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Turkey’s New Activism in the Western Balkans: Ambitions and Obstacles

Following the Turkish Chairmanship-in-Office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), 2009 represented the year of Turkey’s return to the Western Balkans as an influential actor. Granted, Turkey’s Balkan policy became a matter of contention. Ankara’s Bosnia and Herzegovina initiative even raised questions as to whether Turkey is aspiring to restore its former power and influence over the region. Those expressing their unease over this initiative are accusing Turkey of nurturing inclinations reminiscent of the Ottoman state. To counter this image, Turkish officials are using every opportunity to underline that Ankara has no intentions other than to contribute to the consolidation of peace and stability in the Western Balkans. This article reviews the last two years of Turkish policy towards the region, and includes evaluations on the perception of Turkey’s proactive Western Balkans policy.

Turkey s New Activism in the Western Balkans Ambitions and
Economic success, along with the improving political stability in the country, led to the growth of self-confidence in Turkish foreign policy.
 

As of 2002, Turkey entered a process of important social and political transformation accompanied by a rise in national income per capita that eventually positioned Turkey as the 16th largest economy in the world in 2010. Economic success, along with the improving political stability in the country, led to the growth of self-confidence in Turkish foreign policy. With a proactive foreign policy spanning from the Balkans to the Middle East and the Caucasus - regions that are connected to Turkey geographically and historically– Turkey is endeavoring to contribute to the peace and stability in these regions. At the same time, while working towards a global order based on justice, equality and transparency, Turkish leaders envision their country not solely as a regional power, but as a global power. In January 2011, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu, declared that in 2023 Turkey would be one of the world’s greatest economic powers, with an effective regional and global role.1

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