For a long time, EU countries, such as France, Cyprus, Greece and Austria, have been pushing to impose severe sanctions on Turkey, but have been continuously blocked by Germany. There are a number of reasons for this which relate to Germany’s domestic politics and economy. Another explanation for Germany’s prolonged patience with Turkey is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been waiting for the outcome of the recent U.S. elections. Germany let out a small sigh of relief after Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the presidential election. Now, Germany is expected to wait and perhaps adjust its policy on Turkey so as to align with the new Biden administration.
EU leaders will meet on Dec. 10-11 in a video conference to discuss Turkey. Merkel has said that Germany will bring up Turkey’s natural gas exploration activities in the East Mediterranean during this summit, stating, “Things have not developed the way we wished.” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that the decision to be reached at the EU summit in December would depend on Turkey.
Last week, following these warnings and the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential victory, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who, only a couple of weeks ago, mocked the EU, saying it was outdated, suddenly said that Turkey’s future laid in Europe.
Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın was in Brussels when Erdoğan made this statement. Kalın was there meeting with diplomatic contacts at the EU capital before the summit. He stated that the strategic significance of EU-Turkey relations has increased. In order to improve the dynamism of EU-Turkey relations, Kalın mentioned increasing cooperation and taking new concrete steps to strengthen their relationship of mutual trust.
Despite these statements, intended to appeal to the EU, Turkey has continued its gas exploration activities in the East Mediterranean, which the EU considers illegal. Before the summit, where the EU is likely to decide whether to impose sanctions against Turkey, Turkey’s gas exploration vessel continued its activities up until Nov. 29.
Erdoğan, on the other hand, has said that Turkey is an integral part of Europe. He added that he is working toward closer cooperation with Ankara’s friends and allies. This is the same Erdoğan who recently said that Turkey no longer needs the EU, and now has uttered, after a long pause, openly conciliatory sentences.
Reunifying the Western alliance
Once Biden takes office, the U.S. and EU are expected to adopt a common stance on their policies regarding Turkey. President Erdoğan is aware of this future development and has accordingly curbed his statements.
It is expected that Merkel will once again block a severe sanction decision against Turkey. This is because a change of administration in the U.S. means that the Western allies have a stronger view of Turkey as a part of Europe; in fact, stronger than that of the Turkish government itself. For this reason, the EU and U.S. are expected to develop a joint position regarding Turkey and work together to solve the existing issues.
It is also expected that President-elect Biden will want Turkey, a NATO member, to once again turn toward the Western alliance. Germany has frequently argued that talks with Turkey should be given a chance. The German-led EU wants to rebuild, together with Biden, the Western alliance which became divided during the Trump era.
Turkey, led by Erdoğan, has been one of the most significant pieces of this disintegration; however, it now seems that the EU and the U.S. will join forces to move Turkey toward a moderate position.