What’s next in the EU – Turkey standoff

What’s next in the EU – Turkey standoff


“The European Union’s court, The European Court of Justice, my esteemed brothers, have started a crusade struggle against the (Muslim) crescent”. This statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a clear indicator of the political climate within the Turkish government concerning its relations with Europe.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that in the Netherlands there is no difference between the Fascists and the Social Democrats. In the short term, at least until the referendum on April 16th, the Turkish president and the government will continue with the anti-European rhetoric. They will rally Turkish voters against a powerful enemy thus resulting with most voters preferring to vote the “yes” Erdogan wants for more power in the constitutional reform he himself has prepared; all that remains is the approval of the Turkish people.

Sweeping everything under the Carpet

Analysts believe that this anti-European rhetoric conceals many other problems that could be on the agenda of the campaign. Everyone agrees that the Turkish economy is showing the first signs of crisis. Unemployment reached 12.7%. In youth unemployment exceeded 24%. The number of unemployed exceeded 4 million for the first time since 2010. The Turkish lira has dropped by 19% in the space of a year and the fall in property prices in some parts of Istanbul, according to the newspaper  Hurriyet has exceeded 20% .

With the attempted coup and due to terrorist attacks the Turkish economy has following 27 consecutive quarters of growth shown a decline of -1.8%. The Finance Minister Nihat Zeybekci states he is optimistic and points out that with the partnering of the private and public sector, the economy will recover. Tourism in 2017 recorded a reduction close to 30% compared to 2016 which was a bad year because of the 35 terrorist attacks that the country was hit by.

The financial side of things is not the only issue that could work against the Turkish president. 42,000 people are in prison and 120,000 others persecuted by on accusations of participating in the coup and in having relations with the Islamic Hizmet movement which the Turkish government characterizes as a terrorist organization.

While the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish party HDP Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are in jail along with other nine Kurdish MPs accused of relations with the PKK.

A UN report last week accused the Turkish government of demolishing entire towns in southeastern Turkey leading to the deaths of at least 2000 people and, always according to the report, at least 100,000 Kurds have been displaced. The Turkish Foreign Ministry called the report unfair and one-sided.

Is Putin behind Turkish Foreign Policy?

Tightening of relations with Russia seems to continuing, following the recent meeting between Erdogan – Putin it was agreed to indefinitely lift the embargo on fruit and vegetables, and continue the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. In addition Ankara seems ready to also purchase the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system. Rostech executives have reported that Turkey requested a loan from Russia to buy the weapons system. Turkish Defence Minister Fikri isik, said that in case the S-400 join the Turkish arsenal they will not operate in parallel with the systems of the Atlantic Alliance, a clear sign that Ankara is growing increasingly closer to the wants of Vladimir Putin.

Currently relations of both Turkey and Russia with Europe are problematic. The EU imposes sanctions on Russia. While Turkey in its relations with Europe shows that it’s going through a hard time. So it’s surprising that the two countries are cooperating on international issues, particularly on the developments in Syria. As they had done 96 years ago with the Moscow Pact which the two countries signed. “NATO has already began to worry about the close relations between the two sides as well as about the S-400″says Ünal Cevikoz in an article in the turkish newspaper Hurriyet. He reminds us that Moscow was the first country that had opened an embassy in Ankara in 1920 recognizing Kemal’s Turkish Republic, and gave it’s full support in its battle for independence against Greece in Asia Minor.

Nevertheless because of Russia’s support, Turkey seems to betaking a step back in Syria and its hatred against the Bashar Assad regime which Erdogan wanted to overthrow seems to be diminishing. Assad has Putin’s full support and it seems that Turkey accepts his stay. The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the terrorist attack that took place in Damascus on March 11. In fact it didn’t just condemn it, the Turkish Foreign Ministry used the word “strongly” and expressed condolences. This is the right response. But this is a powerful message which Ankara sends Damascus. Soon we will return to the times of my’’brother Assad”. That might be good for Turkey, says political analyst Ertuğrul Ozkok.

Ankara, however, is trying to find a solution for the Kurds of Syria. Turkey has made it clear that it considers the forces of Syrian Kurds (YPG) a terrorist organization. But the US, makes it clear with any opportunity given that they consider the Syrian Kurds a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State and the battles to recapture Raqqa. They have already sent American made guns to support the forces of YPG.

At the same time in the city of Manbij controlled by the Kurds, armoured vehicles with American flags have made an appearance. Turkey until a few weeks ago threatened the Kurds that if they did not flee from this town, it would occupy the city with Turkish forces already in the city of Al-Bab. But the Turkish forces there remain immobilized and the US is not changing its doctrine in support of the Kurds who seem to be preparing an autonomous region to the standards of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. This raises concern in Turkey that anxiously awaits the arrival of the American Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson on March 30 in Ankara..ΙΒΝΑ