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February 01, 2013, Friday

Vision Shanghai Five offers

Turkey becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has been widely discussed since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country is seriously considering becoming part of the organization, which he considers an alternative at a time when the EU's future looks increasingly dim.

Many in Turkey question the logic of becoming a member to the Shanghai Five, arguing that Turkey should not give up its EU bid while boosting its relations with Central Asian and Pacific countries at the same time.

Star's Fehmi Koru argues that being close to the Shanghai Five will surely have benefits for Turkey. But if it costs Turkey its relations with the EU, then we should rather not have it, Koru says. Commenting on Erdoğan's signal that Turkey might join the Shanghai Five, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland recently said that it would obviously be interesting, given the fact that Turkey is also a NATO member. “It would be more meaningful if an EU official delivered a comment on Erdoğan's statement instead of Nuland. That way, we could discuss why they are always coming up with obstacles to Turkey's EU membership. But what I cannot understand here is what Turkey's NATO membership has to do with Turkey's possible Shanghai Five membership. In addition, is Russia not among the countries that joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program? If being a member to NATO does not contribute to Turkey's EU bid, then why would it be an obstacle for Turkey when seeking other groups to cooperate with? There is a serious flaw in this logic,” the columnist says.

Sami Kohen from Milliyet says Turkey's EU bid is not just about the economic advantages the EU will bring; Turkey hoped EU membership would contribute to Turkey's democratization and modernization process as well. This was the main vision the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) gave priority to since it came to power in 2002. On the other hand, the SCO is not an organization based on the same values and principles as the EU. Shanghai Five members like China, Russia and other countries in Central Asia are ruled by authoritarian regimes and human rights, freedom of expression and other democratic values are not at the forefront in these countries. Thus, focusing on the Shanghai Five rather than the EU means a change in Turkey's ideal values and principles. Also, the SCO does not really comply with Turkey's foreign policy, either. The latest example of this was that Turkey's stance on the Syrian crisis was the exact opposite of that of Russia and China. It is a fact that Asian and Pacific countries are on the rise and Turkey needs to adopt a policy in line with this fact. But we don't necessarily have to be a member of the SCO and turn our back to Europe and the West for that, Kohen says.

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