27 April 2012 - A NATO PA DELEGATION VISIT TO TURKEY TO DISCUSS ANKARA’S ROLE IN THE REGION
A delegation of 32 members of parliament from 13 NATO member countries and one partner country, led by Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam (France) and Gianni Vernetti (Italy), visited Turkey on 24-27 April 2012. The members of two of the Assembly’s Sub-Committees – on Democratic Governance and on East-West Economic Co-operation and Convergence – met with top officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Economy, Energy and the EU Affairs. The delegation also met with professors and students of the Bilkent University in Ankara and the Galatasaray University in Istanbul.
In the context of the Arab Awakening, the delegates heard, Turkey’s proactive and multi-dimensional Foreign policy is assuming greater prominence in global diplomacy. The notion of achieving “zero problems with neighbours” remains at the heart of that country’s foreign policy vision. But following the Arab Spring, Turkish leaders have broadened this approach so that it encompasses Turkey’s relations with the people of the region and not simply with their governments. This shift in policy remained a central theme of the discussions during the whole visit.
But Turkish officials also took the opportunity to stress their determination in strengthening democratic institutions, civil society and market reforms even though they are unhappy with the pace of EU accession talks. In that respect, Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU accession Egemen Bagis expressed frustration with what he characterized as Turkey’s unfair treatment in the negotiations. Those talks are currently blocked largely as a result of the Cyprus problem. Mr. Bagis noted that Turkey was prepared to allow the two parts of Cyprus to negotiate a solution to the island’s current division but he suggested that Turkey’s candidacy is now held hostage to a process over which it has very little control. Some members of the NATO PA, however, argued that resolution is only possible if both sides are prepared to make compromises.
On the economic front, the delegation was told that Turkey has responded to the global economic crisis with essentially Keynesian fiscal and monetary policies. The economy is growing at a very rapid pace as a result. The parliamentarians noted that the Turkish response to the crisis had been diametrically opposed to that of EU countries, and its current rate of growth seems to vindicate Ankara’s expansionary monetary and fiscal policies. Members, however, expressed concerns about the challenges of inflation and Turkey’s relatively high current account deficits and its vulnerability to a shift in international investor confidence.
Finally, the visiting delegation praised Turkey’s vital contribution to NATO operations as well as its decision to host the radar component of a missile defence system designed to deter missile threats emanating from the Middle East.