From 2020 to 2021: The case for optimism and ‘Green Deal Turkey’
2020 was marked by the virus. Every day, we continue to learn something new about its character and mutations. Economies are slowing down, and people are losing their livelihoods with every wave. Are we going to remember 2020 with total dismay?
There is a brighter side to it. I think everyone understands now that we need more cooperation where once we sought out more competition. We need less discretion and more engagement. Less unilateralism and more multilateralism. If we can live up to this emerging set of needs, then the virus will not have been all that bad.
The virus has not only disrupted our lives, but also our thinking, both globally and nationally. Trump could have remained the president of the United States, if not for the virus. Now he is gone, and many catastrophes we will never know about have been averted.
We face a menace that is affecting all of humanity and global cooperation is needed in order to deal with it. Making America or Turkey or some other country “great again” is simply ridiculous in the face of such a challenge.
Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, nations faced with a pandemic are only as strong as the weakest among them. Stronger nations must help weaker ones in order for the entire world to get through this. The virus has revived the importance of the G20, as well as multilateral cooperation in general.
How has the outlooked changed in Turkey? I was looking at the new GMFUS-Bilgi University survey on political polarization in Turkey. Political polarization and its echo chambers all persist if you look at the usual questions. Yet I also see a call for a stronger welfare state across party lines in Turkey. It’s a call for more support to the elderly, free health services, finding jobs for the unemployed and ending violence against women — in short, for us to be a society again. Why?
It’s all about the virus endangering the livelihoods of Turkish citizens. No wonder that among the top five important problems the country has, three are economy-related issues: Unemployment, inflation and poverty, followed by the virus and the education. Polarization is not on my list.
I also remember the last Metropoll survey on whom to blame for the economic failure. Around 64 percent of the total put the blame on the government, with that figure being 40 percent and 70 percent among Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters, respectively. No real polarization here, either. Turkey’s weak social safety net has become more visible with the virus, if you ask me.
Where others see political polarization, I see a pattern for issue-based coalitions across party lines. A trend towards less polarization, more pluralism and more talk over the trenches, if harnessed properly.
Turkey must use the virus and the economy to force a course correction. Now that the Central Bank is once again doing its job, its credibility is building up again. It is time to start thinking about jumpstarting growth and job creation as well. That’s where a “Green Deal Turkey” is needed.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in December 2019 that “the Green Deal Initiative is the new growth strategy of Europe.” It’s about renovating existing productive capacity in Europe with new low-carbon technologies to jumpstart growth and job creation, together with low carbon emissions. Doable? Yes. Can Turkey stay out of it? No. With no Green Deal of its own, Turkey risks losing its international competitiveness, together with its share in European imports. A Green Deal isn’t something Ankara should do out of environmental consciousness. The Europeans have already made that decision for us. At this point, going green is just good business.
In politics, a “Green Deal Turkey” could be a much-needed positive agenda item between the EU and Turkey. Less discretion, more engagement. Less competition, more cooperation. Just as the virus taught us in 2020. Let’s start by Turkey ratifying the Paris Climate Accord.