Berlin Carnival and the Ghost of Munich 1938
This time, not only the pro-government Turkish media, but the foreign press is talking about turning a new page in Germany-Turkish (and Dutch-Turkish as well) relations. The Turkish press is one thing, but the international media praising the change in attitude is both fresh and significant. Significant for those affected by the ongoing nightmare in Turkey, otherwise crowds of Germans and Turks could not care less.
During President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's foreign visit to Britain in May, I wrote: “Britain has been the most sympathetic country to the Turkish regime since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Her Majesty's Government, Foreign Office and British diplomats have been quite agreeable towards Ankara.”
British governments have usually been pragmatic and cynical. If British interests are concerned, they do not hesitate to interact with the world's most corrupt regimes. They are brilliant at it. They can easily surpass continental European nations with their unprincipled diplomatic action.
European governments usually pretend to be a bit more principled and look like they have been pushing forward to devour the final moral crumbs as if they do not want to lose out to the British.
Today every European government without exception and more than ever would forego human rights, rule-of-law, ecology etc. in exchange for sweet, sweet profits.
It looks like continental European governments, following Britain's lead and convinced they have to live with Erdoğan after his June election win are keen to disregard their own value systems. It works since Erdoğan does not care what they think; he only wants their money.
Europeans, since all prospect of Turkey's EU membership and binding agreements (such as revising the customs union, visa exemption for Turkish citizens etc.) have been buried, seem to be more accepting of the current Turkish regime. From now on, Turkey is just another third country for the EU. The only difference between Turkey and all the other non-EU countries and candidates is that Turkey is right next to Europe.
The EU, relieved of the likelihood of Turkey's membership of the union, has two major headaches remaining, both based on geography. Ankara could threaten the continent's security by getting closer to Russia, and then there is the potential of migration of Syrians and Turks to Europe. A third issue is the investments in Turkey by European companies.
Helping EU's industrial, commercial and financial capital is behind most of the conversation that revolves around supporting the Turkish economy. But it is just kicking the can down the road.
The EU cannot possibly help a country the size of Turkey from sinking. And even if it manages to find a way, it will have a tough time explaining this to European public opinion. The best the EU can do is to extend the terms of a few loans given to Turkish banks. European businesses can forget about their investments in Turkey. Let us not forget, the Bank for International Settlements reported that the public and private sectors in Turkey owe $223 billion to international, mostly European, banks.
And as for migration, no country in the world has the power to stop the refugees. Syrian and Turkish migrants and refugees will find a way to escape to Europe if they feel threatened by conditions in their countries.
Thus, the only outstanding reality is the grinning ghost of Munich! The Munich deal of 1938 is considered to be a political, military and diplomatic blunder in European and world history. Most nations learned the dangers of the willingness to barter away vital interests to appease a dictator. Since dictatorships and democracies never speak the same language, compromising with dictators is not only ineffective, it is deadly. The Munich agreement with Nazi Germany paved the way for genocide and continent-wide destruction.
Despite its inglorious memory appeasement is again a tool for Europe in its dealings with two of its neighbours: Putin’s Russia and Erdoğan’s Turkey. And these two totalitarian regimes always ask for more as long as Europe soothes them.
Even when Russia, with all its fossil fuel resources and strategic power, cannot bear the consequences of a continued confrontation with the West, how long can Turkey?
The structural weaknesses of its economy and the unsustainability of its Syrian policy are about to trigger conflict within the country.
The Erdoğan regime kept making the same error, avoided executing in-depth structural reforms, and ultimately depended on high interest rates to attract hot money to keep the economy afloat.
Widespread illegality and arbitrary public affairs, appropriations of private property and lack of investment security, high unemployment, limited growth based solely on infrastructure-energy-domestic consumption, poor R&D, a dreadful education system, lack of natural resources, very low savings rate, an outdated tax system, drying foreign investment, and now a massive brain drain ... all tell us that the Turkish economy is unsustainable.
Syrian policies and the Idlib chaos that Erdoğan government has fended off for now are signs that Turkey still has a long and arduous way to go. When tens of thousands of jihadists in Turkey and those who will have to escape Idlib towards Turkey, the retreat of the Turkish Armed Forces sooner or later from northern Syria are added on top of the upcoming economic crisis and the legal anarchy of the country. The possibility of an implosion cannot be ignored.
These are the dark pages that the European penny pinchers refuse to see while turning a new page with Turkey. Good luck Meine Herren!