Turkey has had its eyes set on European Union accession since its first treaty with the European Common Market back in 1963, but it has since been kept at a distance for a number of reasons, which finally urged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take his criticisms against the EU to a whole new level.
The prime minister recently said that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is better and much more powerful than the EU, signaling that Turkey might seek out new cooperation. However, politicians and columnists have been underscoring that the SCO is in no way comparable to the EU and not a viable alternative, highlighting that the prime minister is merely bluffing about joining the SCO.
Fehmi Koru from Star ponders whether Erdoğan has some other intentions with his SCO suggestion. Koru says that the two groups are formed of countries with different economic structures, political systems and energy needs. That's why they are not alternatives to each other and that's why no EU country would come up with the suggestion of “I want to be a member of the SCO” or vice versa. The two groups require certain features and standards, which are not alike at all. Let's have a look at the SCO countries -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- to analyze the differences. All of these countries except for Kyrgyzstan are ruled by powerful leaders. Kyrgyzstan also appears to have found its powerful leader in 2010, though. These leaders do not leave power easily and the policies of the SCO countries are largely shaped by their leaders. On the other hand, leaders are not that powerful or long-lasting in the EU. They do not remain in power more than 10 years at most. So this brings us to the question of whether Erdoğan leans towards the SCO because of his plans for leadership. The answer to this question will be clearer once we get to see whether the new constitution being drafted for Turkey will include a switch to the presidential system.
Bugün's Vedat Bilgin says now that everyone agrees that the SCO is not an alternative to the EU and that Turkey will not give up on its EU membership aspirations, we should make one thing clear: The reasons why the EU drags its feet on Turkey's EU bid are not temporary or can be solved quickly. We have waited half a century at the EU's door and it is highly likely that we will be kept at its door for another half a century. This is why, and which is what Erdoğan actually implied in the first place, Bilgin says, Turkey should seek other cooperation that will contribute to its economy and not to its democratic standards.
On the other hand, Mahir Kaynak, another Star columnist, blames the political mentality in Turkey, saying that whichever cooperation the ruling party puts forward, the opposition groups will criticize it anyway and will claim that the ruling party is picking the wrong group. They don't care about the policy or the viability of the ruling party's offer; what they care about is only opposing the governing party and nothing more. However, issues such as the debate over joining the SCO or the EU are exceedingly critical for Turkey's long-term goal of becoming a superpower and these issues should not be wasted by the political wings' struggle over elections.