ROME – Later this year, Turkey will host the 2015 G-20 Leaders' Summit, the tenth annual meeting of the G-20 heads of government. The country's prominence on the world stage comes at an odd time, when it finds itself surrounded by a widening arc of instability.
Indeed, two geopolitical orders are unraveling in Turkey's immediate neighborhood: the post-Cold War entente with Russia, and the national borders in the Middle East defined by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement and 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Never have the European Union and Turkey needed one another more, and yet rarely have they been so distant.
Turkey is no longer the rising regional star that it was during the first half of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's 12 years in office. Long gone are the days when the country was booming economically and advancing toward true democracy, a source of inspiration to many in the region. Today, Turkey faces myriad challenges: growing authoritarianism, unimpressive growth, and a faltering Kurdish peace process. With a 900-kilometer border with Syria, it is hosting nearly two million Syrian refugees and is vulnerable to attacks and infiltration by the Islamic State. Tensions with both Iran and Israel have become deeply entrenched, and the country has become increasingly dependent on energy from a revanchist Russia.
Turkey cannot confront these challenges alone. The EU accounts for almost 40% of Turkish trade, 70% of its foreign direct investment, and more than 50% of its tourism industry. Meanwhile, the country's economic ties with its southern neighbors have spiraled downward since the Arab Spring in 2011.