Three reasons for the tension between EU and Turkey

Originally published in the Greek newspaper “Paraskinio” issue 570, p. 52 on Mar. 18, 2017

The tension between Turkey and the EU has recently escalated, especially after some European countries, especially the Netherlands, Germany and France, have banned Turkish ruling party representatives to make speeches on their territory to support the April 16th referendum. These actions, alongside the massive propaganda of European media against Erdoğan, have been counterproductive to the Turkish people, both inside and outside the country. According to the measurements before and after the Turkish crisis with the EU countries, the ruling party’s percentages increased by 10%. The question is whether the confrontation is real or something is being designed behind closed doors.

The interpretation that has been published indicates that it is natural for Europe to be negatively placed on the acquisition of Erdoğan’s supreme powers, especially after the Russian-Turkish approach, which is reflected in the Syrian crisis and is expected to influence the Ukrainian crisis as well, given Turkey’s influence on Crimean Tartars. However, EU countries are not naive to use such methods to prevent Turkish officials from influencing the exceeding six million Turkish voters living in them.

Another interpretation is the attempt by European governments to show that they are reacting to the Islamic danger represented by Erdoğan in order to attract their right wing voters in view of the upcoming elections and the threat of the rise of the far-right parties of their countries. However, the reality is that European governments are not pursuing hostility with Turkey, in particular because of the important role it plays in limiting the flow of refugees to EU countries. Turkey also holds the keys of several Eastern European countries that are needed for NATO to face military expansion of Russia to the north-east, without overlooking the EU-Turkey economic relations and the importance of the Insirlik base for NATO countries.

But there is also the interpretation that what happens between the EU and Turkey is under an agreement. Erdoğan will be seen in the eyes of the Turks as a national hero in order to win the referendum, as 35% of his party was negative in the constitutional amendments, while the EU governments will appear to their citizens strong to resist it regardless of the consequences. In return, Turkey will withdraw its request to lift visa requirements for its citizens to EU countries from the Refugee Flow Control Agreement. Reality is not what it looks like and politics is a game of deception.