Neo-Ottomanism - Turkey's Growing Influence in Central and South-Eastern Europe by Means of Soft Power (Diplomacy, Culture, Education)

August 18, 2017 | Author: Cosmin-Dan Popescu | Category: Justice And Development Party (Turkey), Turkey, Gülen Movement, Balkans, Bric
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The foreign policy envisaged by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comes amid preparations that lasted for more than...


"Neo-Ottomanism": Turkey's growing influence in Central and Southeast Europe by means of "soft power" (diplomacy, culture, education) Cosmin-Dan POPESCU* Abstract: The foreign policy envisaged by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan comes amid preparations that lasted for more than a decade. Former Foreign Minister and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has prided himself on bringing a new pax ottomanica to the region, by practicing a type of policy called "zero problems with neighbours", an approach that would have expanded Ankara's influence across the Caucasus and the Black Sea, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. This vision disavowed any "neo-Ottoman" imperial ambitions. Rather, it was described by its proponents as a matter of "soft power". Turkey, applying the concept of "neo-Ottomanism", was aiming to take, in terms of economic, financial and cultural force, most of the areas that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Benefiting from the war of secession of the former Yugoslavia, Turkey has the advantage gained in the last 20 years to have what it has been lacking since 1923: Muslim states in the former imperial territories (Bosnia, Kosovo and partly Albania) and strong minority in others (Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria). The "Yunus Emre" Institute, established in 2007 with the objective of spreading abroad Turkish culture, society and language, already established centers in countries like Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The locations of the centres reflect the emphasis on the Balkans, which is in line with the common cultural heritage. Including Dobrudja is part of the projects to recovery the Ottoman memory, not few being the attempts to restore and highlight the monuments with deep meanings. Ankara's policy in the Black Sea, including the South Caucasus adds finishing touches to this picture, Turkey considering mare nostrum the aquatic area dominated by the Straits which are under its suzerainty. Therefore, the inclusion of Turkey in the European Union is a major continental decision that, if it will be realized, will deprive, at least in this part, the "Huntington line" of its relevance. Keywords: Ahmet Davutoğlu, "Yunus Emre" Institute, TİKA, "Hizmet" movement, Western Balkans.

* student, Universitatea "Ovidius" din Constanţa, Facultatea de Istorie şi Ştiinţe Politice, specializarea Relaţii Internaţionale şi Studii Europene; e-mail: [email protected]


Modern Turkey, with a history of less than a century, is a synthesis of historical, ethnic and cultural elements, European and Asian alike. 1 Since its founding in 1923, the Turkish Republic has been the bridge between East and West, the meeting point between Europe and the Middle East and belonged to the East and West, without being clearly part of any of the two worlds.2 Formal negotiations for the country's accession to the European Union started in 2005, with no concrete results yet, but certainly, over time, Turkey has focused its efforts on diplomatic relations especially with Europe and the North Atlantic Alliance, so to the West. Even so, nowadays this approach between Turkey and the West is no longer so certain for everyone. 3 The superiority of the secular Kemalist elite, concentrated in Istanbul and in the coastal cities, was visible everywhere for a long time, because it was composed by the beneficiaries of the best education and by the holders of the most important positions in the state. 4 But by 2002, this secular elite was already heavily discredited and the parliamentary elections in November of that year brought a substantial majority in Meclis (the Turkish Parliament) to the Justice and Development Party (Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – abbreviated AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. AKP was voicing out to the aspirations of the Turkish poor population of devout muslims in Anatolia, many of whom had migrated to Istanbul and other large cities in search of a job and a better life.5 Since the AKP is leading, especially after winning the 2007 and 2011 parliamentary elections and the presidential elections in 2014, by which the Islamist rooted party consolidated its hold on power, Turkey pursues a "neo-Ottoman" vision in its foreign policy. Though references to "neo-Ottoman" foreign policy ambitions have preceded the coming to power of the AKP in 2002, "neo-Ottomanism" is a term associated especially with the foreign policy strategy practiced by former Prime Minister (and current President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former 1 Liviu Iancu, Turcia în Uniunea Europeană? Argumente pro și contra, în, 31.03.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 07.12.2014. 2 Fatma Ruxandra Yilmaz, Turcia, aliat NATO. Lupta împotriva terorismului. Relaţia cu Afganistanul, în Vasile Simileanu, Adrian Corobană (coord.), Evoluţii geopolitice în spaţiul islamic (Şcoala de Vară Geopolitics, ed. a 2-a, 23 iulie-2 august 2012, Biblioteca Metropolitană Bucureşti), Editura Top Form, Bucureşti, 2012, p. 198. 3 Miriam Cihodariu, Relaţiile Turciei cu Uniunea Europeană şi posibile strategii viitoare. Incompatibilitate de fond sau doar alteritate permanentizată?, în V. Simileanu, A. Corobană (coord.), op. cit., pp. 45-46. 4 Sorin Aparaschivei, Turcia – mutaţii şi tendinţe în rândul elitelor politico-militare, în Vasile Simileanu, Güven Güngor (coord.), Turcia: de la Kemal Atatürk la Uniunea Europeană (Sesiune de comunicări ştiinţifice: 8-9 februarie 2013, Bucureşti), Editura Top Form, Bucureşti, 2013, p. 18. 5 Robert D. Kaplan, Răzbunarea geografiei. Ce ne spune harta despre conflictele viitoare şi lupta împotriva destinului, trad. Mihnea Gafiţa, Editura Litera, Bucureşti, 2014, pp. 383-384. 2

Minister of Foreign Affairs (and current Prime Minister) Ahmet Davutoğlu.6 Unlike its use in foreign policy, "neo-Ottomanism" has gained particular significance in domestic politics and materialized in specific government policies such as the recent initiative of President Erdoğan to introduce mandatory religion classes and the study of Turkish-Ottoman language, precursor to the modern Turkish language, with Arabic alphabet, to be studied in schools from the primary level.7 The nostalgia for the Ottoman past is felt in Turkey, a feeling that was represented in the media through movies and television series such as Kurtlar Vadisi, Fetih 1453, Muhteşem Yüzyıl, which enjoyed great popularity not only in Turkey, but also in countries with a rich Ottoman heritage.8 "NeoOttomanism", which gives a prominent place to Islam and Turkey’s imperial history as "soft power" tools in the conduct of foreign policy, enters into a direct contradiction with the country's secular Kemalist legacy and republican diplomacy tradition. 9 This new direction of Turkish foreign policy contradicts the spirit of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic, who postulated that Turkey should refrain from any grand designs in its foreign policy and instead concentrate its resources on national development within the boundaries of Anatolia. 10 Atatürk indicated that the only vocation for Turkey should be, henceforth, the process of Europeanization. The founder of modern Turkey didn't insisted at all to reconquer the Ottoman provinces in the Balkans and the Middle East, which were lost in World War I, his strategy being to build an ethnic Turkish state in the heart of Anatolia, firmly anchored to the West, so to Europe. But by focusing on Anatolia, he emphasized unwittingly the Islamic civilization, more deeply rooted in Asia Minor than in the European part of Turkey. So, he endowed the electoral masses of pious workers from the Anatolian hinterland with a great strength. By their vote, they brought AKP to power and will likely continue to support the current leadership in Ankara. 11 6 Agnes Czajka, Edward Wastnidge, "The Centre of World Politics? Neo-Ottomanism in Turkish Foreign and Domestic Politics", p. 11, disponibil la: %202015/Archive/a1b05e35-80f6-40ae-9c56-b5708c5c321e.pdf, accesat pe 17.01.2015. 7 Viorica Marin, Preşedintele Erdoğan vrea ca religia şi limba otomană să se studieze obligatoriu în şcoală, în Adevărul, 09.12.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 21.12.2014. 8 Florin Cristescu, Süleyman Magnificul, între istoria ca şi telenovelă și istoria ca adevăr, în Historia, 27.12.2013, disponibil la:, accesat pe 11.12.2014. 9 Alexander Murinson, "Turkish Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century", în Mideast Security and Policy Studies, nr. 97, p. 1, disponibil la:, accesat pe 11.12.2014. 10 Ibidem, pp. 11-12. 11 Robert D. Kaplan, op. cit., p. 381. 3

The theoretical background of the foreign policy practiced by AKP is Ahmet Davutoğlu's book, Strategic Depth (Turkish: Stratejik Derinlik), published in 2001, very popular among Turkish military, politicians and academics, a book which greatly increased its author prestige and influence. The basic idea of this work is Davutoğlu's respect for his country's imperial past. He demonstrates that this past is not a burden for Turkey, but a great advantage to affirm its regional and global importance. 12 "Strategic Depth" doctrine presumes an active role for Turkey in diplomacy, a foreign policy based on a sense of retrieved grandeur and a vision of Turkey as a country that can play a politically and economically active role in the Balkans, Caucasus and the Middle East, so in the former Ottoman space.13 Davutoğlu's geopolitical concept – called by himself "the self confidence of the nation" and by others "neo-Ottomanism" – emerges from the revolt of this intellectual and strategist against what he believes to be his country's regress in importance throughout the 20th century.14 Thus, Davutoğlu considers that it has to be changed the conception according to which "Turkey has strong muscles, a weak stomach, a troubled heart, and a mediocre brain, in other words, has a strong army, but a weak economy, a lack of self confidence and did not has a good strategic thinking". 15 In his view, Turkey should take advantage of the end of the Cold War and East-West adversity, of its cultural-political profile (as a secular and democratic Muslim state) and, especially, of the unique geostrategic position – a bridge between the Western and Islamic worlds, and also by its place on the transportation road of hydrocarbons towards Europe. 16 The origins of Davutoğlu's geopolitical approach can be found in the "neo-Ottomanism" of Turgut Özal and in the multi-dimensional foreign policy practiced by Necmettin Erbakan.17 If until the '90s Ankara was just "the voice" through which Washington often expressed itself in the region, Turkey gradually began to have its own interpretations, visions and claims.18 Benefiting from the war of secession of the 12 Adrian Cioroianu, Omul care vede în Turcia un nou imperiu, în Adevărul, 22.04.2010, disponibil la:, accesat pe 08.12.2014. 13 Cristian Câmpeanu, Se întorc (neo)otomanii în Balcani?, în România liberă, 09.06.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 17.01.2015. 14 A. Cioroianu, op. cit. 15 Cristina Dobreanu, Turcia şi noul otomanism, în Revista 22, 08.11.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 08.12.2014. 16 A. Cioroianu, op. cit. 17 A. Murinson, op. cit., p. 6. 18 F. R. Yilmaz, op. cit. 4

former Yugoslavia, Turkey has the advantage gained in the last 20 years to have what it has been lacking since 1923: Muslim states in the former imperial territories (Bosnia, Kosovo and partly Albania) and strong minority in others (Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria). Ankara's policy in the Black Sea, including the South Caucasus adds finishing touches to this picture, Turkey considering mare nostrum the aquatic area dominated by the Straits which are under its suzerainty. Therefore, the inclusion of Turkey in the European Union is a major continental decision that, if it will be realized, will deprive, at least in this part, the "Huntington line" of its relevance.19 In the last decade, Turkey's foreign policy was characterized by a paradigm structured on three distinct principles. In the first instance, we notice a firm approach regarding tensions in the proximity. From trying to mediate the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, to Hosni Mubarak's immediate condemnation following the uprisings in Egypt, Turkey has not only become more vocal in the regional policy, but established itself as a model for political, economic and social stability in the turbulent climate of the Middle East. A more diversified and open foreign policy, both with the European Union, the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East represented a second goal for Turkey. Thirdly, we notice the adoption of a diplomatic discourse based on the principle of soft power, which has shifted its focus to economic and cultural relations as a basis for cooperation. This was accompanied by a significant economic growth: in 2010 Turkey recorded the third highest growth of G20 group. The economist Jim O'Neill, author of the famous acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) speaks, more recently, about MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey) as major emerging economies.20 The Balkans are an important region for Turkey’s neighborhood. According to an official document issued by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "the Balkans is a priority for Turkey not only from the political, economical and geographical perspectives, but also due to its historical, cultural and human ties with the region", among the common objectives being "the preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans, high level political dialogue, security for all, utmost economic integration and the preservation of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious social structures".21 For several hundreds of years, the Balkans were under Ottoman rule. The Ottoman Empire is considered responsible for the backwardness of the peoples of South-East Europe and of the delicate ethnic and religious issues in the Balkans, so that mentally there are many barriers to be overcome.22 Difficult, especially economically, the Ottoman rule left quite a lot of freedom in religious terms. Forced conversions to Islam were quite rare, and the autonomy enjoyed by the Orthodox Church has allowed the preservation of 19 Mihail E. Ionescu, "Faliile de civilizaţie şi Ţările Române", în Magazin istoric, an XLV, nr. 6 (531), 2011, p. 37. 20 F. R. Yilmaz, op. cit. 21 Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affaires, Relations with the Balkan Region, disponibil la:, accesat pe 12.03.2015. 22 Gheorghe Florin Gheţău, De ce nu va intra Turcia în Uniunea Europeană, în, 05.09.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 07.12.2014. 5

traditional cultural values, especially in the spirit of Byzantium, which had finished its existence in 1453. Most often, in extreme cases, and with concrete motivations – for civil or military rise – occurred conversions to Islam, especially among the Albanians and the Slavs in Bosnia. 23 In the first part of the 20th century, the region was marked by three wars – the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II – and in the second half by the Cold War. These conflicts, hot or cold, drew dividing lines in the region, creating uncertainty, instability and losses. Tensions, to some extent, have survived and the culture of violence developed during these decades still haunts the people of the region.24 The founders of the Ottoman institutional system were able to impose a regime of peace and order (pax ottomanica), a regime which has reached its peak in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. Ahmet Davutoğlu has prided himself on bringing a new pax ottomanica to the region, by practicing a type of policy called "zero problems with neighbours", an approach that would have expanded Ankara's influence across the Caucasus and the Black Sea, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. This vision disavowed any "neo-Ottoman" imperial ambitions. Rather, it was described by its proponents as a matter of "soft power".25 Since May 2009, when taking the office of Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu has begun to implement a proactive foreign policy, which fully manifested itself in Southeast Europe. The Western Balkans has become the testing ground for his doctrine of "strategic depth". Davutoğlu repeatedly rejected the label of "neo-Ottomanism" and wanted to focus, referring to areas that once belonged to the Sublime Porte, to the positive aspects of the shared past.26 In this regard we can subscribe the statement made by the Turkish Foreign Minister during his official visit to Bosnia: "Ottoman centuries of the Balkans were a success story. Now we have to reinvent this story. (...) Turkey is back". 27 In July 2009, in Montenegro, Davutoğlu was the first Turkish Foreign Minister to visit the region of the former sanjak after its loss by the Ottoman Empire in 1912. In Lebanon, Russia, Romania, Iraq, Georgia, Iran, Syria, everywhere, the Turkish foreign minister stressed his concern for a cultural hinterland for Turkey. 28 In 23 *** "Balcanii, eternul butoi cu pulbere", în Magazin istoric, an XXXVI, nr. 10 (427), 2002, p. 50. 24 Ahmet Davutoğlu, "Reintegrarea Balcanilor. O perspectivă turcească asupra viitorului spaţiului balcanic", în Foreign Policy România, nov.-dec. 2011, p. 63. 25 Cihan Tuğal, "Democratic Janissaries? Turkey’s Role in the Arab Spring", în New Left Review, nr. 76, 2012, p. 6, disponibil la: %20Janissaries.pdf, accesat pe 18.12.2014. 26 Altin Raximi, Davutoğlu: I am not a neo-Ottoman, în Balkan Insight, 26.04.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 15.01.2015. 27 Dusan Stojanovic, Turkish economic activity in Balkans signal a comeback, în Hürriyet Daily News, 14.03.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 19.11.2014. 28 A. Cioroianu, op. cit. 6

December 2010, during an official visit to the United States, Davutoğlu said that "Turkey could become a union of nations just like Britain’s union with its former colonies. (…) Why shouldn’t Turkey rebuild its leadership in former Ottoman lands in the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia?"29 Turkey has its own cultural links and economic interests in the Balkans and has the resources and military power to rival the influence of Russia or the West in this region. Turkish investments match the level of financial investment Western powers and Russia commit to the Balkans. As the gatekeeper to the Black Sea and as a NATO member, Turkey plays a significant role in Romanian and Polish efforts to boost defense cooperation in response to the current crisis in Ukraine.30 Turkey is also attempting to grow closer to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Ankara means to enhance its influence through cultural and historical ties. These connections are important: Muslim Bosniaks started migrating to Turkey in the 17th century, and a few million Turkish citizens claim Bosniak roots today. This ethnic affinity has prompted government initiatives to invest in Bosnia. Turkey is among the top five investors in the country. In fact, Turkish officials claim that Turkey has invested $1.1 billion in Bosnia since 1995 — a significant sum for a country with a gross domestic product of about $18 billion.31 The Turkish Stream pipeline, if built, would no doubt empower Turkey. Ankara would play a central role in its construction, and it would use that role to improve its relationships with countries that would receive Turkish Stream natural gas, including Macedonia and Serbia.32 Since the '90s, Turkey has developed close ties not only with the Balkan Muslims, but with the whole region of Southeast Europe. Relations with countries in the region have grown and now covers various functional and societal fields, not only security and diplomacy, as before, but also trade, investment, infrastructure development, energy, tourism, culture and education. This intensification of relations we are witnessing nowadays reflect large-scale changes that have taken place both in Turkey and in broader Southeast Europe. They have to do with the end of communist regimes, the subsequent transitions to democracy, the emergence of new states and, especially, the exponential increase of mobility of goods, services, people and ideas in the context of Europeanization and globalization. Robust economic growth, cultural attractiveness and the slowdown of the EU enlargement process, all have pushed Ankara to pursue a proactive foreign policy and a greater commitment to the area.33 The countries that once formed Yugoslavia are now either within the European Union (Slovenia, Croatia), or are recognized as candidate countries (Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). With the exception of Kosovo, they have all signed Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the EU, while their citizens enjoy the right to 29 Cüneyt Ülsever, Idealist foreign policy makes no progress, în Hürriyet Daily News, 24.01.2011, disponibil la:, accesat pe 17.01.2015. 30 Stratfor analysis, The Problems Foreign Powers Find in the Balkans, 19.05.2015, available at:, accessed on 21.05.2015. 31 Ibidem. 32 Ibidem. 7

travel without visas to the Schengen area (unlike Turkish citizens). It should also be noted that the Western Balkans are flanked, as of 2007, by EU territory. The accession of Romania and Bulgaria has driven the borders of the Union deep into Southeast Europe. Although Bucharest and Sofia are stuck in the EU's periphery, being excluded from the Schengen Area, barred from labor markets in several member-states until 2014, and with limited prospects or indeed desire to enter the Eurozone, their membership makes a difference. It strengthens the EU presence in the area, creates additional momentum for further expansion, and inserts the Union as a territorial conduit between Turkey and the Western Balkans.34 Given the political issues, such as Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence (2008) and the dispute between Athens and Skopje on the official name of the Macedonian state, it becomes clear why EU integration has stalled. The relative decline in Brussels' leverage has, in turn, opened opportunity for other players such as Turkey, but also Russia and even China, to fill in the gaps.35 In the Greek-Macedonian dispute, Turkey side has strongly supported the position of Skopje and the immediate recognition by Ankara of Kosovo's independence has been perceived in a negative way by Belgrade, who temporarily withdrew its ambassador.36 Turkey was able to withstand the impact of the global financial crisis in 2008 by diversifying its trade away from Europe towards the Middle East and North Africa. The crisis also laid the foundations of Turkey’s growing presence in Southeast Europe, the Turkish state becoming an economic gravity pole and dispenser of soft power.37 Parallel to the official channels, Turkish presence has grown, as elsewhere, thanks to civil society networks – e.g. the schools associated with the Fethullah Gülen, the local editions of the "Zaman" newspaper etc.38 Gülen is leading from exile an extensive network of private schools (4,000 in Turkey and another 500 abroad), declared to be secular, which provide education for the future elite in administration, politics and business. Although the Muslim cleric promotes inter-religious dialogue, detractors accuse him of pursuing a secret Islamist agenda. 39 In December 2013, following the outbreak of a corruption scandal in the government, Erdoğan declared that "We will not allow alleged religious organizations to be used as tools of foreign countries, which operates in our country", obviously referring to Fethullah Gülen's movement. Leaders of the police and prosecutors with gülenist sympathies conducted in secretly the 33 Dimitar Bechev, "Turkey in the Balkans: Taking a Broader View", în Insight Turkey, vol. 14, nr. 1, 2012, p. 133, disponibil la:, accesat pe 17.03.2015. 34 Ibidem, p. 134. 35 Ibidem, p. 139. 36 Radu Gabriel Safta, Călin Felezeu, Turcia contemporană între moştenirea kemalistă şi Uniunea Europeană, Editura CA Publishing, Cluj-Napoca, 2011, pp. 197-198. 37 D. Bechev, op. cit., p. 137. 38 Ibidem, p. 138. 8

investigation which led to the arrests that have dynamited the Turkish government. 40 In March 2014, the Turkish Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority a law providing for the closure of "Hizmet" movement private schools until 1 September 2015.41 Moreover, a court in Turkey has issued, in December 2014, a warrant for the arrest of Gülen, considered an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ankara accuses the former ally of Erdoğan that he established and managed "an armed terrorist group", whose aim was to overthrow the current regime.42 In parallel, there have been police raids that resulted in the arrest of 23 employees of "Zaman" newspaper and "Samanyolu" TV station, which have close links with the "Hizmet" movement.43 In this circumstances, Gülen's movement and the associated media channels no longer serve as a soft power tool for the Turkish government. A special role is played by the Turkish Office of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı) due to its influence among Muslim communities in the Balkans. Along with Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (Turkish: Türk İşbirliği ve Kalkınma İdaresi Başkanlığı, TİKA), founded in 1992, the Diyanet, owing to its influence over the official bodies representing Muslims in Balkan countries, is funding the restoration of many Ottoman monuments. Turkey is aware of the danger of non-traditional versions of Islam, above all those promoted by the Salafist monarchies of the Persian Gulf (with Saudi Arabia in the foreground), which undermine Turkey's positions in the Balkans, so that a key task of the Religious Affairs Bureau is to reduce the influence of Wahhabi and Salafist groups in the region. TİKA is involved in building schools and universities in predominantly Muslim regions in the Balkans. In Montenegro, for example, the most important part of the Turkish fundings were directed towards the north of the country, populated by Muslims. The same institution has financed the construction of a medrese in Tuzi, Montenegro's first Muslim religious school in the past 90 39 *** Luptele pentru putere dintre Erdoğan şi un cleric turc din SUA, la originea crizei din Turcia, în Hot News, 28.12.2013, disponibil la:, accesat pe 14.12.2014. 40 Costy Herold, "Premierul îşi acuză aliaţii că i-au instrumentat scandalul de corupţie", în Lumea, an XX, nr. 2 (251), 2014, p. 62. 41 *** Turcia: Lovitura lui Erdoğan pentru rivalul Gülen – şcolile private vor fi închise, în Hot News, 02.03.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 14.12.2014. 42 Antonio Glodeanu, Justiţia din Turcia a emis un mandat de arestare pe numele clericului Fetullah Gülen, considerat adversar al lui Erdoğan, în Adevărul, 19.12.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 10.01.2015. 43 Gabriela Ionescu, Raiduri ale poliției turce la mass media apropiate de un oponent religios al președintelui Ergodan; 23 de arestări, în Agerpres, 14.12.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 15.01.2015. 9

years.44 The "Yunus Emre" Institute, established in 2007 with the objective of spreading abroad Turkish culture, society and language, already established centers in countries like Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The locations of the centres reflect the emphasis on the Balkans, which is in line with the common cultural heritage.45 Turkey is present in the education sector in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Albania, Turkish schools are considered to be among the best and in this moment there are about 3,000 students who attend them. In addition, Turkish universities are open to Albanian citizens and, according to some estimates, around 1,500 students are currently enrolled in Turkish institutions of higher education. Approximately 100 students from Kosovo receive scholarships from the Turkish state to study at universities in Turkey. In return, at the International University of Sarajevo, founded in 2008 with the help of the Turkish government, chose to study about 1,000 young Turks, due to lower costs of studies and life. In Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey provides scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies, and scholarships for studying the Turkish language. The fact that there is no visa regime with the countries of the Western Balkans contributes to the intense collaboration in education. 46 Poland has the most favorable attitude towards Turkish accession among the old and new members of the EU. Polish foreign policy generally holds a favorable view of Turkish accession as Poland hopes for an increased role in the geopolitics of alternative energy supplies and routes that pass through Turkey. Poland stands as a loyal ally of the United States alongside Turkey and both countries cooperate closely within NATO structures. Despite these collaborations, at the start of the Eastern Partnership project, which Poland launched along with Sweden in 2008 and whose geographical scope includes nearly all of Turkey’s northeast neighbors, including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Ankara was not consulted. Since its inception, the Eastern Partnership has been a sore point between Ankara and Warsaw.47 Another intriguing case of the Ottoman legacy in Eastern Europe is Hungary. This "special relationship" can be seen in the positive attitude of Hungarian foreign policy makers regarding Turkish entry into the EU. It is also evidenced in public opinion surveys conducted by the Hungarian associations such as the Hungarian Europe and the Eurobarometer, where the Hungarian population comes up as one of the most favorable of all the member countries surveyed on Turkey's candidacy, which place 44 D. Bechev, op. cit., p. 138. 45 Selcen Öner, "Soft Power in Turkish Foreign Policy: New Instruments and Challenges", în Euxeinos, nr. 10, 2013, p. 12, disponibil la: s%2010_2013.pdf, accesat pe 14.01.2015. 46 D. Bechev, op. cit. 47 Deniz Bingöl McDonald, "Imperial Legacies and Neo-Ottomanism: Eastern Europe and Turkey", în Insight Turkey, vol. 14, nr. 4, 2012, p. 105, disponibil la:, accesat pe 12.03.2015. 10

Turkey after only Croatia and before Ukraine in the countries they would favor joining the EU. 48 Romania is part of the category of EU member states which declared their unreserved support for Turkey's candidacy. In this respect, the Romanian foreign policy takes less into account the negative considerations of the Turkish file and more the nature of bilateral relations, known to be friendly and even cordial. 49 There were also tensions in the bilateral relations, marked, in particular, by Romania's willingness to become a leader in the Black Sea region, which was not seen with good eyes by Turkey. The increased volume of bilateral economic, relations, the cooperation between the two countries in several international organisations and the signature, in 2011, of a Strategic Partnership are pointing out once more Turkey's interest for Romania and viceversa. 50 The official position of Romania is that the Balkans, Turkey, the Black Sea riveran states ought to become EU members, to share the same values and interests in the region. Seen in this light, the position of the Romanian state appears to be realistic and logical.51 Even if Romania is not in the first echelon of voices in the EU, Turkey can count on Romania's support in Brussels.52 During an official visit to the Republic of Turkey, in February 2014, Traian Băsescu reiterated Romania's support for Turkey's EU bid, expressing hopes that negotiations will be completed successfully. "Sooner or later, Turkey will have to be accepted in the EU because any political and geopolitical logic tells you it is much better to have Turkey inside the EU than outside it", the president said. However, he explained to the authorities in Ankara that Turkey will have to deal skillfully with the EU and not expect immediate results, even after it is considered that it has closed certain negotiation chapters. 53 Including Dobrudja is part of the projects to recovery the Ottoman memory, not few being the attempts to restore and highlight the monuments with deep meanings (in Constanţa, Mangalia, Medgidia, Babadag, Isaccea, etc.). For example, Ali Gazi 48 Ibidem, p. 106. 49 Ştefan Năstăsescu, Politica externă românească. Însemnări, Editura Niculescu, Bucureşti, 2012, p. 151. 50 Cristina Dobreanu, Relaţiile româno-turce: renaşterea unei prietenii după 1990, în V. Simileanu, G. Güngor, op. cit., p. 83. 51 Ş. Năstăsescu, op. cit., p. 152. 52 Mădălin Necsuţu, De ce are nevoie România de Turcia în UE?, în, 09.02.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 17.01.2015. 53 *** Traian Băsescu, întâlnire cu românii din Turcia: "Orice logică politică şi geopolitică arată că este mai bine să ai Turcia în interiorul UE decât în afara ei", în, 05.02.2014, disponibil la:, accesat pe 08.12.2014. 11

Paşa mosque and the tomb of Sarı Saltuk Baba in Babadag, Tulcea county, were restored through funds allocated by the Turkish state via TİKA and the Religious Affairs Bureau. President Erdoğan insisted during his visit from April 1, 2015 in Romania, on the role that the "Yunus Emre" Turkish Cultural Centre in Constanţa should play in a region where there are more than 70,000 ethnic Turks and Tatars and he praised the example of coexistence in the province between the Danube and the Black Sea.54 Perhaps "neo-Ottomanism" was a specific strategy practiced by Ahmet Davutoğlu, but it was also the result of a natural political development: the culmination of a geographically and economically dominant position of Turkey, abruptly brought forth by its own process of intensified Islamization. The attractiveness of "neo-Ottomanism" lied in the assumption, never formulated as such, that Turkey lacked the means and the will to build itself a new empire in the Balkans and the Middle East, in this era of globalization. Moreover, lied in the normalization of relations between Turkey and the former Arab possessions, which left far behind the Ottoman rule, at least from the perspective of decades and centuries, for Turkey to be readmitted into the "club", while the Turkish hostility toward Israel climbed a few degrees. 55 The nostalgia for the Ottoman period is proof of the fact that Turkey began to feel the need to redefine its identity after it became clear that it may not be able to rely on the European project as much as it originally hoped. 56 However, glorifying the Ottoman era while devaluing the republican era and dwelling on the past through symbolic messages will only hinder Turkey’s capacity.57 In this regard, maintaining good relations with all of the Western Balkans countries is very useful for the final goal of Turkey – the EU membership.58

54 Florin Anghel, Erdoğan la București: Nimic despre Rusia, totul de Marea Neagră, în Info Sud-Est, 06.04.2015, disponibil la:, accesat pe 10.04.2015. 55 R. D. Kaplan, op. cit., p. 393. 56 M. Cihodariu, op. cit., p. 47. 57 Bahar Senem Çevik, "Quest for Identity: Representations of Ottoman Images in the Turkish Mass Media", în Atiner Conference Paper Series, nr. MED2013-0656, Atena, p. 15, disponibil la:, accesat pe 10.10.2014. 58 Žarko Petrović, "Turkey in the Western Balkans. Goals and Means of the New Foreign Policy", ISAC Fund, International and Security Affaires Centre, Belgrad, 2011, p. 9, disponibil la:, accesat pe 17.03.2015.


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