EU-Turkey crisis could bring opportunities

EU-Turkey crisis could bring opportunities

The news about the European Parliament’s vote asking the European Commission to suspend membership talks between the EU and Turkey came on Nov. 24, minutes after the Turkish Central Bank decided to raise interest rates by 0.25 percent.

Those were the third and fourth breaking news items yesterday, following the car bomb explosion in Adana (home of the İncirlik air base used in U.S.-led ops in Syria and Iraq), and the killing of three Turkish soldiers supporting Free Syria Army (FSA) rebels in Syria. The latter was carried out by a Syrian jet, according to the Turkish military.

Those four breaking news items each in a way summarize the problems that Turkey currently faces: Economy, terrorism, regional conflicts, and strategic political choices between East and West.

The European Parliament’s decision to recommend that the European Commission stops negotiations, which were not moving for a long time anyway, will probably not be confirmed by Brussels. But it is still a dramatic move.

European deputies want to punish the Turkish government for the depression in the atmosphere of rights and freedoms in Turkey. But the decision also punishes the Turkish people. On the one hand it claims to demonstrate democratic solidarity and defend the EU’s democratic values; on the other hand it punishes the Turkish people still traumatized by a bloody military coup.

The vote was the first ever decision of the European Parliament against a candidate country. It seems unlikely to produce any positive result, beyond expressing a juvenile and unsustainable reaction.

If European deputies think President Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) will suddenly get in line with Brussels because of the vote, they are daydreaming. Erdoğan had already vowed in advance that he would not be affected by any result of the vote, positive or negative. 

If they think Turkish people will get angry with the government for the country being singled out and isolated by the Europeans, they have not drawn any lessons from history.

If others think this is the way to get rid of the Turks with their Muslim population, then they should find new partners like Turkey to cooperate with on issues like terrorism, drug smuggling and the migration influx.

But there is some good in every evil. Perhaps this politically shortsighted move by the European Parliament could lead to an opportunity for a new, more realistic start between Ankara and Brussels.

European legislators should be clear that a future with Turkey would be better than a future without it. All would benefit from a more democratic, prosperous, strong Turkey with its face turned to the West. They have to see that incentives can work better than penalties. After reaching saturation point, with patience growing thin, sticks become meaningless without carrots.

They should recognize that the EU has almost no political leverage left on Turkey. The EU’s overall political influence in the world is declining: First there was the Euro crisis, then there was Brexit, now there is Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president. 

That is why rational leaders and people should try to keep all dialogue channels open, not work to close them.