Apr 03 2018

EU should abandon ties with Turkey, trade instead – analysis

The European Union should abandon its strategic relationship with Turkey and merely trade with the country instead because the two sides no longer have much in common, writes academic and author Simon Waldman.

Turkey this week is welcoming Russian President Vladimir Putin to lay the foundations of a $20 billion nuclear power plant that symbolizes Turkey’s drift from the West. His arrival follows an unsuccessful summit meeting between EU leaders and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and threats from Erdogan to target France for its support of Syria’s Kurds.

Ankara has also failed to expel Russian diplomats for the chemical weapons poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England and it took Turkish politicians three weeks to whisper a condemnation, Waldman, a visiting fellow at Kings College London, said.

“Time to face facts, Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither,” he said.

Turkey’s help for Iran in bypassing U.S. sanctions by funneling cash through a Turkish state-run bank, its planned purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and cooperation with Russia and Iran with regards to the future of Syria all symbolize Turkey’s drift from the West, Waldman said.

Meanwhile, Turkey is practically blackmailing the EU over Syrian refugees and has done little, until recently, to stem the flow of Jihadists traveling between Europe and Syria, a severe security threat for the continent.

Furthermore, Turkey says the main threats to its security come from militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullah Gulen movement, which the government blames for masterminding the July 2016 failed military coup, while neither present a threat to the security of Europe or the United States.

Turkey, at the same time, is seeking to exterminate fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which are affiliated with the PKK, while the West needs their support to eradicate ISIS.

Shared values are also a factor, writes Waldman.

“Ankara has ignored the EU's concerns about Turkey's human rights record including its democratic deficiencies, the erosion of checks and balances, the politicisation of the judiciary, the continued state of emergency and severe restrictions on the media,” he said. “At the Varna Summit, Erdogan told Europe to stop "rambling" on about human rights.”

“So, if Europe's relations with Turkey are not about shared values and are not of a strategic nature, all that is really left is trade,” Waldman said. “Fine. Let's buy and sell stuff to each other.

“NATO bases in Turkey can be relocated, military cooperation can be limited and intelligence sharing can be scaled down. With a little bit of planning and foresight, it is unlikely that this will have much long or medium-term impact. At least the charade will end and the sides will know where they stand.

“Surely this is better than the maintaining the unproductive status quo?”