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January 23, 2013, Wednesday

European security and Turkey

The financial and institutional crisis in Europe continues to rattle the continent, although the financial aspects of the crisis seem to have been somewhat addressed by German insistence and the begrudging agreement by others to implement structural reforms. That is all fine and dandy. You can see the relative optimism in major European capitals. However, the same cannot be said of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) and the notion of European security.

The CSDP aimed to give Europeans a sense of identity independent of the US and to establish a separate security identity. The CSDP was also designed to strengthen European political integration. That ambition seemed to be present prior to the global economic crisis and the heavy-handed foreign and security approach taken by the US during the Bush II years. What we see now is the increasing nationalization of security policy among European countries. Libya was a perfect opportunity for Europeans to take the lead and employ a common European policy approach. Because Libya is close to Europe, there were clear European interests involved and leading European powers supported the intervention. However, the execution of the Libya operation required US support and intelligence as well as NATO leadership.

Turkey has been supportive of the CSDP. We value the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. Turkey has participated in major CSDP operations and missions and dedicated substantial human and financial resources to this end. That said, Ankara is disappointed with the European inclination to exclude Turkey from further CSDP involvement. Most CSDP operations have taken place in the geographic proximity of Turkey and could have potential security implications for Turkey. Ankara wants full involvement in shaping the decisions on CSDP activities in which Turkey takes part. The EU still has a long way to go to adopt the level of inclusiveness and transparency NATO generously extends to its partners.

Most Europeans think that the days of war are over. Turks, on the other hand, feel daily that the days of warfare are very real and present. For decades, Europeans have enjoyed the security extended by NATO and an unmistakable American commitment to Europe. Those days are over. The US is turning inward and its external attention will increasingly focus on the Pacific. Syria is a telling case for the future. Libya, Mali and other crises are waiting at the door. The Mali operation is being led by France with some European support, but on a bilateral level. This may be what is awaiting us: ad-hoc coalitions that are formed according to national priorities rather than a common EU-level approach.

Given the urgency and intensity of what is awaiting the continent, we are losing precious time and opportunities to include Turkey in CSDP decision-making. The inability to find a proper mechanism for Turks and Europeans to work together only serves to strengthen unilateral tendencies in Turkey. There is plenty of room to improve the level and quality of cooperation and information sharing between Turkey and the EU.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is the uncertainty of the future of institutions and geographical entities and how they will relate to our nations and multilateral institutions. That said, our common security can only be maintained by a closer, inclusive approach rather than the exclusionary model of recent years. The EU and Turkey must find the means to redefine their security and defense relationship.

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