In a brainstorming session held in Ankara for about 200 current and former ambassadors under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry on Monday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Ankara needs to come up with a systematic and coherent vision unique to Turkey in its dealings with regional and international affairs, without forgetting public diplomacy, to draw support from the public audience both domestic and abroad.
“By 2023 when the country will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the republic, I envision a Turkey which is a full member of the EU after having completed all the necessary requirements, living in full peace with its neighbors, integrated with neighboring basins in economic terms and for a common security vision, an effective player in setting orders in regions where our national interests lie, and active in all global affairs and among the top 10 economies in the world,” he said.
The conference, titled “Democracy, Security and Stability: A Look at 2010 in Global and Turkish Foreign Policy,” which will last until Jan. 8, will host the Japanese, German and Brazilian foreign ministers as well as two heads of state, from Palestine and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). The purpose of the brainstorming session, Davutoğlu explained, was to exchange opinions in a free discussion environment and develop a cohesive and well-integrated approach in renewed Turkish foreign policy dynamism. It also plans to pinpoint problems and provide a venue for alternative solutions offered by the participants.
Davutoğlu stressed that a more effective and efficient coordination between the Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad on various issues is paramount to sustain the new Turkish foreign policy vision. “Because of our unique location, we should be all ears to any developments fostering in our region. Otherwise, any adverse effects from a lapse in the communication network or a weak link in the information channel will not only influence that country in question but will also hamper our overall foreign policy,” he noted.
Turkey’s top diplomat stressed that Turkey has been actively involved in relations with its neighbors, the European Union, the United States, the Gulf countries, Central Asia and the Middle East as well as its activities in various international bodies, and in its outreach to Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean region. In a reference to expanding Turkish interests in different regions, Davutoğlu said seven new embassies were opened in 2009 and they plan to add an extra 26 new embassies in 2010. Most of the new embassies are to be opened on African continent.
Understaffed and underfunded
Davutoğlu lamented the fact that his Foreign Ministry is understaffed and he said he had already brought the issue to the attention of the Cabinet and the prime minister. He said he hopes to beef up the ministry both in terms of new staff and fresh funds. While the Turkish Foreign Ministry has a little below 1,500 personnel in both the management and career services, in a sharp contrast, France employs 5,809 diplomats in its foreign service, UK has 5,700 and Germany has 3,865 staff. In terms of budget, the Turkish Foreign Ministry was also underfunded. In terms of index to the gross domestic product (GNP), Turkey allocates 0.07 percent of its budget to the Foreign Ministry while Germany provides 0.12 and France 0.23 percent.
In 2007, the budget allocated to the ministry was TL 690 million, and it increased to TL 707 million in 2008 and to TL 802 million in 2009. The ministry’s budget for 2010 was set at TL 920 million. The number of diplomatic officers in the foreign service was 712 in 1991; it increased to 875 in 1999 and is currently 970. Figures showing the increase in the number of Turkey’s missions abroad in the last few years may be more helpful in showing the urgency of this need. The number of Turkey’s missions abroad was 136 in 1991, when the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union; it increased to 160 in 1999 and stands at 198 as of 2009. Out of those 198 missions, 114 are embassies, 11 are permanent representative offices and 73 are consulates. At present, 177 of those 198 missions are functioning. By 2010, the number is expected to increase to 203.
In a major bid to transform the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic service commensurate with the rising Turkish engagement in the region and the world, Davutoğlu listed the parameters of a new foreign service as a general outline in his opening speech: an ideological dimension which envisions a promising future place for Turkey, a psychological dimension which reinforces self-confidence, a communication dimension which merges both national and international messages in a coherent way, a national dimension which coordinates overlapping policies among different agencies and ministries, an international dimension which operates on both horizontal and vertical platforms especially by deepening high-level strategic coordination among countries, and lastly an institutionalization dimension which ensures sustainability of the policy in the quality of services rendered, and in human resources.
The first session was held in Ankara in July last year and was widely regarded as a great success. Encouraged by its positive results, the Foreign Ministry decided to repeat the session each year, inviting several foreign ministers to this year’s session. The conference will assess the current status of Turkish foreign policy and draw conclusions as to its future situation.
Given the dynamic conditions in which international relations are conducted today, Ankara does not think it is possible to pursue a static and single-parameter policy. A multidimensional and multi-axial structure is often cited as the best option for Turkish foreign policy. Diplomats point out that the range of issues that fall inside Turkey’s sphere of interest is gradually increasing, with an implied increase in the work its Foreign Ministry must conduct. In this context, the Turkish Foreign Ministry places great importance on bringing its ambassadors together to exchange their experiences and discuss recent developments throughout the world.
As they will be on official visits to Ankara between Jan. 4 and 8, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will attend the conference. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the president of the KKTC will also address the audience. An assessment session on the results of the conference will be held in Mardin on Jan. 9 and 10.