Earlier this month, this Centre had anticipated how Ankara’s policy would be that of raising tensions up to a point, in order to later create the conditions for solutions able to provide the Country with a period of stability. The reference was to the disastrous conditions of the Turkish currency and the unsustainability of its public spending.
Ankara’s government has announced that important economic measures would be taken after the resignation of finance minister Albayrak: the new path will be characterized by a more canonical monetary policy. Turkey’s orientation, according to the last announcements, will be towards Europe. Ankara has called on the Union to keep its promises on full membership and the issue of the refugees, in order not to force Turkey to “look elsewhere”. Turkish Presidency has also underlined how the Country had always considered itself as a part of Europe.
Bruxelles nevertheless had been a target for Ankara’s nationalistic discourse for years, and the AKP narrative had often defined the adoption of European habits and customs, typical of Kemalist Turkey (the one seeking Ankara’s European access), as a cultural suicide. “Looking elsewhere”, therefore, does not seem to be the result of European stances but rather the result of a Turkish political choice. It is important to underline once again how AKP’s main government ally is the MHP, an ultra-nationalist, and how the adoption of some of the “eurasianists” strategies will prevent Ankara from an actual reapproach to the West. The conditions for an effective rapprochement in the sense now suggested do not seem to exist.
Moreover, Ankara’s new mild announcement contains a series of conditions imposed to Bruxelles:
- the full European membership (an impossible – and unwanted – goal), and
- a factual collaboration on the issue of the refugees: this sounds as a funding request.
Turkey shows Europe a conciliatory face because it knows it run out of time in the Eastern Mediterranean without a solution. It is also aware of French stances and of its will to reimpose itself as a naval power in the Mediterranean and its will to lead European leadership towards a new continental Alliance, alternative to NATO. Another point is the impossibility to face Greece directly: Mitzotakis Government has shown determination in facing Ankara’s request in October, when the research ship Oruç Reis had temporarily abandoned her operational zone (areas where actual operations are technically impossible) in order to “give a chance to diplomacy”. Athens, moreover, has now a much better relationship with Bruxelles than just a couple of years ago.
This new conciliatory posture towards the Union, that will last up to the moment when the new financial policy will produce effects and let Ankara breath again, seems to be the only way for Turkey to act in the Mediterranean front right now. Germany’s impotence, due both to its financial exposition to Ankara and to its internal Turkish minority, is an incredibly valuable asset. A likewise precious element is the newly elected Turkish Cypriot government: once (northern) Nicosia is secured for the next years, Ankara may leave the Cypriot dossier aside safely for some time. Peace with Europe, moreover, will permit Ankara to avoid recourse to the IMF or hosting possible early elections that may mean the end of the AKP era.
The other recipient of Ankara’s new approach is Washington, hostile to French aspiration in the Mediterranean and always interested in fighting German economically. Turkey will try to test the ground with the new Biden administration, offering its help to contrast France and to defend NATO and Americas interests in the zone. Turkey will surely keep its NATO partnership, but it shall not bring anyone to believe that its support will be free of charge nor that it may mean a shift in Turkey’s orientation toward Russia. More likely, it is possible that Ankara may play a role in a possible attempt to open a dialogue with Teheran, should Washington wish so in the next future. Next weeks will see Turkish business approach main financial institution to obtain that liquidity that the American government denied last August, when it refused to extend its credit swap agreement while Qatar was tripling its exposure.