This assertion by policymakers, meanwhile, has raised some suspicions in the world that NATO’s only Muslim member and a candidate for European Union membership has been moving towards the East at the expense of the West.
While this debate will continue for some time to come, the focal point of this article is the state of the Turkish Foreign Ministry in general and its ability to meet Turkey’s growing role in its environs. Turkey has already taken important steps in the implementation of its policy of “zero problems with neighbors” while deciding to enlarge its diplomatic missions at the ambassadorial level in many African as well as Latin American countries.
The Foreign Ministry detailed in an announcement almost two weeks ago its plan to restructure the ministry to enable it to meet the growing role of Turkey in the world, with the emphasis being focused on increasing the quantity and the quality of the diplomatic corps.
Turkey’s plan to restructure its Foreign Ministry dates back to 1975 during the second term of the late Foreign Minister İhsan Sabri Çağlayangil. But such plans, reconsidered in later years, have never been put into force, mainly because the country could not manage to implement democratic or economic reforms as a result of the military coups taking place since 1960. The coups have continuously interrupted the smooth functioning of the political system. Added to the problem has been the existence of weak politicians failing to take bold steps in ending the military trusteeship system of governance.
Since 1999, the year EU leaders declared Turkey a candidate member country, at the Helsinki summit, Ankara has made military and political as well as civilian reforms, although the political authority has lost its appetite for the reform process in the past few years.
Nevertheless, in parallel to the democratic reforms, the Foreign Ministry has also begun to take an active role in matters concerning its region while last year becoming one of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, due to end next year. Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies have also increasingly shifted from using instruments of hard power to those of soft power, opening a new era in Turkey where “diplomacy comes first” in the resolution of disputes.
Overall, such a policy shift is coupled with an effort to open more embassies in Africa and in Latin America. But the financial resources of the Foreign Ministry do not match its will to restructure itself to meet the country’s growing vision.
Having said that Turkey has increasingly begun using its soft power as part of its vision to assert its role in conflicts through diplomatic means, the financial resources allocated for defense and the security of the country have still been significantly higher than the Foreign Ministry’s budget.
The budget set for fiscal year 2010 is around TL 871.87 million for the Foreign Ministry, whereas the budget for Ministry of Defense is set at TL 15.93 billion. (This figure excludes extra budgetary funds earmarked for defense -- when added it is estimated to be over TL 20 billion.) The budget of the Gendarmerie General Command (JGK) and the Security Directorate are TL 4.04 billion and TL 8.69 billion, respectively.
Turkey will finally be able to restructure its Foreign Ministry to meet its vision of becoming a more respected and influential member of the world community, although this will be in the long term. In the meantime, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu should put up a fierce fight in increasing his ministry’s poor budget to restructure it both in terms of quantity and quality.