The new page in Euro-Turkish relations

Paraskinio – issue 624 p. 47, Mar. 31, 2018

Turkey’s internal and foreign policy is a hallmark of crisis and local risks management, as well as regional and international pressures. The current Turkish administration has managed to overcome many obstacles and to become strong and stable internationally and internally, despite the number of its enemies. Of course, praise to the Turkish administration does not mean the approval of its actions and movements, but acceptance of logic and reality. Turkey, which had a significant economic rise at the beginning of this century, has been experiencing a decline over the last two years due to international factors but also a blow to its security due to the ISIS and PKK terrorist attacks that exceeded 50 in 2016 significantly affecting tourism, an important source of revenue for the Turkish state. At the same time, the country found itself in the whirlpool of a coup which almost became the beginning of a river of blood. As soon as the Turkish government calmed down, it entered the dark tunnel of European pressure, with a major war by the European media against the ruling party and Erdoğan himself. Of course, we should mention the Kurdish threat to northern Iraq and northern Syria. With all the above, everyone is surprised by Turkey’s resilience and dynamic return.

During the press conference at the end of the Euro-Turkish Summit held in the Bulgarian city of Varna with the presence of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the Turkish President said he hopes to overcome the difficulties in Euro-Turkish relations. Despite the fact that the present EU leaders are not decision-makers to determine the course of Euro-Turkish relations, recent statements and announcements by several European leaders confirm that Europe’s attitude has again turned positive on the Turkish side. The German officials led by Merkel have changed the hostile rhetoric towards Turkey, and the German government has given the green light to the recent operation “Olive Branch” against Kurdish militias in the north-west of Syria. Also, the election of the new French President, Macron, has been an important turning point for French-Turkish relations. The French President is in constant contact with Erdoğan, despite his statements on opposition to the Turkish intervention in Syria, which is clearly used only for communication purposes. Therefore, the Euro-Turkish summit has come to confirm that Europe shows that it needs to open a new page with the Turkish leadership.

Greece is the only one that has tense relations with Turkey. The arrest of the two Greek officers on the northern border between the two countries is at the moment a new gateway to the crisis between them following a series of maritime and aerial incidents. What is surprising, however, is the way in which Greek officials manage these events. It is clear that Turkey at this stage is not ready to enter into a crisis with Greece. The conflict in the Syrian arena and the control of the northeastern part of Syria by the Kurds under the protection of Washington are more important for Turkey. The fear of rising PKK in northern Iraq is a direct threat to Turkish national security and is a priority of Turkish leadership. Therefore, we conclude that the tension with Greece stems from the way in which Greek officials handle the Turkish side. The Greek government should increase its direct contacts with the Turks as well as military security cooperation and solve every incident on the spot without trying to exploit it and allowing it to expand by the media for electoral and populist purposes. Turkey has excellent relations with Russia, Europe and Washington at the time, so anyone who believes that all these countries will put Greece’s interests above theirs is at least naive.

It is important for those of us who analyze international politics, to decode the current Turkish rhetoric. Speeches by Turkish officials inside the country are enthusiastic and high-pitched in order to influence Turkish voters. They have no effect on Turkish international and regional policy. Hence, the persistence of Greek media in their analysis and infusion shows complete ignorance of Turkish politics by Greek political analysts. Greek officials must assume their responsibilities and not push the country into a new crisis from which the only loser will be the Greek people.