Thursday

19th May 2022

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

  • The mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal Ataturkk (1881-1938), widely considered the founder of a modern, secular, democratic Turkey - which Erdogan's critics say he is now destroying (Photo: David Stanley)

The European Union's top leaders are meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this Monday (26 March) in the Bulgarian city of Varna.

This is the second mini-summit with the Turkish president in less than a year - and when Turkey is reaching new lows in violating basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as an EU 'acceding candidate country'.

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

When European Council president Donald Tusk and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker together with the EU rotating president Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov will sit with Erdogan, "issues of mutual interest" will dominate the table, according to the invitation letter sent by Tusk.

There is not one single reference to Turkish accession talks. The recurring theme is "common interests".

That is basically what has been going on since the Turkish government led by Erdogan started its despotic drift when serious corruption charges erupted in December 2013.

The Turkish government silenced the media, confiscated resisting newspapers, took the full control of the judiciary, jailed members of parliament and sped up its 'democracy-killing' in the wake of the botched coup attempt of July 15, 2016 which Erdogan famously called "a gift from God".

Yet, the EU leaders pretend Turkey is still on the way to becoming an EU member and fulfils the 'Copenhagen criteria', the strict set of rules for a country to be declared a candidate.

In fact, Brussels knows it better than anyone that Turkey has never been further away from those criteria.

Yet for the sake of the migration deal and other "interests", the EU keeps appeasing president Erdogan, implicitly approving his draconian measures that puts Turkey in the same league with Russia and China.

The pretension that Turkey is still a EU candidate country helps Erdogan to consolidate the democratic facade of an increasingly authoritarian regime.

Appeasement does not work

Appeasement policy does not work at all.

On the contrary, it encourages Ankara to speed up dismantling the remaining pillars of an already-weakened democratic regime. Just have a look at what has happened in the past few days while Erdogan was busy with studying his dossiers before the summit.

Turkey's largest media group, Dogan, was sold to one of Erdogan's cronies at a very low price, a few days after Turkish president issued a veiled threat to the owner of the group that he can be jailed.

Although Dogan had already been tamed and was only critical at times, even that was apparently off limits.

On the same day as this sell-out, the Turkish parliament approved a law for online broadcasting giving far-reaching powers to the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) in allocating licences.

More than 100,000 websites are already banned in Turkey and with these new super-powers, the government-controlled RTUK will be used to silence the last bastions of critical online media.

On Thursday, the German Bertelsmann Foundation published its yearly democracy report, in which it analysed the democratic transformation of some 129 countries.

The report found that Turkey, Brazil and Poland were the countries that have fallen most in the democratisation index and where "political situation has become significantly worse".

The foundation concluded: "In no other country has the subversion of separation of powers advanced as much in recent years as in the highly defective democracy on the Bosporus."

The most condemning of all was the United Nations report on human rights in Turkey.

The report, which was quickly dismissed and condemned by the Turkish authorities as full of "unfounded allegations of terrorist organisations", showed in detail how torture, ill-treatment, sexual assault and electric shocks have made a comeback in 'EU candidate' Turkey.

The most disturbing finding of the report was the detention of some 100 women who were either pregnant or had just given birth on the grounds that they were their husband's associates.

Some of the mothers were detained with their children and some were violently separated from them, which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein described as "simply outrageous and utterly cruel".

On top of that, 160,000 people were arrested during an 18-month state of emergency; 152,000 civil servants were dismissed, many totally arbitrarily according to the UN report.

These all happened within just the week preceeding the EU leaders' meeting with president Erdogan.

As EU leaders refrain from using their diminishing leverage on Turkey, its dismantling of democracy only speeds up.

It is now high time for EU leaders to realise that appeasement only helps Erdogan maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its institutions.

Selcuk Gultasli was Brussels bureau chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Zaman was closed by decree of the Turkish government in July 2016

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Erdogan's diplomats have become 'Gulenist-busters'

Under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's diplomats have been turned into agents hunting supposed followers of his opponent Fethullah Gulen, and are now suspected of harassing journalists even in Belgium.

Analysis

EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery

The EU-Turkey deal was agreed two years ago in Brussels. Focus has largely been on reducing migrant flows across the Mediterranean and helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, while the plight of those on the Greek islands are ignored.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Erdogan and the Queen

Images of Erdogan being greeted by the Queen will be beamed to Turkish households, a sure boost for Erdogan's bid to make his way back to his own presidential palace in Ankara after next month's elections.

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Finland expects cut in gas supply after Nato application
  2. Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands push offshore wind
  3. Turkey strong-arms Finland and Sweden on extraditions
  4. Sharp increase in irregular migration to EU
  5. Russia ejects 85 European diplomats
  6. Germany shuts ex-chancellor Schröder's office over Putin ties
  7. Russia soldier pleads guilty to Ukraine war crime
  8. EU to protect Finland and Sweden until they join Nato

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. Nordic Bridges unveil latest highlights of Spring programme
  2. EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities
  3. EU and US keen to seize Russian funds for Ukraine
  4. EU to boost solar and renewables rollout to cut Russian gas
  5. Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag
  6. Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy
  7. Watchdog calls for tougher curbs on 'problematic' revolving doors
  8. Borrell: EU arms flow to Ukraine amid 'record' Russian losses

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us