Turkey has a longstanding relation and commercial interest with the Arab World. The Turkish accession to European Union (EU) has profoundly affected the Middle East regions in various aspects, it include geopolitical , security, trade and investment as well as foreign and immigration policy, also access to the natural resources and energy.The geopolitical role of Turkey is fundamental in global politics. The post event of September 11 has drawn a wide gap between Arab worlds and west, which has raised the security threats, and later the invasion of Iraq rose hatred among the Muslims of Mideast regions, so to reduce the gap, Turkey’s accession play a fundamental role in promoting stability. It may also act as a link between East and west. Turkey’s approach for Mideast is to fully integrate it into global system. Moreover, the role of foreign as well as trade policy of Turkey with regard to accession has been under the study in order to understand the implications on Mideast regions. The issue of water and energy are considered main components of Mideast regions and role of Turkey to leverage in International market is also considered. Turkey’s full membership will allow EU to pursue its strategy in the Mideast countries, whereas it may also contribute to solve the problems origination from Middle East.
Geo-Political impact of Turkey accession in Middle East
Turkey’s membership with EU is not just a mere relation but it is surely considered to be credible and efficient. Turkey is a real regional power which can play its role not only in Middle East but also in world politics. After the end of Cold War, the EU has no threat of Soviet’s expansion, but stability has been the prime requisite for its survival. The turmoil through which Mideast has been going through, which includes political instability, illegal migration, terrorism; it has raised concerns for EU; because of its interest in promoting stability in the Mideast countries. Prior to accession, the Arab world considered Turkey as an ‘instrument’ of encouraging western interests; but later according to Jung who viewed the accession as an absolute transition of image in the eyes of Islamic countries.
The geopolitics is considered important for turkey and the integration of Turkey in EU, on one hand will be advantageous for increasing the agricultural as well as military powers. On other hand, the EU’s dependence on Mideast for oil will also increase. The accession will also let the EU to vest investment in resources, by keeping destabilizing forces at bay; also to promote the economic and diplomatic policies among Mideast regions. Similarly the trading dependence will also increase especially for Gulf countries, Iran and Iraq. It is for this reason that Arab world begin to view Turkey in the positive role and also as a stabilizing factor for the whole Middle East.
Security and foreign Policy
Turkey accession would extend the borders of the union to the Mideast countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria tensed regions, this extended border would bring the problems on the top of the list of the union. The foreign policy of Turkey has massively transformed with respect to Middle East regions; it was after 1990 that the Turkish initiated to take interest in the Mideast. Turkey also acts as a facilitator to ease political tensions that rise in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
As the 9/11 event has produced a wide gap between Islam and west, which has also raised the security concerns within EU, as well as strong vehemence reflected by the West towards Muslim around the globe, the acceptance of Turkey into EU accession is considered as a litmus test by the Arab world. Moreover, in an effort to stabilize Mideast regions, Turkey is one country that stands as a bridge between East and West due to its geopolitical strategy and cultural as well as historical links. It is not only EU but also Arab world which considers Turkey to play a significant role in the stabilization, because of its deeper link with the Islamic world. Further, the nuclear program of Iran has been a security concern not only for Turkey but for EU as well; the accession of Turkey aid in strengthening relations between Iran and EU, which is also a source of keen interest for Iran as how EU manages to integrate Muslim nation.
The accession of Turkey is also a gateway to promote democracy and human development in the Islamic countries; whereas EU supports democratic regimes in other regions; but it does not advocate political liberalization for the Mideast regions which is non-comprehensible by the Mideast; though it maybe the fear of instigating anti-western governments; the reason is tentative. While to counter this, there is one significant characteristic of Turkey; firstly it is democratic and at the same time-a secular state; headed by the Islamic political party, secondly the foreign affairs are handled by western regions. Therefore the integration of Turkey would make EU to value freedom of religion as well as tolerate cultural differences.
Moreover the invasion of Iraq in the aftermath of September 11 has antagonized feelings of people of the Mideast countries. So the accession can be valuable for the EU as well to promote goodwill in the Arab world; whereas it also plays a constructive role in reducing the gap between east and west, and to neutralize the volatility in Middle East.
Access to Energy
Energy is one of the significant factors in the elevation of wealth and economic development. Natural gas has been considered as one of the important energy resources available globally. EU is the second leading consumer of the energy resource in the world. Turkey holds a central position between the producer and consumers of energy resources, due to which its geopolitical role is signified in world affairs, with respect to oil and water. EU has become very sensitive on the dependence of Russian energy pipeline; the cut-off of the pipeline by the Russian government that passes to European countries made them tentative. This became a reason to diversify the energy supply, and the only alternative supply was from Middle East and Central Asia, but the route by which the energy resources pass is Turkey. There is abundance of energy resources in Arab countries which includes Iran and Syria along with Azerbaijan. Lack of inconvenient pipeline was also one of the reasons for Mideast countries not to penetrate in European market. Therefore Turkey accession can play a role in transporting the energy resources to the European countries by pipeline diplomacy. It has mutual advantage for both EU and Mideast regions as well. One of the projects that undertakes Nabucco pipeline is the one, where both EU and Mideast have been excited, but such initiative also involve Turkey’s approval. Regarding Nabucco and other energy pipelines, there are numerous obstacles that are present at both ends. Azerbaijan has limited source of availability, whereas Iraqi along with Kurd containment has to build many of its fields as well as energy sources. Other than that, Iran is one such country which has abundance of energy resource but due to the imposition of worldwide sanctions could not be supplied. Turkey accession will play effective role in this regard to build more infrastructure of energy resources, and also let Iran take active part in energy pipelines projects of Europe. Through this, Turkey would also leverage its importance in the International market.
The concept of water sustainability is a major issue; it has also taken the political dimension. Despite water management system project that has gained momentum in the past years, this is conclusive that sustainability of water has become a political agenda for gaining territorial sovereignty.
Water has been an alarming issue for Middle Eastern countries because of its scarcity in the region; whereas in one of the driest regions; two countries that possess richest sources of water are Israel and Turkey. The water shortage has produced damaging effects in the regions, by initiating conflicts between nations. It is evident in the ongoing Arab-Israel conflict because Israel has the edge over the sustainable water. Though, Turkey tried to reconcile the situation by creating ‘Peace pipeline’ project which never came effective.
The creation of water pipelines signifies the importance of exporting water to the regions; which also enlightened the significance of water diplomacy. It can be an economic advantage for the Turkey; as well as would gain strategic stature in the regions. Although the outcome is other way round; Turkey has three borders: Iran, Iraq and Syria; but through Mediterranean Sea it connects to all the regions of Mideast. Some of the famous rivers pass from Turkey and two of them: Tigris and Euphrates are famed as belonging to ancient civilization, though these two rivers have become bone of contention for Syria and Iraq. Turkey considers itself to have total territorial sovereignty, because of its water resource and sees to use it as they like it. The project of South-eastern Anatolia in 1970 has created many dams over Tigris and Euphrates, which reduces the water supply to Iraq and Syria. Regardless of the co-operation with these two nations, Turkey’s political conflict has led to tense relations over water issue. However, with the accession to EU, it will influence to resolve the dispute.
Moreover, to gain regional influence and also political leverage; Turkey needs to settle the water conflict with Syria and Iraq. Turkey uses its rivers for hydro-power; so it can be valuable for the trading purpose by exporting water. This will not only create goodwill but also provide political leverage.
The issue of migration policy has deep impact on Turkey-EU accession. Turkey is a country of emigration, but after the end of cold war and demarcation of Soviet Union; it has become a country of immigration and transit as well. Turkey plays an important role in terms of migration flow because of its geopolitical closeness to EU and Middle East regions. The migration includes the family related reunions, asylum seekers and labor migration as well. However immigration has become very important issue in the last decade, though migration from EU has significantly decreased but it has become a migration hub for Black Sea and Middle East. Turkey is following a liberal visa policy from 2005 in which several free visa agreements have been signed with neighboring countries including Middle East countries as well, though main goal was economic gain by integrating into the regions. However, with the accession of Turkey to EU, it will alter the immigration policy regarding asylum seekers and labors. The abrogation of free liberal visa is to align with the visa policy of EU due to which number of visa requirements has been introduced for all the Middle East countries like Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. Turkey has already become proactive in terms of illegal immigration and human trafficking. In the light of accession, it is possible to predict that illegal migration from Middle East will remain an issue in the near future due to latest development of the liberal visa policy. The restriction on liberal visa policy is to curtail the security concerns which linger on EU due to free flow of illegal migrants from Middle East and Russia.
Moreover, the asylum based migration will be abolished with Turkey’s absolute accession to EU. Labor migration, contract based and marriage migration will be persistent for the people of Mideast. Also, male migrants will be motivated to construction and tourism jobs whereas female migrants are often seen to go for domestic services.
Trade and Investment
Turkey is a free-market for EU as well as Mideast countries. Turkey is a large and expanding market, in terms of GDP; in fact it is largest market in the Middle East. Though with the accession, it signed the custom union and aligned its trade policies with EU. In order to have accession, Turkey has to attain macroeconomic stability, by liberalizing the services and its network service industries. Integration is beneficial for Turkey after removing distortions in the price system, as well as boosting the allocated budget while making it attractive for the European countries to invest. Similarly with the accession, Turkey will be eligible for the structural funds which will in turn increase the investments; this may contribute to economic growth as well. Also, it is observed that trade policy is important in order to liberalize trade which may improve the productivity and trade performance.
However it is not sufficient because in the environment of limited services of key networks and a weak financial sector as well as limited fiscal discipline, trade liberalization has to complement by measures to reinforce budget constraints and to enact with pro-competitive regulations. Turkey is a country full of opportunity for European companies not only for its large domestic market but also in terms of ties with its surrounding market in Middle East countries. The accession basically signifies the EU interests as it will attain to enter the internal market. This will also increase trade which is a great opportunity for foreign investors; they can easily permeate into the oil reserves Middle Eastern countries. Trade liberalization will let European consumers to use energy which in turn will increase the economy of Mideast; it will open the market for Arab world as well.
The attainment to internal market is beneficial for three reasons: firstly administrative barriers will be eliminated or reduced, secondly reduction of technical barriers and finally risk and uncertainty will be alleviated especially the political risks and macroeconomic instability. Bordering the Middle Eastern countries, Eurasia and Europe, Turkey has the potential to act as a major link between these markets. With the accession, it will ease EU to use Turkey as joint investment and export base in Mideast and Eurasia.
The basic question is what Middle East want? It wants democracy and political as well as regional stabilization. Whereas EU is more concerned about the stability in the Mideast to avoid the security threats, Turkey is one country which can play effective role in maintaining stability within the region; its importance cannot be denied because of its diverse cultural and historical links with Middle East. Also Turkey may bridge the widening gap and shift the European inclination towards promoting democracy within Mideast region.
The accession of Turkey implies the free trading of energy to EU whereas for Mideast, the access to European markets will be easily possible. Also the influence of Turkish investors is an advantage for Mideast countries like Syria to infuse into European markets However, the visa requirements for migration policy will restrict the flow of migrants from the Mideast regions which may hamper the free flow of immigrants. Further, accession of Turkey will resolve water conflict with Iraq and Syria in order to attain regional influence. All in all, in the light of Turkey accession to EU, Middle East can gain political stability which is the need of time, by abolishing the instability that prevails within the region.