Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) and the Contemporary Turkish Studies Chair at London School of Economics (LSE) together organized a conference on December 4th in London, bringing together leading experts in the field to discuss the new orientation in Turkey’s foreign policy.
The Conference, which was the second one held jointly by GPoT and LSE, comprised of three sessions, “Changes in Turkish Foreign Policy since 1980s”, “Turkey and the EU” and “Turkey as a Regional and Global Player”, each with three presentations. While there was a diverse range of viewpoints, a number of themes and questions emerged from the presentations and the discussions that were emphasized repeatedly.
Among the issues discussed through papers presented were Turkey’s expanding role in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, the Cyprus question, Turkey-EU relations, Turkey-US relations, Turkey’s position as an energy hub, and the extent to which these policies are “new”.
There was an apparent consensus that while the recent developments in Turkey’s foreign policy –especially concerning her neighbors- are quite positive, sound criticism should also be considered seriously. However, rather than perceiving the pro-activism of the government as a strategy to increase its Islamic influence, the recent initiatives should be supported as attempts to create a more secure and prosperous region that will benefit all who live in it. At the same time, Turkey should be reminded to avoid overstretching its resources.
The question of whether Turkey’s new foreign policy is compatible with its desire for EU membership was also debated heavily. Participants discerned Turkey should continue anchoring its foreign policy in her alliance with the West and her aim to be an EU member, while also acknowledging that thanks to the continuously negative attitudes of some EU countries, Turkey might be pushed towards other options, or the “Norwegian model”.
Both presenters and other participants voiced universal acclaim for FM Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose “strategic depth” vision, it was agreed, brought a much needed assertiveness and self-confidence for Turkey in its foreign policy, irrespective of whether the policies themselves are new.