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Monday, January 17, 2011

Erdoğan's Newsweek Op Ed - The Battle of Narratives

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has written an interesting Op Ed for Newsweek today. I am afraid I have to prepare for teaching tomorrow so I do not have time for any more extensive analysis.

But, very briefly, it is clear that Erdoğan is trying to establish what we might want to call a counter-narrative to the hitherto dominant narrative in the EU. On that account, Turkey is the weaker party that is dependent on the EU - I write extensively about this in my forthcoming book - for support and help.

That narrative is arguably an extension of the nineteenth-century image of Turkey as the "Sick man of Europe," which of course is what Erdoğan is playing on in the witty title of his piece. "Turkey: The Robust Man of Europe." Whereas he describes Europe's economies as "stagnant" and its societies as "near geriatric" (ever the soft rhetorical touch...),
The Turkish economy is Europe’s fastest-growing sizable economy and will continue to be so in 2011. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts, Turkey will be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050. Turkey is a market where foreign direct investment can get emerging-market returns at a developed-market risk. Turkey is bursting with the vigor that the EU so badly needs.
Moreover, Erdoğan attempts to set the record straight on the recently much-discussed new direction in Turkish foreign policy:
Turkey is becoming a global and regional player with its soft power. Turkey is rediscovering its neighborhood, one that had been overlooked for decades. It is following a proactive foreign policy stretching from the Balkans to the Middle East and the Caucasus. Turkey’s “zero-problem, limitless trade” policy with the countries of the wider region aims to create a haven of nondogmatic stability for all of us. We have visa-free travel with 61 countries. This is not a romantic neo-Ottomanism: It is realpolitik based on a new vision of the global order. And I believe that this vision will help the EU, too, in the next decade.
He is here clearly trying to correct or at least modify the emerging narrative that I have elsewhere on this blog baptized (also quite wittily, in my own, humble opinion) "Going East, Young Turk?". It remains to be seen if he succeeds, but it is and will be interesting to follow this battle of narratives.


UPDATE: 2010/01/18
Reactions: The EUobserver presents the Op Ed as an attempt to jump-start the stalled negotiations. The Financial Times interprets the "tirade" mainly as an expression of frustration with their slow pace. But both, in my view, miss the larger narrative dimension. I haven't yet found many reactions in the blogosphere.
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