Jan 09 2018

Visit to Paris marks end to Erdoğan’s EU ambitions - analyst

A visit to France last week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan all but ends Turkey’s push for membership of the European Union and is sending Erdoğan into the arms of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Sami Moubayed, a political analyst and historian.

Protesters greeted Erdoğan as he arrived at the Elysee Palace and, once inside, Erdoğan was met by a rather blunt President Emmanuel Macron, who basically told him to forget about joining the EU.

“This puts an end — almost once and for all — to Erdoğan’s European ambition, which has been a cornerstone of his foreign policy ever since the rise of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) back in 2003,” Moubayed wrote in a column for the Asia Times. “Seeing the writing on the wall, he has been rapidly investing time and effort in building relations elsewhere – in Sudan, Somalia, Chad, and throughout the Arab and Muslim Worlds.”

While many people in Europe have been reticent about welcoming 80 million Muslims into the EU, some believe that the problem is more with Erdoğan himself, he said.

“Once hailed and admired throughout the world as the champion of moderate Islam, his ambitions have gotten the better of him, earning him many enemies over the past few years.”

The Turkish president has moved to make an alliance with Iran, sponsor Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, recognised internationally as terrorist groups, and introduce a presidential system of government, a step that prompted German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to say that Turkey would never join the EU as long as Erdoğan remained in power.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov urged the EU last month to “leave behind the hypocrisy about Turkey’s membership process.” Instead, he called for a special partnership deal, echoing the words of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who suggested a “privileged partnership” between the two sides, Moubayed said.

Erdoğan is now taking the EU’s rebuttal as an opportunity to cuddle up closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin, knowing that it both furthers Turkey’s ambitions in Syria and irks other NATO member states, he wrote.

Behind the move lies his fury at the United States for its sponsorship of Kurdish groups in Syria that are offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), also recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation.

In April, the EU is due to rule on whether or not Turkey fits the Copenhagen Criteria for membership. Should the report be negative, which is highly likely, it will pave the way for “a firm, strategic, and potentially fiendish Turkish-Russian alliance — one that might last for a very long time,” Moubayed said.