How the EU got Erdoğan wrong – analyst

The European Union misjudged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, allowing him to consolidate power as it cooled to the country’s membership, analyst Soner Çağaptay wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The bloc lost its leverage over Erdoğan as France and Germany began to seek a relationship with Turkey other than full membership, failing to take up its role as the new grand arbiter of Turkish democracy after Erdoğan ousted the army from politics, said Cagaptay, who is director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute.

While the EU was right to demand that the military leave politics, it misjudged Erdoğan and his political movement, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is illiberal, rooted in political Islam and not unlike the far-right political parties on the continent, he said.

In turn, Erdoğan embraced the EU tactically and once the generals were out of the way no longer felt it necessary to please Brussels, Cagaptay claimed.

"Turkey’s economy has grown at a brisk pace in the past decade, a rising tide the AKP has ridden to repeat electoral victories," he said. "If Brussels had pulled the plug on accession talks before 2012, Mr. Erdoğan would have been forced to change his ways. The EU’s leverage over Ankara has weakened following the eurozone crisis. Now the EU finds itself bending over backward to please Mr. Erdoğan."

A deal with Ankara to stem the flow of refugees to Europe means Europe has little leverage over Erdoğan, meaning it will be forced to look the other way as he bulldozes his way to victory in the next presidential election – a snap poll this year is now a possibility, Çağaptay said.