Turkey using construction projects to mute European criticism

European investment is vital to many of Turkey's construction “mega-projects”, such as a huge airport scheduled to open in Istanbul this October, the recently completed Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge across the Bosporus and a planned canal connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea.

The contracts are lucrative investment opportunities, offering a boon to European construction companies during a period of austerity across the continent.

However, the projects, and the lure all but guaranteed profits that go with them, are being used by Turkey to stifle European criticism of its human rights record, backsliding democracy and declining rule of law, says journalist Dorain Jones in an article appearing in Voice of America’s news website.

 "Ankara is buying anybody and everybody with these infrastructure projects and everybody is happy with it," said political scientist Cengiz Aktar. "This is why they keep appeasing Turkey. And all these laments about what is happening to the rule of law in Turkey, this is just crocodile tears."

The UK is playing the same game, writes Jones, expressing little criticism of Turkey’s human rights record or military operations in Syria, as it seeks to offset trade lost as a result of the Brexit, by deepening it economic ties to Turkey.

Some analysts suggest that as Turkey’s European Union membership bid falters, Ankara is shifting its focus from relations with the EU to pragmatic based relations with specific member states.  

"For all the bad vibes at the moment, there are construction and strategic arms deals being signed between Turkey and France and Italy," said political columnist Semih Idiz. "And after, the post-Brexit situation will undoubtedly speed up Turkish-British relations, not only because Turkey needs good allies in Europe, but because Britain needs the alternative markets and alternative partners."