03/14/2017, 10.54
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Erdogan’s dream no longer passes through Europe

by Luca Galantini

Tensions rise after Germany, Holland, Austria, Denmark ban rallies in favor of the referendum by Turkish President. The Dutch ambassador's entry to Ankara blocked. After 50 years of waiting, Turkey does not want to enter Europe. The Ottoman dream and authoritarianism are the only way.


Milan (AsiaNews) - Last night Ankara announced a series of measures in response to the Dutch decision to block the entry of some Turkish ministers to support the referendum by President Recep Tayyep Erdogan.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that the Netherlands ambassador, Kees Cornelis van Rij, will not be allowed to return to Ankara and all high-level political dialogue with that country will be suspended. Netherlands and Turkey, two NATO countries are at loggerheads. But the tension is high also with other European Union countries. Attempts by Turkish ministers to hold rallies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden have all been blocked or postponed. Below follows the comment of an academic and analyst on the reasons of tensions between Turkey and European countries.

The diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the countries of the European Union (EU) shows no signs of abating, in fact, day after day it seems to gather pace with new episodes.

In the space of little more than two weeks, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been able to trigger a series of diplomatic storms: first with Germany, then with Holland. Yesterday Denmark in turn has asked Turkey to indefinitely postpone the official visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Yildrim, while Austria has asked the EU taking a common stand against the pro-Erdogan speeches in Europe, preoccupied by threat to public order.

The official reason behind these worrying high tension is always the same: the ban imposed by several European governments for reasons of political expediency, on ministers of the AKP party of President Erdogan from participating in rallies organized by Turkish immigrants in the EU countries in favor the referendum that next April will sanction the approval of the presidential constitutional reform commissioned by Erdogan in Turkey.

Common sense would argue that these election and referendum campaigns be conducted in Turkey, where the vote is taking place, and not in the European countries in which Turkish immigrants reside. But the intrusiveness of Erdogan’s political muscle does not listen to reason, and wants to impose its political propaganda abroad, without having to reckon with internal political needs of States like the Netherlands, where tomorrow there will also be an election : with elegant understatement Erdogan has described the choices made by the German and Dutch governments as Nazism.

Understanding the real reasons

Erdogan's initiatives are intertwined with the European political climate, traversed by a wave of populism that is demanding s a return to national sovereignty in the face of the dramatic economic and financial crisis and the massive exodus of migrants and asylum seekers, so poorly managed by the European chancelleries.

However, the problem is much more complex and delicate, if analyzed with a magnifying glass from within the Turkish political society and not according to a Eurocentric interpretation.

For years the foreign policy of Erdogan's Turkey is moving in the absence of a permanent center of gravity. He abandoned the secular Kemalist model, based on a close partnership with NATO and militarily and politically with Europe; he has recovered the Ottoman nationalist myth of panturanesim between the Middle East and Asia; he has re-launched the Islamist leadership of the Arab countries, Erdogan has made and unmade plots of alliances, but without ever being able to keep the warp fabric of a clear political strategic project capable keeping Turkey within a stable system of cooperation. And above all, he is gradually dismantling from within the system of democratic guarantees and the rule of law in the country.

Turkey’s legitimate aspiration to become a regional power collides with the total absence of a long-term plan of alliances; with the choice in favor of casual agreements with Russia rather than with Iran or with insurgent and terrorist movements in Syria; and above all with the increasingly blatant authoritarian and autocratic Erdogan it is giving to the country in order to keep the reins of power.

This framework reveals two particularly "substantial" aspects that underlie the crisis with European countries. The first is the fact that Turkey no longer harbors interest in joining the EU or in any case pursuing negotiations that have been dragging on for over  50 years (few recall that Turkey already in the 1960's started the first entry talks for the then European Economic Community). The second is the choice, through a constitutional referendum on a presidential reform, to navigate to a form of autocratic government that is less and less respectful of the legal pillars of democracy, such as the separation of powers and the guarantee of the inalienable rights of the citizen according to the rule of law.

End of the European dream

On the first point, with fraying ties with the EU, any possibility of an enlargement and / or political-federal unification with Europe has been finally consigned to history. In Turkey, among the experts of European Affairs who belong to Erdogan’s  "party of the veil and panturanist", the AKP, see their perhaps utopian but very cherished dream to become a leading country in Europe fade away. The dream was that by virtue of their demographic weight (80 million inhabitants), Turkey could determine the choices and institutional leaders of the EU elections and even direct the focus of European policy towards the Caucasus and Asia Minor. Erdogan's cynical pragmatism now looks at Europe as a whole to consider States individually, from time to time according to national interest.

As for the referendum on constitutional reform, it must be said that since the failed coup of July 2016 , there is official "proof" of an authentic institutional "counter-coupe", with which President Erdogan has gradually enslaved the independence of the judiciary from the executive ; by virtue of the "state of exception" he has imposed a draconian semi-permanent suspension of basic civil and political rights of citizens. Thus, mere administrative measures have led to a purge - dismissal – of over 100 thousand state employees alleged guilty of complicity with the coup forces, and the incarceration of nearly 50 thousand citizens.

In this framework Erdogan and the AKP have absolute need to be able to count on the largest possible number of votes in order to get the approval of the constitutional reform that would deliver almost absolute power in a completely legal manner into the hands of the president, allowing for an even more authoritarian Erdogan. The votes of the so-called Turkish diaspora, the more than six million Turkish citizens migrants in EU countries are a vital necessity, and the Turkish premier certainly has no time to waste on meeting the democratic standards set by the EU Copenhagen parameters to get them.

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