May 19 2018

Erdoğan turns to 'allies' in the Balkans ahead of elections -analysis  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to hold an election rally in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in an effort to gain more support among the Turkish diaspora, is part of his neo-Ottoman dream that sometimes finds fertile ground the region, write Georgi Gotev and Ninon Bulckaert in an article they penned for euractiv website.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s has been vocal in its dream of expanding the country’s influence across states that were formerly Ottoman territories; this foreign policy doctrine known as “Neo-Ottomanism.” 

To this end, Erdoğan will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday ahead of Turkey’s snap presidential and parliamentary elections taking place on 24 June, where the Turkish president is looking to extend his powers through a full presidential system that will replace the country’s parliamentary system of government.

“Since the end of the (Cold War) world, Turkey has had a very active policy in the Balkans,” the article quotes Jean Marcou, an associate researcher at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies in Istanbul, as saying.

While there is a sense of gratitude in the region, there is a feeling that Erdoğan wants Turkey to play a major role in the world and especially in its former land of influence.

The Turkish government in March, carried out an operation with the help of Kosovo intelligence services to repatriate six people it claims belong to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, who the government blames for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, the article notes. 

 Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the operation was “unacceptable and contrary to our values,” the article recalls about the incident where Kosovo’s interior minister and spy chief were sacked for their cooperation with the Turkish government.

Another incident demonstrating Turkish influence in the region occoured in February when Sarajevo scrapped its plans  to Turkish Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk honorary citizenship. 

Pamuk has been an subdued critic of Erdoğan’s government.

Meanwhile, ‘’at Bosnian Serb political rallies, chants that their entity of “Republika Srpska is not Turkey” can be heard,’’ the article points out, quoting Serbian Trade Minister Rasim Ljajić recently said that “there is not a week without a Turkish investor arriving in Serbia.”

Serbia is home to around 400 Turkish companies while Turkish companies control Pristina airport and plan to build one in Vlore, in southern Albania, the article shares.

Turkish firms also own the Kosovo KEDS/KESCO power firm and are favourites to build the planned Belgrade-Sarajevo highway.

The Turks are not in the Balkans “only to help economic development, but also to rehabilitate the Ottoman heritage and establish cultural cooperation,” the article quotes Marcou as saying.

The pro-Erdoğan rally in Sarajevo on Sunday is set to take place at time when there are campaign bans against Turkey by numerous European governments. The Turkish president is looking rally the vote of 10,000 Turks residing in Bosnia and surrounding countries.