Turkey: Great ambitions but lacking resources, study

Influence in Middle East superficial and short-lived, USAK

19 April, 17:36

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, APRIL 19 - Despite the fact that the country has started to play a much more important role in the Middle East over the past decade, Turkey still has to close a wide gap between its ambitions and its possibilities to become a real ''regional power." This claim is made in a study carried out by the Turkish think tank USAK that was published today. The report underlines that Turkey only has superficial influence because of its reduced diplomatic corps, its low level of exports and scarce use of the Arabic language. The report of the International Strategic Research Organization, as USAK writes on its website, examines Turkey's power in the diplomatic, economic and ''soft power'' areas, the ability of a country to convince other countries through its intangible resources like culture, values and political institutions. The report calls for a comprehensive joint efforts by the state, the private sector and civic society in all three fields (diplomacy, economy and soft power) as ''a great disparity exists between the role that Turkey wants to play and the capacity it has" to do so. USAK also warned that Turkey's newly-found regional influence could be short-lived. ''We cannot say that regional actors, be them small or big, are following Turkey's lead,'' the report claims. ''The current attention accorded to Turkey is at the level of just sympathy. Any mistakes or Arab misunderstanding of certain rhetoric or policies hold the potential of quickly eroding the favourable attitudes that Turkey enjoys." The Turkish Foreign Ministry, according to the study, was severely underfunded and understaffed when compared to those of leading nations. Its budget of 436 million euros is the lowest among several countries, including both global heavyweights and emerging powers, such as India and Brazil. With 5,533 employees, Turkey's ministry is better staffed than Brazil and India, but lags well behind Britain and France, who employ 17,100 and 15,008 people respectively. Only 26 diplomats spoke Arabic, USAK point out, which hampers the ''penetration of local information resources." In the economic field, trade with countries in the region is booming, but Turkish exports are easily-replaceable with other, cheaper goods, with high-technology products making up only 3.5 percent of the total. USAK claims that Turkey had failed to determine any ''centre of gravity'' for trade, which could turn into a major disadvantage in the future.

Focusing on soft power, Turkish soap operas enjoy vast popularity in the region and tourism is flourishing. The Turkish media, however, is almost absent from the Arab-language realm and Turkey has little power in influencing the regional news agenda, USAK continues, adding that TRT's Arab-language channel lagged behind competitors from Iran, France, Germany, China and the United States. (ANSAmed)

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