Monday, March 22, 2010

Merkel Goes to Turkey

Andrea Merkel is off to Turkey and will, again, break the word of the EU regarding eventual membership for Turkey by offering, also yet again, a privileged partnership.

Turkey will not accept this latest offer; but, the issue is not really up to Germany. Is it any longer in Turkey's political and economic interest to join an organization which is increasingly run by Germany both politically and economically? I don't believe it is.

The current German government is largely in the driver's seat in the EU. It has said that it has no interest in bailing out Greece from its self-inflicted financial woes and has also stated, through its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble that if Greece, or any other eurozone member, could not right their finances, they should be ejected from the eurozone. Although there is no mechanism to toss the financially challenged out of the zone, the attitude - so long suppressed - is telling. Does Turkey really want to be a part of an organization run by Germany? Does it want to be tied into a group where the high labour cost and low efficiency economies are dictated to by one power?

I believe what will happen is that the process will be so attenuated that the idea of Turkish membership eventually vaporizes. This is an opportunity for Turkey. It will allow Turkey to firmly establish an independent foreign policy and further strengthen its new found self-esteem. It is also a huge opportunity for the United States, if it acts carefully, to forge a very strong relationship with an economically strong, cosmopolitan and educated democratic Muslim country to balance a German dominated EU tied to Russia by energy and to counter Iranian foreign policy designs in the region.

Of course, changes in governments in France (likely) and Germany (possible, but not soon) could lead to a different dynamic. The continued denial of membership to Turkey will, in the end, be Europe's loss. It may also be Turkey's gain.

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