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European Union and Turkey in the Post Arab Spring Era: Mapping Strategic Interests in the Turbulent Neighborhood

This article explores the strategic importance Turkey holds to the European Union and how Ankara could contribute to the EU’s achieving the status of a veritable global power. It seeks to understand how the often contradictory threads (democratization vs. creeping authoritarianism) in the recent transformation of Turkish domestic politics affects its European credentials. The main argument of the paper is that it is in the core interest of both parties to align their policies in the neighboring regions, namely the Balkans, Caucasus, and the Middle East, especially in the post Arab Spring era. What hinders the genuine EU-Turkey partnership is often the political and tactical short-sightedness of both parties rather than the factual divergence of strategic interests.

European Union and Turkey in the Post Arab Spring Era
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attend a press conference after the European Union leaders summit on June 28, 2013 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. AF
 

The dramatic reconfiguration of the EU’s and Turkey’s “shared” neighbourhood redefined the premises on which the decades-long debate on further enlargement was based. Along with the Arab Spring and the eastern neighbourhood gradually drifting towards “soft” authoritarianism, crisis-struck Europe is challenged with a fundamental and in fact existential question “whither thou goest without Turkey?” prompting a new debate about the need to revive the membership negotiations. 

No matter what shape the new EU will assume following the crisis, it is difficult to imagine a strong European Union without Turkey. As an EU member, Turkey could contribute a considerable economic, military, human potential, as well as global ambitions thanks to the well-exploited legacy of its imperial past.

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