Op-chart: Turkey's changing world
Source: Turkish Republic Ministry of Economy official website (http://www.ekonomi.gov.tr)
January 30th, 2012
03:26 PM ET

Op-chart: Turkey's changing world

Editor's Note: Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Hale Arifagaoglu is a research assistant at the Institute. Bilge Menekse is a former research intern at the Institute.

By Soner Cagaptay, Hale Arifagaoglu and Bilge Menekse - Special to CNN

Over the course of the 20th Century, Turkey’s world became increasingly Eurocentric. The country joined European and broader Western institutions, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while also moving to become a member to the European Union (EU).

Today, however, the country’s single-minded European trajectory appears to be a thing of the past. Turkey, which has experienced phenomenal economic growth in the past decade, no longer feels content to subsume itself under Europe.

Since 2002, the Turkish economy has more than doubled in size, reaching a magnitude of $1.1 trillion. Gone is the Turkey of yesteryear, a poor country begging to get into the EU.

Enter the new Turkey: A country that feels confident, booming as the world around it suffers from economic meltdown. In the third quarter of 2011, the Turkish economy grew by a record 8.2%, outpacing not only the county's neighbors, but also all of Europe.

Europe's economic doldrums coupled with Turkey's new trans-European vision under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government means that the country's traditional commercial bonds with Europe are eroding while its trade links with the non-European world flourish. Accordingly, the Turks are increasingly trading with the non-OECD world (see the chart above).

Paralleling this trend, Ankara has pursued a foreign policy that transcends Turkey's old European focus.

The AKP’s vision of reaching beyond Europe politically is now Turkey’s vision as well. The following graph shows the number of new diplomatic missions Turkey has opened up since the AKP came to power in 2002:

Source: Turkish Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website (http://www.mfa.gov.tr). OIC stands for Organization of Islamic Conference.

If Turkey is no longer trying to fit into Europe, then what is it doing? The best way to describe the new Turkey is as a “Eurasian China” - a country that is aggressively trading with the entire world while building connections to distant destinations. The next graph compares direct destinations served from Istanbul by the country’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, in 1999 and 2010:

Source: Turkish Airlines official website (http://www.turkishairlines.com/tr-tr/). MENA stands for the Middle East and North Africa. CIS stands for the Commonwealth of Independent States, including Russia and former Soviet states.

Is the “Eurasian China” model sustainable? This requires the Turkish economy to keep humming along and the country's politics to remain relatively stable.

There is a foreign policy angle at work here: Turkey is relatively stable at a time when the region is in upheaval. This, in turn, attracts investment from less-stable neighbors like Iran, Iraq, and Syria.  Investors are looking for a stable economy. Ultimately, political stability and regional clout are Turkey's hard cash. Its economic growth and ability to rise as a “Eurasian China” will depend on both.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Soner Cagaptay, Hale Arifagaoglu and Bilge Menekse.


soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Several European countries – especially France and Germany – continue to have serious misgivings over Turkey's E.U. membership. It had long been at odds with its close neighbour, Greece, over the divided island of Cyprus and territorial disputes in the Aegean. Talks with the E.U. started in 2005 and the breakthrough didn't come until Turkey agreed to recognise Cyprus as an E.U. member. The going wasn't easy. Now Ankara is focussing on cultivating better relations with Arab and African countries, not just out of strategic but also economic point of view.

    January 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      What we need to do j. von hettlingen, is to put economic pressure on Turkey in order to get them to grant the Kurds the independence they deserve. Tragically, that won't be done due to the greed of both the European and American leaders who care nothing for human rights! This I find quite sickening!!!

      January 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Reply
      • Kurd

        I wish to thank you here, George. You seem to be the only one here who understands our plight and cares. All these other ignoramuses here just simply ignore us. If you were running for the U.S. Presidency, you'd have our vote hands down!!

        January 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
      • Rahmi

        Hi Guys,

        Believe me that most of the Turks are ready to give KURD their lands, just because of staying away from trouble. Do you think that turkish people make pressure and restrict Kurdish people life? If we restrict them, why their population jump up to 30 million in Turkey. Why they can have anything they want in Turkey? Ask kurdish people that did anybody stop them if they are doing something legally in west of Turkey? All this problem coming from the low educational level, i understand that they are having really hard life from begining to end. But its not just because of the goverments, its because of their brothers and sister. Most of kurdis families has 6-18 kid in their family. If you made that much population in little families, life can be hard for even for wealthy turkish families. Turkish goverment has send theachers, send doctors, even their 50 population villages. Do you know what their gerillas did to them? They killed them all. Because they were afraid to lose their ignorant supporters. Do you get that? I am just replying this to show that you have to look from the both sides. Turks and Kurds lived in peace, we never had problem with our kurdish neigbours before 80's. All this is plays of outsource country's.

        January 31, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
      • GokTurk

        Kurds can have their land but EVERY single one living in the rest of Turkey must go there. Deal?

        January 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
      • Marek Boudain

        What we need to do George Patton, is to put economic pressure on the United States in order to get them to grant the Mexican Americans the independence they deserve. Tragically, that won't be done due to the greed of both the European and American leaders who care nothing for human rights! This I find quite sickening!!!

        (Words are cheap Mr.Hypocrite with extreme double standards. What is sickening is you and those with like mindset. Turks do not owe anyone any land, Kurds have the option to live in Turkey or move to their state nextdoor called Kurdistan. Kurds are the ones who formed a terrorist group and caused the death of 40K people of their own and from Turks, yet you get on here and try to turn the table around to show Turks as evil. You have got to be a Kurd or otherwise some enemy of Turkey and the Turks posting with hatred.)

        February 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
      • turk

        george! have you ever been in Turkey? your politicians did it many times. visited east especially and now you have to ask them why they want Turkey in EU without kurds! thats why they insists to give so-called independence to Kurds. target is Turkey in the EU without Kurds and without border to Iran and Iraq and Syria! get this.

        April 3, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  2. S. Graham

    George Patton...As soon as the United States gives Native Americans back land and full independence, not the leftover shams of reservations forced upon them, because it was land Caucasian settlers didn't want as part of America's 'Manifest Destiny.' Or are you willing to volunteer more in taxes to compensate them after they were ethnically cleansed from large swaths of the North American continent? The past is what it is, no one is historically clean of atrocities by today's standards, not even our country – and to the US' credit we have been far better than most. I suppose you also think Israel should give back all the land they took by force since 1948 to the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Syrians? Seljuk, Ottoman and Republican Turks have been in control of that land for over 1000 years, they have more historical right to it than any American of European heritage, including the off spring of the original Pilgrims, to North America.

    January 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
    • gok

      Native Americans are our long lost brothers from ages ago....pity the GokTurks couldnt help you hold your realms......Aheyyy

      January 31, 2012 at 10:13 am | Reply
  3. 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

    Practically, Turkey can not and will never be the part of EU, either politically, Culturally or Economically. It is just for the cause of EU destruction having Turkey in EU.

    However, either directly or indirectly, Turkey could fit very well being the part and member of African Union and Middle-East player. Even though, soon it will cause problems for its Human Right abuse and illegal trading.

    January 31, 2012 at 12:19 am | Reply
    • gok

      Obviously Greek, thus rendering anything you have to say about Turks utterly meaningless.

      January 31, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Marek Boudain

      gok: He may be an Armenian or Kurd, or with the latest trend even Jew. CNN forums are filled with lies and propaganda against Turkey and the Turks thanks to these people posting with their hatred that carried on since they lost many wars to the Turkish Ottoman Empire throughout history.

      February 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
      • Lusine Keshisyan

        Marek quote
        "since they lost many wars to the Turkish Ottoman Empire throughout history"

        War? I thought it was bloody invasions of eastern Europe, middle east and northern Africa. Ottomans were not so nice to their fellow Moslems in the Middle east, (read T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia – on the fighting of the Arabic tribes against the bloodthirsty Ottoman)
        Europe doesn't want you, Europe kicked your rear in the Turko-Russo wars, your middle eastern moslem brothers don't trust you and now your only strong trading partner Israel is done with you.

        Turkey is ran by the Gulenist Islamic Terrorist group with Turkocentric teachings of Nursi (who was Persian) under the guise of Sufism and trying to restore the Ottoman Empire – Caliphate.
        Their economy is fake and based on propped up loans from the World Bank to seem pleasing by the Europeans.

        No amount of money would make the civilized countries of cultured Europe want Turkey – with the highest rate of human rights violations and imprisoned journalists part of their world.

        Soon their economy will be sliding back.

        Erdogan and Gulen are having power struggles with one another.

        February 3, 2012 at 2:58 am |
  4. Adele

    Turkey is both, an European and an Asian Country. It bridges 2 continents. This is Turkeys greatest asset.

    January 31, 2012 at 2:24 am | Reply
    • gok

      No our greatest asset is our folk culture and music, which is our honorable ancestors guiding us from beyond the grave....

      January 31, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply
      • Lusine Keshisyan

        Gok you mean the music, culture stolen from the indigneous people of Anatolia before the Ottoman (Osoman) Turk invaded from Central Asia (Mongolia)
        Most of today's Turks have Armenian, Greek, Syriac, Pontic Greek, Kurdish and Assyrian blood in them. As famous Turkish lawyer Fetihye Cetin discovered her grandmother was an Armenian orphan, one of the 150,000 left after the Ottoman Sword and Yoke took their parents.
        Rep of Turkey was not a country till 1923, didn't have an alphabet till the next year 1924, largely stolen from Greek and Latin.

        Take a look at all the ancient structures, the treasures of ROT, they were built by non-Turkish. Topaki Palace, St. Hagia Sofia Church (later shamelessly converted into the Grand Mosque)

        Then the final insult changing the name of Constaniople to Istanbul.

        February 3, 2012 at 3:02 am |
  5. Better World

    Turkey is a country that has denied people of their culture; if anything, through its ruthless history it has been more of a destroyer than a creator of culture.
    Until the day that the Turkish government accepts its crimes of the past, and apologizes for the shameful denial of the Armenian Genocide, it will remain a 3rd world country regardless of the strength of its economy.
    Only then can it deservedly emerge as a global player with a clear conscience, ready to make the world a better place.

    January 31, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • gok

      Ok its Armenians job in the world to judge Turks. You are saddest race on the planet, still whining about 100 year old wars....

      January 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Reply
      • Lusine Keshisyan

        Gok not a 100 year war, a planned genocide of civilzed people who inhabited what is known as Rep of Turkey some 11 centuries before the invasion of the mongolian from Central Asia.
        20 countries have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide and 43 states in the USA have proclaimations regarding the bloody killings and forced exile of Ottoman era first Christian nation in 301 AD people.
        Today Armenians have a large diaspora of displaced people because of this genocide perpatrated onto them. From Argentina to India, Uruguay to Mexico we have re built ourselves and are famous, with many successes worldwide.

        My grandparents were both orphans from Van. My 81 year old father never had grandparents because of the blood thirsty Ottoman that caused bloodshed to the gates of Vienna. The world knows because your ancestors victimized their countries as well.

        Tell your lies to the Alevis, Kurds, Assyrians, Circassians, Lebanese Maronites, Pontic Greeks, Cypriot Greeks, Bulgarians, etc., that your ancestors have offended. No wonder the world scorns you instead of praises you.

        Your one Nobel Peace Prize Winner Orhan Pamuk is stoned and shunned because he dared to speak of the dark days of the Ottoman Turk and the bloody killings of Armenians and Kurds. Today Turkey has the highest amount of jailed journalists who dared to speak about Imam Ordusu.

        Turkey is shameless. And their human rights is non-existant.

        February 3, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  6. SAS

    Soner Cagaptay is an outspoken critic of the AKP government. The fact that he is now singing the praises of Turkey's economic progress in recent years seems to contradict his previous disparaging criticism of the Erdogan government.

    January 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • First Advisor

      Analysts produce reports to sell them. If they produce conclusions no one will buy, then they don't make any money, and go out of business. Thus all analysts will always tell their customers whatever they want to hear. Analysts who sell to the news media, especially, will only report what is popular and sensationalistic, or popular and controversial. Whatever sells. We can both be certain the three writers would produce a very different report for any national government, for instance.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  7. Benedict

    It‘s good to see the the rejected stone is now a part of the foundation. Turkey must know how to balance it‘s new position in world affairs so as not to be seen as the “new bully on the block“!!

    February 1, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  8. To those who have hatred for Turkey....especially, the ones from Europe...

    Get this through your thick skull or I'll come there and split it into thousand pieces.... Turkey and Turks except a small portions do not intend to be part of EU...All these so called attempts to be part of EU is just to get rid of the "laiks" or the secularist not as it is understood in EU from the government. We are on a no return course for the last a couple of years now. That's the secularists are almost out of the power, there are those ones in the media may turn the table around but we are cleaning the society from them. Then, we will have nothing with EU other than having them as trade partner if they also choose too just like in the past. We have nothing in common with you. We hardly embrace the same moral codes or religious values. You hate us, we laugh at you. That has been the case for over a thousand years. We are the ones created more than 17 great empires and we have power to do it again and we are on our ways anyway.... I predicted that EU was established to stand firmly against the USA and not be slave for the US corporations. You hate each other so much, you will tear apart each other before you can face us. We will unite all the muslim nations under one ambrella. We are Muslims and we will eventually learn to bring our true moral values into day light as some of the muslims nations improve economically and then spread it within muslims and that will happen. Because we believe we are bretherens no matter, white, black, africans. We care for our African muslim bretherens as we care for our own which you lack of. So you do not need to keep repeating Turkey will never be part of EU as if you belittle us. You will eventually realize it if you carefully look into Turkish society and majority do not want it and the recent surveys show the great drop in support of EU memebership within the society. Heck! If you were to present EU membership in golden plate today, most Turks would be like"erhmmm!!!, well, we know we said we wanted to be but it was a great scam and you just didn't realize it. We just wanted to get rid of the individuals with "ittihat Terakki" mentality you have put on top of us after the World War I. They were too strong or seemed like they were but they are gone; hence, we turned our face to our true target that is we are on our way to embrace our bretherens from Asia to Middle East, Europe to Africa... we will also embrace our lost bretherens from the USA, the Natives and we will give the African descent to their pride back again in the U.S. so long Europe...peace!

    February 4, 2012 at 4:26 am | Reply

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