Milen Marinov examines the current political crisis between Turkey and its neighbours. For so long, a cordial political position has existed in the Eastern Mediterranean but under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has recently taken to antagonising its neighbours and this hasn’t gone unnoticed in the European community.

Europe witnessed a recent incident involving two Turkish fighter aircraft that reportedly harassed the helicopter carrying Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras and the Greek Armed Forces Chief Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis as they were flying from the islet of Ro to Rhodes on Tuesday afternoon (17th April). According Tsipras, his reaction was to say that Turkey “do not always behave in a manner befitting good neighbours,”. The Greek Prime Minister noted  that he was sending Ankara “a message of cooperation and peaceful coexistence but also of determination.”

Regional agitation

This incident happened just two weeks after the meeting of the EU and Turkey in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Varna on 26 March. On Bulgarian soil,  European Council president Donald Tusk , European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borissov met with Turkey’s president Erdoğan as part of a broader effort to improve fraught relations. But EU relations with Turkey remain tense and the leaders from both sides outlined their differences. “If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromises, my answer is no. What I can say that is that I raised all our concerns, as you know it was a long list”, underlined Donald Tusk.

The same message was repeated in Varna, but  Erdogan replied in a hard way:
“Not until the European Union stops being overly critical, in particular certain members of the EU, we will not be able to engage fully in improving the relations,” said the Turkish president. He warned against isolating Turkey, and noticed that Ankara’s fight against terrorism is a buffer for the EU. Erdoğan also demanded a lift on mandatory short stay visas for Turkish nationals and reminded that the EU has only doled out €1.8bn of the some €3bn promised to help refugees currently residing inside Turkey.

A loose cannon

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that he had “mixed feelings” on the meeting with Erdoğan and required that Turkey should release two Greek soldiers held since the start of March after they accidentally crossed the border on a patrol. Juncker called for this to happen before the Greek Orthodox Easter on 8 April but soldiers remain in Turkish hands.

“It is high time for the European Union to show a red card to Erdoğan, ” said Turkish political scientist Cetin Gürer, who had been persecuted for his political convictions and now lives in Germany.

Closing eyes about what is happening in Turkey, the European Union indirectly supports and encourages Erdoğan, undermining  the Turkish society, and despite all the crimes of  the regime against the opposition in Turkey, the European Union has not found a way to take any action. The only thing we hear from Brussels is that Europe is worried and concerned.

Erdoğan’s participation in the summit was motivated by his desire to gain legitimacy for his authoritarian regime. He wants to show the world that he is fighting terrorism, but this is not the truth. (The) Turkish army entered in Kurdish enclave of Afrin into Syria.  Erdoğan needs legitimisation , because otherwise he can very easily be accused of committing a crime against humanity”, explained Gürer.

On 18th of this month, Erdoğan called snap elections for June 24, saying economic challenges and the war in Syria meant Turkey must switch quickly to the powerful executive presidency. Citing its military operations in neighbouring Syria, the need to make important decisions on investments and an economy unlikely to maintain last year’s sharp growth, he clarified that it had been necessary “to remove the election issue from agenda”.

“The ability to make strong decisions and implement them for the future of our country has become more urgent”, said the Turkish President.

On my opinion it is obvious that Turkey tantivy rides towards full autocracy. Turkey is not the Turkey of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk anymore. With incessant provocations against Greece, constant interference in Bulgarian politics and elections, combined all this with a rude and demanding tone against Western Europe and with attempts to put the EU under pressure, Turkey is our NATO ally who can no longer be trusted. But with its half-a-million army and overwhelming superiority in technical and military infrastructure, Turkey overtakes every single European country.  It is now time that plans for a European Army should be taken seriously.

Milen Marinov
Bulgarian journalist and devoted to the European cause.

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