The recent events in the Middle East have nudged Turkey even further into the good graces of the “international community”. While being far from perfect, Turkey is already considered to be a model for a Middle Eastern democracy.
In recent years Turkey has attained memberships in some powerful western organizations and alliances, including NATO and the UN, and now it has a strong and stable economy to boot. But more importantly the government is considered a successful democracy, in which the — long term and still popular — ruling AK party has not sacrificed Islam in any way shape or form.
Turkey recognised the importance of change a long time ago, and that countries cannot be governed by authoritarian regimes forever. It is now siding with people in Middle Eastern countries who are demanding change and democracy rather than oppression.
It remains to be seen whether Egypt will accept Turkey’s offer of assistance in setting up the Arab world’s first democratic government, or whether the fear that Mubarak will be replaced by an even more extreme regime. Either way, the episode, first with Egypt and now with Libya has served to reaffirm just how important Turkey — the only truly stable nation in the Middle East — is to the west.
At the same time it reaffirms just how important it is that Turkey continues on its path of reform, which is also necessary for eventual EU accession. While being a successful democracy Turkey still has issues with freedom of the press, and the right to protest, but has recently been complimented on its efforts to improve in these areas.
From the opposite side of the coin, the explosion of the Middle East makes Turkey and even more important ally for the EU. This powerful region that is so rich in natural resources cannot be ignored, and this need is certainly recognised by the US as the Obama administration, which fully supports Turkey’s accession bid.
Turkey is also receiving support from British and Swedish ministers. Britain’s Minister for Europe David Lidington said that Turkey’s membership would help enhance Europe’s economy, and that Turkey is a hugely important market for European business. He also referred to the strategic importance of Turkey’s geographic location; at the intersection of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has also echoed these sentiments. Both countries have always supported Turkey’s membership but this is the first time in several months that they have spoken out. Both ministers spoke of the importance of finding a solution to the Cyprus problem as it would increase stability in the eastern Mediterranean, and promote a more effective EU-NATO cooperation.