As Turkey drifted away from Europe in 2010, the EU did little to influence its new neighbourhood policy.
In 2010, Turkey’s neighbourhood policy, especially in the Middle East, drifted apart from the foreign-policy priorities of the EU. The two most striking cases were Turkish opposition to a new round of international sanctions against Iran and the rift with Israel.
At the same time, Turkey has pushed for trade liberalisation and facilitation of free movement of people with Arab neighbours. Turkey concluded a quadripartite free-trade agreement (FTA) with Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and a bilateral FTA with Lebanon. Turkey and Lebanon agreed to abolish visas, following similar agreements with Syria and Jordan. Such deals follow up on the EU’s own trade liberalisation initiatives under the EuroMed process which have a multilateral dimension. In addition, Turkey’s attractiveness to neighbours is in no small part due to its close economic links with the EU.
Turkey is a potential partner in the Western Balkans, Iraq and, to some degree, in the Southern Caucasus, but the EU has failed to engage it in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which Turkey sees as an alternative track to accession. While member states that support Turkish EU membership are exclusively focused on the accession process (see component 44), the obstacles created by some opponents, such as Cyprus and France, inadvertently encourage Ankara to act unilaterally in the Middle East. EU disunity boomeranged in 2010 as Turkey openly challenged the EU on an important foreign-policy issue by opposing new sanctions against Iran.
Meanwhile, energy relations between Turkey and Russia in June improved when their respective prime ministers, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, unveiled a joint plan to build a nuclear power plant near the city of Mersin. Although Turkey is a key ally in the effort to diversify energy supplies to the EU, especially given strategic projects such as the Nabucco gas pipeline, Cyprus is still blocking the negotiation chapter on energy.