Matteo Colombo (Italian Institute for International Political Studies)
The Middle East is currently going through a period of crisis, which relates to the collapse of the state power in Syria and Iraq and the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The region is in the midst of both a political and security crisis. The situation has, however, an impact beyond the region. A closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey, as an important player in the region, could help find a solution to the crisis. It would also enable both actors to better define their security challenges and interests.
Thus, for the EU, Turkey is potentially the best regional candidate to tackle security problems in the Middle East and in the Black Sea region. With the EU’s help, Ankara could become a constructive player and restore its influence in the region, but, on the other hand, the Kurdish issue might bring about a standoff between Brussels and Ankara. For the Turkish side, the Kurds constitute a major threat to internal security, while, at the same time, some EU Member States see the ethnic group as an important partner in the fight against the Islamic State. A possible cooperation in the security policy between the EU and Turkey may, however, be crucial for both sides in two particular areas.
The first area concerns the territory of the Black Sea. Here, the Russian Federation, is objectively seeking to increase its influence, which is evidenced by Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and its annexation of the Crimea. Moreover, as part of the modernization of the navy, the Kremlin wants to add more vessels to the Black Sea. Turkey, with the EU’s help, should therefore balance Russia’s influence in the area, prevent any possibility of conflict, and seek to ensure energy security in the region. The second area is the effort of both actors to diversify energy sources in the region. Turkey imports over 50 percent of the gas and 25 percent of the oil from Russia. In the case of the Union, it is 39 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
The possibility of a pragmatic partnership between the EU and Turkey, which would be based on common interests, could generally bring more stability to the Middle East. The very fact that Ankara is able to adopt unpopular but rational decisions can be seen in the reopening of the embassies in Tel Aviv and Ankara. Therefore, Turkey could ultimately, under certain circumstances, become a new piece in the EU’s regional policy.
(The study can be downloaded here :http://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/turkey-and-eu-new-path-toward-shared-security-policy-14890)