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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - The foreign policy of the AKP


We regard Turkey's EU membership as the biggest democratization project after the proclamation of the Republic.

We want to integrate with Europe, not assimilate.

The EU is our obsession. Even though we all understand different things from the EU membership, this obsession is what unifies us.

What guides the foreign policy of the AKP? Has the AKP government made any changes in the orientation of Turkey's traditional pro-Western foreign policy? What is the connection between identity and interest in the formation of the AKP's foreign policy? These are some questions which this chapter attempts to answer. On the basis of speeches by Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Gül, then Foreign minister, one can identify three guiding principles of AKP foreign policy: the Europeanization of foreign policy as a way of maintaining the domestic and international legitimacy of the government; the policy of “zero-problem with the neighbors,” that is, to create a peaceful environment in Turkey by developing trade and political ties with neighbors, especially with Muslim countries; and pursuing a policy that balances the anti-American feelings of its grass-roots supporters with its need for US support.

The policy-makers of the AKP consider Turkey to be not a “bridge,” but rather a “pivotal” state in the region. A close examination of the writings of Ahmet Davutoğlu, the top foreign policy advisor of the government, and Foreign Minister Gül's statements indicates that they both stress Turkey's “Eastern” – read Islamic – identity, while at the same time stressing the government's determination to adopt mainstream Western values and principles in order to join the EU. There is thus a deep duality at play between “Eastern identity” and “the Western values” that the government seeks to implement.