“‘The European Union’s relationship with Turkey is at a turning point. Ties are at a watershed moment in history, which will go either one way or another, depending on what happens in the next days,’ EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament before the EU summit on December 10-11,” writes Cafer Tar for Yeni Özgür Politika.
If you remember that Turkey unilaterally announced new Navtex alerts in the Eastern Mediterranean in that period. The EU demanded Turkey to initiate talks with Greece rather than unilaterally announcing Navtex in the context of conflicts in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean waters.
Almost all countries through the Mediterranean, except for Turkey, got into contact with each other in order to sign agreements defining the sea frontiers of each country. However the Turkish rulers continued to act by themselves and outwardly conveyed this approach as if it were ‘defending the rights of the Turkish state’ especially to a domestic audience.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated back in August of last year that in case Turkey would not launch any dialogue with Athens, new sanctions against Turkey might have to be brought onto the agenda.
Following the statement of the EU foreign policy chief, all officials of the Turkish government, including Erdoğan who lead the charge, inviting the EU “to know their place” and announced to the world that Turkey would not give up its approach.
On 10 and 11 December, EU leaders met in Brussels for their 13th meeting of 2020 and committed to develop a new agenda for the Mediterranean, agreeing to expand restrictive measures in response to Turkey’s drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. EU leaders noted that, Turkey had continued its ‘unilateral actions and provocations’ in the eastern Mediterranean without demonstrating commitment to ‘sustained de-escalation’. (The European Council invited the Council to adopt ‘additional listings’, based on the 11 November Council Decision on restrictive measures in view of Turkey’s unauthorised drilling activities, the extension of which will be considered by March 2021.)
However, what really worried Turkey was that the EU leaders wanted to solve the issue of Turkey and eastern Mediterranean in coordination with President Joe Biden and his new team.
President Biden reflected a position of being willing to develop relations with the EU as well as to move in coordination to solve some international conflicts. “We are willing to work together,” said Haiko Mass, a German politician who has served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Such a cooperation of the EU and the US has constituted a major threat for Erdoğan as he comprehended how serious this threat was in the blink of an eye and ordered his team to take necessary precautions. It was not only the Turkish state on the list of sanctions, but both the EU and the US worked delicately on which corporations and individuals to add to the list of sanctions and chose many sectors and corporations which would harm Erdoğan and his family, economically. The sanctions regarding the S-400s may not be so heavy for Turkey, but they were sure heavy for Erdoğan and his family, who have been trying really hard to be effective in the defence sector of the country.
Moreover, an EU backed up by the US might easily make moves to put Erdoğan in a hard position not just in international platforms, but also in domestic politics.
Erdoğan, who has already been turned into a figure of hatred amongst the international circles has began to lose his popularity in the domestic arena of politics inside Turkey.
Erdoğan, who has been previously storming against the US and EU leaders, backpedalled soon after he understood how serious the issue was.
The drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean were immediately halted whilst Turkey gave a green light for Cyprus meetings to take place under the auspices of the UN.
Going back to the beginning of this article and asking the question: “Would the EU-Turkey and US-Turkey relations go back to how it was before?” I think not! Turkey has already crossed the line!
If Turkey does not get rid of Erdoğan soon, it can never be an ally of the EU, let alone be a strategic partner again!
Turkey may not be a North Korea or Iran, but it is sure the ‘other’ for Europe just like Russia and we better get used to live with that.