Saturday

28th May 2022

NATO talks on Rasmussen impact EU-Turkey relations

  • Summit chamber: Turkish President Abdullah Gul was not happy with the EU being brought up in NATO discussions (Photo: nato.org)

NATO on Saturday (4 April) named Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as its new secretary general, overcoming Turkish opposition during difficult talks which caused fresh tension in EU-Turkey relations.

Turkish resistance to the Rasmussen nomination centered around his support for Danish media after newspapers published cartoons of Mohammed in 2006.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The stalemate saw EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn suggest to Finnish state broadcaster YLE that Ankara may be unfit to join the EU because it does not respect freedom of speech.

"This will surely raise questions amongst EU member states and citizens on how well Turkey has internalised such European values as freedom of expression," Mr Rehn said.

Politicians in the circle of German Chancellor Angela Merkel also attacked Turkey.

"Whoever puts Islamic propaganda above the future of NATO and our European system of values, has nothing to look for in the EU," Alexander Dobrint, the secretary general of Ms Merkel's sister party, the Christian-Social Union, told German press.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul did not take kindly to the remarks, calling the EU commissioner's intervention "unfortunate" and "unpleasant" and warning that it woud increase anti-EU sentiment in Turkey.

"This was a NATO, not an EU meeting and I shared this with European heads of state," Mr Gul said at a press conference after the NATO summit in Strasbourg. "Although there are several European members of NATO, you can't take a decision in the EU and impose it on NATO, these two can't be linked."

The Turkish president explained that promises made by US President Barack Obama, rather than the veiled threats on EU accession, finally secured Ankara's approval for the Danish appointment.

Obama-brokered deal

"I had a long bilateral meeting with Mr Obama which was very fruitful and our concerns were overcome and wishes respected. We then had a trilateral meeting with Mr Rasmussen," he said.

In return for backing down, Turkey is to get a newly-created post of deputy secretary general of NATO and several Turkish officers inside the alliance's military command.

For his part, the Danish PM took a conciliatory approach.

"I made it clear I will reach out to the Muslim world and I will make sure we will co-operate closely with Turkey," he told press in Strasbourg.

Mr Rasmussen also pledged to look into Danish-based Kurdish TV station Roj TV, which Ankara wants off the air.

"If Roj TV is involved in any terrorist activities, we will do everything to shut it down," he said.

Mr Rasmussen will go with Mr Obama to Ankara on Monday, where the pair will take place in a UN "Alliance of Civilisations" symposium on promoting inter-faith diaogue.

Forty five-year old liberal finance minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen is to take over as the new Danish PM at home.

Italian intermezzo

Turkey's hard bargaining saw some European leaders break wih protocol at the largely ceremonial 60th anniversary NATO summit.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spent 40 minutes talking on his cell phone with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara about the Rasmussen problem, causing him to miss the family photo and a minute's silence for fallen NATO soldiers.

The Italian leader was so absorbed on the phone he forgot to walk up the red carpet to his waiting co-hostess Angela Merkel, who eventually shrugged her shoulders and carried on with the ceremony.

Asked later if the phone conversation had helped in any way, Turkish president Gul smiled and said that "[Mr Berlusconi] really wanted to get the result and worked very hard for it."

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us