Turkey accused of 'exploiting' EU-Russia trade embargo

Written by Manolis Kefalogiannis on 9 September 2014 in Opinion

Instead of aligning with European foreign policy, Turkey is exploiting Russia's embargo against the EU, writes Manolis Kefalogiannis.

The recent presidential elections in Turkey, during which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won and Ahmet Davutoğluwas hand-picked to serve as prime-minister, illustrated the AKP's ideological origin which is rooted in 1920s opposition to Kemal Atatürk and the secular state which he established.

The fact that Erdoğan has won the presidential election with 53 percent of the vote indicates that the majority of Turkish voters adopt Erdoğan's anti-western rhetoric and opted for a Turkey with theocratic characteristics, a Turkey which will pursue regional hegemony.

The recent presidential elections marked the weakening of the western-oriented Gezi park movement, the liberal bourgeoisie, and the country's pro-European orientation. With Kemalism dead in Turkey, Erdoğan is now free to proceed with his plan to transform Turkey into an Islamic power.

"Turkey's reaction to the recent embargo on food imports from the EU which Russia imposed clearly demonstrates the fact that Ankara is distancing itself from the EU"

Turkey's reaction to the recent embargo on food imports from the EU which Russia imposed clearly demonstrates the fact that Ankara is distancing itself from the EU. More specifically, Turkey's economy minister Nihat Zeybekci underlined that Russia's restrictions serve as a window of opportunity for Ankara to bolster its exports of both food and consumer goods to Russia.

"We should make this opportunity a strong, long-term, permanent and corporate one... We are in talks to meet their needs and make the most of this opportunity," said Zeybecki.

This position was also repeated by the head of the Turkish exporters assembly, Mehmet Büyükekşi, who underlined that, "Demand from Russia for Turkish products increased after limits to trade with the US and EU were introduced."

Before the Ukraine crisis, Turkey was Russia's fifth leading exporter of food with € 1.3bn worth of trade in 2013.

The council of foreign ministers which took place on 15 August, 2014, called on third and candidate countries to refrain from measures which are aimed at exploiting new trading opportunities arising from the introduction of the Russian embargo with the aim of ensuring the unity of the international community and upholding international law. Clearly, Ankara is not aligned with Brussels.

"As a candidate country, Turkey should bring its foreign policy into line with that of the EU"

Unfortunately, the EU's public position vis-à-vis Turkey has been vague. Indicative is that enlargement commissioner Štefan Füle's spokesperson Peter Stano said, "We do not see any need to elaborate publicly on the ways how and what we communicate via diplomatic channels with our partner countries and how they react to this communication, since this is the nature of diplomacy that it is not conducted via media.

"That is why I will not elaborate on the list of the partner countries and their responses when it comes to issues related to these FAC conclusions and Russian measures against the EU in general."

As a candidate country, Turkey should bring its foreign policy into line with that of the EU. This is exactly the case with Serbia, another candidate country, who is not going to make use of Moscow's embargo to profit to its own advantage.

Ankara, however, is doing quite the contrary: it is participating à la carte in European policy and is currently benefiting from the Russian embargo, whose cost is being paid by the member states, particularly European farmers who are hard hit by the Russian sanctions.

About the author

Manolis Kefalogiannis is a member of parliament's foreign affairs committee

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