There was always, at least for its critics, something preposterous about the idea of Turkey entering the European Unionquips John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.
It meant, in their eyes, Europe literally extending its frontiers to the borders of Iran, Syria and Iraq, and the E.U. adding to its membership a predominantly Muslim country whose population would soon give it the biggest number of seats in the European Parliament. As for Turkey’s government, its uncertain relationship with democracy was exemplified by 57 journalists in jail — more, at last count by international watchdogs, than either China or Iran.
Now, at an increasing pace over the last six months, Turkey is portraying itself as a regional power in the Middle East, threatening to send its ships to challenge Cypriot or Israeli gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean, talking up “an axis” with Egypt, and warning of a “real crisis” with the E.U. if it allows the Republic of Cyprus to hold, as scheduled, its six-month rotating presidency next year. To its backers in Europe, this Turkey can no longer look much like an idealized bridge to a world beyond clashes of civilizations.
… [Also] the question of Turkey’s new engagement in the Arab world, its falling out with Israel, and general bluster is a more intimate one for Europe. Some Europeans would like to minimize the problem.
… But if you take Turkey’s Middle East power ambitions as serious — and not blowhard fantasizing — then it is the Turks who are forcing the E.U. to turn away from its candidacy. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said, “A Turkey that wants to become a regional power must build up its political and economic influence on the waterways from the Aegean to the Adriatic and from the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf.”