As the eurozone is bending over backwards to create jobs and shake off a global economic crisis, despite some criticism about the slowing rate of growth, Turkey hit a pretty good mark in terms of 2014 comparative economic figures. However there are challenges Turkey needs to overcome in order to secure stability and seize short-lived moments of opportunity.
Turkey created 1.3 million jobs in 2014, marking a total of six million jobs created following the 2008 global economic crisis. According to these numbers, if Turkey were an EU member, the unemployment rate of the EU could be much less. Turkey’s growth in 2014 of 3% is the second biggest in the EU and the third biggest among OECD economies.
Even though some reports in the media portray Turkey as hostile ground for Western investors, there has been groundwork laid for more investment concerning the year ahead. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced the bank's scheduled $275 million investments in Turkey's geothermal energy sector in 2015. Toyota will further invest $500 million in Turkey for new models in the upcoming two to three years, making the total investment amount $2.4 billion in Turkey’s automotive industry. The furniture industry has reached an annual export revenue of $3 billion in Turkey.
According to the Bank of America/ Merrill Lynch Economic Report, crude oil prices will likely remain below the levels seen in recent years. In 2015, Turkey's energy bill is expected to decrease by at least $25 billion due to falling oil prices, adding 0.5 to 0.7 percentage point to GDP growth. This will enable the government to redirect that amount to various different projects. However, this is not going to be enough for a Turkey with an expanding population of 77.7 million and a booming industrial region. Turkey needs to translate this gain to secure its place in the energy markets by pushing the boundaries of becoming the energy hub of the Eurasia. Turkey naturally holds a unique geostrategic position on energy routes and over the course of the last decade; Turkey's critical geostrategic location has both facilitated the achievement of a major expansion in international trade and also provided great leverage in Eurasian energy politics. With developments such as the annexation of Crimea and the fact that Israel needs Turkey to deliver Leviathan gas to Europe, this task deems naturally doable. Apart from these, Turkey needs to solve the Cyprus problem to be able to have its share of Mediterranean gas through the Northern Turkish Republic of Cyprus. We all remember the previous Greek government was not exactly keen to solve this issue in favor of Turkey, but the new problem child of Europe, the Greek Syriza government, seems to have different politics on Cyprus energy platform.
Syriza anxious to work with Turkey
Even though Turkey’s neighbor Greece’s new government is voicing an exit strategy from NATO, Syriza seems to be anxious to work with Turkey on Cyprus and Mediterranean energy related issues. There is another aspect to the Syriza election that is of note for Turks” Three of Syriza's MPs are Turks from northern Greece. Following the Turkey - Greece High Level Cooperation Council on Dec. 5-6, PM Ahmet Davutoğlu spent time with Alexis Tsipras in the Athens airport. Even though Tsipras is not portraying a promising future and a coherent strategy for Greece, he seems keen to allow Turkey carry out the deal in the Mediterranean for the prospective pipeline project with Cyprus.
If Turkey manages to seize the emerging opportunities, it can become a Middle Easte safe haven for international investmentCeylan Ozbudak
Turkey is known to have expanded its trading partnerships through free trade agreements (20 countries) and by lifting visa requirements (with 65 countries) to help decrease the cost of trade and expand its area of influence. With the new government of Greece, even though the overwhelming majority of its proposed policies hint at future failure, Turkey is likely to emerge with its share as a winner.
The wisest agreement both Turkish and Greek governments can score is a security agreement concerning the Aegean Sea. The competitive foreign policy between Greece and Turkey has long justified the high rates in defense spending in both countries. According to the Alliance's report on the annual defense spending, while the overall picture of defense spending among most NATO partners is about 1.5% of their GDP, Turkey is spending 2.7% of its GDP and Greece is spending 2.8% of its GDP. This can be easily reduced by a mutual security agreement and an agreement of cooperation between Greece and Turkey. In times of such a fierce global crisis, both countries desperately need this cut in defense expenditure.
Moreover, Syriza and the AK Party government need to start negotiations over the natural gas pipeline by Gazprom to deliver Russian gas to Europe through Turkey and Greece. Turkey and Russia have already signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of an energy hub on the Turkey-Greece border. With this one, Turkey will be involved in four pipeline projects; the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), the South Caucasian Pipeline (SCP), the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) making Turkey the key player in energy security and delivery.
Turkey has much to deliver in terms of securing democratic rights and social security measures for its citizens; however, the peninsula has been quite progressive in terms of economy in the last decade. If Turkey manages to seize the emerging opportunities, it can become a Middle Easte safe haven for international investment and development in the coming years.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak