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EU-Turkey Relations in the Context of the Middle East after the Arab Spring*

This paper discusses EU-Turkey relations with a specific reference to regional developments in the Middle East after the Arab Spring. In the last decade, the Turkish government has tried to intensify Turkey’s influence in the region. However, increasing activism in Turkey’s foreign policy toward the region was not accompanied by a parallel commitment in its relations with the EU. In the meantime, the EU was caught unprepared by the Arab Spring in the middle of the Euro-zone crisis, and now its strategic interests are being threatened by regional instability. Both sides have been faced with the task of adapting their policies to the political transitions in the region. After an analysis of their contemporary regional policies, this article argues that even though their strategies are not totally in line with each other, Turkey follows the same objectives that the EU neighborhood policy has pursued towards the Middle East.

EU-Turkey Relations in the Context of the Middle East after
European Council President Donald Tusk shakes hands with Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu prior to their meeting at the European Council in Brussels. AFP / Emmanuel Dunand

Introduction

The EU was slow in responding to the recent developments in the Middle East. It was even criticized for lacking a strategy toward the countries affected by the Arab Spring. Furthermore, the EU sent contradictory signals regarding the democratic transitions and political reforms. Still, it is not clear if it is supporting stability or change. Meanwhile, Turkish foreign policy became more active and assertive searching for a leadership role in the Middle East. Yet, this approach has raised a critical question: whether Turkey follows an autonomous foreign policy from the West, namely the US and the EU, in other words the “losing Turkey” debate. Trying to elaborate on this debate, the article analyzes Turkey and the EU foreign policies towards the Middle East in the context of the Arab Spring with a particular emphasis on the cases of Egypt, Iran, and Syria. These three cases are chosen for two reasons.

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Call for Paper | Politics of the Balkans and Future Perspectives