Turkey’s growing influence in the Middle East

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Turkey’s growing stature in the Middle East has “the potential to make it more attractive to the European Union,” argues Sinan ?lgen, chairman of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, in the spring 2009 edition of Europe’s World.

Turkey has become increasingly “influential in the Middle East” given its diplomatic success in the region, the commentary claims. 

?lgen points to the number of progressive goals that the country has achieved, such as ending “factional strife in Lebanon” and “engineering the start of direct talks between Syria and Israel” over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

On top of this, the article praises Turkey’s diplomatic efforts in helping to “ease the nuclear stand-off between Iran and the West”. 

?lgen notes that Turkey’s progress in the Middle East is the result of a “growing lack of US legitimacy and lack of EU influence”. As a result, the country has been “able to leverage both its regional ties and its standing in the transatlantic community to play a more instrumental role vis-à-vis its southern neighbours,” the author asserts. 

This has “without a doubt” enhanced Turkey’s role and influence in the Middle East, ?lgen declares. 

However, the author wonders whether this comes “at the expense of the country’s EU ambitions”. Indeed, “with so much of the country’s diplomatic and political energy now focused on regional issues, it seems to leave little room for advancing its EU membership ambitions,” the paper observes. 

Nevertheless, ?lgen insists that Turkey’s growing influence in the Middle East can be a “sure way of enhancing its asset value for the EU” and facilitating “Turkey’s European bid”. 

On the other hand, the author admits this claim is “predicated on the assumption that Europe has the capacity and the willingness to benefit from what Turkey has to offer”. 

Indeed, this “strategy can only pay off if the EU is able to strengthen its own capacity for concerted action on foreign policy,” the paper asserts. 

In light of Turkey’s diplomatic progress in the Middle East, ?lgen concludes that Turkish EU membership would “make Europe a more influential and capable world power”.

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