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June 12, 2012, Tuesday

The new period in France

Following the election of a socialist president, it appears that France will have a socialist national assembly as well. This political change is of course the consequence of the ongoing economic crisis in Europe. It is obvious that Europeans have had enough of decisions made in faraway capitals without consulting them. This political shift also demonstrates that European peoples had enough of the conservative, alienating and aggressive rhetoric of the right-wing politicians.

It’s too early to tell if this “leftist” trend will affect Germany too, or if it will cause a wider “European spring.” But we can at least suggest that the renewal of the European Union will be much easier if major European countries are governed by the left. The main reason for this suggestion is the fact that socialists, social democrats and the greens are more capable of looking at world events from a global perspective. This is probably the biggest difference between the European left and the “left” in Turkey.

The change in the French presidency and parliament’s composition will probably be the beginning of a series of developments that will give France back its prestige. The French decision makers are probably fully aware of what is to be done to repair France’s reputation. Several signals are already perceptible about some openings France is preparing to make soon. First of all, France wants to pull Germany into the European game once again. In other words, France will ask Germany to re-assess its bilateral relations with Russia and China and to focus its energy on EU-US relations. Secondly, Paris will try to reach the UK and try to convince it to work in coordination with its European partners about crucial foreign policy choices.

France’s new president has already declared that Europe’s main rival is China. As this is the case, one of France’s next steps will probably be to convince Russia to cooperate more closely with the US. In the meantime, France seems determined to repair its relations with the French-speaking world, and especially with the African continent.

In brief, after five years in which France has tried to implement “hard power” politics, it will use from now on its “smart power.” In this context, France will try to keep away from adventurous policies and to re-activate its forgotten friendships.

If these predictions are not wrong, we may soon witness the improvement of Turkish-French relations, because France will probably advertise its new foreign policy approach through its relations with Turkey. Nevertheless, the relationship between France and Turkey may only get better if France decides to contribute to Turkey’s EU bid. Will France become the country that carries Turkey into the EU? If it does so, this will increase France’s weight within the EU and help it in NATO. Besides, France may then hope that Turkey will facilitate France’s access to several regions. There is little doubt that such a positive change in France’s Turkey policy will be praised not only by the US, Israel or Russia, but by many other countries in the Middle East and the Caucasus.

It’s not easy to guess if France’s newly elected decision makers have indeed given their decision to ameliorate relations with Turkey. Even if they have, Turkey is unfortunately not ready to facilitate France’s new opening towards it. If France makes its mind up to defend Turkey in the European platform, it has to be in a position to tell its partners that Turkey has progressed in democratic reforms. But if Turkey drags its feet on this, France will not have much to say to support Turkey’s accession.

Maybe if France shows in an unambiguous manner that it wants to heal bilateral relations with Turkey, the latter will be encouraged to go faster with the reforms on democratization, human and minority rights.

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