State which is a dynamic entity will actually keep our country away from the realities of this century.


Searches for solutions should be transformed not into ruptures within the society but the processes that consolidate national unity and togetherness. In this regard, Turkey has to remain determined to reconcile the notions on which the Republic is founded such as national unity, single state, embracing citizenship concept, and laicism, with the EU’s philosophy of collective destiny and thus build the common future with the Union on this ground.


Attaining the EU membership goal depends on consensus and self-confidence at the national level, and mutual trust in the relations between Turkey and the EU. Diversity, cultural, and historical richness of Turkish identity is a fundamental element that consolidates the will of joining the EU and sharing the common ideals of the union. With these qualifications, our country should become an active participant in the European integration.  Relationship between our membership process and Europe project should be shaped by thinking together, solidarity, and concept of joint efforts, not by hostile attitudes or conflicting approaches. We should adopt an approach that emphasizes finding solutions together and for one another, not against each other.


In terms of energy security and transportation, Turkey maintains an advantage in the Middle East, Caucasus, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Mediterranean Sea. In order to continue to play key roles in its region, Turkey should make use of this advantage wisely, and should also be aware of the fact that outcomes of these policies will function as trump cards during the EU membership process.

Back to Top