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Turkey and Iran’s Neighborhood with European Union

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hormoz Ja'fari 

Active ImageIn international politics and international relations, every country meets its interests in its own special way. Governments are using different strategies to do this. One of those strategies is coalition. In the 21st century, which is known as the age of international organizations, this issue is more evident and countries join different coalitions to meet their interests. This strategy may be limited to cooperation or lead to the establishment of a new political entity out of several formerly independent ones. The European Union is a good example in this regard. When a new entity is born it will have new interests which are pursued through a new mode of conduct.

When Turkey joins the European Union, it will be changed from an independent station to a European one and this will affect its interests. Since Iran is a neighbor of Turkey, Ankara’s EU membership may directly affect Iran’s national security in two ways. The first consideration is related to bilateral relations while the second one is the impact of this development on Iran’s relations with the EU. Since the inception of modern Turkey, they have dreamt about Great Turkistan which extends from Turkey to Mongolia. Although they have gained great influence in Azerbaijan and the Caucasus through heavy investments, their dream has never been realized and EU membership may be an end to that dream. Thus, Turkey’s EU membership may improve relations with Tehran.

Such ideas as Pan-Turkism and Kamalism are the root cause of many problems between Iran and Turkey and are the most important barrier on the way of Turkey’s EU membership. As the new European Turkey evolves, this problem will be solved.
Therefore, when Turkey becomes an EU member economic interests will take the place of political ones and in the long run, ethnic tendencies will lose ground to European identity of Turkey. Of course in the short run, the open atmosphere may pave the way for transient resurge of Kurdish and Turkish nationalism, but this will not be a serious problem because Turkey is capable of controlling the situation and EU regulations will let no room for such tendencies. This will be welcomed by Iran.

EU membership will also influence Turkey’s relations with the United States and Israel in a way that will be desirable to Iran. Turkey will have to seek its interests within the framework of EU and European countries’ stance on Iran will not be necessarily attuned to the United States. A major reason for military cooperation with Israel for Turkey was the issue of the Kurds, differences with Syria and economic weaknesses of that country. After accession to EU, none of those problems will persist and being supported by Europe, there would be no need to Israel.

On the other hand, new conditions will stand better grounds in Central Asia and the Caucasus, though its approach will be more economic than political. An example is renewed talks with Armenia which has elicited severe protests from Azerbaijan. Another point is that due to the unique geo-strategic and geo-economic situation of Iran, the European Union cannot ignore the country in its foreign policy as this has been evident up to now. Despite tremendous pressure from the United States, the European Union has never severed its relations with Iran. Therefore, Europe has always pursued its own policy toward Iran and this can be very beneficial for Iran and can be considered from several viewpoints.

1. Political outcome: Obviously after Turkey’s EU membership and promotion of democracy, it will be a good opportunity for transfer of that experience to Iran. Observing democracy and human rights and good governance will affect cultural, political and social structures of a country’s national power and are very influential on a given country’s national security. Europe is following a long-term strategy and maintains that to achieve democracy, minimum of economic development is needed. The Islamic Republic of Iran has no major differences with Europe on these issues and minor differences can be removed. EU’s neighborhood with Iran will turn bilateral ties more legal and regulated. This is important because it will pave the way for long-term relations and prevent Europe from breaching its agreements with Iran, which in turn, will bolster political ties. In addition, since security cooperation is part of good neighborly relations, Iran and EU can cooperate more on such issues as drug smuggling, bootlegging, illegal immigration and organized crime.

2. Economic outcome: A positive outcome of Iran’s neighborhood with the European Union is to avail of liberal trade conditions and preferential tariffs which are usually considered by Europe for its neighbors. Given Iran’s lack of membership in the World Trade Organization, Europe’s 550-million market can boost exports from Iran and this is in line with Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategy. On the other hand, EU support will ease Iran’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Iran can also avail of EU experiences in such areas as energy, environment, rail and road transportation and health programs and turn into an international transit corridor, thus eliminating many foreign threats against its security. Another possible advantage for Iran is to avail of technical and technological assistance of European countries and strengthening of the Iranian private sector, which is a major goal of Article 44 of its constitution.

3. Cultural outcome: A major threat posed to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s security and national interests is differences between Iran and the West in terms of trade and cultural identity. Due to negative propaganda by Western media, the two sides have not had a good chance of understanding each other away from hostilities and misunderstandings. Cultural cooperation is a good way for achievement of a better understanding of the Iranian and Islamic culture in the Western world and eliminating negative images of Iran in order to meet the country’s national interests. Cultural cooperation can consist of free exchange of citizens as well as more cooperation in scientific, artistic, technological and educational fields. Therefore, Turkey’s EU membership can be followed by advantages and opportunities for Iran. Of course, we must not simplistically believe that this is totally positive and there are no negative consequences. In case of mismanagement, every opportunity may turn into a threat against our national interests. This is an important issue which should be discussed elsewhere.

Source: Etemaad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review

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