Up until only the last two years, the question of whether Turkey was "drifting east" seemed to dominate any discussion regarding the country and its future trajectory. But an improved Turkish relationship with the United States, a deteriorating one with Iran and a deepening involvement with NATO have all contributed towards pushing that question into the background.
Now, though, it's none other than Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has helped revived the "drifting east" debate. Speaking on Turkish television the other night, the PM was asked about his country's stalled and troubled European Union membership drive. Erdogan's blunt bombshell of an answer suggested Turkey is considering dropping its EU bid in favor of joining the China- and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). “When things go so poorly, you inevitably, as the prime minister of 75 million people, seek other paths. That's why I recently said to Mr. [Vladimir] Putin: ‘Take us into the Shanghai Five; do it, and we will say farewell to the EU, leave it altogether. Why all this stalling?'” Asked to elaborate, Erdogan said, “The Shanghai Five is better and more powerful and we have common values with them.” (The SCO last year upgraded its relations with Turkey, naming the country a "dialogue partner.")
Thе news will not end the near-century of Turkish-Armenian enmity. Nor will it give Turkey an invite into the European club. But it is not bad at all for an ice-breaker.
In an unprecedented move, a scholar of ethnic Armenian origin has assumed a post in Turkey's Secretariat for European Union Affairs. Ankara’s point man for European integration, State Minister Egemen Bagish, was reported to say that the Turkish government now welcomes non-Muslim minorities, local press reported.
There has been lots of recent talk about Turkey's European Union membership bid being on life support, but an article in this morning's Today's Zaman -- from which the title of this blog post was taken -- seems to really lay it on the line. Turkish officials have for months been denying that there's any less resolve in their country's determination to join the EU, but the article (which actually doesn't quote anyone from the government) seems to be serving as a signal that what had previously been said privately is about to become public policy. The article can be found here.
The European Union has released its annual progress report on Turkey's (troubled, let's face it) membership bid. The report offers the typical mix of positive and negative comments, but some trouble spots that Brussels sees have to do with the growing number of legal proceedings against journalists and also concerns over a lack of foreign policy coordination with the EU.
The full report can be found here. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has a good piece that takes a look at the freedom of expression concerns being raised by the legal proceedings against journalists in Turkey.
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