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May 03, 2012, Thursday

European Union seers see rising Turkey in 2030

Although the 27-member European Union, especially its 17-member eurozone, is presently confronting serious economic and political problems that threaten its survival, it is looking ahead to 2030 to explore its strategic options in a future world with a diminished role for it even if it survives.

Last week, the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) released the report “Global Trends 2030: Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World,” prepared by the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS), which assesses major global trends, such as the shift in the balance of economic power from the North and the West to the South and the East, facing the EU in the next two decades.

EUISS, an autonomous Paris-based agency of the EU, operates as a think tank under the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Besides researching security issues concerning the EU, it offers forecasts to the high representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. ESPAS is an inter-institutional pilot project to help EU policymakers identify and understand long-term global trends. It is steered by a quadrilateral task force consisting of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers, the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European External Action Service. EUISS, which contributes to ESPAS through its in-house and contract expertise, finalizes and delivers the ESPAS reports.

The 180-page wide-ranging “Global Trends 2030” comprises four parts organized across core issues and regions: “The empowerment of individuals: a global human community but a growing expectations gap”; “Greater human development but inequality, climate change and scarcity”; “A polycentric world but a growing governance gap”; and “Greater uncertainties but broader opportunities.” Its findings about the major trends likely to shape the future -- among them the digital information and knowledge revolution, the rapid expansion of the Internet, the increasing urbanization of the world population, the global rise of the middle class demanding greater political freedom, the erosion of the US superpower hegemony as China, a global power, and regional (middle) powers, such as Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey, play a greater role -- are mostly optimistic. But it also contains several warnings about how things could go wrong with worsening income distribution, uncontrolled climate change, increasing resource scarcity, extremist nationalism and a potentially unstable multi-polar world order in which power will be diffused and fragmented.

Prior to releasing the ESPAS final report, EUISS organized regional meetings in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the US to get feedback to the report's preliminary findings. The Turkey meeting, titled “Wider Europe in 2030: Foresights and Challenges,” at Ankara's Middle East Technical University last September sought feedback through answers to the questions: “What do the trends identified by ESPAS mean for Turkey and the Black Sea countries? Can these trends be confirmed by the Turkish participants? What will Turkey's role be in 2030?”

Here I will focus on the ESPAS final report's vision of Turkey in 2030. Turkey, as a rising pivotal middle power in demographic, economic, territorial and military terms, will play a significant role foremost at the regional but increasingly at the global level, as it consolidates its democracy and accelerates its social and economic modernization, enhancing its soft (political and cultural) power regionally and globally. It will continue to globalize, deepening its economic ties with the EU and its immediate neighbors and other regions. It will become the 12th largest economy in terms of its share of global output at purchasing power parity in 2030.

Turkey's global role will hinge on how successfully it pursues its interests through international organizations and partnerships. Its membership in interstate organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the G-20 and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and possible accession to the EU will enhance its global role. It is hard to predict whether Turkey will accede to the EU by 2030 as there are both push and pull factors working against accession. But the EU's enlargement to Turkey would be mutually beneficial. It would enhance the strategic projection of the EU, expected to lose its first place position in the today's world economy to become the third biggest economic entity in 2030. Turkey's EU membership could help its democratization and enhance its international status. Although a confident and assertive Turkey might choose to continue pursuing its interests in a rapidly changing Middle East, that choice is unlikely to become a superior alternative to EU membership. Turkey will gain from a more favorable regional environment, but it will find it hard to play an important role in regional integration without the prospect of EU membership.

The ESPAS report argues that Turkey, in the pursuit to promote and establish itself as a pivotal middle power, must address its critical weaknesses, including the unresolved Kurdish and Armenian claims and rights, energy dependency, a development model that is environmentally unsustainable, mismanagement of natural resources, shortcomings in human development and vulnerability to potentially catastrophic earthquakes.

Whether or not these weaknesses are all correctly identified by the report and thus all have to be addressed in due course, its vision of Turkey in 2030 is definitely thought provoking.

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