Mar 28 2018

“Fly in the soup” Erdoğan needs Europe for survival

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the proverbial fly in the summit soup at a dinner with the European Union’s political leaders on Monday, and the meetings fulfilled the low expectations both sides had of it, according to Politico.

At one point, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had to cut off talks with Erdoğan at a 19th century chateau in Varna, Bulgaria, complaining about his sciatic nerve. Juncker was accompanied by European Council President Donald Tusk and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.

While Borisov was keen to organise the meeting with Erdoğan due to Bulgaria’s close diplomatic relations with Turkey and its reliance on Turkish investment for its economy, it is Erdoğan who needs Europe to prop up economic growth and to attract investment to an economy that would otherwise sink, Politico said.

And the EU, while criticising Erdoğan’s record on human rights, needs him to maintain a deal that has kept Syrian refugees largely away from Europe’s shores for the past two years. Therefore mutual dependence ensues, Politico said.

“Truth be told, about the only thing Ankara and Europe agree on these days is that they don’t agree on much. From Erdoğan’s dismantling of Turkey’s democratic institutions in the wake of the 2016 attempt to overthrow him to Turkey’s recent assault on Kurdish forces in Syria, EU leaders worry that Ankara has become more of a long-term problem than a partner.

“What Erdoğan gets from the EU can be summed up in a single word: survival,” Politico said. “Forget Erdoğan’s incendiary rhetoric about Europe and the anti-Turkish “terrorists” he accuses Germany and others of harbouring. The cold reality is that Turkey is almost completely dependent on the EU to keep its economy afloat.”

The EU accounts for about half of Turkey’s exports and about two-thirds of foreign investment. Turkish corporations are also heavily reliant on European investors to finance their sizeable debt, a risk recently highlighted by the International Monetary Fund, Politico said.

“Put simply, the Turkish economy would implode without Europe. Such an economic crisis is the one thing that might actually cost Erdoğan his power in the short term.”

“Erdoğan’s biggest vulnerability is the economy,” said Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey with Chatham House, according to Politico. “No one can replace Europe and he knows that.”