Despite the changes in international affairs Turkey’s main foreign policy principle which was set out by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk remains “Peace at Home, Peace in the World”.
In a dynamic region where the impact of changes are the greatest, Turkey follows a multi-dimensional, constructive, proactive, realistic and responsible foreign policy to realize its national and international goals. The end of the Cold war has brought on new opportunities and Turkey is thus more active than ever before. Its economic progress has made it possible for Turkey to be a leading donor in development aid. On 9-13 May 2011, Turkey hosted the Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries in Istanbul. Turkey is committed to further enhance political dialogue and cooperation and increase its humanitarian aid and assistance to the developing countries. The amount of official development assistance provided by Turkey reached 2,5 billion USD in 2012. As such Turkey ranked first among the OECD member countries which have expanded their assistance in 2012. Turkey’s recent performance in this field signifies its strong political will and active involvement with the development agenda.
Within this framework Turkey strives to further develop its relations with the countries not only in its neighborhood but beyond as well. Turkey has recently opened up more than 40 missions (embassies and consulates) worldwide.
Turkey after 50 years became a non-permanent member in the UN Security Council during 2009-2010, and announced its candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the Council again for the years 2015-2016. At the end of this year Turkey will assume the Presidency of the G-20 for 2015. Turkey also is a co-sponsor of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative, to foster mutual respect and common values among different cultures and religions. Turkey has also decided to take on the challenging task of chairing the UN Global Forum on Migration and Development as of July 2014 for 18 months, to share its vast experience in these areas.
International solidarity, coherent action and cooperation are crucial in countering terrorism. In this respect Turkey is the co-chair of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) with the US since 2011, as well as the as the co-chair of the GCTF Horn of Africa Region-Capacity Building Working Group with the EU.
Turkey, since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, strictly complies with the principles of open door and non-refoulement at the border, and provides shelter to almost 800.000 Syrian refugees fleeing from the atrocities and deteriorating situation in Syria. There are 22 camps in Turkey where 220.00 Syrians are currently accommodated, the rest of the Syrians are living in various towns in Turkey. Turkey also provides humanitarian assistance to the camps built on the Syrian side of the border.
Turkey closely follows the recent developments in neighbouring Ukraine and supports all efforts aiming to calm down and de-escalate the current sitution. In this regard, the establishment of a OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has been an important milestone. We are very happy that Ambassador (Rt.) Ertuðrul Apakan, former Undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, has been appointed as the Head of this Mission as of 2 April 2014.
TURKEY AND THE EU
We commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Association Agreement last year. Membership in the EU remains to be a strategic goal. Turkey is determined to fulfill the requirements and thus move forward with the reforms, which have already and extensively been undertaken in many areas. The structural and political reforms are motivated mainly by Turkey’s EU accession process.
The recent legislative reforms such as the 5th Judicial Reform Package and the Democratization Package as well as the adoption of the Action Plan on the Prevention of Violations of European Convention on Human Rights are examples of the political reform process.
However, it has never been an easy road. Since the start of the negotiations in 2005, to date only14 chapters have been opened and one provisionally closed. Between 2010 and 2013 no chapters were opened. A positive momentum was reached by opening Chapter 22 on Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments in November and the signing of the Readmission Agreement along with the launch of dialogue for a visa free regime for Turkish citizens in December 2013.
Yet, 17 chapters are blocked for political reasons. The economic aspect of such a membership should not be underestimated. Currently, the EU is Turkey’s biggest import and export partner while Turkey ranks seventh in the EU’s top import and fifth in export markets. Having established a Customs Union with the EU in 1996, the Turkish economy has successfully coped with competitive pressures and market forces within the EU. Moreover, Turkey has harmonized its legislation and implementation with those of the EU in various sectors including foreign trade. The improvement of Turkish economy helped Turkey to attract large inflows of Foreign Direct Investment that is crucial for growth and development. As a natural bridge between East-West and North-South axes, Turkey has easy access to 1,5 billion customers in Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa. According to World Bank statistics, Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and the 6th largest economy in Europe, with industrial goods amounting to over 90% of its exports. Turkey has the potential to make the EU stronger, safer and more stabilized for the future.
2014 is an election year both in Turkey and in the EU. On 30 March, Turkey held local elections. In August, for the first time Turkey’s President will be directly elected by the people.
In May, the first European Parliament elections will be held after the Lisbon Treaty came into force. Since the Lisbon Treaty, European Parliament became co-legislator almost in 90% of the European legislation, and it proved to be diligent in exercising its increased powers. The new European Parliament will also have a decisive say on the choice of the President of the European Commission and on the college of European commissioners.
Unfortunately, the growth in voter preference for extremist or ultra-right political parties, which are exploiting the economic crisis in Europe, is worrisome. More so because some of these the populist statements are being shared by some democratic politicians. Thus the composition of the next European Parliament bears great importance for Turkey-EU relations, where critical decisions will be taken. There are concerns that certain groups will use Turkey’s accession as a propaganda tool in their election campaigns and later in the European Parliament. Such rhetoric must be avoided on the basis of our shared values and common interests. Turkey is resolute to pursue its EU vocation and committed to walk on the EU path.