No longer ‘Old Turkey,’ but no longer ‘Old Europe’ either
Hours after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech in Cologne on May 24, the first results of the European Parliament elections started to hit the wires.
Erdoğan was addressing both his supporters from all over Europe and also the European Union’s leaders – not just Angela Merkel of Germany, but especially her. He said Europeans should not confuse his “New Turkey” with the “old” one, which he said was apologetic before proud Europeans; that had changed with his rule, now in its 12th year.
But European Parliament (EP) election results have showed that Europe is changing, too, and not necessarily in the positive direction.
Merkel said yesterday that she “regretted” the rise of the far right, which had become visible in the EP polls.
Actually, if one considers the distribution of seats in the EP, there was little gain for the Euroskeptic, xenophobic and racist parties there. The two major political streams, the center-right and the center-left, still dominate the ground. But the rise of those parties in some individual countries is the source of concern for mainstream European politicians.
In France, the National Front (FN) is the first party according to polls, despite its absence in the French Parliament; François Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party came in third. In Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) got one-fifth of the votes. The Golden Dawn in Greece managed to send its first representative to the EP.
The mainstream in EU countries cannot remain indifferent to the call of the voters; they are expected to take measures to balance the tendency which was once observed on the continent before World War II, but that could change the center of gravity of politics and drag it to the right a bit more than today.
Europe has that tradition. At times of economic and political crisis, religious and/or ethnic minorities suffer; they were Christians in Roman times, Jews and Roma in more recent times. One can ask the question whether its Muslims’ turn now.
That is not to Turkey’s advantage. Erdoğan says that Turkey, which has been kept in the EU’s waiting room for more than half a century, would no longer accept the circumstances and the conditions imposed by Europe and could say, “As you wish,” but there are “so be it” voices beginning to call out in Europe as well.
Will that be to Turkey’s advantage to play the tension game with the new Europe, or try to calm it down, considering its political and economic interests?
It is up to Erdoğan to give an answer to that question to determine the destiny of Turkey, since he has all the people’s support and holds the steering wheel of the country.