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The Euro-Turkish Impasse - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English
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Opinion

The Euro-Turkish Impasse

Turkey

Europe has invested a great deal of effort in limiting the effects of Turkey’s internal conflicts pouring into its countries. Fests and rallies whether supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or his opposition were barred.

Had any of the rallies been allowed it would have sparked a devastating fire.

The outcome of the Turkish political process is not the highlight of European concerns—fears are chiefly spurred by fanatics that have been eyeing moderate democracies since the end of World War II. Europe’s entire spectrum has come under the threat of negative populism, whether it be France, Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Not to mention Eastern Europe which continues to slowly shift to the right, advocating de facto authoritarian rhetoric and systems riding the international refugee crisis’ wave.

Erdogan did not comprehend where Europe was coming from, or maybe he chose not to. For his part, the Turkish President was already fighting his own legal existential battle—which he could not afford losing to his real or prospect foes.

Many residing in Europe are exposed to several versions of liberalism and fanaticism, which they are deeply influenced by. The center-wing culture is no longer defined. Each party, rather than delivering a socio-political message, is hard-wired to a self-styled fuse ready to detonate any moment.

Erdogan, adopting unorthodox behavior, stepped up his anti-European campaign. There is no doubt that to him, this was a one-time electoral advantage.

But alternatively, Europe’s alt-right managed to exploit and benefit from Erdogan’s heated rhetoric.

Added to unprecedented influx of refugees, brutal terror attacks in Paris, Berlin and Nice, Erdogan’s remarks came to be an other unexpected opportunity taken and twisted out of shape to fit Europe’s fundamentalist right propaganda.

As fear strikes the heart of Europe, it is definite that the continent needs Erdogan as an ally, not a rival. The last thing it wants is to infuriate millions of Turks who have become nationals or have taken residence in European states. More so, Turkey remains a key factor to transatlantic partnerships.

Europe’s choices were limited: It was either to regulate potential hostility at Turkish gatherings, bar a Turkish minister from entering the Netherlands and prevent Turkey’s foreign minister from landing on its territory or allow for rallies to spiral out of control.

There is no doubt that the Dutch made a political mistake, as evidenced by the crisis it led to.

The Netherlands’ mistake was in miscalculating the size of the backlash triggered by barring Turkish politicians who support Erdogan’s proposal for an executive presidency from organizing public rallies for Turks there who can vote.

They simply did not realize the extent to which Erdogan will go with the political spat, especially that he was already occupied with fighting the strategic battle for both Turkey’s international position and his leadership.

Erdogan went out of his way to accuse Germany and Europe with Nazism and fascism– despite Chancellor Angela Merkel being perhaps the least fascist or nazist person there is.

Erdogan’s rhetoric inflamed latent Nazism in Europe, and justified its resurfacing. Nazis promote their agendas through picturing today’s dilemma as a war against Islam, and not for what it is, a miscalculated risk taken with a strained foreign president.

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah

Samir Atallah is a prominent Lebanese journalist, author and political analyst.

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