The European Union’s policy of appeasement towards Turkey is particularly surprising given that the EU has the means to exert considerable pressure on Erdogan.
Taking his inspiration from Vladimir Putin who, last February, expelled German, Polish and Swedish diplomats whilst an interview was taking place between Josep Borrell and Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Recep Tayyip Erdogan humiliated the EU by relegating Ursula von der Leyden to a sofa, well away from Charles Michel and himself. He was openly displaying his scorn for sexual equality and, more broadly, for the universal values that Europe considers its own. This was totally in line with Ankara’s withdrawal from the Istanbul convention that was designed to combat violence done to women.
It is hard to understand how the two top leaders of the EU could subject themselves to this shameful piece of staging that underlines the ineffectiveness of the appeasement policy being carried out with regard to the Islamic démocrature [démocrature = a combination of democracy and dictatorship] of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It illustrates the huge gap between the EU’s ambitions and its inability to protect its interests and principles. With regard to Turkey, the EU is showing that, up against Turkey, it is powerless to ensure its own security.
On the domestic front, Erdogan has completely annihilated the legacy of Mustafa Kemal – typified by the transformation of Saint Sophia into a mosque in July 2020. He has used the 2018 Constitution to concentrate all power and has created an AKP State which controls the economy and is islamizing society, using armed militia to police it.
On the international front, Turkey is methodically attempting to reconstitute the Ottoman Empire. It has been outlawed by the Atlantic Alliance for deploying S-400 Russian antimissile systems. It is carrying out numerous military interventions in Northern Syria, Iraq, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, it is destabilizing Europe by violating the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus in the Aegean Sea, by re-Islamizing the Balkans, by manipulating Turkish communities abroad and by threatening to send four million refugees to Europe.
It has to be said that European nations, petrified by the immigration threat, are making two big mistakes with regard to Turkey. First of all, they are underestimating the huge threat posed by the Islamic démocrature of Ankara. Secondly, the are overestimating Erdogan’s position, which gains its strength above all from the weaknesses of the EU.
During the Covid-19 epidemic, Turkey has paid an extremely high price: over three million sufferers and an official figure of 30,000 deaths, although in fact twice as many have died. It is one of the few countries to have recorded a positive growth rate in 2020 (1.8%), but at the cost of an unsustainable policy based on a 25% increase in household debt over three months, and a current account deficit of 5% of GDP. Recession has merely been delayed, and will reduce the nation’s wealth by 4% to 5% in 2021, with unemployment affecting 17.4% of the working population in spite of measures banning dismissals, and inflation running out of control at 16%.
Since Joe Biden was elected, Erdogan has no longer enjoyed any indulgence on the part of the USA. His relationship with Putin’s Russia has reached a dead end because of their confrontation in Syria and the Caucasus. Turkey is totally isolated within the Arab-Muslim world in which the Muslim Brotherhood has been discredited; even Qatar has stopped providing support for it.
The EU’s appeasement policy is even more absurd when you consider that it occupies a position of strength: it takes 41% of Turkish exports and generates two-thirds of direct foreign investment in Turkey. It should change its policy to one of containment of Erdogan’s Islamic démocrature, and apply the Turkish proverb “The sabre of silver cuts the sabre of steel”. There are seven priorities to be observed: to stop negotiations over Turkey’s membership of the EU; to suspend the customs agreement and initiate economic sanctions against Erdogan, his family and oligarchs he is close to, in case of further aggression; to make any European aid conditional upon referral to the International Court of Justice at The Hague as to demarcation of exclusive economic zones in the Aegean Sea; not to renew the major agreement made in 2016 over immigration; to support Greece and Cyprus and set up strict control of land and sea frontiers with Turkey; to initiate dialogue with Turkish civil society and forces for democracy in Turkey with a view to dismantling Islamist and Turkish nationalist networks in Europe; to suspend military cooperation with Turkey within NATO.
For the EU, the Covid-19 epidemic has been a moment of truth. If it fails now, it will disintegrate. If we continue to give in to Ergodan, this won’t just seriously weaken the continent’s security, it will mean goodbye to Europe.
(Column published in Le Figaro, 12th April 2021)