December 24, 2014
Turkey has today announced its budget for 2015. Total spending is estimated at 225 billion dollars, whereas revenue is expected to be around 216 billion USD, leaving a deficit of only 9 billion USD. The biggest items on its expenditure list are health and education, with 38 billion dollars earmarked for each, which is a significant amount by any standards. Moreover, despite the turmoil in the Middle East and stagnation in Europe, Turkey’s economy is expected to grow by 3.5 percent next year. (source: Hurriyet)
The good news about Turkey’s good economic performance is overshadowed by a war of words between the Turkish government and some EU officials about what is essentially an internal political affair involving journalists from Zaman. Unfortunately, every now and again EU officials feel compelled to lecture condescendingly to their Turkish counterparts on various issues, forgetting the fact that the Ottoman Empire had successfully ruled a large territory that is today part of the Union (as well as the Maghreb and the Middle East) for a few hundred years and that its army could only be stopped in its tracks in 1683, while halfway to Dover.
On the diplomatic front, however, President Erdogan and his government have to finally come to terms with the brutal demise from power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Truth be told, the Islamic brand of democracy promoted after the 2011 Arab revolutions by Turkey has not really caught on in North Africa or the Middle East. This is not to say that such a development will never happen in the future, but so far Arabs have shown they are less pragmatic and more radical in their approach to political Islam than the Turks, hence the fiasco.
Still, Egypt remains the largest Arab country and therefore Turkish authorities cannot continue to reject the normalization of diplomatic relations with Al-Sissi, distasteful as this might be in practice. The current state of diplomatic relations with Egypt could only insulate Turkey within the Arab world, an outcome that neither Mr Davutoglu, the prime minister, nor President Erdogan would benefit from.
Over the past few years, the promotion of Islamic values within Turkey has intensified to levels that remind us of the aggressive promotion of secularism by Kemalist authorities last century. Most politicians in Europe reject the Islamization of their own continent and do by now understand that Turks – likewise – are entitled to refuse European values and to affirm their own instead. Still, the forced Islamization of Turkish society could defeat the purpose, if the policies and the methods used to implement them prove too hasty or too harsh. In such an event, all the solid achievements of the AK Party over the past 12 years are at risk of being overshadowed by social, religious or ethnic tensions which have the potential to tear the Turkish social fabric apart.