Turkey’s Lost Illusions

History is moving in the Middle East, but not in the direction that Turkey would prefer. And, with their country’s economic growth faltering, its government becoming more repressive, and its diplomatic performance a growing source of disappointment, many Turks now openly wonder what happened.

PARIS – “Day by day, Europe is moving further away from Turkey,” Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs, declared last week. But the reverse is equally true: With a mixture of disillusion and defiance, Turkey has been distancing itself from Europe in recent years. “If you do not want us,” the Turks appear to be saying, “we really do not want you.”

In reality, nearly three years after the beginning of the “Arab Spring,” Turkey is more in search of itself than it is of Europe, even if it needs Europe more than Turks are willing to admit. What is Turkey today, what are its values, and what is its destiny in a highly fluid regional environment?

The Arab Spring was initially seen as a great opportunity for Turkey, an ideal setting in which to highlight the country’s economic success, democratic political model, and indispensable strategic role in the region. The inheritors of one of the world’s great empires were proving to the world that Islam and modernity were perfectly compatible – an inspiring example for Arab countries like Egypt.

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