As we are getting ready to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher today, we remember her enduring political legacy, how she transformed British economy and also how her influence went beyond Britain’s borders. We wanted to briefly highlight two related, lesser known facts: her intense efforts to improve the ties between Turkey and the European Community (EC), and her close personal friendships with Turkish political leaders.
EC consisted of 12 members by mid 80’s and it was in the process of trying to absorb the newest additions, Portugal and Spain. Turkey, in the meantime, was back to civilian rule with Prime Minister Turgut Özal and keen to reactivate ties with Europe. Britaintook Presidency of the EC at this critical time and Thatcher played an important role by pushing for a thaw in relations, with a vision ofTurkey eventually joining the Community. Özal was in Britain in February 1986, which was the first official visit by a Turkish leader toWest Europe since 1980. Thatcher then paid a visit to Ankara and Istanbul, first British leader to do so since Churchill. Turkey applied for full EC membership in 1987.
Thatcher’s close affiliation with Özal, with their shared belief in free markets, is well documented. Turkey’s first woman Prime Minister, Tansu Çiller, was also a personal friend. On the day she assumed power in 1993, the only incoming call Çiller took is said to be from Thatcher.
Today, economic policies of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party are often regarded as a continuation of the Thatcherist/Özalist tradition.
For further information, in Thatcher’s own words, you can find below a few of her speeches from 1986 and 1988:
If you wish to share your memories of Baroness Thatcher, or just leave a message of condolence, Conservative Party’s online Condolence Book is available to sign here.