Turkey`s Good Luck In Staying Out Of The EU
June 02, 2011, 06:47 AM
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Turkey has been something of a success story over the last decade, and Prime Minister Erdogan's ruling moderate Islamist party is likely to win again in the general election in ten days.

The irony about Turkey is that Turkish nationalism was largely the invention of cosmopolitan elites far-flung from the Anatolian mainland in whose name they claimed to act. The modern Republic of Turkey as a replacement for the Ottoman Empire was dreamed up largely by Europeans, especially by Salonikans (such as Mustafa Kemal). Salonika is so far west that it's now hundreds of miles within Greece. Turkey is a little bit like Israel in that both are relics of early 20th Century advanced European thinking (nationalism! monoculturalism! secularism!) imposed upon a seemingly unpromising Middle Eastern region.

Erdogan (who was born in Istanbul, but of a family from the mainland) seems to stand for the idea that the conservative Muslim majority is ready to actually run Turkey itself. In a funny way, this might be seen as the fulfillment of the Kemalist dream, although the Kemalist parties would never admit it.

One much overlooked point about the rise of Turkey is how lucky Turkey was to not be admitted to the European Union due to European anti-immigration sentiment. (I argued in 2004 that admitting Turkey to the EU would be bad for Turkey and bad for Europe.) For a long time, the grand strategy of Turkey's leaders was to stay bound to the U.S. strategically and join the European Union, which would have allowed mass emigration of surplus Turkish workers. But the Turkish parliament surprised Washington by voting down U.S. use of Turkey to invade Iraq from the north in 2003.

This turned out to make possible Erdogan's foreign policy strategy of friendly relations with its neighbors. For example, Erdogan later decided to dig up a huge strip of unused land along with the Syrian border sown with land mines and farm it.

Not getting into the EU meant that Turkey kept its separate lira, unlike next-door Greece, which uses the excessively expensive Euro. The Euro is high because BMWs are worth a lot. Greece doesn't play in Germany's league as an exporter, but it uses Germany's currency.

So, forced to act like a sovereign country, Turkey has been developing its own jobs for its own people.