Thursday

24th May 2018

Opinion

Erdogan and the Queen

  • Erdogan's hopes of holding campaign rallies in European capitals were pre-emptively nixed by member state governments, unwilling to risk another confrontation with the Turkish president (Photo: Wikipedia)

Tea with the Queen is a pretty good photo op, especially if you are an autocratic president in the midst of a tough race for re-election.

Such is the case for Turkey's incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan who arrived to London on Sunday (13 May) for a three-day visit.

  • British foreign minister Boris Johnson who, despite having once penned a derogatory poem about Erdogan, considers markets such as Turkey as vital for the maintenance of its Global Britain brand during the Brexit process. (Photo: Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

Erdogan's stay in the UK comes after some setbacks in his election campaign.

Last week, Erdogan handed an effective slogan to his opponents after he carelessly commented that if the public wants him to step aside all they need to do say "enough".

Hours later over one million Turks tweeted the hashtag #Tamam, the Turkish word for "enough".

Meanwhile, the Turkish lira continues to tumble and the country's overall economic outlook is precarious.

Erdogan's hopes of holding campaign rallies in European capitals were pre-emptively nixed by European nations, unwilling to risk another confrontation with Erdogan.

Bosnia was the only European country which Erdogan managed to schedule a campaign visit.

This is why British Prime Minister Theresa May's red-carpet treatment is such a boost to Erdogan. And Britain is hoping that this will translate into profit.

May boosting Erdogan

As well as meeting government ministers, Erdogan will address a symposium of British and Turkish business leaders.

Turkey is Britain's 11th largest trading partner while the UK is Turkey's 10th. In 2016, the value of bilateral trade stood at around $17bn (€14.2bn) with both countries expressing intensions to increase this figure to beyond the $20bn mark. And there is every reason to expect that this target will be met.

Although leaving the EU, the UK was always an advocate of Turkish accession. London also found its way into Erdogan's good books for being one of the first countries to express solidarity after the July 2016 attempted coup which the Turkish government blames on the Gulen movement, followers of the US based preacher Fetullah Gulen.

Since then there has been a flurry of ministerial visits to London and Ankara, including British foreign minister Boris Johnson who, despite having once penned a derogatory poem about Erdogan, called for a "jumbo" post Brexit free-trade deal with Turkey.

Prime minister May's visit to Erdogan's presidential palace in January 2017 coincided with the signing of a £100m (€113m) contract for BAE Systems to develop a new Turkish fighter jet, the start of a "strategic partnership".

Turkey drifting away from the West

But "strategic partnership" is a misnomer. There is nothing strategic about bilateral relations. Sure, both are NATO members, but Turkey has drifted away from the West.

Not only has it agreed to purchase the Russian S400 Surface to air missile system, but after double agent Sergai Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury, which also infecting members of the public, Turkey didn't join the UK's allies in expelling Russian spies.

Ankara's condemnation was barely a whisper.

"Strategic partnership" is a fancy way to emphasise the importance of the trade relationship. Downing Street is hoping that the BAE Systems deal is just the first of many lucrative contracts not only in the arms industry, but also in the pharmaceutical, chemical, services and technology sectors.

London considers markets such as Turkey as vital for the maintenance of its Global Britain brand during the Brexit process.

No strong Gulenist presence

Unlike Turkey's other European trading partners such as Germany, Sweden and Netherlands, the UK does not have a strong and overtly active Gulenist presence, which is Ankara's public enemy number one.

Nor is the UK a central hub for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state for three decades.

Sure, you might find the odd demonstration outside downing street with a PKK flag or a restaurant in Hackney, a London neighbourhood with vibrant Turkish and Kurdish communities, a portrait of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, but this hardly compares to the large pro-PKK rallies that have taken place in some European cities.

Also, the UK has deliberately looked away from Turkish human rights violations and the erosion of democracy.

London has barely battered an eyelid about the onslaught against the press or the post-coup purges that have left tens of thousands imprisoned and hundreds of thousands jobless.

Last year, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee recommended that Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office designate Turkey a Human Rights Priority Country upon the publication of the FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Report. However, when the report was published, Turkey did not appear.

Sure, there will be some demonstrations against Erdogan during his visit to the UK, but they will be small and not see daylight in Turkey's press.

Instead, 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.

Dr Simon A. Waldman is Mercator-IPC fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center and a visiting research fellow at King's College London. He is the co-author of the recently published, The New Turkey and Its Discontents.

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

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.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  2. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  3. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  4. UK households hit with Brexit income loss
  5. Report: EU faces 10% cut in steel exports to US
  6. Australia wants more access to EU agricultural market
  7. CV of Italian PM candidate under scrutiny
  8. Puigdemont Spain extradition rejected by German court

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion
  2. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  3. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  4. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  5. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  6. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  7. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  8. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight