Thanks to Trump, Turkey and Europe get closer
Thanks to United States President Donald Trump’s actions and sanctions on Turkey, the freezing climate between the European Union and its confirmed candidate in recent years have started to give signals of moderation.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been having phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron over the last two days over the financial and political prospects between Turkey and the EU in the framework of the currency crisis, which has been aggravated by statements from Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence.
In his most recent tweet on Aug. 16 over the Turkish court’s ruling, which kept evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson under arrest, Pence threatened Turkey not to test the patience of the U.S. president. The White House has told the media there will be no other talks with its NATO ally unless Brunson is released.
The White House might have a point if they accept Erdoğan’s former remark, in an offer of exchange to “Give the priest, take the priest.” The priest he wants being U.S.-resident Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of masterminding the 2016 military coup attempt, but that cannot be a peg.
Instead of criticizing such a remark, which implies a swap through superseding court rulings, the White House asks Erdoğan to overrule the courts and get Brunson out, while doing nothing against a crime suspect with an arrest warrant, despite the 1981 legal agreement between them.
It was not a surprise when remarks came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who were all complaining about the U.S. sanctions anyway. İlham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Tamim al-Thani of Qatar are good friends of Erdoğan and stand by Turkey whenever needed in recent years.
Al-Thani’s pledge to invest $15 billion in Turkish financial markets during a meeting with Erdoğan on Aug. 15 in Ankara has not only caused a relief for Turkish capital but has also been welcomed by markets in Istanbul. But the support messages from EU members, first Italy, then Germany and Spain with France about to join the club, was a surprise not only for the Turkish people and the markets, but for the government as well.
The remarks of Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak on Aug. 16, during a teleconference where reportedly 4,000 investors joined, showed the ruling Justice and Development Parti (AK Parti) government has started to learn from its mistakes as well. The stress on the fiscal discipline and the fiscal program had been advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for some time in order to cool down the Turkish economy. The independence of the Central Bank has also been given great importance by investors, especially those from the European countries.
Some economists interpret the EU support in its narrow angle, which is that those are the countries Turkey had borrowed from the most, so they want to save their money from going down the drain. That is only a part of the bigger picture. Even if that is so, it shows the level of integration between Turkish and European economies. But as Germany particularly underlined, Turkey is an important part of the European defense, now enriched with an immigrant control agreement as well.
All the EU countries who have raised their voices in support of Turkey, without withdrawing their criticism about the direction of the economy and democracy in the country, are also members of NATO and allies of the U.S. like Turkey.
It is not a coincidence Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Aug. 15 that relations with the EU may warm up, with particular emphasis on the flexibilities of the visa regime for Turkish citizens. There are speculations in the political backstage that even the release of two Greek soldiers by the court may have a positive effect on Turkish-EU relations.
A reconciliation between Turkey and the EU is necessary. It is a pity it was reminded through a currency crisis worsened by the show of power by Trump, who wants to use economic power for political results, but it is necessary. It will not only be good for European defense and markets but for the enhancement of democratic and economic rights in Turkey. And with stronger ties to the EU, Turkey will be preferred in its neighborhood in the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia. If this crisis can be turned into a benefit, it will also be good for the U.S.