Turkey's Euro'vision' decision

Ankara is taking a stand on foreign policy by attacking 'injustice' in the popular singing competition.

Eurovision 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Eurovision 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Turkish Radio and Television Institution (TRT) declared that Turkey will not participate in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in Malmö, Sweden. Turkish Eurovision Delegation Chairman, İsmail Güngör, justified the decision due to a fait accompli that limited the televoting system's influence to 50 percent. Turkey’s 2003 victory at the song contest benefited and can be seen as a result of televoting. Moreover, a TRT statement called for a reform in the song contest's structure while harshly criticizing the competition for the "unfair" privileges and immunities that were granted to five European countries: Germany, France, UK, Spain and Italy.
It would be easy to excuse TRT's decision to withdraw from Eurovision 2013 as being victim to the economic crisis. This was the reason why the countries of Greece, Bosnia Herzegovina, Portugal, Poland and Cyprus decided not to attend. But in his statement, Güngör emphasized that Turkey's absence is not an economic-oriented decision but rather the result of Turkey's upright stance against "injustice."
The message of TRT's Eurovision decision is encrypted in the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's article, "Turkey's Zero Problems Foreign Policy," published in Foreign Policy Journal. In his article, Davutoğlu underlines that the post-September 11 security-based policy era ceased to exist thanks to United States President Barack Obama's efforts which have lead to a new world order called "the multilateral international system."
Also stated in his book Strategic Depth, Davutoğlu argues that "Turkey will play an increasingly central role in promoting international security and prosperity by using Turkey's foreign policy 'vision,' which is based on the historical role and geographical position, as an apparatus." Furthermore, he declares that Turkey's foreign policy shifted from a "crisis oriented" attitude to a "visionary approach" that is willing to solve international problems by using Turkish "soft power."
Turkish soft power ambitions concerning international organizations can be demonstrated clearly during the 2005-2012 period. The first concrete Turkish diplomatic victory was Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu's appointment to the Islamic Conference Organization. Following that, 2010 was the year of Turkish offense in terms of diplomacy. Hüseyin Diriöz, President Gül's foreign policy advisor, was appointed Vice NATO General Secretary and senior advisor of Rasmussen. Another important appointment took place in NATO when President Gül's Defense Advisor, Cihangir Akşit, became the NATO Standardization Agency's Director. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) would not be immune from Turkish diplomatic offense. Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu became PACE's chairman. Turkey's success in international organizations reached its peak when it succeeded in being elected to the UN Security Council with temporary membership in 2009-2010 with 146 votes.
However, Turkish soft power should not only be understood in international political terms. Turkish ambition lead Istanbul to become the symbol of Turkish soft power by hosting such global entertainment events as the Eurovision Song Contest (2004), Formula 1 (2005), the unforgettable Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan (2005), the UEFA Cup Final between Shakhtar Donetsk - Werder Bremen (2009), and the FIBA World Cup (2010). Turkish Airlines' aggressive sponsorship agreements with Barcelona, Manchester United, Euroleague and the sensational Messi-Bryant commercial should also be acknowledged.
The blueprints of this aggressive foreign policy can be seen in the "bible of the Turkish Foreign Policy": The National Security Political Document, popularly known as the Red Book (Kırmızı Kitap) of 2010. In comparison to previous policies, the 2010 Red Book was designed by Davutoğlu and the AKP instead of the Turkish Armed Forces. According to the information that was intentionally leaked to the press, the Red Book included "the importance of strengthening the Turkish acceleration in the UN and other international organizations."
The 2010 Red Book policy's first international outburst occurred when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made his speech to the UN's General Assembly in September 2011. By criticizing Israel, Syria, Cyprus and the situation in Somalia, Erdoğan called for a "just" change in the international political system by restructuring the UN itself and its "vision."
In AKP's 2012 Annual Congress, Erdoğan inserted the Red Book and highlights from his UN Speech into "Turkey's 2023 vision document." The document states that a change in the global political and economic system is inevitable; therefore, Turkey should be among the countries of the new just international system. Just like Erdoğan, Davutoğlu in his Foreign Policy Journal article underlines the same point and states the absence of a multilateral international system that would be compatible with Turkey's role in the international arena.
In October 2012 Istanbul hosted an international gathering called the Istanbul Global Forum that was organized by Turkish Prime Ministry Public Diplomacy Coordinator Office and a Turkish think tank called SETA, with a theme of "justice." During the forum, Erdoğan called upon a need for change in the UN Security Council's structure in which permanent member states can veto any resolution. Erdoğan toughened his speech when he firmly declared that the West is no longer the world's only center.
While criticizing the West, Erdoğan highlighted the importance of G-20 as a substitute for the UN Security Council. It is vital to emphasize that Turkey will preside over the G-20 in 2015. Hence by emphasizing the importance of G-20,Turkey already nominated itself for a future "just" Security Council.
As a loyal disciple of former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan and his "just order" ideal that sought to bring justice to Turkish politics and society, it seems that Erdoğan has interpreted and transformed his master's ideals into grandiose ambitions and formulated them into his own Erdoğan-style of "Tikun Olam" (a Jewish tradition of making the world a better place).
Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of History in Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is a junior research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.